Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Sarah Hummell Is Helping To Change Our World By Spreading Awareness About Domestic Violence
Trust your gut — This was told to me, but I never truly believed it. Looking back, every regret I have involved not trusting my intuition. Instead, I sought out validation from others. I never got it! I stopped following the signs that couldn’t be rationally explained. If someone tried to keep me from making the right decision, I felt I needed to explain myself. They never listened anyway, and they certainly had powerful arguments to contradict me.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Author Sarah Hummell.
Author Sarah Hummell, is Manhattan-based with a background as a hospitality consultant, who draws from her rich hospitality experience to shed light on the pressing issue of domestic violence. Through her writing, she not only tells her story of survival but also seeks to raise awareness about the behavior patterns and red flags associated with abusive personalities. “Entangled In Blue” is a powerful narrative that serves as both a cautionary tale and a source of empowerment for those who may find themselves entangled in the same web of abuse.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
As a child, I really thought I had a happy childhood! Now, as an adult with children of my own, I understand that I witnessed my parents’ abusive relationship. As an only child, I was subject to a lot of triangulation. Most impactful is my struggle with undiagnosed/untreated Dyslexia, which led to getting bullied at school. As I say this right now, I am still amazed that I was actually able to get published after so many people told me that it would be impossible for me to achieve.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or change your life? Can you share a story about that?
Like I said, reading was tough for me as a kid. The first book that comes to mind is Chicken Soup for the Soul Teenage Soul. I feel like I need to share the series of events that led to me reading it for anyone to understand how impactful this was for me. I actually wrote about it for my book but chose to leave it out:
I just started my Freshman year in high school. My friend, who I’ll call Adrienne, invited me to her Youth Group. Her dad was the Pastor at the local Methodist Church. While playing basketball, I passed the ball to a guy I’ll call Chris. Our eyes met, and we both stood still. It was like time had stopped while the rest of the game was going on around us. His dark ocean-blue eyes looked right into mine. My heart began to beat faster, my arms tingled, and I had butterflies in my stomach. He caught the ball I passed to him and made a basket. We both attempted to brush off what had just happened. We went about the youth group awkwardly, avoiding eye contact. He asked for my number as I was getting in the car to leave.
“Who’s Chris?” My Dad asked, entering my room with the cordless phone in his hand, just as shocked as I was since this was the first time a boy had ever called the house asking for me.
“I just met a Chris at the youth group,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
“Well, you have a phone call.” He said, pointing to the phone in my room. I picked up the receiver and awkwardly waited for my dad to press the hang-up button on the cordless before I said, “Hello?”
As suspected, it was Chris from the youth group. We talked easily for at least 3 hours. I learned that he was three years older than me, a captain on the wrestling team, and had a car and a job at a local Steakhouse. This was enough to impress any thirteen-year-old.
“What are you doing after school?” He asked
“Nothing. Why?” I asked in anticipation.
“I’ll drive you home.” He said. Just the thought of not having to deal with the boy who had bullied me for the last three years over my Dyslexia on a bus ride home was enough to accept his invitation. Before I could answer, I could hear the extension pick up from my parent’s room.
“Time to put a lid on it; it’s getting late!” Dad said.
“Ok, hang up, and we’ll say goodbye,” I said, feeling embarrassed.
“Nope, you’re going to say goodbye right now.” He said.
“Ok, bye, Chris,” I said.
“Good night Sarah,” Chris said.
“Good night Sarah!” Dad said sarcastically.
“Good night,” I said, blushing.
The next morning at school, Chris came to my locker. “Can I still drive you home?” He asked.
“Yeah! Definitely!” I said, relieved I didn’t have to take the bus home.
“Ok, meet me out front.” He said.
“Great!” I couldn’t help but smile.
“I like what you’re wearing.”
“Really?” I blushed.
“Yeah, I love tie-dyes. I could never seem to pull them off. You pull the look off well!”
“Wow! Thanks!” He even patted me on the back as I stuffed my books into my backpack and headed to my Global Studies class. While in class, I updated Adrienne about everything that transpired since I last saw her at youth group. She seemed excited and happy for me, but I could sense a little disappointment in her voice.
“Are you ok?” I asked. “Oh crap, you like him!” I realized before she could answer.
“No, it’s not that.” She denied.
“It is! You LIKE like him!” I annunciated.
“No, really, it’s totally okay!” She said Mrs. Callahan began the class.
As the day went on, Chris and I would wave to each other as we passed in the hall. As promised, Chris was out front waiting for me at the end of the day. He walked me to his white ’95 Dodge Daytona with blue racing stripes. “What time do you have to be home?” He asked.
