“His proposal was unexpected. I didn’t get those butterflies I was sure I would get when I got engaged. He asked, and I said yes… because that’s just what you do. Yet something didn’t feel right. The week before the wedding, I could no longer ignore the fact that I was making a mistake. And yet I pushed the fear aside.
I don’t remember how long it was before he laid his hands on me for the first time. I do remember how it made me feel. Although it had only been months since our wedding, he had managed to belittle me enough that when he did touch me, I remember wishing he would leave a mark on my neck when he choked me so that I’d have an excuse to leave him. Once was more than enough; I knew that logically, but I felt trapped.
Two years from our wedding date, we went out to dinner to celebrate. The details are still etched in my mind. He bashed my head into a car that night. Physically, I was lucky. I got away with minor bruises. He sped away in our car minutes after bystanders heard me scream. Two young women came to talk to me. Their two friends had called the police. I’d like to believe I would have found a way out anyway. But in all probability, these four strangers saved my life. I didn’t sleep that night, at my parents. I didn’t recognize my own life. I considered myself to be enlightened, educated and liberated. But I had let my voice dwindle to a whisper.
When I was finishing college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation, but I started telling people that I was going to “save the world with chocolate.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it stuck with me. I realized that whatever it meant, it really was what I wanted to do. Chocolate, after all, has both inspired me and grounded me when I’ve needed it most.
Almost 10 years after college graduation, and a few years after I left my abusive ex, I rediscovered my voice and – around the same time – started Laughing Gull Chocolates: premium, mouthwatering chocolates using ethically and locally sourced ingredients. Through our sourcing, we aim to strengthen direct trade communities and the environments in which cacao grows, and offer work experience to young refugees and those from underserved communities.
My mission is to weave together the stories and experiences of people throughout the world, and reveal the stark realities of slave labor to help consumers make informed decisions. By doing that – by giving even one person permission to use their voice and share their story – I believe I can make the world a better place.”
(New York, USA)