Andrea Aviet: Mother, Survivor and Warrior
After years of marital abuse, Andrea Aviet made the courageous decision to walk away with the confidence to protect herself and her children. The mother and warrior is an inspiration to many women who have been a victim of domestic violence, using her negative experience to encourage women to prioritise themselves. Putting her story on paper, Andrea published her book White Sorrow, an honest story of survival, with full disclosure of her horrific abuse and mental torture.
Remember who you are, remember who you were and put yourself first.
How would your family and friends describe you?
My friends would describe me as caring, and from a young age, I displayed this quality – a love to serve others, wanting to do good and feed the poor was always a longing desire. As a child, I was mature, thoughtful and determined. Although my parents were strict growing up, my childhood was great – I had everything I needed.
From a wealthy background, you experienced a shocking change to the point where you were left starving in your own home. This experience must have been excruciating – how was this period of your life? Did you ever have an inkling hope that one day you will escape?
It’s as if you are in some alternate universe. At first, your brain can’t comprehend what’s going on, and you start to question yourself – is this is really happening? Nothing seems real. Disbelief and shock soon turn to anger. Then with time, it starts to sink in mentally, you start to realise this is your reality, and you’re caught in a web of deception, manipulation and a cruel game. I lost myself, my self-respect and my identity. You can say it’s as if I was brainwashed every day to serve. Every day I stayed resulted in me losing myself and turning into a slave. A slave to carry out his wishes and make him happy. Please him at any cost. The entire period was an eye-opener, traumatic yet empowering. I never thought I would ever have the mental strength to break out of it until the love for my children gave me the strength to overcome all adversity.
Life changed when you got married – looking back at your relationship now, were there any signs that you felt like you missed?
I feel my parents were too strict and orthodox. They believed that a couple should not live together before marriage. Religion, family name and pride all played a factor in this. While I respect tradition, I disagree with this. Had we lived together before marriage, maybe I would have seen a different side to my ex as no one can hide or pretend who they are for a prolonged period. He was not interested in me meeting his side of the family. At the time, I was silly, young and in love, and did not pick up on these signs.
Going back to that moment, when you finally escaped, and you woke up and knew that you’ll never have to experience that again, how did that feel? What was going through your mind?
It was the end of a bad journey and the beginning of a beautiful new start. I looked at the kids smiled while they were fast asleep. I had no clue how we were going to get by, but I knew we were going to be alright. I had to be strong for us. We were happy, and this was an important start in all our lives. Freedom is priceless. In my heart, I just knew everything was going to be alright. This was our second chance.
Many cultures and societies hold onto this idea of pride, family shame and society’s expectation. You experienced something very similar with your own family, can you tell us more about this?
My family did not want the marriage to break because they were more concerned about the family name and people laughing at them rather than them being concerned about my welfare. My mother made it very clear to me before she passed that I should not publish anything about my marriage. Her concern again was that people would laugh at them.
The pain I felt was unreal. The shock that my parents would stand against me hurt me beyond words. It was wrong. The day you become a parent, your first duty is your child. Parents need to protect their children rather than worry about societies expectations. I needed my parents to be strong and stand by my side. I felt as if they failed me.
The world is changing, we expect our children to be there for us, we expect love and respect. Giving birth is not enough – parents are supposed to be protectors, guide and teach us right from wrong, instil values, but these values should teach children to value themselves first.
You’re a mother, survivor and warrior, but I’m sure there are still days where you struggle? What keeps you going and motivated?
When I go through struggles, I recall where I’m coming from. The young starving pregnant girl shivering in the cold, to a mother who is defying all odds, to rise for her children. The journey has not been easy.
I think of my children and the dreams about who I want to be. I listen to Tyler Perry for inspiration. I pray for guidance. Helping others and encouraging them gives me joy, that is my sole purpose. When you touch someone’s life, when you see them smile, it gives you the strength to carry on. All of these keep me motivated.
What inspired you to put your story onto paper and create White Sorrows?
At first, I was keeping a diary for myself and the kids. Later I decided to publish it for others to get courage and know they too can change their lives as we did. White Sorrow has a dual meaning. In the beginning, it signified a new beginning, purity, union and marriage. In the end, it is my white flag of victory and freedom.
You have turned your negative experience into an opportunity to help other women. Writing your book is just one way your help women – can you tell us more about your charitable projects? How important is this for you?
I help shelters, food banks, woman’s organisations, family law days and raise funds for different projects, both local and international. My experience has changed my life forever. Helping others means everything to me. It gives my life purpose and meaning.
What advice do you have for women who are in a similar position but are too afraid to leave that dangerous situation?
Don’t be silent and suffer alone. That’s the worst thing you can do. Speak to someone, GP, close friend, go to a shelter, food bank – you are not alone. Take the first step, and life will get better. One step at a time. Remember who you are, remember who you were and put yourself first. Life will change when you believe it will. The power to change your life is in your hands alone.