“As long as I’m home by 6, my parents won’t ask questions,” I said, trying to be cool.
“Cool! Let’s hang out!” He said. He popped the car into drive and rested his hand on my leg. He took me to the wooden playground on Maple Road. We ran throughout the playground, and he playfully chased me. He cornered me at the top of the slide. I turned to go back down, and he placed his hands on the wall behind me so I couldn’t escape. I stood there, still as he looked deep into my eyes, came in closer, and kissed me. I felt this feeling in my chest, and as he continued to kiss me, I realized this was my first real kiss, and I had no idea what I was doing. He didn’t seem to mind that, so I let go of my insecurities. I soon realized his hands were no longer against the wall behind me. They were around me. I slipped my hands through his open jacket and placed them around him.
Some little kids entered the playground and came running up the tower. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.” He said. I nodded and followed him back to his car. “Are you hungry?” He asked.
“Yeah, I can eat,” I said. He placed his hand back on my leg as he drove.
“Next weekend is our church retreat in Rochester,” Chris said as we ate our hotdogs. “You should tell Adrienne you want to go.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah, I wasn’t going to go. They’re usually lame, but if you go, I will!” He said. “It’ll be cool to spend the weekend with you.”
“Ok, I’ll ask her,” I said as my heart was fluttering again, and I tried to stay cool. He dropped me off at home after we ate, just before 6. He kissed me again, then looked into my eyes intensely and said, “See you tomorrow, Sarah.”
“See ya,” I said with a smile. To my surprise, my parents certainly did ask questions and were upset that I didn’t tell them where I was going after school. They declared I was grounded and couldn’t go anywhere next weekend. I went to my room, and they didn’t even notice that I wasn’t hungry or ate dinner.
“Great, now I’ve got to figure out how to go to the church retreat and get ungrounded this weekend,” I said to myself. I called Adrienne and told her everything that happened, and he wanted me to ask her about the retreat in Rochester. “Wait, so you guys went on a date?”
“No, we just hung out!” I explained.
“He took you to a restaurant!” She pointed out.
“Well, yeah, but that’s because those kids showed up at the playground,” I explained.
“Did he pay for your food?” She asked.
“Yes,” I responded, now seeing what she was getting at.
“The only thing left is kissing you goodbye when he dropped you off. Did he?”
“Yep,” I said.
“Then it was a date.” She said.
“Oh my god! Did I just seriously go on my first date without even knowing it?” I squealed.
“Yeah!” She said.
The next day, Chris met me at my locker, and we talked until he had to head off to class.
“Did you talk to Adrienne about Rochester?” He asked.
“Yeah, she said I can go,” I replied.
“Yes, Awesome!” he said, excited. “I’ll tell her dad I can drive you.”
“Ok.” I noticed during class change that I would take specific routes just so Chris and I could pass each other. Eventually, we’d hug each other and then head off to our next class each time. As I sat down for lunch, I turned to find Chris at our table. He took the chair next to me, spun it around, and sat on it backward, resting his arms on the back of the chair and his chin on his hands, and looked into my eyes intensely.
“Hey!” I said, surprised to see him. Is this your lunch period?” I asked. I broke his intensity by looking around, wondering where he could have possibly sat without me noticing him.
“No, mine’s next period.” He said.
“Oh.” I said, bummed that we couldn’t have lunch together.
“Wanna ride home today?” He asked
“Heck Yeah!” I said.
“Ok, meet me out front again.” He patted me on the shoulder, spun the chair back around, pushed it back in, and walked out.
“Is that your boyfriend?” I heard a male voice ask from across the lunch table. This was the first time Andrew acknowledged my presence, much less said a word to me.
“I’m not sure,” I said
“What do you mean you’re not sure? Have you kissed?”
“Well, yeah, we’re just talking, I guess,” I said.
“Then until he starts kissing someone else, he’s your boyfriend.” Andrew pointed out the obvious.
“Was that Chris I saw leaving the Cafeteria?” Adrienne asked as she sat down in the seat where Chris was just sitting. “Woah, the seat’s still warm. Was he just here?”
“Yeah.” I responded, “He wanted to know if I wanted a ride home.”
“Wow, he must really like you, Sarah.” She said, shaking her head as she unwrapped her sandwich from her lunch bag.
“No,” I said, downplaying what she was saying.
“Really, Sarah, I’ve known Chris for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never seen him act this way around anyone. I really don’t know how you do it.”
“How do I do what?” I asked.
