Rayna Gray has a mission: she’s going to change the lives of domestic violence survivors, one person at a time. The Philadelphia native was once involved in an abusive relationship, on top of her experiences being abandoned, molested, and suffering a near-death experience. But she has risen; she survived, part of which she credits to her spirituality. Gray has been speaking about her experiences, as well as her new book, “7:17,” in her efforts to educate and uplift other women. We spoke to Gray about her mission, her book, and her life.
Q: Your book “7:17” tackles some very serious topics – domestic violence being among the most prominent. Why was it important for you to write this book?
A: It was important for me to write “7:17” because I have to help other people that are experiencing domestic violence or have experienced domestic violence. Often times, when someone is going through an abusive relationship, they believe that they are the only person going through it and there is no way out. “7”17” depicts my journey through life and the experiences that I had as a child and young adult that caused me not to love myself and be subjected to an abusive relationship. I had to write this book in order to save someone’s life.
Q: How did you feel knowing you would be sharing very personal experiences in your book, and allow the world – including family and friends – to catch a glimpse into your life?
A: I was very nervous at first when I realized that there were things that I was writing that my family and friends may not like but I had to be obedient to God’s will. All of the broken relationships that I had in my family are mended. I didn’t write the book with the intent to hurt anyone: I just wanted to be a blessing to someone else. As far as the world is concerned I was scared because people can be cruel but as long as I am obedient to God that’s all that matters to me.
Q: Where does the title “7:17” come from?
A: The title” 7:17” came from my birthday. My birthday is July 17th. The day I was born was the day my journey began. I believe everything that I went through in my life was to help someone else so that’s way the title is “7:17.” The reason it is written like a Bible scripture is because I wanted the readers to know that it has biblical content.
Q: On your Facebook page, you encourage readers of “7:17” to ask questions. How important is it to you that you create a dialogue surrounding difficult topics?
A: I want to be available to my readers and let them know that they are important to me. I also want them to know that I am available for them to talk to me about any topics in the book. You never know if someone is experiencing domestic violence or know someone that is experiencing domestic violence. I may be the only person that they talk to so I want to be there for them.
Q: What do you hope people take away from the book?
A: I want my readers to know that there is hope. No matter the trials and tribulations someone is facing, their latter can be greater. If God delivered me from the many strongholds and trauma I experienced He can do the same for you.
Q: You’ve been through so much in your life already – where do you get your strength to speak about your experiences?
A: I get my strength from God, my husband and children. Without them, I don’t know where I would be.
Q: What do you see as the biggest obstacle when it comes to raising domestic violence awareness? In that same vein, what do you see as the most promising aspect of raising awareness? (For example, is there a strong network of survivors?)
A: The biggest obstacle there is when it comes to domestic violence awareness is the topic is so taboo and nobody wants to talk about it. The most promising aspect of raising awareness is we have come a long way from years ago. When the movement first began women suffered alone, today there are more resources for victims.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who may be going through something similar to you?
A: I would encourage that person to seek help if it is safe for them to do so. I want them to know that they are not alone and there is life after domestic violence. It is not their fault that they are going through the abuse and there is help available. I would also tell them that their abusive partner will not change without professional help and the abuse will get worse.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who knows a friend or family member who’s dealing with domestic violence?
A: Domestic violence affects everyone, family, friends, pets and society. I encourage friends and family not to judge the person and just be a listening ear whenever they want to talk. I would also encourage family and friends to gather resources in their area for their loved one just in case they seek help
Q: Anything else you’d like others to know?
A: I would like people to know that there is help available and the national domestic violence hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). People are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week to offer counseling and resources.
If you, or someone you know, is involved in a violent relationship, visit Hotline.org or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).