Richmond woman teaches 'self-love' to combat domestic abuse - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Richmond woman teaches 'self-love' to combat domestic abuse

"Love Thy Neighbor" (Source: NBC12) "Love Thy Neighbor" (Source: NBC12)
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Valentine's Day often brings to mind images of hearts and flowers, but a local woman is taking this weekend to spread awareness about the dangers of domestic violence.

“We can get so caught up with ‘Oh, I don't have a Valentine,' but it's not about having a Valentine. It's about us loving yourself and also loving our neighbor,” said Mary Rodwell, also known as “Motivational Mary.”

Rodwell said self-love is what empowered her to leave an abusive relationship years ago. On Saturday, she hoped to inspire other victims of domestic violence to do the same, during her workshop, “Love Thy Neighbor.”

“There was a lot of things I went through in that relationship, and I thought it was love,” Rodwell said.

Dawn Howard, who performed a monologue during the workshop, said she survived not one, but two abusive relationships.

“The physically abusive relationship, I left in fear of my life,” Howard said.

Howard said her emotionally abusive relationship was harder to recognize and said some women are reluctant to label their partner’s aggressive behavior as abuse.

“People always say, 'I'm not going to stay with somebody that will hit me,' but you might stay with somebody that will twist your arm, or pull your hair or calls you out of your name,” said Howard. “They don't recognize it's abuse until it's too late.”

Sonja Holt said she spent 11 years with an emotionally abusive ex. She wants other women to understand the warning signs of abuse, such as a partner who is controlling, jealous, or has violent outbursts.

“I knew what a hit was, but I didn't know what manipulation looked like. I didn't know what intimidation looked like, or deception. I didn't recognize those more subtle forms of abuse,” said Holt.

Both women said they hope the workshop helps victims reclaim their own identities, and inspires them to remove themselves from an unhealthy situation.

“Love doesn't look like that. It's not bruises. It's not hurt. It's not someone causing you such pain,” said Howard. “You are beautiful. That's what we are trying to get people to understand today.”

If you or someone you know needs help you can call the 24 hour domestic violence hotline at 804-612-6126.

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