“Yep! He’s your boyfriend,” Andrew said with a nod from across the table.
Chris met me out front after school; this time, he took me back to his house. We listened to music. He played his guitar, and we laid on his bed with my head on his chest. I listened to his heartbeat as he stroked my hair, and we talked. After a while, he got quiet, as if he was deep in thought. I could feel how his body went from relaxed to stiff. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Wrestling Season starts next week.” He said.
“So? I asked. “I thought you were looking forward to that?”
“I was until I met you!” He said. I lifted my head to see that his eyes were staring straight ahead and avoided mine.
“What do you mean?” I asked ominously.
“My coach is going to think you’re a distraction, and I can’t quit the team because I need a scholarship.” He confessed
“Seriously? A distraction?” I asked in disbelief.
“Oh Yeah.” He sighed.
“I don’t need to be a distraction.” I said, “I completely respect that you have goals; we can still talk and take things slow!”
“Yeah.” He said, still staring off.
“Hey! C’mon!” I said, shaking him out of his funk. “It’ll be fine!”
“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s get you home before you get grounded again!” He said as he jumped up from his bed.
“Wow, it’s 6 pm already!” I agreed. He grabbed me by the hand, and we walked downstairs. The rest of his family were all home by then. I already met his mother at the youth group, but he introduced me to his Dad and little brother.
“Sarah, would you like to stay for Dinner?” His mom asked.
“I’d love to, but I really need to get home,” I said, looking at the clock. The real reason was that I had no idea how I would explain to my parents that I was staying at a boy’s house for dinner.
The next day, Chris didn’t come to my locker before school. I saw him throughout the day at class change, but he pretended not to notice me. I took the bus home and went back to getting bullied again. My bully made up for lost time, too! I just sat there, letting him say all those horrible things to me. I didn’t even have the strength to respond. When I got home, Chris called me. “Hey, I didn’t see you all day,” I said.
“I can’t drive you to Rochester.” He said abruptly, without explaining why he had avoided me all day. “I just talked to Adrienne’s Dad. It’s for insurance reasons, I guess. It’s so lame. It’s okay. We can hang out in Rochester. We just can’t ride up there together.” He said
“OK, can you ride there with us?” I asked.
“Oh heck no, there is no way I can put up with Adrienne’s family for a whole car ride.” He responded.
“Great, so I have to?” I asked rhetorically.
“I’ll see you in Rochester.” He attempted to end the conversation quickly.
“Well, wait!” I stopped him.
“Yeah?” he asked. I suddenly felt flustered now that I had his attention.
“What are you doing after school tomorrow?” I asked.
“I have my first wrestling practice, so I can’t see you.” He said.
“Oh. Ok. I’ll see you in Rochester then.” I said and hung up. I stood there in my room, attempting to process what just happened.
That night, over dinner, I managed to convince my parents to let me go to Rochester even though I was grounded since it was a church function. We got on the road late, and the ride felt like an eternity. I sat in the car on the way there, understanding why Chris didn’t want to ride there with them. When we finally arrived, Adrienne and I were told we were staying with Chris’ Mom and handed our keys. As we walked to our room, I saw Chris in the other girls’ room next door. He was watching TV on one of the beds beside them.
“Hi, Chris!” I said, making my arrival completely obvious. He barely acknowledged me. I stood at the door, attempting to get his attention. I was completely ignored. He spent the rest of the weekend with the other girls. I spent the rest of the weekend wondering what I was even doing there in the first place. I came all this way for a boy, only to have him ignore me the whole time. By Sunday, I was completely crushed. I sat through lecture after lecture about righteousness, as my heart was literally breaking into pieces. I couldn’t bear to sit through any more lectures. I went to the Kiosk where they were selling books. I read the title, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. That was exactly what I needed at that moment. I spent my last $15, bought the book, and then found a comfortable chair in the lobby to read. I was just settling into the first short story when I felt like I was being watched. I looked up to find Chris standing there.
“What are you reading?” Chris asked.
“Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.” I pointed at the cover.
“Pshhh sounds lame,” He said
“Well, it’s a lot more exciting than the lecture about righteousness, and the kiosk over there had slim pickings. What happened?” I asked. “I thought we were going to hang out this weekend! That’s the only reason why I came here in the first place!”
“So let’s hang out!” he said.
“Seriously? You avoided me the whole weekend! Now that those girls are gone, the weekend’s over, and I finally found something to entertain myself, which you find lame, by the way; now you want to hang out?” I responded.
