My Story

Sonriendo Pa’lante is an initiative that empowers survivors to be given the agency they need to live in dignity and happiness.

“Survivors need to be given the justice to sonreír pa’lante.”

-Ashley Navarro 2020

Photographer: Lisette Zamora
Makeup Done By Anipha

“Why does the extremity of death, that I and many other survivors have been on the verge of equate support?”

1 in 3 Latinas and 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Read that again please. I am 1 in those 3 Latinas. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I never know where to start with this, but I have come to understand through experiences that people tend to listen to the dead bodies more often. Well, I am not dead, and I will speak on the behalf of survivors who have been plagued with the same social trauma of speaking about abuse as I have been. 

I could have died when my abuser dragged my body with his car and fractured my skull 3 inches, leaving me in the hospital for a week and using a walker for four months during my senior year of high school. I could have died with the countless times he strangled me or slammed my head and back against the wall. I could have died when he obligated me to choose between DEATH or being in a RELATIONSHIP with him, so I took a knife and stabbed myself; I was 1 cm off my liver and 1 cm closer to death. How many more women have to die to bring awareness to this issue? That wasn’t a rhetorical question. Why does the extremity of death, that I and many other survivors have been on the verge of equate support? I had the “opportunity” to survive, but I started this initiative because I am done just surviving. These broken systems won’t give me justice which is a difficult reality I have come to accept, but an even worse reality that I will not accept is that many other women will not get justice. I will not stand idly by to watch other women go through what I did with no justice, with no agency, or possibility of something better. I have created this public education effort I named Sonriendo Pa’lante to give women the help and voice I never had. 

It is my belief that with education on healthy relationship dynamics starting in middle school or even high school we can have less occurrences of Domestic Violence. When I was in a three year long domestically abusive relationship, I never knew what gaslighting or blame-shifting was. This is unacceptable when we can teach red flags early on.

 I know that if I don’t start to change the narrative, then it will not be changed. Women deserve so much more than what has been given to them and I hope that with this public education effort some influence on policy change will happen and that together we can cure the disease that Domestic Violence is. I was dragged by a car, beaten till my lips were bleeding full of abrasions, strangled till I grasped for air, manipulated into sex, and stripped of my freedom but I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor, an advocate, el grito de las que ya no están. ¡Nos queremos vivas! Me podréis romper la mano, pero nunca la voz. Join me in ending the cycle; in making a promise to change the narrative.