Life is rarely a straight and narrow path. Instead, it’s full of twists, turns, surprises, pitfalls, and dead ends – and for Ashley Bendiksen, a critical epiphany. The Newport speaker, activist, and author is a survivor of dating violence and sexual assault, and admits that upon hitting rock bottom, she “also had this incredible moment of clarity.”
“I realized I lost so much time, opportunities, and myself along the way,” says Bendiksen, “that I’d struggled because I’d let everyone dictate my life.” This realization provided the foundation for later success, including winning the title of Miss New Bedford, returning to school to study the justice system after dropping out years earlier, and graduating as valedictorian at Salve Regina University. Most importantly, it spurred her to create her eponymous business and take ownership of her life story to help others through advocacy.
“I primarily speak to youth because this is where my presentation makes the most impact,” Bendiksen explains, referring to her work addressing issues related to domestic and sexual violence prevention as it relates to her own experience. Teens, she points out, encounter higher rates of dating violence and sexual assault, complicated further by conditions like depression, bullying, and eating disorders. She continues to speak at high schools, youth conferences, and educator forums, and spearhead nonprofit initiatives related to abuse prevention.
After years in a successful career centered around leadership and victim services under her belt, life threw Bendiksen another curveball: At just age 48, her mother developed an inexplicable case of early-onset Alzheimer’s. The sudden role as caregiver provided a new dimension for Bendiksen’s journaling, a habit she maintained from her teenage days. From these journal entries, transcribed
conversations with her mother, and reflections from her childhood, Bendiksen’s first book The Language of Time was born. It underlines life as a caregiver, touching upon an occupation she shared with 159,477 adults – 54,000 of whom, like her, were or are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Bendiksen sums up her book beautifully in a single sentence: “It’s a story about being present, staying strong in moments of struggle, appreciating loved ones, embracing life, and being reminded that tomorrow is never guaranteed.” To learn more about her work, visit AshleyBendiksen.com