This woman repurposed her wedding dress by using it—and her love for running marathons—to raise awareness about an important issue.
If you ever saw a woman running in a wedding dress recently in New York, you might have spotted Vanessa Reiser, 47, of Congers, New York. This woman ran 285 miles from Oswego to New York City with a mission: raise awareness for victims of narcissistic abuse.
“Narcissistic abuse is an insidious form of domestic violence,” Vanessa, a clinical therapist, told People TV. “Narcissists generally will use the wedding or an engagement as a form of control and manipulation. They entangle you. And so, [the dress] is a representation of how they do that.”
Unfortunately, Vanessa experienced this form of domestic violence firsthand. In a recent interview with Fox News, she revealed that she was previously engaged to a “diagnosed narcissist and sociopath” who had a history of abusing his partners.
There was even a time when the guy left her without a car in Cape Cod, so she had to rent a vehicle to get home to Rockland County. Then, he padlocked her out of the house.
After realizing she had withdrawn from her favorite activities because of his demands, Vanessa broke off her engagement in March 2020.
And like a typical abuser, her ex-fiance responded with bitterness. He spat on her, called her late father a loser, called her a bunch of horrible names, and bleached all her clothing.
The guy even attempted to get her kicked off the board of the Center for Safety and Change by telling them that she was abusing him.
“It’s very confusing. Everything is confuse and control,” Vanessa said of narcissistic abuse. “It’s very much like a cult leader… that manipulation.”
Vanessa said she went through a lot of pain and had to stay at her mother’s house for three months.
Over a year later, Vanessa made some modifications to her wedding dress and set off for a journey that started May 17 in Oswego. She ran about 23 miles a day and finished in Manhattan.
Vanessa has previously participated in two Ironman marathons, so she’s quite the pro at running long distances. However, this time, she’s more determined to finish because she’s doing it for a more significant cause.
Along the way, Vanessa gathered donations from the nine New York counties she ran through. She hasn’t revealed how much she’s collected so far.
After calling it quits with her ex-fiancé, Vanessa went on to receive life coaching. She has also expanded her mission by starting the nonprofit Tell A Therapist, a nationwide telecommunication service that connects victims of narcissistic abuse with specialized clinicians.
Vanessa said it’s becoming clear that this is something many people are going through, and the pandemic has undoubtedly made it worse.
“We have a major, major problem that we need to address … this is an issue that people don’t know a lot about,” she said.
Vanessa is also currently developing a life-coaching program that will be available worldwide.
Although she knows that there’s still a lot of work to be done, Vanessa is glad that she was able to start the conversation around the clinical trials that highlight his form of domestic violence.
“We are shining a light on the clinical behaviors that people don’t generally talk about,” she told News 12.
Vanessa has a message to the thousands of victims out there who may hear her story:
“I believe you. We believe you. Get safe. Try to find some courage, clarity, and confidence. This is part of my own healing. And so, if you have something that you want to do… lean into that.”
Thank you, Vanessa, for all the work you’re doing for victims of narcissistic abuse.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you may call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or go to thehotline.org.
To learn more about this story, please watch the video below: