From Tragedy to Triumph

As a little girl, I was traumatized by stories of how my grandfather horrifically abused my grandmother and her eight children, beating them in the nude until they bled, even forcing his three year old son to eat a dead rat. My mother was one of his daughters. When she turned eighteen, she met and married my father. Shortly after the nuptials, her husband suddenly turned into her father--continuing the cycle of abuse that hospitalized her with a death prognosis. Years later, at just sixteen years old, I continued the cycle of abuse the first time my eye was blackened, my lip split. My abuser even kicked me in my eight months pregnant belly, endangering my life and the life of our unborn child.

I wish I could say that my story ended that fateful day when the swelling started to rise. I wish I could say that this tragedy did not exist before I was a stitch in my family's fabric line, a seed in my mother's womb. But those wishes are just that--wishes. I come from a legacy of women--four generations of mothers and daughters (my grandmother, my mother, myself and my daughter) that suffered and survived 60+ years of domestic violence and abuse--a story that inspired my novel, Color Me Butterfly.

I was the third generation of women in my family to be trapped in the cycle of violence. Twenty two years later, my daughter became the fourth when her boyfriend tried to kill her twice and threatened the life of their daughter, Promise. His words, "I'm going to bury Promise's body where nobody can find it." After realizing that the cycle was continuing into a fifth generation, I decided to turn my family's legacy and pain into a Promise for Change. I founded Saving Promise--a national grassroots movement to make domestic violence a national priority in the same way as breast cancer awareness.

With the onslaught of recent domestic violence tragedies--stories like Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia Lacrosse player allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend in a violent rage, and Rihanna whose story gripped America with the horrifying details of her abusive encounter with boyfriend Chris Brown, and more recently, Mel Gibson whose outlandish rage reminded us all of the seriousness of this issue--it is painfully apparent that domestic violence is a national pandemic.

When I first wrote Color Me Butterfly, I didn't understand it. I didn't understand that my story and my family's legacy would be used to put a face to this horrible social disease, to bring about change. It was merely my story. I would not come to understand until much later that my story is America's story. A story that often goes untold.

"Some would say I lived a sad life, a pained life," so begins Color Me Butterfly. Let's not let that sad life, pained life--my story, continue to be America's story. Instead, allow it to inspire you to action.

L.Y. Marlow is the author of Color Me Butterfly (Three Rivers Press, August 3, 2010) and the Founder of Saving Promise;