Resilience Blog

Protecting Victims Behind the Purple Wall

When victims of domestic violence decide to leave their abusive partners and call me for help, do you want to know what triggers me? As a survivor of gun violence at the hands of my ex-husband, you would be surprised to discover what triggers me is NOT their stories of abuse. It’s when they cry because the agencies I send them to for help hurt them as well. I remember feeling helpless every time I reached out to my local sheriff’s department because when they arrived at our home on numerous occasions, they would side with my ex-husband. I remember my heart racing with fear and anxiety when I finally worked up the courage to call the domestic violence crisis number only for them to tell me, “We ain’t got no rooms.” I remember feeling hopeless when I went into the district attorney’s office to file for a temporary protection order, only for the receptionist to tell me, “Hon, if you don’t have an address, there isn’t anything we can do.” There was never any other direction, words of support, or alternatives given. I was turned away without a sense of what I should do next. Faced with having to spend another day in my ex-husband’s presence and under his power, I remembered sliding down to the floor, with my back against the wall, curling up into the fetal position and crying tears of desperation. This is why, ten years later, it still hurts me to hear women are facing the same issues when they turn to organizations that are designed to help them.

My organization, Haven of Light International, Inc. (http://havenoflightint.org) provides mobile advocacy, crisis intervention, and connections to resources amongst other things. If our clients request more one on one help, I walk them through the entire process to help them rebuild their lives after domestic violence. When I started the organization, I knew I did not want to make anyone feel the way I was left feeling numerous times when I reached out for help. My mentor had a heart to heart conversation with me that I remember to this day. She said, “Kimya if you are tired, angry, bitter, or in a bad mood. Do not minister to those ladies. Your words will say one thing, but they will receive the way you are feeling.” It reminded me of a quote that I heard from Maya Angelou.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

I grew tired of hearing that the Gatekeepers of Freedom (that is what I call them) are the ones revictimizing these ladies. These are the people that act as a doorway to living a life free from abuse. They are the ones the women interact with first in the midst of an active domestic violence situation.

I created a Facebook post surrounding this topic a couple of weeks ago and voiced my discontent with the way some of my clients were being treated. Amazingly, other advocates filled the comments of my post with stories and accounts of how their clients had been revictimized by domestic violence agencies (shelters), law enforcement, court employees, and clergy, as well. Why didn’t we take our collective outrage and voice our concerns to the people that hold these agencies accountable? Are we just as guilty of being silent and thereby perpetuating the violence? Many of us in this work say, “Silence hides violence” but, often times we are referencing being involved in or knowing about the act of violence by the perpetrator and doing nothing about it. I think we need to take it a step further. As I began to research the complexity of this issue, I was unable to find information regarding this problem because the mechanisms explaining the link between victimization by intimate partners and revictimization by service providers has not been extensively studied. I wondered why.

I decided to do something more than vent about my disdain. I emailed agencies and made phone calls to people in authority and asked the tough questions and found out there is a protocol in place for domestic violence shelters, but not many other community-based and government-run agencies. When these steps are not followed, there are a couple of agencies that are supposed to hold them accountable. Here is what I discovered:

  1. When a client calls the domestic violence agency and reports abuse, the shelter in the county where the client resides is responsible for providing them with safe housing.
  2. If the agency does not have a room available, THEY are supposed to call the other agencies to locate a bed for the abused person.
  3. If they are unable to find space, the agency is supposed to place the person in a hotel until space becomes available.
  4. They are not supposed to say, “We don’t have any room,” and leave the victim without any choices.

Many of them do not follow this protocol and they leave victims feeling disenfranchised and hopeless; therefore, what can we do when this protocol is not followed? If you notice the domestic violence agency (shelter) is repeatedly violating the protocol, you can speak with the shelter manager and express your concerns. If you notice the problem is still occurring you can contact your state agency that governs accountability and education to make a report. That might be your state’s coalition against domestic violence. They are a good place to begin and they will give you the steps to follow next.

What about the other community-based and state-mandated agencies that re-traumatize domestic violence victims? How can they get on the right track? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Let’s begin with getting yearly training for the people who are on the frontlines in this fight against domestic violence.
  2. The training for people who take crisis calls for the shelters should include domestic violence protocols and basic customer service skills. An accountability component should be evident as well. Periodically, calls should be monitored for empathy and how well the protocols are being followed.
  3. When going to the homes where domestic violence is reported, law enforcement officials need comprehensive education to help them learn how to identify the primary aggressor and how to offer resources to victims and perpetrators.
  4. Everyone in the court offices that serve victims of domestic violence needs training tools as well – even down to the receptionist. Yes, the receptionist…and if you are a court official (district attorney, judge, solicitor, etc) and you have not had domestic violence training in the past year, yet you preside over cases daily, shame on you. Take a class. Go to a conference. Hire someone to come into the courthouse and give training to all of your staff.
  5. I can not even begin to fully address in this post how women of color, women who have immigration issues or have different sexual orientations are treated unjustly and inhumanely in many instances; as a result, all of these organizations could benefit from some sensitivity and cultural training too.

Accountability is not just for batterers; domestic violence shelters, law enforcement agencies, court personnel and members of the clergy should NOT hurt the very people they are supposed to be helping. If the advocates in charge of helping victims remain silent about the lack of assistance and the gross mistreatment of victims within the margin of the margins, our silence is just a deadly as the bystanders that witness or know about domestic violence and do nothing about it. It is time to shine a light on these insidious practices that persist behind the purple wall.