“Yeah!” He said and sat down at the chair next to me. We had a forced conversation for 45 minutes until it was time for me to leave. He barely said goodbye to me.
I saw Chris during the class change. “Hi, Sarah. I love the tie dye!” He said as I walked by. I just waved. “Hmm, maybe he just wants to take things slow because he’s worried that I’ll be a distraction.” I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
He called me that night after school. He talked the whole time about some girl that goes to another school. I sat there completely numb as I listened. Soon, the calls stopped, and then the waves in the hall stopped to the point where I might as well have been invisible. I hoped that things would change after wrestling season, but he never contacted me. He went out with Marissa instead.
I nursed my broken heart back to health with Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. The book was filled with stories about people who struggled as children and overcame adversity to be successful adults. I began to think about my own story. I thought about my struggles with reading and writing, the bullying I endured, and the heartbreak I just experienced. I decided that someday, I would write about my struggles and how I overcame them. I decided that someday I would inspire people, too. Little did I know that 20 years later, the story I wrote about how I defied everyone’s expectations of me, achieved my dream of owning a coffee shop, and published my first of many short stories would be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Power of Positive.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I guess I didn’t understand the power of my story, and I was afraid to share it because I was worried about how it would be received. The lesson I learned was remaining ashamed and keeping quiet about it just because I was worried about how others would react to my truth wasn’t good for my own mental health. My silence is a disservice to the millions of people who are having the same human experiences but are feeling alone and are suffering in silence.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
After surviving my childhood, then finding myself in a 20-year-long abusive marriage that nearly killed me and having no idea how I got myself into the situation, then found my way out of it, and identified the warning signs leading up to almost dying; I aim to raise awareness about intimate partner abuse. By identifying the warning signs, shedding light on the abuse cycle, and providing clear examples of the tactics abusers commonly use, readers may recognize these behaviors in their own relationships and find the courage to leave before they escalate to the inevitable death.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Perhaps the first chapter, where Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible ambushed my restaurant, inadvertently unveiled the years of abuse I had endured.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
In the Chapter titled Dodge the Flying Monkeys, I explain that a friend heard about me almost dying at the hands of my husband. She Facebook messaged me, saying, “Been there, done that. I’m here if you need an ear. Be proud you have the courage to step away.” She posted a link: www.fyingmonkeysdenied.com
After what I just went through, I wasn’t feeling very courageous. I wondered what the link was, so I clicked on it. I had never heard of Narcissistic Personality Disorder before that. That was my aha moment, which made the senseless acts of violence I went through make sense.
I spent the next five years researching personality disorders and trying to understand the mindset of people who abused and killed their families. I watched YouTube videos and listened to podcasts on my subway rides to work. I read books at night and scoured the internet for articles and blog posts. I watched true crime documentaries and movies on the subject. The more information I consumed, the more questions I had.
Then Covid happened. All the old wounds were ripped open. Quarantine isolated us all over again. We couldn’t go to counseling or our support groups, and building a social life proved to be impossible. Days turned into months, and months turned into years, with no end in sight.
The Narcissist Apocalypse podcast became a pseudo-support group for me. I listened to every episode as these courageous survivors told their stories. By the thirtieth episode, it hit me. While each story had completely different scenarios, they all fit a pattern. Armed with my years of research on abusive personalities, I was able to identify the warning signs and abuse tactics commonly used in each of the stories as the incidents increased in frequency and severity.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Since I published the book, I’ve had several people who I hadn’t spoken to in years reach out. The most recent had specific issues with her abusive family. She said she never realized how alone she felt since childhood and is seeing how they have affected her adult life. She now knows what sort of therapy she needs to seek out to break these unhealthy cycles she found herself in.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve when it comes to Domestic Violence awareness?
- Stop shaming victims- They say we were asking for it. The abuser knew exactly what you were doing and willfully chose to do it. We didn’t force it on them. They say we deserve it. Nobody deserves it! What kind of messed up human being even says that?
- Listen and support- Sadly, victims have told someone they trusted, but they either didn’t listen, didn’t believe them, or made excuses for the abuser’s actions, enabling you to do it more!
- Silence is Violence- Sadly, the majority of abuse goes unreported. Victims are afraid to speak up about what they endured. Most just want to forget about it but then realize that nothing, not even justice, will make the pain disappear. Only a brave few of us reported it. We didn’t report it for us, either. We only reported it to keep them from doing it to somebody else.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A good leader has the capacity for compassion and the ability to motivate and inspire others to be their authentic self and achieve their highest potential.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Trust your gut — This was told to me, but I never truly believed it. Looking back, every regret I have involved not trusting my intuition. Instead, I sought out validation from others. I never got it! I stopped following the signs that couldn’t be rationally explained. If someone tried to keep me from making the right decision, I felt I needed to explain myself. They never listened anyway, and they certainly had powerful arguments to contradict me.
