Why I Run by Da Jung
I organized a team to participate in a 5k in order to raise money for The Safe Alliance, an Austin non-profit organization who provides services to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. I want to take a moment to share my motivation in doing this, on why I will run.
I was born on a tiny subtropical island 60 miles south of mainland South Korea. Starting from before I was born, through the first several months of my life, my birth mother and I were subjected to domestic violence. When my birth mother left, she tried to make a living for both of us by offering piano lessons in Seoul. However, it was the late 1980's. Survivor-centered services, such as those of The Safe Alliance, simply did not exist. A contributing factor in this context and region is that even the most extreme cases of violence against women and their children were considered a "private family matter"- not a public health problem. She was a young, single mother in a society that neither supported her decision nor provided the resources to help her.
I was 23 years old the first time I heard about my history of child abuse and domestic violence. It was told to me between stacks of paperwork, by a weary, but kind social worker at an adoption agency in downtown Seoul. I had just traveled to South Korea for the very first time since being adopted. When I first found out about what my birth mother and I endured, I believed the common misconception that infants are "too young" to remember such events to have any sort of long-term impact on them later in life. In fact, neuroscience research indicates that trauma at this stage of neurological development makes infants/toddlers especially vulnerable to developing longterm physical/psychological health problems, disruption to their basic self-regulation system, and difficulty forming secure attachments to others.
Hearing my story was both painful and liberating. Painful because for much of my life I struggled with feelings of abandonment, of being unwanted and unloved. Liberating because I began to understand more about what my birth mother must have gone through, which helped me realize how untrue those feelings of personal inadequacy are. I cannot imagine what that must have been like for her. Before this moment, I had already spent much of my life trying to imagine her in general. I've never had a photo of her and I wish I knew what her smile looks like. I don't know what her favorite food is or, equally as important, her opinion on cats. This story is all I have. All I know her by. It makes me very sad to think about how difficult that time in her life must have been for her. And it makes me all the more adamant about supporting organizations like The Safe Alliance.
I wish I could say my experiences with sexual assault, DV, and child abuse ended with a happy story of my being adopted and brought to the U.S. Unfortunately this was not the case and I wish I had more in me right now to share about them. I want people to know how prevalent and relevant these issues are by connecting someone they care about to statistics regarding these issues. But honestly sharing what I have so far has pretty much depleted all my moxie reserves.
Yes, tomorrow I will run. I run for a birth mother who was brave enough to leave a man who thought it was OK to beat his pregnant wife and later infant baby. I run for the courage she had to leave him as a single mother DV survivor, in a time when she lacked the cultural, financial, and emotional resources to support her. I run in deep gratitude for her taking me with her when she left. I also run for people who are just as brave in their decision to stay in a domestic violence situation. I run in support of these people who have had too much of their autonomy already controlled and taken away; I acknowledge that I do not “know what’s best for them” because I am not them. I run for people who face a societal pressure to deny their experiences. I run for the children who, like me, are trying desperately to make sense of a senseless situation. I run for other survivors of sexual assault, those whose stories we've heard, have yet to hear, and will never know.
I run for the amazing teammates who have offered to help me in this fundraising endeavor and all of the generous people who have donated to our cause. I run for myself. For the trauma I have experienced and my ongoing effort to resist letting it define who I am. And finally, of course, I run for The Safe Alliance- in support of all the desperately needed services they provide; for the people who work there and have dedicated their careers and lives to this cause.
If you cannot run with me on Sunday, please run with me in spirit. And please take a moment to consider donating to the Safe Alliance. (When making a donation, please include the name of your runner so we can track donations!!)
The SAFE Alliance is a merger of SafePlace and Austin Children’s Shelter. They provide services for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. https://www.safeaustin.org/
**More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the U.S. report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
**28% of families were homeless because of domestic violence.
**At least 1 in every 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. has been raped in their lifetime.