Buckle Up

I find myself at a loss of words over the Supreme Court decision that in short tells women what they can and cannot do to their bodies. Oh, and basically deputizes citizens to turn in their neighbors. It feels like we are in 1942 Germany or in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. I have dedicated my life to working with women. I help them find their path to healing and I help them find their voices. What happened today pushes back against all of this. It’s a push back against women themselves. There are a lot of ways I could write on this subject, but I’ve decided to tell you my story, what I have learned, and what I know.

I was raised in a born again Christian household where we were forced to go to prayer meetings, church, etc. During my middle school and teenage years I watched as my parents marriage changed as a result. My father became even more controlling than he already was, my mother more submissive, and as a result, unhappy children. This was a formative time for me because I learned exactly the kind of parent I did not want to be.

When I was 15, and still a virgin, I was raped. I was traumatized and terrified, but I couldn’t tell my parents. What if I was pregnant? They were so pro life that I knew they wouldn’t be on my side in this situation. When I finally got my period I was beyond relieved. I then proceed to promptly stuff that memory into a dark corner of my mind, and I kept going. At 22 I decided to finally tell my mother about it. She ended up breaking down and took to her bed for 3 days. She cried and begged me for forgiveness. She wanted to know why I didn’t just tell her. Then she made me promise that we would never tell my father because it would kill him. Imagine if I had been impregnated? What then? I stuffed it back into the dark corners of my mind, and went about the business of living the best I could.

When I was in my mid twenties I met a guy. Our worlds collided and we fell madly and deeply in love, and got married. This is where it gets a little more personal. I have always had an unpredictable menstrual cycle. Sometimes I won’t get it for months, and then there are times when I have it for months. It’s just how it’s always been. I had an amazing career, and I made good money, so we decided not to use birth control. After 5 years of marriage I finally got pregnant. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was 7-8 weeks pregnant because I continued to have my period. In fact, I had my period for the entire first trimester for both of my kids. I had NO IDEA I was pregnant at 6 weeks with either of them.

We were married for a total of 11 years and during this time my career was exploding, but my marriage was crumbling. I was being abused by my husband. Now just to explain a little about domestic violence…it is not a straight line. You live in a cycle of abuse. There is a period of time where the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. You walk on eggshells, and try to avoid the tension from building, but no matter what you do it inevitably leads to an explosion. Abuse is abuse. Period. To those of you who are wondering if you are being abused because you haven’t been hit yet, the answer is if you are feeling it then most likely you are. Don’t use physical abuse as the benchmark for getting help. Now back to the cycle. After the explosion of abuse there is a period of calm much like after a big storm. This is when the Honeymoon phase begins. The abuser will love bomb you to try to smooth things over. They will tell you what you want to hear. You are so exhausted by this point that you are just grateful for the peace, and you promise yourself that there won’t be a next time, but here always is. I was married to Jekyll and Hyde. As evil as he could be one day, he could also be the amazingly intelligent and funny man I fell in love with. It got to the point that I didn’t know who I would be talking to on any given day.

Over the next 5 years while living in the exhausting and chaotic cycle of violence I became pregnant a couple more times, but I miscarried. I desperately wanted more children. When I finally did get pregnant again I didn’t know until after 6 weeks, because I continued to menstruate. At about the three month mark into the pregnancy, Mr. Hyde showed up and decided to kick Dr. Jekyll out for good, and took up full residence in our home. This is when the nature of the abuse took a turn; I was being abused while pregnant. I was having a hard time gaining weight, I couldn’t sleep, and I was trying so hard to keep the peace. My baby came early as a result of the abuse. It was if he couldn’t tolerate another moment inside of my traumatized body. It was during this pregnancy that I accepted the truth about my situation. I needed to get out, but how?

