Why the topic of abuse? It is a subject that many can relate to and I have experienced. According to a World Report, there is a common link between domestic violence and child abuse. Among victims of child abuse, 40% report domestic violence in the home. This was the case with my own story. I grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 people, everybody knew each other’s business and that included parts of my family’s happenings. But what the town didn’t know was my direct suffering.
There was so much violence, my mother and father were always at odds with each other and there was a lot of graphic physical abuse that took place; infidelity was involved. To spare my family of reliving the details, I will keep it short and say, there was not a safe place to turn to. As the abuse escalated I took the brunt of another form of abuse by a family member, I felt like a gerbil trapped on a spinning wheel. I was confused and all I wanted was to experience a “normal” childhood. The marriage ended in divorce when I was 11 years old and I bounced from my father to my mother’s home trying to find safety.
My grandparents were our saving grace. We would spend our summers with them and that’s how our work ethics were instilled. My grandfather owned a Guideboat shop and my grandmother ran an upholstery business. We would wake up early in the morning, eat breakfast as a family and then begin working in both shops. There were scheduled lunch breaks and dinnertime. My grandparents were simple; they built their own house, survived World Ward II, lived through the Great Depression and stored canned goods in their basement. Money was used sparingly, only for the true necessities of life. They gave me hope and encouraged me to believe in myself. That’s how I started to turn my life around as a teenager.
I entered beauty pageants and placed in the top 10. I decided to work three jobs and put myself through high school, earning enough to make a quick break for it, when I turned 18. I had met the boy next door; we dated for years and moved in together when I went off to college. My internal programming was to work and work hard for whatever my heart desired. I had no idea who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do all I knew was I wanted to feel safe. I worked a job, an internship and crammed two years of college into 1, graduating with honors and a degree in travel.
At the age of 21 I married my childhood sweetheart and moved to Florida where we made a nice home for ourselves until my world came crashing down. My Grandmother, my true mother figure passed away and again I felt confused and unsafe. The one person who supported and believed in me was taken from me. I didn’t know how to cope. I suddenly got tired of the marriage and asked for a divorce. I started going to clubs and meeting what I considered to be fun people until one day I was at a popular tourist location in Central Florida this was back in 1993; I was slipped a drug in my drink. There were so many thoughts that I was left with and the biggest one was shame. “How come I wasn’t more careful? How could I have trusted a man to bring me a drink?” Most of the moment was a blur; the drug has a way of erasing your memory but it definitely rocked my world and not in a good way.
I got a divorce, went to England on a whim to reconnect with a friend and that’s when I met this guy in a club; he was charming and easy on the eyes. We continued to spend a few days together before I flew home to Florida, but neither of us wanted for the moment to be the end. So we made arrangements to get married in England and for him to live in the states. There was just one problem, what the INS told us to do was not the same as what Immigrations wanted us to do so when we returned to Florida he was detained and deported immediately at the airport. I gave up everything I worked hard for and knew to move to a place where I knew nobody, or anything. I fought with immigrations at the U.S. Embassy in London and nearly got myself detained and deported but determination paid off and my husband got his visa, we moved to Florida.
Now I had bounced from one relationship to another and so had he, to say we were both confused is an understatement; the relationship was toxic. I was in and out of hospitals feeling sick all the time and I experienced 2 car crashes; I started to wonder if the relationship was the cause. Neither one of us had made peace with our pasts, and that carried over into the relationship. For 15 years there was lots of yelling; I witnessed doors through walls and screeching tires, our relationship was out of control. We had brought two beautiful children into the world that deserved loving whole parents and the only way to achieve that was through a divorce. The final straw for me is when he placed his hands around my neck, I told him to squeeze harder. I was working on my degree in alternative medicine and I knew if I tripped him up with reverse psychology he would realize what he was doing and release his hands, that was the last straw for me plus learning just a short time prior from one of his business clients that I was just a green card. That’s right sitting at the table the man turned, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “So you must be the green card.” My husband admitted that I was a bet in a nightclub by one of his friends, that he would win the bet if he came and spoke to me in the club. I had only wished that bet would have turned out in a better way. I was tired of finding cards in his nightstand that were bought for another woman and told that I wasn’t good enough. No longer would I live in these toxic conditions and be told that he wanted 2 kids, just not with me; yes that happened in front of our children. This was it, no turning back; I was leaving for good.
