We are so very excited to share a video from the Re:Dream Project, which highlights one of our survivors, Lynn Chopp. Re:Dream is about people living in America as they navigate opportunity, meet obstacles, and pursue happiness in the 21st century. Lynn joins 39 other impressive Americans featured in micro-documentaries in the project. By sharing the hopes and struggles of everyday U.S. residents, Re:Dream will find out what opportunities they feel they have access to and if issues of identity —including race, gender, geography, sexuality—impact their ability to grasp those opportunities. The nationwide project is produced by PBS member stations in fifteen different cities, including local affiliate, Georgia Public Broadcasting, who produced Lynn’s piece and made a visit to CFVC while filming. We are so glad to see Lynn getting recognized for her contributions to our community and hope the world enjoys getting to know this exceptional woman as much as we have.
The following post is excerpted from a letter written by a CFVC client, who graciously allowed us to share her story of survival from abuse and services received from CFVC:
I am a survivor of Domestic Violence. I spent [many] years living in an unsafe and unpredictable environment. I lived in constant fear of my spouse and also in great fear of what would happen to myself and our child if I left. The day came when my fear of my future with my spouse outweighed my fear of leaving. It was a hard and scary day, but I got through it. The next day I walked into the Cherokee Family Violence Center. I needed a restraining order and didn’t have the money or the knowhow to do it alone. What I found there was so much more than what I could have imagined. I found kindness, love, and more support than I ever knew existed.
Tommie, one of the Legal Advocates, walked with me every step of the way through getting my restraining order. She was helpful, supportive, and understanding of my situation. After that, Niki, another Legal Advocate, helped me get an attorney for my divorce. Divorcing my husband was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I couldn’t face him without the fear of him shutting me down. Niki made sure that I didn’t have to. Every time my fear came back or I felt overwhelmed, Niki and Tommie were there for me. With their help, I became stronger and more confident. I always thought that if I left my husband, I would be completely on my own. This wonderful organization proved me wrong.
My support didn’t end there. [Recently] I met with a kind lady named Autumn, a Family Advocate who is allowing me to participate in a program called Triple P parenting. This will help me learn how to open the lines of communication with [my child] about all we have been through. I have also been invited to participate in a support group at the CFVC. One of the best parts of my experience has been that thanks to [their programs, my child] and I have been able to receive weekly counseling. We have a long way to go, but the healing has begun. If someone had told me how much support we would have in this process, I would have left a long time ago. I have been so amazed at the kindness and support we found through this organization. Our lives are being restored and we are beginning to heal.
Thank you so much for walking with me every step of the way through this journey. Thank you to all who support this organization through grants and donations. Without the support that is given to the Cherokee Family Violence Center, they would not be changing lives as they are. I will forever be grateful.
Here at Cherokee Family Violence Center, we strive to create a safe space for survivors of abuse to share their experiences in a healthy way. For many, that means working with an Advocate, attending a support group, or participating in a class. Others, like survivor B. Baldwin, who shared her story in our last blog post, take a more creative approach to their healing. We are proud to share some of her work here, including her own introduction:
“The following piece of writing depicts a few things that were done to me during the relationship. Most of what he did cannot be shared on this site. But know that I was beaten, drugged with Ambien, photographed and filmed during and after the abuse. Only recently have I been able to tolerate the flash of a camera – and it took at least 6 months before I could go shopping and not have a metal cart to hold onto while I search the aisles for food, etc. I still have nightmares – but not as many. I was stalked via the internet and with emails. Oh – one more thing, he worked for the Department of Justice – so it was as though I was fighting a “two-headed” monster when I tried “hide in a safe place” and tried so desperately to get others to listen – let alone believe me. [This was around 15 years ago – and thankfully, things have improved.] But more important than any of the above – I am a Survivor – I stood up to him – and he pushed me down the stairs – but I stood up – and I spoke out. I am still standing – I am still speaking out – and he is not part of my life now.
From 10 years of journal writing, I gathered some of the facts and wrote a story of what it was like living with a man that I once loved. I have entitled this work: ‘Masquerade – The Realm of Violence.’”
MASQUERADE . . . THE REALM OF VIOLENCE
FIRST DANCE – CHAMELEON – FRACTURED – MOSAIC
First dance = following his lead
Chameleon = becoming what he wanted
Fractured = the state of my broken mind, body, and soul
Mosaic = my redirection of light and the healing process of my mind, body, and soul
Reflecting back to those dark days, I remember
and I sometimes still feel the pain.
I remember perfecting the art of being and becoming
whatever was necessary for that particular moment of time
. . . to keep me safe . . . to keep me alive.
No matter where I went, no matter what I did,
he was with me – I loved him
I wore what he wanted – and made sure each piece of clothing matched.
Each strand of hair in place – perfect makeup – perfect weight
perfect everything . . .
Day-by-day the real me was slipping away.
It was as though I had become “him” in the form of a woman.
I began to hate the new me – “his new me.”
So there I was … alone – broken – fractured,
No one knew how deep I fell –
No one knew how loud I screamed
In his arms –
In my dreams.
No one knew how hard he kicked me –
No one knew how many times he told me that
No one knew he spit in my face –
Kicked my back after I fell – No one knew.
No one knew the mind games he played.
No one knew that his words felt like razors
Piercing through my soul . . .
No one knew he whispered threats in my ear –
Instead of soft kisses –
No one knew.
No one knew what a monster he was –
No one knew what it took for me “just to stay alive.”
No one knew what it felt like to dance with the devil –
Around and around . . .
Leaving me upside down and inside out.
No one knew that living with him was like living
In the middle of the ocean –
Treading water non-stop – just to stay afloat – alive.
No one knew the invisible fear that consumed my heart –
The unspeakable things he did –
The photos he took of his “proud moments” after defeating me –
Like a hunter takes pictures of his “prey” – or his “kill.”
No one knew what he did – until I left him . . .
Now they know what he did…..
Because I am no longer with him . . .
But he is still with me . . .
still with me . . .
still with me . . .
still with me . . .
still in my heart . . . still in my mind.
* * *
Today I know that love is like a vine. A vine comprised of hopes, dreams, memories and promises that become entwined with every aspect of our being . . . . . like DNA.
It is no wonder that it takes time to overcome this horrific betrayal.
From the broken and fractured soul came a mosaic-like soul
with pieces that have been molded together, forming a new, stronger soul.
He is no longer in my heart – he is no longer in my mind
HE IS NO LONGER WITH ME.
One of my favorite songs by Nina Simone sums up how I feel
and what I believe about myself right now . . .
“It’s a new dawn
a new day
a new life for me
and I’m feeling good.
Freedom – oh freedom is mine.”
©2012: From a Survivor’s Journal: B. Baldwin
QUESTION – How do you process the fact that the one you loved – the one you spent more than four years with, and would soon marry, HAD HIS HANDS AROUND YOUR THROAT AND TRIED TO CHOKE YOU TO DEATH?
How does one begin to process this? It did not fit into any of the thought patterns I had developed. It did not make sense! I simply could not process this.
This is where my story begins. . .
I arrived at Cherokee County’s shelter for battered women and children in August 2004. I came straight from the hospital via police escort. The physical and emotional pain was so great that I could barely speak – once I opened my mouth, I feared that I may not be able to stop crying and screaming. I was a total scrambled mess and was constantly looking over my shoulder, believing that he was “all around me.” For several weeks, I moved in what seemed like “slow motion” – and when people spoke, all I heard was a humming noise. For two weeks I heard the “hum” of other’s voices but I was truly “somewhere else.”
To better illustrate, think of my life as one of those 1000-piece puzzles. When I arrived at the shelter, I soon tossed all of the pieces of my life “on the table.” Obviously, there was no clarity or clear vision. But day-by-day through support groups, case management meetings, classes provided by Cherokee Family Violence Center, and through help and support from my fellow Survivors, that “1000-piece” puzzle that I called my broken life, began to take shape and soon revealed a vision.
I am stronger now – much stronger – and I use my voice and my experience to help other survivors and to help raise awareness about this growing epidemic we call domestic violence.
I have developed several projects: “The Inheritance Quilt;” a postage stamp petition; a publication of Survivors’ journal entries; the development of a Public Service Announcement for Cherokee County; a project using artwork from women and children survivors to create a new fabric line that will benefit shelters. A few of the projects are in the “infant” stage – but not for long. My survivor friends have given me such strength – and I love them all!
Before I bring this part of “my story” to an end, I must request at this time that you never ask a survivor “why she stayed.” Each one of us left – more than once and they always found us! They are physically stronger than us – they always caught us! Instead, you need to ask the abuser – the criminal, why he put his hands on us and tried to kill us? Why didn’t he leave? The answer to that question is this: ABUSERS DO NOT STOP – THEY ESCALATE! ONE MORE TIME: ABUSERS DO NOT STOP – THEY ESCALATE.
I owe my thanks to God and to each and every Advocate at Cherokee Family Violence Center. I am alive today because of their hard work and dedication.