The next two years my life were a living hell. I was a nervous wreck. I went from a size 10 to a 2, and didn’t even realize it. It was during this time where my personal rights were challenged. I was isolated from my friends and family. The only thing I was truly allowed to do was work, and as a result it became my salvation. Someone had to make money and it certainly wasn’t going to be him. He was a nasty drunk most nights. He threatened me with his fist, and a big old butcher knife. I woke up with his hands around my neck so he could tell me that he could, “snuff the life out of me”. It was bad. It was intensifying, and he was threatening to hurt my mother. He told me that he would never let me leave him and take the kids, that he would rather take them out of this world. That is why I stayed until that one miraculous night when the opportunity presented itself, the door opened, and I ran through it as fast as I could with a baby on each hip.

I have never been in a situation where I have had to really consider an abortion. But I know that I would have wanted that option after the rape (even though I know my parents would have made me have it and put it up for adoption). I have experienced the loss of my freedom. First as a kid in a conservative Christian home, and then as an abused spouse. It wasn’t until I lost my freedom as an adult that I realized how precious it was. I was caged and I wasn’t allowed to make decisions for myself. It’s not hard to understand why my favorite word is freedom.

What has happened in Texas is terrifying. I feel like it is the beginning of Gilead (Handmaid’s Tale reference). There are over 29 million people living in Texas and 50% of them are women. The other 50% is made up approximately of 74% white men. (1) For me this is not just about the right to choose, because that is just a boundary that they will attempt to push out again in order to take more rights from women. As a survivor of abuse this feels all sorts of wrong, and I know this is triggering many other women survivors. No one has a right to take away your choices for your own body. And it is especially worrisome that the majority of men that are doing this in Texas are white. What’s it going to be next? What state is going to follow suit?

Women who have money and seek an abortion in Texas will be inconvenienced by having to go to another state. Women who do not have a means will have children that they are not emotionally or financially prepared to care for. Women who are in abusive relationships that are repeatedly raped will have no recourse. It’s hard enough trying to get out of an abusive relationship, but the more kids you have the harder it will be. Do you see where I am going with this? In the state of Texas they have been fighting for their rights against mask mandates, but they think it is okay for the government to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body.

It sounds just like abuse, but now the government is taking a piece of the action. Women should have guaranteed dominion over their own bodies. Full stop. If this is taken away then women are not free in this country, and women of color will have it all the more harder. This is resoundingly unacceptable for all women, regardless if they are pro-choice or pro-life. And on that note I want to remind you that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk collecting dust. Without the protection of this law women are at risk. My understanding is that the hold up is over gun rights. They added into the law that anyone found guilty of domestic violence will lose their right to have a gun. Imagine that?


One in four women will experience domestic violence in their life. The Domestic Violence Hotline receives over 20K calls a day in the USA. (2) Over half of all intimate partner homicides are committed with a gun. A woman is 5x more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a gun. In order to protect women and reduce the homicide rates for domestic violence we must insure that people who abuse their partners or family do not have access to firearms. (3) Again, this is just another example of women losing their freedom because men are not willing to give up control.

I am very scared about what is going to happen after this. I am scared for the women who live in other states because you know it’s only a matter of time before similar laws are passed in them. Women are not confused. We do not need men (or Amy Coney Barrett) to tell us how to take care of our own bodies. They don’t want to wear masks, they don’t want us to take away their guns, but they want to take away a woman’s right to decide what is right for her own body. This is the Patriarchy in all its white glory. It will continue to do what it needs to in order to retain power and hold all women and men of color back.

I’m thinking of moving north. If I see Handmaids in their red capes walking north in orderly lines from the south I want to be able to run across the border to Canada. Just as all the Anti-maskers in Texas are crying “My Body, My Choice, My Rights”, so are women shouting the same thing, but apparently no one gives a shit about that.

(1) Census.gov
(2) thehotline.org
(3) efsgv.org

My Story.

My name is Ella Hicks, and I am the founder of Rebel Thriver. This is my story: 

While in my late 20’s I fell head over heels in love and married a man I thought I knew. It didn’t take long after we had said our vows that the abuse started to surface. It began with an explosion on our honeymoon. I was terrified, and honestly all I wanted to do was go home and start over, but I was too ashamed to admit what had happened. I was in love with him, and I felt it was my responsibility to stand by him. So I chose to stick it out and tried to get my husband the help he obviously needed. We were married for over a decade and the abuse at first ebbed and flowed. I was living in the only place that I would ever call home, and I had the career of my dreams. I just needed to help him heal from his own past in order for us to have a future together. There were great times and there were some really horrible times. He started therapy and was taking medication to help with his depression, rage, and mood swings. We had a few okay years,  I was hopeful.

