Sheila B. is a survivor of domestic violence who has become an advocate for all victims of domestic violence. She is the founder of No Longer The Face Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence and their families on a local and international scale. Check out her Q&A:
What was your journey to becoming an advocate against domestic abuse?
I was a victim of sexual assault while I was in the Army. I met my ex while in the military and I felt that things weren’t right with him. But I was so blinded by my fear of being alone, and someone actually wanting me after being assaulted, that his attention appeared that he cared for me. He entered my life after the assault and failed relationships… and at that time I felt he was the best for my being.
That was completely opposite from the truth. He was a cheater, a liar and extremely manipulative. I trusted him with my hurt and he helped me not to heal but continue to hurt. The last straw with him came one day when he wanted to leave me and the children home while he went out. I took the keys to the car, locked myself and my son in the bathroom. He cursed me, threatened me and eventually pushed the door in. Standing over me with a closed fist, he punched me in the face, I gave him the keys and realized that was it. I would not let my son think this type of behavior was the proper way to treat a woman.
I put a small amount of money aside until I had a bit saved. On August 22, 1999, with my babies, I walked away from my marriage with nothing but our clothes, my car, and about $200.
What is the biggest misconception that people have about domestic abuse?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that it’s a certain type of person that experiences domestic violence and also that it’s just easy to walk away. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. As young as 12 and as old as 70+ can experience domestic violence. It’s not easy to walk away from the only thing that you know. Most abusers are excellent brain washers and can make the victim feel like life without them would be too hard or that no one else will care/love them like they will.
How do you start a conversation to help educate people on domestic abuse?
It’s so important to listen and to know the warning signs of domestic violence. Most people have someone they see every day, work with, or that may even be a family member that has/is/will experience domestic violence. It’s missed simply because those signs are missed.
Also, most victims feel embarrassed about being abused so they often remain silent. Helping others means being aware of what to look for. Some of the things to look for are:
?Fear of conflict
?Accusations of having an affair
?Missed work or school
?Injuries or excuses
?Changes in appearance or personality
Can you describe one moment where you really knew you made a difference for your cause?
I had a deep an meaningful conversation with a woman on Instagram. She was a victim of domestic violence and felt so alone. But after chatting with her, she was empowered and saw her purpose. If I only touch one life, my purpose is not in vain.
What can everyday people do to help spread awareness of domestic abuse?
Support those organizations in the trenches trying to make a difference. There are so many ways to help. The most important thing is to get involved. Don’t wait until if affects you to do your part. Domestic violence is everybody’s business.
If you could make one change to how we deal with domestic abuse, what would it be?
We would have more shelters, transitional housing for those women leaving shelters. Most have no where to go after their time is up, so they return to their abusers or they are homeless. Those returning to their abusers often never get the opportunity to leave again; some die at the same hands they escaped from.
What are the biggest obstacles you face in advocating for abuse survivors?
As with most organizations in this area, it is funding- funds to help those needing help. If everyone did a little- whether it be in the form of money, resources or talent- they can help with truly assisting our efforts to end domestic violence.
How do you keep from burning out and losing hope?
I am a Survivor, with a purpose. My experience happened for a reason and purpose. I never want a woman to feel like she has a reason to stay and be treated less than what God has ordained that she be treated like. Too many beautiful butterflies have and are losing their wings.
I want to see more born, spreading their wings, showing their colors and flying. I have faith my organization… No Longer The Face Foundation will make an impact on lives here and internationally. Women UNITING and claiming back our crowns, our Queenhood!
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