I always thought that by making 'smart' choices I could escape violence. That I could leave behind the horrible things that had happened in my past - the events in my childhood and the murder of my best friend. I thought I could build a better life for myself by working hard and making smart partner choices. But among the many things I learnt this year, I learnt that you cannot always predict the violence people are capable of. For all my best efforts choosing educated and, by all appearances, 'good' people, I have had a terrible year with controlling and abusive relationships. This included, among other things, an incident when a man I dated did something unspeakable to me, and, because it was unspeakable for a time it robbed me of my voice - and I felt it took away my autonomy. I couldn't even bring myself to tell my doctor the identity of the man when I told her what had happened.
Being a victim was not something that matched my understanding of myself.
And the action seemed so attrocious that it did not match the understanding of this man I had formed. But the human beings we admire are rarely one dimensional and someone can be both your best friend and capable of causing profound harm, either deliberately or through errors in judgement.
Human dignity and the right to safety are inalienable - there is no justification for the violation of these principles. This is what a professor I grew to admire told me in one of my first international law classes.
In many ways, law returned my voice this year, it gave me affirmation of my position and rights in this world. I hope in the future to pursue this path further and lend my voice to others because I believe we as humans can be better and kinder.
I graduated yesterday with a master's degree that I earnt from a top tier institution while working full-time during one of the most tumultuous years of my life.
While I lost a lot of things this year my determination isn't one of them; I'm grateful for the women I met this year whose experiences and strength showed me I could not just survive, but flourish.