Our first child came and the pressures of being a new parent just crushed him. I didn’t realize it then, but that was the beginning of the end. He decided not to go to therapy anymore. He threw his medication away and decided that he was fine; it was everyone else who had problems. Our life began to fall apart,  within 5 years I no longer knew the man that I was married to at all. He was diagnosed with a personality disorder that needed serious mental health intervention. At first he seemed to understand, and was onboard, but as time went on the illness just eclipsed the man that I knew.

When I was three month pregnant with our second child there was no doubt that I needed to get out. By this time things were very volatile and I was really afraid. Like many victims of abuse I was terrified of him, and I was ashamed of what I had been reduced to. I would suffer at home and then go to work and pretend that everything was okay. I was lying to everyone out of fear and shame, including my family. By this time he was trying very hard to isolate me the best he could. He started to tell me he was going to hurt my family members. He threatened to kill our children if I were to ever try to take them away from him. He told me, “I brought them into this world and I can take them out.” Imagine being a young parent trying to navigate all of this alone?

He was high on rage and alcohol almost every night. I would lock myself in the bedroom with the kids, and pray that he would not come home from his nightly jaunts to a local bar. One night he came home and jimmied the bedroom door open. He stood over me holding a huge butcher’s knife in his hand and demanded that I hand over my newborn to him. I sat there with one child in my arms and the other in the bed besides me. I am aware that not many people can relate to this, but there are some, and it is for them that I am writing this. There is no way to put to words the fear that I experienced that night and countless others. My life went on like this for about a year. By this time I would describe him as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Glimpses of Dr. Jekyll were becoming less frequent, and Mr. Hyde took up full residence in our home. I did not know this man. I did not trust him. And I certainly didn’t like him. He was violent, paranoid, physically strong, and capable of anything. I was the frog in the pot of water. By the time I realized that the water was boiling I was already being cooked and had no way out.


I remember the beautiful tree that was outside my bedroom window. I would stand looking out that window for hours dreaming of escape. Seasons came and went as I watched the leaves sprout, grow to a vibrant green, and then turn to shades of yellow, brown, and red before falling to the ground. The abuse intensified and everyday the gas lighting was getting more intense. For a moment of “peace” I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry in the shower and repeat over and over, “I am not crazy. He is crazy. I am not crazy. He is crazy.” I was only in my early thirties, but I was broken down. Mentally, emotionally, and physically the abuse had taken its toll. I was trapped and I knew that if I tried to leave he would kill us.

Somehow in the midst of this nightmare I kept blowing on the tiny ember of hope that lived within me. I know with the utmost of certainty that if it hadn’t been for my children I most certainly wouldn’t be here today. When I think back on this time I am nothing short of heartbroken for the young mother that I was, and the torment I was forced to endure. By this time I was actively looking for an out, but as hard as I tried I couldn’t find an open window or a cracked door to slip through. We had been locked in a cage and there was no key.

And then on a bitter cold winter night a door blew open for me, and without any preparation I decided to leave that night. With my two small children one on each hip, and only the clothes on our backs I left, knowing that if I walked out the door I would never be able to return home. I chose to walk away from my home, my beloved career, my friends, colleagues, and even my identity in order to stay alive. I went from making six figures to living on welfare to support my children. Leaving was the scariest thing that I have ever done in my entire life, bar none. 