I gained my courage and took back my power. One day when he was away on a business trip I took the kids and went to a hotel where we couldn’t be found, or so I thought. The cops had to get involved and I made my break away. The road wasn’t easy but I sold stuff and packed up 3-26’ Penske trucks and I headed for Syracuse, NY, to a place I was being called to so I could deal and heal. The relationship ended and it was final, we were officially divorced in six weeks and he quickly got remarried.
While the three of us were living in Syracuse, I was finishing up my studies in Alternative Medicine, my kids got contracted for acting, and I was making new friends until the ultimate happened, my son and I were on our way to pick up my daughter who had just made Captain of the Cheerleading squad when we were hit from behind by a hit and run drunk driver. That was it, lights out! I felt myself floating out of my body, everything was dark and peaceful until a soft female voice said, “Dawn it’s time to open your eyes.” I wouldn’t open my eyes; I was finally at peace, a space with no pain. The voice kept getting stronger until the third time I heard, “Open your eyes NOW!” It was like nothing I experienced before, I felt my head torched back all the way into the back of the seat and I was gasping for air as I tried to raise my head and my arms were jammed by the force of holding the steering wheel. As I raised my head the voice said, “Turn your wheel to the right.” I saw oncoming traffic and I turned my wheel to the right, my mini van aligned and it never worked again, the engine died. I forgot I had a son until I moved my eyes to the right in the rear view mirror and I saw a boy, he said, “Mommy are you OK?” “Mommy” I thought, “Who are you?” Then it occurred to me, oh my gosh, I have a son. I tried getting out of the van and I could barely turn my head. A passer by stopped and helped me out, my knees felt like someone took a blow torch to them and as I made my way around the van I felt blown out glass everywhere. I got to the side of the van and tried to get the door open, it wasn’t moving. I got so angry the door finally jimmied open enough to get my skinny boy out of the van. I ran across two lanes of oncoming traffic with people honking horns and yelling for me to get out of the road, but when you are a mom on a mission to save your child you will do anything; the adrenaline had kicked in full throttle. I made our way to the side of the road and collapsed. Somebody had called the paramedics and they were now on the scene loading us on body boards. My daughter had called my phone and the paramedic found it in my van ringing, thanks to the Otter Box, it was fully in tact. Here comes the most incredible moment, the paramedic’s son played ball with the Cheerleading Mom’s son and that’s how he knew to guide my daughter to us. What are the chances of that? I was on one of the most spiritual highs of my life. The message was clear, “take everything you have learned in life and college and go out and powerfully impact the world.”
The next day, my father showed up and took us to our van at the tow site. It was official; my son’s seat had broken out of the floor and he walk away without an outer scratch. There is no question; we both have a special calling on our lives. I took everything I learned in college and I healed us back to “normal.” I had finished college and just found out I was graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA; Summa Cum Laude, my dream come true. We flew back to Boca Raton, FL, for my graduation and for the first time since I was 21 my mother and father were celebrating me under the same roof, what a moment. But the excitement of life came to a sudden crash when I received the news just six short weeks after walking the stage that my mother had passed. She died from an undetected thyroid disorder. I stopped and asked myself, “Why do all of these bad things keep happening?” I was determined to spend the rest of my life helping women so my mother’s pain would be honored.
After that, I moved to NJ, which started my love for media and writing; it was truly a year that changed the trajectory of my life. I wrote and published my first book, appeared as audience participation on Dr. Oz and The Today Show, and I was working on a pilot for a TV show with my new business partner who moved from FL to NJ to fulfill her dream. But after 1 year of being there I realized that I wanted to be connected to my friends and older sister in FL, so I moved back. Just after we got settled in I got news that my business partner had died from a rare heart disease and within weeks a close family member had passed and my dog died. So many crazy challenges and to put more on top, my daughter was unsettled and decided to stage her escape and move in with her father.
I had just finished up a big media event in FL and I had a choice to make, either I let everything I had worked hard for to come crashing down or I would keep the main thing the main thing, focus on what is working instead of what’s not. I pushed through and I got to see my daughter graduate after having 1 year of no communication with her. I helped her get an apartment, buy a car, and pick out a college. Today she is settled outside of DC with a great boyfriend and she is running her own race; building her personal training business and I am incredibly proud of her.
