It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Throughout October, advocates share how heartbreakingly common domestic violence is. My guest today, Arletta Allen, knows that all too well. She is a dynamic professional speaker, trauma recovery coach, authentic leadership trainer, and author.
I recently connected with Arletta Allen on LinkedIn, and her passion for helping those affected by domestic violence was clear. She regularly speaks to organizations and holds workshops on leadership, empowerment, resilience, overcoming adversity, and authenticity. I asked her to come over for an interview, and she agreed. Here is our conversation.
Interview with Arletta Allen
Trigger Warning: This interview will discuss a specific person’s experiences with physical assault. This may be triggering to readers with similar experiences.
Thanks for being here today, Arletta! Let’s get right to the questions:
Why does DVAM mean so much to you?
I believe we have all been gifted with something unique we bring to the world. I have been gifted with the ability to positively impact lives by sharing my story of defying the odds and transitioning from trauma to triumph. In other words, transitioning from where I was stuck and broken and locating the path to resilience and perseverance that caused me to triumph through my setbacks. I am a survivor of domestic violence and abuse, and so is my mother. It’s generational trauma.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is so important to me because it brings awareness to those suffering behind closed doors. DVAM helps to allow others to know they are not alone in the struggle to break free from who or what has attempted to destroy or break them.
Knowledge is power, and DVAM allows the victims to know the different types of abuse and ways to get support and resources to get to safety. DVAM gives a voice to those who survived and those who lost the fight in silence.
I grew up in a household where my father expressed his feelings towards my mother, my siblings, and me by using violence. I watched daily as my father would brutally beat my mother and one time even punching her in the mouth and breaking her front tooth. I watched as my mother lived daily in fear of his actions and how to keep us all safe. My father would burn her with hot irons, drag her down concrete stairwells, and so much more. My father brutally abused me, leaving me standing in corners overnight with my nose buried and afraid to move, and I would soil myself and sleep standing up. My father would strap my siblings and me to tables and beat us until we wouldn’t be able to sit for days because of the broken skin and swelling from the welts.
When I came to maturity and was able to find love for myself, so I thought I gravitated toward men just like my father. History began to repeat as now I was the victim once again, and now my sons watched in fear as I was hurt.
My self-esteem and self-worth were low, and they plagued every decision I made. There came the point when I had to choose between the life I lived behind closed doors and the life I lived in front of others in the workplace. I chose to gain the courage and strength to walk away because I realized I was subjecting my children to the same pain and hopelessness my mother and father subjected me to.
I decided I wanted better for my sons and their well-being outweighed my own. I walked away from the pain, that hidden lifestyle that ripped to pieces, and found freedom because I am worth it. I deserved to live the life I dreamed about, and the only way was to deny the mask I put on every day.
Pretending to be complete in the workplace and the college hallways and ultimately breaking into the privacy of my home. Trying to survive. I am passionate about creating awareness and speaking to and inspiring others because I was “her.” I was the pretender. I was the woman ashamed and tired of masking every day, but I am also the one who got away that gained the courage to fight back for me and those four sets of eyes looking back at me. My sons are my why, and I was my mother’s why!
Wow. You have been through so much. You broke the cycle of domestic violence and now help others by speaking about self-empowerment. Can you please talk a bit about that?
I firmly believe that our story holds the power to become a blueprint for someone else’s survival. I believe in finding the courage to share by being authentic, relatable, transparent, and vulnerable in my delivery because people are made free by the truth of others’ experiences, not by fictional stories and characters that don’t exist.
My lived experiences are real to me, and I know that if I can transform even one life with what I share that makes my life purposeful and meaningful. Self-empowerment is simply taking what we freely give to others and pouring a little bit of that love back on ourselves.
It’s the truth that you can not pour from an empty cup. Ultimately, we should strive to pour from our overflow.
