It’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – My Speech for AWP

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Last night, I was honored to speak at the candle light vigil for National Domestic Violence Month. The event was hosted by A Woman’s Place, the domestic violence advocacy group who helped me when I didn’t know where else to turn.

I’m not at all nervous, as you can tell

My speech focused on the story of my “after.” As in, what came after I left. How good life got after I got out. It was a privilege to be up on stage with the other speakers, telling our stories, and hopefully giving another woman hope that getting out and staying out really is possible.

My speech is included below. Thanks again to AWP for all the hard work they do for the women and families in Bucks County. They are truly saving lives. I know they saved mine.

(the full version of my speech is included below, but without all the stumbling and shaking that reading it aloud entailed).

Hello, my name is Lauren Wellbank, and like many of you here tonight, my life has been touched by domestic violence. 

My story is like a lot of your stories: I fell in love with a man who turned out not to be who I thought he was. The once incredibly charming and funny guy — who I had known for years before we became romantically involved — morphed, seemingly overnight, into a controlling monster with a short fuse and a jealous streak a mile long. I was completely shocked when our relationship turned violent. I thought domestic violence was something that happened to other people, not something that happened to someone like me. 

Like a lot of women in this situation, I stayed longer than I’d like to admit. Part of me was afraid to leave him, and part of me just didn’t want to believe that the charming and funny guy I fell in love with wasn’t still in there somewhere, struggling to find his way back out. 

I left him twice. 

The first time I left, I went back to him a week later. He lured me in with promises of change, and swore up and down that the last time would really be the last time

The second time I left because absolutely nothing had changed, and I realized that the only way that our relationship was ever going to end was if one of us was dead, and I’d finally realized that I didn’t want that person to be me. 

Bristol Riverside Theater

It was hard, as many of you probably know, to get out and stay out. In the days after I left for the second time, he called me and emailed me and followed me non-stop. I lived in terror of what would happen when he finally got me alone, which was a completely different kind of terror than the one I’d lived with at home, making me second guess why I’d even bothered leaving again.  

Eventually, I called the Bristol Township police department for help, and in what I still consider to be one of the biggest strokes of luck in my life, the officer they sent out to take my statement told me about A Woman’s Place. Before he left that night he told me that if I was his daughter, this is what he would beg me to do. It was those words that pushed me into the warm and welcoming arms of A Woman’s Place, where I finally found a path to safety. 

In the months that followed the end of that relationship I was scared: both of my ex and of the thought of the other men that I might encounter in my life. I worried that being in one abusive relationship had doomed me to a lifetime of being stuck in that cycle. That somehow, by staying with my ex for as long as I did, I’d hung this invisible sign around my neck that said, “Go ahead and hurt me, I’ll put up with anything.” I didn’t want to date, I didn’t want to go out with my friends, I just wanted to hide at home and pretend like none of it had ever happened. 

Fortunately, that fear eased over time until it faded into the background. They say time heals all wounds but I think that it’s more that time just changes your perspective. As the months passed I began to realize that not all men were like my ex. Violence wasn’t always hiding under a charming exterior. Most men, even, would never actually think of raising their hands to a woman. 

Domestic violence isn’t the rule, it’s the exception. 

Even after coming to an understanding of that piece of the puzzle, over the years the embarrassment I felt about everything that happened kept me silent. I didn’t want to tell anyone else about my experiences because I didn’t want them to think less of me. I believed, wrongly like I’m sure many of you have believed at one point, that being the victim of domestic violence said something about me and my weaknesses. I’ve learned since then that domestic violence isn’t about the abused, it’s about the abuser. It wasn’t something that happened to someone like me. It was something that happened because of someone like him

That change in perspective is what helped heal me. Not the passage of time, but the understanding that none of what happened was an indicator of my value or my worth. 

I went to the offices of A Woman’s Place on a cold December morning, angry and embarrassed by the idea of having to tell strangers my story, and admit to what had been going on.

It’s been almost 13 years since that day, and I am happy to report that I’ve never been in another abusive relationship. 

I’m married to an absolutely wonderful man, who I’ve been with for nine years. We have two small daughters (and another baby on the way). We laugh, a lot. It’s actually one of my favorite things about us: we can find the humor in almost anything. 

I’ve never been afraid of him. He rarely even raises his voice, unless it’s in excitement (everytime a new Star Wars trailer drops our house gets very loud). 

I’m happy, I’m safe, and best of all, I feel good. Not because I’ve found some man who completes me, but because I’ve come to the understanding that all of that anger and embarrassment that I directed towards myself, didn’t actually belong to me. It belonged to someone else. And knowing that, allowed me to let “most” of it go. 

What happened over the course of our relationship happened because of him, not because of me, and coming to that understanding wasn’t easy, nor was it fast — lord knows I could have benefited from therapy — but it was life changing.  

Because life is so much better on the other side. I remember someone telling me when I was in the thick of things that my life would be better someday, that I would feel good again. Of course at the time I thought they were blowing smoke up my butt to get me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, but over the years I’ve come to learn “better” doesn’t actually even begin to cover how good it feels on the other side. It’s actually pretty great out here. 

