Deborah McCollin, the Butterfly Queen and artiste, Mariposa Reina, is a woman who wears many hats.
By day she is a primary school teacher, but since July 2012 she has made a name for herself as a spoken word artiste, author, story teller and motivational speaker.
However, it is her role as an advocate for victims of domestic violence that has motivated her latest work, Journey of the Butterfly.
She recently launched the publication at the UWI Bookshop at the Cave Hill Campus. It is a collection of poems highlighting her personal experience as a victim of abuse.
That chapter of her life began in her pre-teen years when she suffered at the hands of a now deceased great-aunt who raised her.
Recounting that difficult period of her life, the author said it got worst because she was the only girl and the most vocal of the children left in the care of her great-aunt.
One poem entitled The Dark examines a time when the woman tortured all the children and left them alone in the house during a power outage.
Mariposa said while at school she followed the wrong company and that led in part to her downfall. During the book launch, the artiste recalled her worst experience in 1989 when she was physically attacked and raped by an abusive boyfriend.
When she revealed to him she was prepared to end the relationship, he raped and beat her, warning her “when I am done with you, no one will want you!”
The teacher described Journey of the Butterfly as complex.
“It takes the reader on a journey from abuse to the turmoil and soul-searching in between, and success at the end,” she explained.
Expanding on the element of recovery from traumatic experiences, Mariposa noted: “People will tell you to ‘get over it’, but they don’t know what you are feeling. The memory always stays with you. Too many women who are hurting talk to their friends, but their friends are no real help to them as they focus on the negativity, instead of empowering the victims to see themselves as queens worthy of love and respect. “Learning to love one’s self is the bridge between being a victim of abuse and becoming a survivor of abuse.”
Host of the book launch, Troy Holder, commended Mariposa for her resilience, as did Robert Passion Poet Gibson, who edited Journey of the Butterfly.
Holder described the book as “inspirational” adding that it was “good to see people getting up and going again instead of taking on the role of victim”. This was a point on which Mariposa expanded.
“When you are feeling overwhelmed, there are two ways in which you can respond. You can either say ‘Why me?’ or ‘Try me!’ The latter is empowering, as it challenges whoever or whatever is causing the problem to back off, or makes you rise higher to conquer the problem,” she added.
Holder told those present, “Success is not success unless you are willing to encourage and nurture others”, adding that the teacher and artiste had certainly taken that to heart.
In her role as a motivational speaker, Mariposa has addressed audiences at churches and summer camps around the island and was featured on an American radio show entitled Smooth Operator.
According to the author, Journey of the Butterfly started as a book but had become a special project.
A planned visit to Tortola last month was postponed due to Hurricane Irma, but come next March she heads to Trinidad and Tobago to promote her work.
Mariposa has also taken six young females under her wing. The women who are all victims of abuse will be guided on how to live their best lives and to love themselves.
The motivational speaker and holder of a BSc in Psychology and Social Work pointed out: “It’s fine and good to speak to persons from a text book but it’s better when you have the experience [and can] speak from the heart.”