For abuse survivor Rita Edah, writing her first novel helped her recover her life and move forward
Beauty’s Story is bigger than me. That is why I am able to tell it. Even now, I recall the tears rolling down my cheeks as I typed the very first lines for the very first time: ‘I know the every imperfection of my face…’
I love writing. Always did. And I always ‘knew’, as a little girl, that I was going to be a published writer. Practising as a journalist for a few years partially satisfied that appetite, only partially. I just always ‘knew’…
Then I got married and that relationship very nearly wiped out everything I knew to be true about myself. For many years, I bought into his lies and battled the paralysis, confusion and utter terror that domestic abuse can engender in its victims.
I was saved by a book. Literally. I read Patricia Evans book on The Verbally Abusive Relationship and began to understand what I was experiencing. I then started to watch my relationship and saw that the signs and patterns she spoke about were there in abundance.
I did some more studying, some more observing, and began to directly challenge the abuse as abuse, rather than buying into the excuses that were usually offered. It only got worse. It got to a point where I decided to make a choice: either to stay in a relationship that was abusive and toxic; or to get out of it, recover myself and begin to function again as a full and free member of the human race.
I chose the latter. It was during the horrendous period of my separation and subsequent divorce that I wrote Beauty’s Story. I had come to see that domestic abuse (especially with no or low physical violence and so no physical scars) didn’t seem to be understood in society. I was surprised and dismayed by how widespread it was, and still is – it cuts across race, culture, age, social status, religious affiliations and sexual orientation. As I shared my experiences, I saw others opening up to share theirs, even if it was with a resignation to it; an encouragement for me to persevere; an admonition for me to not rock the boat, to stay for the sake of the children… I was astounded at the lack of understanding of all what was at stake in the situation.
Part of why I wrote Beauty’s Story therefore was to raise awareness. I have often been asked whether it is fiction or factual. The story lines, the characters, the plot, those are all fictional. The themes and the essence of Beauty’s experiences, are all factual. They are very real to me, and to every woman who has suffered abuse at the hands and mouth of somebody they loved and who may have claimed to have loved them. A follow up question tends to be: “Why didn’t you write it as non-fiction?”
My answer to that is because many great lessons have been taught and learnt through the use of fictional stories. And, more importantly, the scourge of domestic abuse in society is more than my own personal experience. Thankfully, I lived to tell the tale.
Some don’t. Sadly, some do die, either at the hands of their abuser (it often escalates), intentionally or otherwise; or their body succumbs to some terminal illness due to all the stress induced by the abuse. Some take to drugs and alcohol to mitigate their sufferings and end up with a different, often, compounded set of problems; some suffer intense mental and emotional health challenges for very many years. How did it end for Beauty? How did she deal with it? Well, you will have to read the novel to find that out!
Writing Beauty’s Story was part of my survival strategy. I didn’t consciously know this at the time. What I did know was that I had this story going on in my head and it simply had to come out. (Thank you BookMidwife for helping with that!) The step before that was where I’d sought out a professional who chose to believe in me, at a time when I found it extremely difficult to believe in myself…
Looking back, the one common factor that helped me write Beauty’s Story while my world was falling apart was exercising my choice. I chose to say ‘no more’ to the abuse. I chose to believe I could get support and I chose to ask for it. I chose to listen to my inner voice and to reconnect with her…
And now I have also chosen to support others in their journeys of transformation into living authentic and fulfilling lives irrespective of whatever difficulties they may have encountered in the past.
“My encouragement for you today is to be who you are. Do whatever you need to do to find out who you are, to become comfortable in your own skin, to begin to live a life that lines up with your values, your gifts and your calling – that is where there is fulfilment. And, you have the gift of choice. Use it!”