I was married to my abuser for 20 years. He used to drug me and then do horrible things to me. One night, after he had drugged me, I called a neighbor to take me to the hospital. He found my car parked on the side of the building and was waiting for me when we returned. Someone called 911 because he became so violent with me and was trying to to hit my neighbor. He was arrested that night and ordered by the Cobb County court to attend anger management counseling, and I was told to attend a Domestic Violence support group.
After being threatened by him and instructed not to tell the support group anything, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell the group what was really going on. I felt very overwhelmed. I was not there because it was my choice, but due to a court order. I felt as if I couldn’t tell them what was really happening, so I remained quiet. I wasn’t quite ready at that time to speak out;I still felt the abuse was my fault. After all, there were times that everything was good. I know now that it was part of the cycle of abuse, called the honeymoon phase.
After attending the support group and him attending counseling, things were okay for a short while but then became even worse than before. I tried to leave him several times but I always returned, due to fear and the lack of self-confidence to change my life. He had control of the finances and I felt I could not make it on my own. I still hadn’t told anyone about the abuse; I tried and wanted to tell my family, but I just couldn’t. He always told me that no one would believe me if I said anything to anyone. I believed everything that he told me and I lived in fear. He would always threaten me that if I left him he would kill me and then kill himself. I thought that I could never get away.
Things became even worse when I became committed to God and my church. I began making friends and seeing that life was different from what I was living. He had always kept me isolated as much as he could, even from my family. Now he was losing his control over me and it infuriated him. When I would go to women’s Bible studies, he would show up and circle the church or walk into the middle of our group.
He used to tell me that he was sorry when he would hurt me, but then began telling me that it was my fault and I had something wrong with me. I finally decided I had to get out of the home, while trying to work on our marriage. We tried counseling together and separately, but he only wanted them to fix me and make me come back home. After one of his individual sessions I received a call from the counseling center telling me that he had found where I was, and that I was in danger. That was when I realized it was not going to get better.
I moved 3 times after leaving him, but he found me every time. I decided it was time to file for a divorce and get a TPO. The day before we went to court to have the TPO extended, I received a call that he had applied for a gun permit and I had to go into hiding. He violated the TPO several times and the final time he almost killed me and blinded me in one eye. The 911 team responded very quickly to the call and were very helpful and concerned. Thanks to the hard work of the Detective at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and everyone at the DA’s office, my abuser is now serving 30 years in prison for the attack on my life.
I found out about the Cherokee Family Violence Center from the detective and I spoke with them several times before deciding to attend a support group there. I have found so much support and help from everyone at CFVC. It took some time, but I have become strong enough to speak out and tell others about my experience. I have had a few threats and some phone calls from him while in prison, but I know that he is not getting out anytime soon. I still have some things that I am working on and still have flashbacks and nightmares, but they are becoming less frequent. I think I may always have some of that, but I know with each day that I am getting stronger.
Domestic Violence is happening more than we think about or even want to imagine. Most of the time the victims are too afraid or ashamed to speak out and tell anyone what is happening. It is something that needs more attention. We need to SPEAK OUT and let people know that it is not right and that it WON’T BE TOLERATED. If you or someone you know is being abused, PLEASE BREAK THE SILENCE. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
The Cherokee Family Violence Center has helped me and so many others come up with solutions to whatever problems we may face. They are ready and willing to help anyone who is willing to reach out. They have been a real blessing to me.
Please don’t stay thinking that it will get better or that you can change it. Nothing you do will stop the abuse if you remain in it, it usually just gets worse. Most times abusers will isolate their victims so they feel as if they have no place to go and no one to turn to for help, BUT THERE IS HELP. I had so many excuses for staying, until one day I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided I had to get out. I was fortunate to have gotten away alive, as some people don’t get out in time.
My church family and the Cherokee Family Violence Center have stood beside me every step of the way, even through the court trial. They continue to help me to this day. I still attend counseling sessions with a wonderful, caring counselor and she, along with my Advocate at CFVC, are helping me work on my self-esteem and confidence along with other things.
I hope that I can offer help to others the way that I have been helped. I want anyone who is in an abusive situation to know that you have the strength inside you to get away from the abuse. YOU ARE WORTH A LOT, no matter what anyone else tells you. YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE ABUSED, but instead deserve happiness and someone who realizes that LOVE DOES NOT HURT. You are strong and you can make it through. It is not easy, just take the first step and don’t let anyone take your security from you.
I am a totally different person today than what I was when I was with him or even when I first left. It was a very difficult step to take, but not one that I would ever change. I am no longer being abused, so I am happy, and free!