I can not share with you my P.O.W.E.R. (Perseverance, Ownership, Work, Energy, Resilience) if I haven’t put in the work to undergo that transformation personally. The key ingredient to self-empowerment is confidence. It takes true confidence to take ownership of your destiny. My life did not come equipped with the greatest role models, however, if I learned nothing more from my father’s harsh and violent behaviors, it is what not to be and what I didn’t want.
I found that on this journey that if you don’t take charge of your own life and create your seat at the table, you always be standing in the background. I wanted to give my children something I didn’t have… Stability, safety, a home, a future, and hope.
There was no blueprint, so I created one, and I went after everything that the society that marginalizes me claims I shouldn’t have. I finished high school after dropping out as a teen mom, I went to college and graduated summa cum laude and top of my program. I became an elected official and voice for the underrepresented in my community; I brought diversity and hope to every board I served on, and I found strength and courage in being my authentic self. I found joy in walking in my joy and showing up in rooms unmasked and unapologetically me.
Authenticity, yes! Tell me a bit about what motivates you in your career
What motivates me the most in my career is knowing that my work is meaningful. I live to speak, and I speak to live, is my personal purpose statement.
My mother always said, “A closed mouth don’t get fed!” I believe in speaking up and speaking out for what I believe is right and where my passion lies because it could save someone else’s life very well.
I endured so much adversity to get to where I am. I desire to see my experiences light a path of purpose and hope for someone else. Especially those who feel they are not worthy or forgotten.
For each keynote or workshop presentation that I give, my favorite moment is always the moment of connection with the audience directly following it. The moment I get to embrace them and thank them for allowing me to share my story and add value to their lives.
I recognize my career as a gift and honor to engage, inspire, uplift, and encourage others. Truly, I can not think of better expertise. I feel truly blessed.
I can see why that moment afterward is so important to you. It’s about connection. Who inspires you, Arletta?
There are quite a few women who inspire me, but I will name three!
Oprah Winfrey inspires me daily to fully walk in my purpose and calling. Much of my story is modeled after things she, too, has endured. Watching her overcome all the adversity inspires me because I’m just like her… I’m just a country girl from Yazoo City, Mississippi. I have had a tough life with many wounds, scars, and flaws, but just like Oprah, I turned that pain into a Ph.D. in Purpose.
Brené Brown is another woman who inspires me because she gave me the courage to show up and be myself in any room after dwelling in the shadows of normative conformity most of my life. Brené Brown states that we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect and that true authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of what we think we ought to be and embracing who we truly are. I have been living in my truth since that discovery because her research gave me permission to celebrate myself authentically.
Lastly, but certainly not least, my mother. I watched my mother come from dirt. To get knocked down to her lowest point, yet never give up. I watched her sacrifice all she was to get my siblings and me to safety, holding back nothing. My mother is my go-to whenever I need to draw the courage and strength to persevere and push through adversity. Her story reminds me that I am resilient too. My mother’s pearls of wisdom and quotes pulled me through when I wanted to give up. I’m grateful she never gave up on me.
A few more words from Arletta Allen
Thank you for amplifying my voice and allowing me to share on this platform. My passion for celebrating DVAM is more than just for October. It’s a lifestyle of positive impact and transformation to the lives of others.
I share my story of power and resilience in my memoir Defying the Odds: Making the Transition from Trauma to Triumph. This will be available in November 2022 on my website (link in the next section).
Also, I have co-authored the gratitude anthology Whoo Influenced You? Three Relationships That Transformed My Life. The book is available for pre-order.
Thank you for being here ♥️
Arletta, you no doubt help people daily, whether they reach out to you directly or not. You speak up for those who do not (yet) do so, and you encourage them to share their voice.
You see your experiences as lessons and feel your mission is to spread awareness during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and beyond. You are incredible.
Connect with Arletta Allen
Also, check out her TEDx Talk on YouTube titled Creating the Awe in Your Authenticity.
Her main platform is her website. You can find her contact information there. On email, she is firstname.lastname@example.org
Top photo by Nick Nelson the Brandpreneur, courtesy of Arletta Allen