We have gotten a few questions and comments over the 2+ years since starting our mission, wondering: Why the name Beauty After Bruises? It’s attention-getting no doubt, and full of symbolism, so each person who hears it walks away with their own interpretation of the words. For many it’s even a little jarring, leaving them to immediately imagine the pain of those we seek to help. It makes some strangers in passing uncomfortable even. And when it comes to the survivors we help, it’s been mostly sincere appreciation, with the occasional mixed review that nearly always yields the most love in the end. Those who are close to us feel that it empowers and lifts them up. But a small handful of survivors - mostly via social media - have mentioned it left them a little too uneasy. For them, the word Bruises brought with it vivid images of abuse they just didn’t want to think about. Luckily, in each case, inquiring about it gave us a chance to share our intent and they walked away feeling strengthened by it, no longer at war internally - and, for some, they left feeling braver and prouder each time they scrolled past the word Bruises, no longer blanching or feeling small. That's a pretty dramatic leap. And it was responses like those that really encouraged us to share this message today. What could have turned them around so strongly? And, why would we name our charity and our mission something that could everrr upset or make aaanyone uneasy EVER? There is no short answer, only a long one. But the quickest summary is that it is necessary and that it honors survivors in a way they might not have even realized they needed. Let me explain…
Abuse of any kind makes people uncomfortable. Period. It makes them shy away, hush their voices, and try to avoid any exposure to the topic at all — seeing it, hearing about it, talking about it, even remedying it. Collectively, we all try to speak in more euphemistic terms or find literally ANY other word we can come up with when trying to discuss things like current events, social matters, or situations in our personal lives. News articles containing the proper verbiage can make us recoil or even consciously decide to stop reading and move on to something else. It suddenly feels too graphic. …all because they didn’t use softer language to describe “the thing we knoooow they’re talking about." "Do they have to keep saying it?!”.
For survivors or those with panic disorders, avoiding these things is different because it can genuinely trigger terrible memories and panic; they need to protect themselves. But as a society, we avoid anything that feels too harsh or too real. But, this euphemistic, protective environment we create for ourselves while simply reading stories that are far-removed from us fosters the exact same kind of environment to be present when we see it in our real lives. This “look away unless it’s palatable” mindset is what makes people turn away from someone with a black eye or marks on their body. ...later convincing themselves they did so just because they were being polite, they didn't want to stare or offend, right? We create safer reasons and stories in our minds for how a child we know may’ve gotten a curious injury or why they might look so disheveled each day, instead of going with our gut. We even disbelieve those who open up and tell us that something really terrible happened to them, even when they have zero reason to lie. “Maybe they just wanted some attention”, we consider. If we can’t even hear or read the words surrounding abuse of those we don't even know just because they’re too harsh or “make us think unpleasant things”, how are we ever going to be able to listen, tolerate, really be there for, and believe(!!) a friend or loved one who comes to us saying they've been hurt? You cannot look away or keep scrolling when it’s right in front of you! And yet, it's the very reason so many quickly jump to minimizing, invalidating, questioning, defending, redirecting, trivializing, placating, shaming, lecturing (the list goes on!) whenever they ARE sitting across from it. Anything to make it “not so intense” for themselves…regardless of how intense and inescapable it might be for the person going through it. This HAS to change.
The world has to get more comfortable with hearing hard words; and “bruises” really isn’t too harsh a word to sit with. We could have gone the more common route, electing something flowery or that focuses solely on the “good, presentable parts” of being a survivor — like strength, fighter, perseverance, hope, healing and so forth. But, to us, that feels like we’re doing the very thing our survivors have had to do their entire lives: cover up their wounds and make everything pretty so that other people can be more comfortable. We want all survivors to know they can come to us as broken and “unpretty” as they may be, and know that we aren’t going to flinch or falter or be too horrified to pick them up and take them in. And, when they’re ready, we will gladly help them find some light and beauty and hope again - in all of its raw and unexpected forms. We won’t ever once ask them to hide or soften the broken pieces along the way - not for our comfort, let alone anyone else’s for that matter. They are the ones hurting. They never get to escape it. We can all tolerate being uncomfortable for just a few moments. And by giving our charity a shiny or glitzy name, we'd be glossing over eeeeeverything they’ve been through - wrapping it all up in a pretty little basket with a big, fat insulting bow on top, calling the world’s attention to only the poised and Smiley Survivors™. That’s what abusers want you to do. And we’re saying NO. You come to us with the scars on your heart and body and we won’t shudder or look away - nor will the community we’ve built here. We aren’t afraid of the hard stuff - to hear it or see it, know that it exists or fight against it. But we also want to help bring you to the beauty, to the peacefulness you seek and so deeply deserve. It absolutely exists and we want to help you claim it. However, it's a more vivid and authentic experience of beauty when you've truly nurtured and healed the wounds, instead of having spent your whole life working to paint over them.
Beauty After Bruises is about reclaiming what is yours. It’s about no longer hiding. It’s owning your story without shame. It’s about being vulnerable and learning to trust. It’s about acknowledging that even though the bruises on your skin may have faded, the bruises on your heart still need to be handled with care. Our name, and our mission, is about letting survivors take off their metaphorical sunglasses, makeup and long sleeves and stand securely in themselves, knowing they don’t have to hide anything. It’s not their secret to conceal. They did nothing wrong. It’s also about getting the world on the same page. Getting it more comfortable with the realities around them, so that they’re less likely to huddle their kids close and shuffle away whenever they see someone who might need help. Making it so that when a survivor comes to their best friend, telling them something terrible just happened, their friend isn’t so overwhelmed and trying to just “click away” that they end up searching for a million reasons it might have been the survivor's fault, wasn’t really that bad, or that maybe even the perpetrator “didn’t really mean to”. We need to keep creating a world where our visceral reactions to the harsh realities around us stop sending the message to traumatized survivors that what they’ve been through is “too much”, “too dirty” or “too unspeakable”. We want survivors to know they can speak and be heard. Share and be believed. Trust and have it honored. Be vulnerable and experience healing. Heal and find beauty.
We genuinely and truly believe there is beauty after bruises. We’ve seen it. And we want to help you experience that. All of you.
QoTD: For our survivors, supporters, and passersby, what do you think and feel when you hear "Beauty After Bruises"? What does it mean to you? What do you feel? What things to you see in your mind or notice in your chest? Let us know and share with others in the comments! :)