When you're in kindergarten, all you should be worried about in life is how much kickball you can get in before it gets dark, whether or not you're getting dessert after dinner and maybe if you're going to be able to convince your parents to get a puppy. But 5-year-old Levi had much bigger things to worry about.
Walking home from school, the fear of coming home and finding his father drunk, high or in an unprovoked violent rage was always at the forefront of his mind. What would he be walking into when he opened his front door? Would he have to try in vain to protect his mother or sister from a beating again? Or was he going to be the subject of the abuse this time?
Recent studies have shown that 80% of children who experienced physical abuse develop a psychiatric disorder by age 21. According to a National Institute of Justice study, abused children are 11 times more likely to engage in violent behavior as teens.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time that honors and supports people like Levi who have endured emotional and physical abuse. For those who were abused in their formative years, it is extremely easy to grow up and abuse others or to use that experience as an excuse to stop living with purpose. Why wouldn't you? That's the only way of relating to the world that you know of.
"I thank my father for teaching me a very valuable lesson," Levi says. "He taught me how wonderful women are and how much they should be loved and respected -- by showing me what not to do."
Despite his tumultuous home life and being bullied at school for being "too dark," Levi... or should I say, Dr. Levi Harrison, worked hard, obtained multiple scholastic scholarships and now holds advanced degrees in Electrical Engineering and French Romance Languages, in addition to his medical degree. Not only is he a renowned orthopedic hand surgeon with one of the fastest growing solo practices in Los Angeles, he is also a celebrity fitness trainer, public speaker and the author of The Art of Fitness: A Journey to Self Enhancement. Never forgetting where he came from, he is a strong advocate for women and building self-esteem through physical and spiritual fitness, giving his clients the tools they need to protect themselves from falling victim to emotional abusers.
Dr. Harrison credits his success to living a life of gratitude.
"I have always embraced gratitude, education and faith as my personal tools to have an amazing life," he says. "During the darkest and most abusive times of my life, I innately knew that my purpose and goals in life would be attained. I simply remained tenacious, faithful and grateful during every challenge and success. I am truly fortunate to have been touched by grace."
Dr. Harrison is an inspiration to anyone who has had to struggle (so, basically all of us in one way or another). Remember that no matter who you are or what you're going through right now, you WILL get through it -- as long as you are able to make the conscious choice to not be a victim, but a victor.