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.
Thank you to all that came out to our annual Candlelight Vigil, which was held on October 28, 2014 at the Park at City Center in Downtown Woodstock, Georgia. The event is held each year to honor survivors of abuse and to mourn those lost to Intimate Partner Violence in the past year. This year, a display of chairs represented the 71 domestic violence related fatalities in the State of Georgia this year. A chair was selected to represent each victim as a symbol of our community’s loss – each death represents a family member missed at the dinner table, a coworker missed at the office, a friend missed during book club, a child missed by their classmates.
Silhouettes displayed around the park represented Cherokee County victims who lost their lives to Domestic Violence in recent years. The silhouettes stand as “silent witnesses” to our event each year.
The event featured survivor speakers Chelsea and Maricela and a keynote address by Representative Mandi Ballinger. Local music group, Highbeams, provided accompanying music for the vigil.
As candles were lit around the park, the names of victims from the State of Georgia who were lost this year were read by Heather Chamblee, Kayla Fillingim and Sheri Vaughan, prosecution-based advocates that join in partnership with us in our work to provide support victims and end domestic violence. As the names were read, a drumbeat sounded every nine seconds, which is the rate at which a woman is abused by her partner in the United States.
The vigil was held in remembrance of the following lives:
Annie Belle Jarrett, 63
Leonard McKeehan, 63
Lynn York , 66
Sondra Williams, 56
Jessica Schanae Nowell, 24
Susan Sheriff, 45
Shevonta Hardwick, 23
Katrina West, 36
Alicia Johnson, 53
Gladys Bailey, 66
Bridgette Holt, 47
Margaret Elizabeth Lawson, 86
Fu Li, 58
Melvina Dunlap, 62
Alexis Dodson, 37
Kristy Robinson, 37
Cheyanne Nicole Hair, 16
Pamela Hardy, 43
Jesus Dominguez, 4
Thelma Vinhal, 35
Euclides Guinato-Bernardes, 30
Lakendra Elam, 27
Terrence Norman, 28
Anisa Taylor, 34
Anne Pastizzo, 66
Daniel Garcia, 13
Kayla Garcia , 11
Marion Lamonte Wiggs, 40
Tyree Jevontae Burtin, 38
Haneefah Harris, 44
Tonya Moses-Charles, 44
Bridgette Flowers, 37
Jimmie “Bo” Faye Meeks, 50
Sheray Latriest Felton, age unknown
Maria Nunez McDaniel, 29
Betty Mulbah McClain, 45
Casey Nicole Mitchell, 33
Kathleen Sheehan, 45
Jennifer Gatewood, 25
Laurie Chumley, 38
Jason Forkin, 40
Patricia Murray, 32
Rubii Cross, 34
Natty Ortiz-Ramos, 43
Anthony Tirrell Murray, 30
Rashawn Jackson, 34
Melissa Kimsey, 30
Angela Whitten, 53
Katherine Landers, 41
Lauren Smart, 34
Jessica Osborn, 28
Navy Thuy Vo, 35
John Malone, 48
Phyllis Frazier, 51
Elois Anderson, 52
Lekeisha Williams, 33
Deborah Lindley, 45
Marisol Rodriguez, 32
Brandie Lawson, 27
Sharonda James, 40
Sharon Wilkins, 55
Rosella “Rose” Mitchell, 32
Dylan Conner, 6 months old
Destiny Clarke, 20
Kara Miller, 29
Paxton Miller, 21 months
Chheng Voight, 37
Treasey Wingo, 47
Jessica Arrendale, 33
Fran Taylor, 63
Thanks to each of our speakers, CFVC Staff, Interns, Board and Volunteers, Beth Siegel, Target of Canton, the Cherokee County Domestic Violence Task Force, Fast Signs of Canton, Israel Holcomb, Highbeams, A Dove’s Nest, Woodstock High School Interact Club, Cherokee High School Art Department Woodstock Police Department Police Explorers, and the City of Woodstock Parks and Recreation Department for their assistance with making the vigil a successful event this year.
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.
On October 8, 2013, as in years past, we came together to honor the victims and survivors of domestic violence and to remember those who lost their lives to this devastating and destructive crime at our Candlelight Vigil.
Individuals who lost their lives in our county in the last six years stood as silent witnesses to how dangerous this crime is. Those represented included: Wanda Atkins, Minnie Carr, Casey Conley, Kimberly Davis, D. J. Elrod, Linda Johnson, Shannon Lawrence, Darlene Norrell, Lindsey Norrell, Maricruz Sandoval, Victor Sandoval and Julia Shaw.
Thankfully, there were no domestic violence deaths in Cherokee County this year. Why is that? Is it something that we are doing differently this year? Did something make a difference in someone’s life that prevented her death? Did she call out for help and was able to seek safe shelter? Did she obtain a protective order? Was the abuser arrested and the system held him accountable? Did her faith community support her which gave her the courage to leave? Did a neighbor speak out and let her know that there was help? Or was it simply chance?
CFVC Executive Director, Meg Rogers, remarked that we may never know the answers, but that we do know that in the last 12 months:
There were 3,635 Domestic Violence calls to Law Enforcement for help.
That these victims represent every race, religion, nationality and social position in this county and that they are overwhelmingly female.
That 962 victims sought services at the Cherokee Family Violence Center.
That CFVC sheltered 97 women, children and men for 4,213 nights in our safe shelter and were at 96% capacity for the year.
That CFVC assisted 251 women and children with affordable housing.
That CFVC assisted 193 victims through our Multicultural Program.
That CFVC assisted 449 victims though our Legal Advocacy program with protective orders, immigration assistance, custody cases and divorces.
That CFVC made 30 presentations to 1,059 individuals through Cherokee County about Domestic Violence and the effects on victims and our community.
That CFVC developed 877 safety plans with victims and their children.
And that CFVC provided a combined 20,023 services to these families.
Is that what made the difference? Did we save lives? We would like to think so, although we may never know. The point is that Domestic Violence is the leading cause of non-accidental injury in the United States. It kills 1,500 victims every year in this country and that we all have a role to play: to speak out against it, to support victims as they navigate the almost impossible choices to become safe, to teach our boys to respect girls, to teach our girls that they deserve better, to change the cultural discourse that violence, jealousy, and control is not love. We all have a role in stopping this violence for this generation and the next; to speak out, to stand up, and to say “no more!” We also need to let our elected officials that we need strong laws that are effectively enforced. And that we need funding to help families heal.
We would like to say thank you to those that attended this year’s event, Pastor Jamey Prickett of Liberty Hill United Methodist Church, A Dove’s Nest, Fastsigns of Canton, Women of Worship of True Life Ministries, survivor speakers Ali, Alicia, and Darlene, Ruby Bean, Lieutenant German Rivas of the Canton Police Department, and our keynote speaker, Judge Jackson Harris. Special thanks go to the CFVC Interns that organized this year’s event: Brooke Larson, Kaytie Markfort, Lauren Drake and Rosie Rippe.
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