Marjorie McCowan

UG Representative, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc

Location: San Antonio, TX

"My advice to anyone growing up like me is this: don't let how you start dictate how you finish."

I thought men were supposed to hit women. I thought that women had no place in the world except to do what a man told her to do. Every day I watched from behind the wall as my dad struck my mom for reasons I was told I was too young to understand.

Both of my older sisters were hit by their husbands. All of my aunts were abused, physically and verbally, by theirs. I thought this was just how women and men interacted with one another.

I was taught that my husband would hit me too if I didn’t do as I was told. “That’s just life,” people said. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the norms of my life were not the same as the norms of society.

And then at school, I had a meeting with my counselor where she told me what was happening was wrong. She told me that nothing was my fault and that love should not hurt. She began to break the mental chains that had gripped me.

I kept working with my elementary school counselor even when I was well into high school. When I was a teenager she introduced me to a mentoring program where I was able to help other young girls growing up in abusive households. I leaned in to taking control of my life -- and I helped other young women lean in to take control of theirs.

Through education I have accomplished many things that I was taught women cannot do. I became an advocate for young women growing up in abusive households. And just as meaningfully, I became an advocate for myself. My advice to anyone growing up like me is this: don't let how you start dictate how you finish.