by Sharon Morgan
When I was a girl I used to spend long summer hours catching butterflies then carefully mounting them in my prized display case. Admiring their beauty and in awe of their miraculous life cycle, I imagined that I too, had a set of beautiful wings. In retrospect, it is no wonder why today the butterfly has significant symbolism in my life.
My constant companions are memories of the shy, quiet girl plunged into the grip of sexual assault at a young age who would become the woman trapped in a cocoon of terrorism by men who supposedly loved me. I hid in that cocoon for three decades. Fear, shame and guilt make for strong shackles and kept me bound in a world of unrelenting violence. Repeating the cycle of abuse until the birth of my son gave me the courage to leave that kind of life for good. It was difficult enough to find the strength to leave only to face the challenges of navigating through the many referrals and court proceedings. This journey made nearly impossible while trying to maintain my job and taking care of my son. In fact, I wasn’t able to get to many of the services. Too bad there wasn’t a Family Justice Center back then – a place where victims are linked to all those services and can start court proceedings in one safe place. One place, one time- with people who understand what you are going through.
Over the past twelve years I have grown my own set of beautiful wings, graduated from UB, and work to help others break the chains of violence that hold them hostage in their own home. If we as a society can make it easier for victims to get help and hold abusers accountable, we can end Domestic Violence. After forty years, I’m still catching butterflies, only now I’m happy to set them free and watch them learn to fly.