My older sister and I are 18 months apart. About 3-4 years ago, I was living at home with my sister who was in a relationship with a very abusive partner who hurt her mentally, physically, emotionally and sexually. She didn’t even know until she took a course in community college about domestic violence.

“I didn’t know what was acceptable because I’ve never had a healthy relationship, so I thought a slap or punch was just a normal aspect of a friendship or relationship,” her sister said. “Even though it all seems so obvious now like I shouldn’t have allowed this man to manipulate me for so long, in the moment I thought he needed someone to take care of him … I thought he needed a shoulder to cry on but I was more of a punching bag.

This class showed me that 1) that wasn’t normal at all and 2) abuse isn’t just physical – it can be psychological, digital, emotional, financial and all that.”

When I found out about this, I was angry and upset that someone could treat my sister in that way. That was when I was actually introduced to dating/domestic violence. I had always heard about it, but until someone close to you actually experiences it, it’s still considered taboo.

I’ve been doing pageants for six years and decided to make my platform about domestic/dating violence. I’ve been involved with Bloom365 for about 2 years and have done a lot with them, including going through a 40-hour advanced advocacy training and attending the National Organization for Victim Assistance Conference.

I was recently appointed as the faith lead advocate, which means I am in charge of creating the same curriculum we use in high schools, but making it scripture-based to present to youth at churches. I also created a social media awareness month campaign about the red flags of an unhealthy relationship, how to help a friend and resources for those waiting to get out of a relationship. Throughout the month, I also encouraged others to donate to a women’s survivor shelter that was collecting clothing, small appliances, pet items and toiletries.

I’m trending because I’m having an impact in something that definitely needs to be said.

If you or a loved one are seeking assistance and support to escape a domestic violence situation, you are not alone – there are many resources available, including:

Bloom365: Text 602-799-7017 or call HOPE (4673)

National Teen Dating Violence Hotline: 1-866-331-9474

National Domestic Violence Hotline: +1-800-799-7233