Hannah Hollander is the founder and executive director of Speak Your Truth Today, a Facebook group of over 18,000 survivors breaking the silence around domestic violence.
I remember going into the notes app on my phone and writing out everything I wanted to say about myself, my abusive marriage, and what I believed those in my hometown needed to hear. I didn’t know if I would ever share it publicly, but it was therapeutic to write down and get it off my chest.
I grew up in a religious small town in Northwest Washington where difficult topics are often never discussed, family is highly valued, and getting married young is very normalized. I knew there were countless people like me…living silent, violent lives because their society didn’t allow them to open up and be honest.
I had recently learned that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience some sort of physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. I had also recently discovered that four women in my immediate family had divorced their husbands over domestic violence. Simultaneously shocked and angry, all I could think was: “Why wasn’t I told their stories growing up? Why weren’t people speaking up about this? If the statistics are so high, what are we doing to protect our children?”
I kept my thoughts in my notes for over four months. Finally, on February 10th, 2019—my 24th birthday—I decided I would share my story and take my maiden name back on Facebook. I believed that if I could just reach one person like me who thought what they were going through was normal, it would all be worth it. I honestly could have never predicted what would happen next.
The stories started pouring in. Hundreds of people started commenting, opening up about the dark secrets they had lived or were living. I was getting messages from strangers, asking me for relationship advice or sending photos of their battered faces with the words “me too.”
My post went on to be shared over 123,000 times.
Four days after I had shared my story, I called my mom and told her I was incredibly overwhelmed.
I realized these people needed a safe space where they could support each other through their shared experiences and encourage one another to take the difficult steps towards freedom.
So, somewhat on a whim, I decided to found Speak Your Truth Today (SYTT) – a gender-inclusive, Facebook support group, where survivors could start their healing journeys.
Little did I know, this single decision would change my life forever.
In two weeks, we had over 12,000 members. It was clear we were meeting an immense need. Fast forward three and a half years, SYTT now has a large and deeply dedicated volunteer team who supports over 18,000 members worldwide. We gained 501(c)3 nonprofit status in May of 2021, and have since hired staff, won awards, and been recognized by Meta for the work we’re doing.
I’m proud to say we have helped about three people leave abusive relationships every single week since we began in 2019.
We recognize the reality that anyone can be a survivor or perpetrator of abuse, and this is why it is critical to encourage those who are even more silenced within domestic violence discussions to speak up.
Speak Your Truth Today has become this incredibly empowering space where survivors no longer feel alone in the struggles they face. We have the capability to help keep this group safe and supportive, while also committing to the inclusivity of ALL survivors – regardless of race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. We recognize the reality that anyone can be a survivor or perpetrator of abuse, and this is why it is critical to encourage those who are even more silenced within domestic violence discussions to speak up. And we hope SYTT gives people the power to do just that.
Our mission is to amplify the voices of victims and survivors of domestic violence through offering abuse education, networking resources, providing emotional support, and celebrating freedom. SYTT is able to walk side-by-side with survivors throughout their entire journey out of abuse, and we have witnessed incredible stories of victory despite horrifying odds.
Encouraging these survivors to take back their power and speak the truth of their experience within a community that truly understands what they are going through has been incredibly humbling. So often, newcomers join our group scared, unsure, contemplative and fearful – and we get the privilege of empathizing, educating and watching as they become empowered, confident, and decisive.
I could have never dreamed for all this to happen from one Facebook post. The community I formed in the middle of my divorce ended up being the perfect space for me to learn and heal alongside thousands of survivors who were going through the exact same thing. I was no longer alone, and neither were they.
Listen, learn, and help lead the fight against domestic violence. The only way we stop this is by doing our part to educate ourselves and encouraging survivors to find their voice & speak their truth.
Speak Your Truth Today is in the middle of a worldwide running campaign called RUN the Globe! Alongside two other worldwide Facebook communities, SYTT is launching a totally new type of running challenge – one that invites participants to collectively circumference the entire globe in miles run/walked throughout the whole month of October. Their goal is to reach 40,075kms while empowering survivor voices and raising $40,000 for their organization. Sign Up or Donate today to help them achieve their goals, or follow along on Facebook & Instagram to keep up to date with their nonprofit happenings.