I have no words for what it feels like to be betrayed by someone so deeply. To trust someone with your life, and then fear that this same person will take that very life is something that I have not yet been able to articulate clearly. A few years of living scared and isolated left me a shell of my former self. I second guessed everything. I didn’t trust anyone. I had no vision for my future, and I was still trying to figure out what the hell had happened to me. We were completely broke, I wasn’t receiving child support, and the stress that I lived under trying to stay afloat was crippling. Trying to raise two young energetic and bright children was a challenge. I spent a lot of time taking them to child Psychologists trying to fend off the inevitable diagnosis of PTSD. We had been ravished my war. My ex-husband had become a terrorist and I was alone.  I didn’t know anyone personally who had survived domestic violence that I could talk to. I carried the shame and felt like a total failure every single day. Society was pressuring me to pretend that I had it all together when I clearly did not. There was no public discourse about domestic violence at this time and I felt like a rudderless ship who was missing her home, career, friends, and honestly myself. I was alone and we were forced to live a shadow life for many years trying to stay one step ahead of him.

Sometimes you just have to be your own hero.

My response to this was to create a safe haven for other survivors. I knew that there were others out there, but I didn’t know how to connect with them. So one day I decided to take a leap of faith and start a blog. I wanted to speak out and shine a light on the insidiousness of domestic violence. I knew that if survivors could find each other we could join our voices and impact change. I decided to call the blog Rebel Thriver. I started writing, and just as I knew would happen, people started reaching back. I began writing to save myself from the unbearable isolation I felt. Finding my voice enabled me to reach my hand into the darkness and there I found so many hands reaching back. I had found my tribe.

Domestic violence is a worldwide epidemic, and what makes it so insidious is that it hides in plain sight. It doesn’t discriminate across socio-economic, religious, or educational lines, it doesn’t care what race, sex, or political beliefs you have. It is relentless and one in four women have been affected by it in some way. Did you know that on any given day the Domestic Violence Hotline will receive over 20K calls. In times of crisis, like our world is seeing now, these numbers only escalate.

Trauma from domestic violence causes deep layered wounding and healing is a long journey. I have dedicated my life to helping women heal from this kind of trauma. What I have found is that the initial support that one can find after immediately leaving abuse, much akin to triage, often dissipates as quickly as it appears. Limited resources create a void where growth is not easy if you are going it alone. Additional holistic support is necessary in order to be able to see personal transformation into a whole and healthy person. When support is not there to help a survivor transition, recidivism is much more likely. After I left, there was no one to help me figure out who I was after I had been systematically broken down to a shell of my former self. I had no roadmap for finding my way home to me. I didn’t understand how the changes that we had suffered on a neurobiological level would affect our daily lives. Trauma therapy wasn’t very common (it still isn’t) and I didn’t understand what the long term effects the trauma would have on our brains. I was sailing on the seas completely rudderless and afraid. I needed other women to connect to. I needed a lifeline.

I created Rebel Thriver as a place for survivors to come together, feel accepted, seen, and understood. I believe that healing comes faster when we are connected to people with similar traumatic experiences. It is in our shared stories of struggles and triumphs that humanity takes root. If you are feeling lost right now please know that new beginnings are possible! The first step is to accept that you are worthy of a life full of love and joy. Living in the liminal space that we all face after leaving abuse isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have the right kind of support. You are walking the path of no longer and not yet and you need a guide. Life is intrinsically messy. Regardless to if you are working through the recovery of an abusive relationship, a rape, sexual abuse or childhood trauma, we are all working on letting go of the past in order to be able to reclaim our lives and live in the present without fear.

Last year Rebel Thriver became a Not for Profit Organization. We have big plans to grow so that we can provide help and resources through coaching, mentoring, workshops, classes, retreats, and advocacy to those in need. It is our mission to help others find the path of recovery so that they can reconnect to themselves, heal, find their voice, and create beautiful lives. 

The Rebel Thriver Team is made up of an amazing group of women who volunteer their time to help others who are in need. They help to keep our organization running and on a continued growth trajectory. We are a diverse group from different backgrounds with very different life stories, but we all come together with one voice to support survivors and fight domestic violence.  

We believe in new beginnings.

Our vision is to implement sustainable programs that will help survivors of abuse reclaim their lives. Rebel Thriver exists to inspire, encourage, educate, and offer support for survivors so they can create healthy and abundant lives full of hope for tomorrow. We strive to impact lasting change by advocating for new legislation and shining a light in the darkness.  Your donation means everything to us and the women that we are able to help. Thank you in advance for helping us help others.

Ella xo