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I must admit- I am a chocolate lover. There is something about a small taste of this dark gold that can make a tough day a bit more bearable. Over the weekend, I reached for my favorite brand. You know, the one with those sweet messages hidden just inside the wrapper? It read, “Take a moment for yourself.” Just like that. Permission to savor that minute and taste the sweetness of the moment. Of course, I obliged.

I have been working with survivors of interpersonal crimes since 2005. And, one thing I know for sure- many times, their lives have had horribly bitter moments- not sweet ones. I joined the Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center’s team as their Executive Director in 2012. And, I had my eyes opened even further to the harsh realities many individuals face. You see, for survivors of domestic violence, there is rarely “permission” to “take a moment” for themselves. No, their moments are often controlled by someone else, threatened by the unpredictable or wrapped in anything but sweetness. I have seen firsthand, the tears shed by those blackened eyes and bruised souls. They have endured sexual assaults, battering and psychological abuse that is unspeakable. As a result, they have lived in silent prisons- ones with very real bars- though rarely visible to the naked eye.

My hope for this blog is that it becomes a forum from which to share real stories of hope, and a place where you, the reader, become educated on the issue of domestic violence. I hope that you learn as you read. I hope that you are inspired as you surf and I hope you are jolted into action- because with each second that passes- victims lose their lives. Domestic violence is real and it is lethal.

The National Football League did much to put this issue onto the national scene. I applaud their efforts. However, for many victims, their stories are never recorded on a video feed for the nation to witness and validate. And even then, many viewers struggled to understand. No, most of the time, you and I never see into their pain or their fear. We never get to see their heartache. That must change. We must cease “taking time ONLY” for ourselves and reach outside of ourselves to learn, listen and truly live. We must give ourselves permission to truly see the community in which we reside, and link up with those who reside in it with us. That takes intention. That takes guts. Chances are- when we do- we will link up with one of the 1 in 4 women who have been victims a violent crime, and yes, 1 in 33 men are victims too (National Network to End Domestic Violence).

As you may notice, the Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center has a new look. We hope you like it. We also trust all of our friends and supporters will get reconnected with our vital mission of Saving, Building and Changing lives! We hope to make new friends as well. Despite our new look, our mission remains steadfast. And, our need for partners remains great. You see, every minute is a gift to be savored. Every life is a treasure to be valued. And, while life can hand us all some seemingly unbearable blows, that same life allows us to connect to hands that can heal, restore and help us become what we never thought possible. That’s what makes life sweeter. So, the next time you give yourself permission to savor a sweet treat or still a moment away in solace, remember that YOU are the sweetness in someone’s day…and your intentional living just might save a life. Chocolate anyone?