I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my life choices, and I am not responsible for other people’s life choices. Guilting me into contradicting my values is not only toxic for me but enables them. My responsibility is only to myself and my children. I’ll make mistakes along the way, and that’s OK! They’ll be MY mistakes, and I’ll learn from them. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?
2. Keep what’s important — let go of the rest. After a while the heavy stuff we carry gets to be too much. We have to learn how to put that stuff down and let it go.
3. Evict the negative dialog from your head — Never let anyone else determine what you are capable of. That is you and only you to decide.
4. Don’t dim your light for others — Anyone who shames you for being your authentic self is blinded by your light.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people — This is easier said than done, but the best advice anyone has ever given me. Stop wasting your time with mean people and surround yourself with those who love and support you. Anyone who isolates you from your support systems is an abuser, I don’t care how well intentioned you think they are.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When my Restaurant: Impossible episode aired on Food Network and I was awakened to the abuse I had endured, the following quote describes the life Lesson I learned:
The terrible thing about hell
Is that when you’re there you can’t even tell
As you move through this life you love so
You could be there and not even know
But you say so what I’m doing just fine
The irony is that it’s all in your mind
And that is why hell is so vicious and cruel
But you’ll just go on an oblivious fool
~Olivia’s Pool by, Tom Marshall
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Do they have to be alive? Living and working in Manhattan, I’ve met a lot of Celebrities. I guess Debra Harry. I actually checked her in while working at a hotel once. I had no idea it was her until after she left. I wouldn’t mind meeting her again!
In my book, I describe how I was asked a similar question in an interview:
“If you could have dinner with someone, dead or alive, who would it be?” She asked.
“Zelda Fitzgerald,” I responded immediately without giving it much thought.
“Ella Fitzgerald?” She attempted to correct me.
“No, Zelda,” I said confidently, shaking my head and sitting up straighter.
“Who’s that?” Suzie asked.
“F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife,” I explained.
“She was an absolutely brilliant woman,” I went on to speak passionately. “His first book, ‘The Beautiful and Damned,’ was taken from her diary. At least two more of his books were written completely by her, but the publisher used his name, thinking they would sell better! Her husband had her committed because he was afraid she would outshine his talent, and she still did with her artwork and her own book “Save Me the Waltz.” She wrote it while hospitalized! Before that, she was even an accomplished ballet dancer studying with Ballets Russes in Paris! He committed her to a hospital in Switzerland when she was offered to tour with a Spanish ballet company. Then he left her there and went back to the US! They wouldn’t release her until she agreed to give up all her dreams and remain a housewife. It took her three years before she finally gave in. She returned home to the States and showcased her artwork, so he had her committed again. She died in a horrific fire in Asheville, NC. One of the inmates set it in the kitchen, and since they were all locked in their rooms, she couldn’t get out.”
“Wow! I never heard of her!” Suzie said.
“Have you seen the movie Midnight in Paris?” I asked.
“Yes!” she said.
“Well, when Owen Wilson transports back in time, he runs into Ernest Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s! He runs into Zelda later that night, as she tries to throw herself into the river Seine. He gives her a valium, which makes it easier for her to deal with the misogyny of her time.”
“What would you ask her?” Suzie said.
“I don’t know that I would actually ask her anything,” I said, searching for an answer. “She seemed like one to dominate a conversation. I would settle for being a fly on a wall in the room with her. I guess I would just observe her and determine the answer to my question about her.”
“What’s the question?” Suzie asked.
“Was she really crazy, like they all said she was, or was she just ahead of her time, or were they just trying to dim her light because they couldn’t handle it being brighter than theirs? Was it so bright that it blinded them, making her seem unbearable, and did that in the end actually drive her crazy?” I confessed. “Probably all of the above.”
“Wow!” Suzie said. When I was done speaking, she looked directly into my eyes and spoke genuinely, tears welling in the corners of hers. “I think you relate to Zelda because you experienced something similar to her. It was hard for you to leave where you came from. The easy way would have been to stay, but you’re not one to take the easy way out.”
“You’re right! I’m not!” I affirmed, looking down and shaking my head. “It’s been tough!” I admitted.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can find my author page at:
I also write on Medium:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Sarah Hummell Is Helping To Change Our World By Spreading… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.