So, if you’re still in the thick of it, I want to tell you that things do get better someday. It’s not just some lie well-meaning people say to convince you to keep going, which is obviously what I believed, it’s actually the truth. And I’m living proof of it.

Thank you for letting me speak tonight, and thank you to A Woman’s Place for all they’ve done for me and for everyone else in Bucks County. 

To my daughter on her second birthday

To my daughter on her second birthday,

And like that, she’s two

I packed up your high chair the other day, you no longer use it. These days you insist on sitting in a chair at the table, just like your big sister. You’ve become her twin, her shadow, over the past few months. There is no where she goes, that you do not follow. It can be both adorable and frustrating as I try to keep you both in line.

Continue reading To my daughter on her second birthday

Retro Toy Reviews Presents: Snailiens

Snailiens

Reviewer: Kenny Wellbank

Where do I start? Do I begin to give a background on the story of the Snailiens? Do I tell the tale of how each of the Supersonic Shell Fighters were gifted their names by their small unidentifiable bug sidekicks? Maybe with the fact that their mortal enemies are anthropomorphic ticks, also with unidentifiable bug sidekicks? Are they even snails? Why do they have weird armor beards or eyebrows, each with a corresponding color? Why did an action figure with zero points of articulation and a snap on two piece armor set resembling the McDonalds Looney Tunes DC Super Heroes Happy Meal Toys capture the heart of so many children?

Continue reading Retro Toy Reviews Presents: Snailiens

A thank you to all of the “loser teachers” I’ve known

“Keep up that fight, bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth. You don’t have to do it.” – Donald Trump Jr.

I have been thinking about Mrs. Miller a lot lately. She was impossibly nice, had beautiful blonde curly hair, and taught the 5th grade. I can’t remember much of what I learned in her classroom that year, but I do remember how she made me feel: smart, creative, important.

Continue reading A thank you to all of the “loser teachers” I’ve known

A letter to my daughter on her fourth birthday

The bullying doesn’t stop, it just changes

Bullying.

The first time I was teased about the way I looked I was in elementary school. We were sitting in class when the boy sitting next to me said something about my hair. Then the boy next to him joined in, and another boy on the other side of me jumped in, and my first nickname was born: Medusa.

Continue reading The bullying doesn’t stop, it just changes

How millennials are ruining Thanksgiving

The holidays are upon us

Dearest millennial host,

It’s me, your 19 pound turkey, dropping in with a very important message about Thanksgiving. I know a written letter seems a little formal, especially since you are about to be wrist deep inside of me, but it’s pretty hard to get your attention any other way.
For example, do you remember the other day when you thought you heard a noise coming from your trunk while you were on your way home from the grocery store? Well, that was me trying to get your attention.

Continue reading How millennials are ruining Thanksgiving

Twas the night before cold and flu season

My “cold and flu season” decorations are finally up.

Twas the night before cold and flu season…

Twas the night before [insert thing I was looking forward to doing here], when all through the house, not a child was sleeping, not even with their favorite stuffed mouse;

Their outfits for tomorrow had been laid out with care, in the hope it would speed up our morning routine if we prepared.

Instead I found children piled high in our bed, sniffling, and sneezing as we held damp towels to their heads

I should have realized it yesterday, when my youngest went down easily for her nap, my carefully planned schedule was about to go to crap.

Continue reading Twas the night before cold and flu season

I’m another year older

Look at the Tigger hat, look at it!

1994 maybe?

I’m grateful to wake up another year older today. I know it’s an experience denied so many.

After being serenaded by my kids, and eating a wonderful breakfast cooked by my amazing husband, I answered the age old question, “Do you feel any different?”

The short answer, no.

Continue reading I’m another year older

Hello, I’m the failed wife

A letter of thanks from the formerly failed wife.

When I initially wrote this piece for Huffington Post about my whirlwind journey from wife to ex-wife, I didn’t really expect much to come of it. Honestly, I assumed a few people would read it out of morbid curiosity and then never give it a second thought. Fortunately, I’m very used to being wrong.

Since the piece went live Friday morning I have been receiving emails and private messages from people who have experienced similar “failures.” It’s been unbelievable, and I promise I am going to respond to each and every email, message, and comment that I have received as soon as I can think of something more eloquent to say than, “Oh my god, thank you.”

Our Friday the 13th cake topper

Eight years ago, when all of this happened I felt lower than I ever thought was possible. I was sad and hurt and angry – so angry – that I thought there would never be an “after” for me. No, I wasn’t going to feel better after some time had passed. I wouldn’t look back on the experience afterwards and gain some sort of insight that I didn’t have before. My pain would only lengthen with time, it wouldn’t lessen. It would remain tethered to my heart, like a balloon on a string, and it would follow me into every relationship and experiences for the rest of my life. I would always be under its shadow, and it would always taint everything in my life.

Continue reading Hello, I’m the failed wife