I believe that women it's crucial that we find the courage to rise up and speak our truth.
It's not easy. We live in a society that only a few centuries back burned women at the stake as punishment. And now? Women who come forward about harassment or assault are still very often branded as exaggerators or liars. One of my best friends lost a court case against her ex who severely beat her up and hospitalized her.
Which is why I was so scared to share my own story of domestic violence. But I knew I couldn't be the leader I wanted to be without being open and candid about my experiences.
A few years ago was living on a tropical island. I was teaching yoga full-time and my days consisted of posting tropical pictures on social media, drinking from fresh coconuts, surfing and shoeless living.
My friends and family back in the UK would send me messages telling me how jealous they were. In their eyes, I was living the dream.
One day I messaged my mum to tell her I;d had an accident. I'd been drinking and I'd slipped in the shower and split my head open. I’d had stitches and was in shock but I assured her I was fine.
And the pictures of tropical beaches and cocktails continued and my friends continued to be jealous about my life.
Except deep inside I was dying. The story I'd told her was a complete lie.
The reality was this: my boyfriend and I had come home after a party. I was showering and we got into an argument. He choked me a couple of times and told me he was going to kill me. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, praying someone would hear me. I thought he'd gone completely mad and honestly believed I was going to die.
Just as I thought the ordeal was coming to an end, he grabbed the back of my head and slammed my head into a wall. My forehead was split open - blood poured everywhere. He was of course mortified, slept off the drink and the next day I was stitched up.
I didn’t teach my morning yoga class and told everyone that I had been drunk and fell.
It felt easier to keep up the illusion than to face the truth – that I had been betrayed in the worst way possible. I stayed silent.
This photo of me and a yoga student was taken a week after it happened.
I stayed with him for more 9 months. Every day I was haunted by what happened.
I did my best to make excuses for his behavior and every time I tried to bring it up with him, because I was desperate to at least acknowledge that it happened, he was unable to even talk about it and threatened to leave me if I brought it up again.
It wasn’t the physical violence that truly hurt me though. It was the inability to be vocal. It was lying to my friends and family - it went against my core values of honesty and authenticity. Who was I to be an advocate of women's rights when I myself had a terrible dark secret that was scorching my insides.
Eventually I found the courage to leave him. It was only then that I told my friends and family the truth, one conversation at a time. And with each new conversation, I found freedom and healing.
During those weeks, I learned what I had suspected all along - that conversations are powerful. Telling your truth is vital. Letting yourself be seen will set you free.
And since then I felt that it was my duty as a woman to be open and candid about my experiences. Secrecy breeds shame and I knew in my heart that choosing to express this truth was not motivated by a desire to get back at him, but to take a stand against the violent atrocities that women have faced and continue to face at the hands of others.
Since sharing my story with my inner circle and also online, he has threatened me with legal action. The only language that he seems to know is intimidation. But I have chosen to stand strong.
We will not be silenced.
Find the courage to speak out. Owning what’s really going on for you, no matter what it is, will give you set you free.
And letting yourself be seen just as you are will give you the kind of strength you didn't even realize it was possible to feel.