As for my son, and me we are living in Florida and having a house built. I have become a Transformational Divorce Coach and a 3 time published author. My experiences have been incredible from appearing on the red carpet with Jack Canfield in Hollywood to over 35 media outlets. I have written 4 songs, had acting gigs, co-invented the Cami-Soul, and spoke at my University, Co-Produced 2 TV shows, founded A New Dawn Natural Solutions, Inc and the Wake Up And Listen Radio Show, was a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, and I’ve been endorsed by several celebrities. But what I am most proud of is the #SHEROproject. I wanted a space where women could be celebrated instead of victimized for their past.
The reality is bad things do happen to good people but our past does not define who we are and our future is mostly up to our own choosing. By working hard on our thoughts, using different alternative healing modalities and with dedication and determination we all have the opportunity to transform. I have chosen my path through divine intervention and I am choosing to live the rest of my life unapologetically. It’s my goal and my mission to continue to positively impact the world. After all, it’s time that we all get our THRIVE on!
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The #SHEROproject will include stories of SHEROS from around the world throughout the rest of 2019. In an effort to support our thriving SHEROS, there is a panel that will be selecting the most inspirational story for the 2019 SHERO of the year award, which will be announced on 12/1/2019.
The SHERO of the year award winner will receive a 4-day/3-night retreat at Multiversity. An opportunity to explore their potential in an environment like no other; get away for rejuvenating downtime and immersion learning on their state-of-the-art campus in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, CA and experience the perfect blend of learning, vacation, and space for reflection.
1440 Multiversity is a place to experience time differently—exploring what matters, while surrounding yourself with fresh air, delicious food, many ways to unwind, and opportunities to connect with yourself and others. SHERO, during your stay, you can look forward to daily 1440 specialty classes such as yoga, meditation, qi gong and Pilates. Or enjoy hiking in the 75 acres of redwood forest surrounding the campus and finish off your day with a soak in their signature infinity tub.
The creation of 1440 Multiversity stemmed from a desire to establish a beautiful and nurturing physical location where people of all walks of life could come together in community—to explore, learn, reflect, connect, and reenergize.
Each featured SHERO will receive a private invitation to The B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. Foundation annual Gala in Las Vegas 2/8/2020 where they will be interviewed on the red carpet. B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. foundation’s mission is to provide resources needed to support, sustain and empower young girls and women under the age of 25 who have been abused, abandoned, and exploited. We intend to accomplish this mission by bringing other agencies with similar missions together and being a resource center for these organizations.
Also, each SHERO featured will receive a relaxing mix of Nectar Bath Treats’ most popular bath and body treats. Nectar Bath Treats is a cruelty free bath & body company that creates bakery inspired treats for deliciously smooth skin. Their delightful handmade treats range from adorable cupcake soaps and milkshake inspired coconut milk bath soaks to stress blasting bath bombs, all natural sugar body scrubs, ice cream shaped bubble bath scoops and so much more. If you need to relax after a long day or give yourself smoother more kissable skin, Nectar Bath Treats has you covered head to toe. Each treat is handmade with love by their team of professional soap artisans and skin care specialists for skin so soft and smooth you’ll swear you just left a luxury spa treatment.
Each featured SHERO will also receive a Rustic Cuff representing Joy & Courage. Celebrities such as Miranda Lambert, Giuliana Rancic, Kristin Chenoweth and Gayle King to name a few, wear founder Jill Donovan’s designs. Her bracelets have been featured on a multitude of national talk shows and in magazines including Elle, People, In Style, etc. For Jill it’s all about the inspired connection that is made between two people.
The SHEROs will also receive a candle by Sugarboo and Co…Dealers in Whimsy, reminding them that they are a light in the world. Sugarboo believes in putting good out into the world whenever possible. Their hope is that each Sugarboo piece sent out into the world will add a little good! Rebecca Puig’s (artist and owner) inspirations are family, nature, animals, old things, children’s art and folk art. She loves juxtaposing old and new, light and dark, serious subject matter with fluff and anything with a message! Sugarboo’s Motto is “Put Good Things into the World”