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From Brokenness to Beauty:

Pull Up A Chair, I Have Something to Share

by Andrea Lynn Cianflone

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me, R-E-S-P-E….” Waiting for a train in the subway one day, I was listening and singing along with the subway musician/vocalist when suddenly my RESPECT was disrupted by a loud noise echoing off in the distance! The crescendo of two human voices arguing with an array of colorful words was enough to make everyone on the platform shift their eyes to the aggressive vocal percussion now drowning out the performing artist. A little girl was anxiously shuffling her feet, holding the woman’s hand of whom I presumed was her mother. Regardless of the relationship between the child and the woman, it was clear that the situation was escalating. I was sensing an aura on the platform that people were all thinking the same thing: should someone step in? As the tension increased, I settled my gaze on the young little girl caught in the cacophony of those thundering voices. The fear and shame poured out of those innocent twinkling eyes. Her noticeable discomfort struck me, so much so, that as the man grabbed hold of the woman’s arm, I tried to empathically smile hoping to divert her attention away from the abusive argument resounding inches away from her precious ears. Maybe then, she would know it wasn’t her fault. The train approached and the crying woman yanked her arm from the man as she held on to the little girl. They all stepped into the subway, still quarreling. The doors closed, and like a movie scene, the subway slowly moved away with the little girl looking out the window trying to smile back at me. My heart broke as I thought to what the next hours might hold in the home for those three people.


The train finally arrived and as I took my seat, memories surfaced of a psychologically abusive relationship I endured ten years prior. I physically shook my head telling myself not to ‘go there.’ The present moment resumed, and I could not help but wonder if the woman was experiencing domestic violence in the home. In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.[1] The wellbeing of survivors can hold some grave negative health outcomes who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) including “a range of conditions affecting the heart, digestive, reproduction, muscle and bones, and nervous systems, many of which are chronic. Survivors can experience mental health problems such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.” [2]


The innocence of youth is equally impacted as 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year.[3] The National Child Traumatic Stress Network says that exposure to violence can result in a range of immediate reactions such as generalized anxiety to difficulty concentrating to increased aggression. The long-term effects from chronic exposure to IPV can include physical health problems to emotional difficulties in adulthood like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.[4]