Karyn’s Story: “There is peace and a beautiful future ready and waiting for you.”

My first night in the shelter, I sat alone in that room on the side of the bed and looked around shocked I was even there. My throat still hurt from where he choked me. My head was in pain from where he had hit me with his fist several times. My eyes were red and swollen rom crying. My vision was blurry because he had knocked my glasses off my face, and I couldn’t see. My glasses were back at the apartment and the police didn’t help me retrieve them after I had said numerous time to both officers, “I can’t see.”

This relationship should have ended a long time ago, but I believe in my marriage and thought it was the right thing to stay and “work it out.” The vows said for better or for worse and I thought, if this is the worse, we must fight to get to the better.

We were one of those couples that people complimented on how good we looked everywhere we went. We were both smart, had dreams we wanted to fulfill and were both artists. He was the visual artists with painting, and I was the written and verbal artists telling stories through short stories, poems and spoken word. We were a perfect fit. Until he relapsed into his crack and cocaine addiction. Participating in two different outpatient drug rehabilitation programs and attending several Narcotics and Alcoholic Anonymous meetings didn’t help him. His demons were more powerful than any love that was there.

Sitting on the side of that bed in the domestic violence shelter reminded me of other times when he hit me, yelled at me, pushed me, cursed me out and called me out of my name. It reminded me of money he had stolen, a laptop he had purchased for me as a gift that was taken to a local pawn shop, jobs he couldn’t keep, bills he couldn’t help pay, time lost and difficult lessons learned.

I had started my journey to earn my degree at Tennessee State University one week prior to being in the shelter. I had been out of school for twenty-two years and my plan was to graduate. I had class the next day after I arrived at the shelter. I asked myself, what was I going to do. That is when I told myself, I needed to use that moment to launch me into the next phase of me. Wonder Woman had always been my favorite superhero as a child and for me to win this battle I didn’t agree to fight in, I needed some superpower strength. Sitting on the side of that bed, alone in that room that was foreign to me, I decided to fight for myself. I was not going to give up on me because of his pain, his weaknesses, his self-destructive behavior and the lies he wanted to live. And fight I did.

I not only earned my bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University, but I went on to earn a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt University. At both schools, I was able to highlight domestic violence as my final projects and ultimately created Boss Ass Broad, a community service organization where I collect personal hygiene items for women in domestic violence shelters because I know what that moment is like. I encourage all women to find their own superpowers and to use their voices to help not only themselves but other women as well. Being a part of VOICES allows me to speak from my personal experiences to let other women know, there is life after the abuse. There is hope, love and better days for you. There is peace and a beautiful future ready and waiting for you.