💜 Kimya

Say Yes!

3 A.M. Thoughts
When God places a call on your life AND you say yes to it, be prepared. It is the craziest, most rewarding, humbling, joy-filled, and scariest feelings you can ever imagine. It will test your faith like never before.

Right now, I am doing the work of the kingdom. God is using our story in AMAZING and awe-inspiring ways. It literally blows my mind. 
1.Families are being freed from the prison of domestic violence. 
2.Teens in Georgia are learning how to value themselves, talk about healthy relationships, and teach others the warning signs of violence. 
3. Our Teen Talks program will go global this year. In partnership with another organization, teens on island nations and abroad will soon learn how to have healthy relationships.
4. Soon, our story will be used to help some of the most influential men in our country’s culture. 
Sounds great doesn’t it? At the same time, my children and financial situation are undergoing great turmoil and tribulation. It is one of the most humbling and scariest things ever. It is like being in labor for days (weeks even) then giving birth to the most beautiful baby in the world. The act of carrying a baby, labor, and delivery happens when all GREAT things are birthed.

I have learned to lean on God like never before. I really thought my relationship with Him couldn’t get better, but it did. I spend days fasting, and hours in prayer, praise and worship. I am just trying to lean in to get wisdom and direction for our next steps as a.family and organization.

So when you see me or my organization do amazing things, just know it all comes at a price. My family has sacrificed a great deal to ensure other families can be free. My daughter said if she has to give up her senior prom, she understands and even prayed about it this morning when I dropped her off for school. My son regularly sacrifices his money and time or family. My children go without some things at times, but even they get the larger picture. When I got into this, I didnt realize we ALL were in ministry. They are really the most caring and understanding little humans I could have ever dreamed or hoped for. ❤❤❤

I said all of that to tell you, When you decide to say “Yes” to God and your purpose, it will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, but it will be worth it. You will have success, but you will have failures (with an S). Here is where your faith will be tried, tested, and strengthened. You will soon find out that everyone in your circle is not in your corner. As you are being pruned, you realize you REALLY are His son/daughter because he only disciplines the people He loves. You may even develop a new found appreciation for Ramen noodles. 🍲🍲

In the end, our Father will come through for you (hasn’t He always?), lives will change, mountains will move, and your life and the lives of the people you’re serving will be greatly enriched because of your choice. Trust Him and say Yes!
💜 Kimya

You Will Get Beaten, Torn, and Hurt When You Jump, but God is Still There…

In May 2017, I felt the strong urge to leave my teaching job. After years of prophecies and confirmations, I left my career of twenty years (yes 20!) and decided to pursue my purpose. I left with dreams of saving thousands of lives and making millions of dollars. The “saving thousands of lives” part was correct, but the making of millions of dollars part…well, let’s just say that didn’t happen yet, and I did not realize just how bad things would actually get.

In 2016, I remember watching Steve Harvey give a speech to his Family Feud audience. He said in order to truly LIVE, you’ve got to jump. You will never feel really fulfilled until you take the gift God gave you and do something with it. He said jumping with your gift will cause you to soar. Steve also mentioned when you take that leap, at first your parachute would not open all the way and you will fall on the rocks, get some skin torn off, and bleed. I don’t really think I was listening during that part…

Everything Steve said was true! When I left my job, I was the happiest I had been in years. I started meeting new and interesting people, going to beautiful events, and most importantly, doing the work that I was purposed to do. I was actually LIVING and making a difference while doing so!!! I felt so free!

God blessed me immensely because of the decision I made (Check out the photos above – click on the photos and then click left or right)

  • I flew to an event in New York in November 2017 where People Magazine and Investigation Discovery Channel honored me
  • Had a fabulous book signing party in January 2018
  • Appeared on Good Day Atlanta in February
  • Filmed commercials for Marsy’s Law for Georgia and Stacey Abrams
  • Got a standing ovation from the entire Georgia House of Representatives after Representative Pam Dickerson recognized me from the House floor
  • Appeared on numerous T.V., radio, and newspaper outlets
  • Worked with a fabulous group of men and women to change the constitution of Georgia so crime victims would have equal rights
  • Received several awards for my work as an advocate
  • Had my video chosen to appear on The Red Table Talk
  • and MORE!

God was truly making my name great; however, as much as he was exalting the work I was doing, the enemy kept fighting me through my finances and through things that would constantly come up against my children. During this period of time, my car was stolen, my house went into foreclosure, the bank threatened to take my new truck, my bank accounts were DEEP in the negative, things started breaking in my home without a way to pay to repair them, my electricity got turned off, and there were times we even had to eat Ramen noodles for dinner (and I swore I’d never eat those things again after I’d left college!).

Listen, you would think that I would not struggle with faith. You are talking about the woman who survived 4 gunshot wounds. You are talking about a woman who watched her daughter fight for every inch of her life back after she was shot. We won! We won because of Jesus. So why was I struggling with my faith? There were many nights and days that I would cry and wonder if I had truly heard the Lord. At times my children would ask me, “Are we poor?” I wondered if the Lord told me to leave my job, then it shouldn’t be this hard, should it?

The answer is yes! God never promised us the weapon would not form, He promised us it wouldn’t prosper. If He has called you to do something, He will definitely fund it. There was a time when I didn’t have money for Christmas. I told my children there wouldn’t be any Christmas gifts or a Christmas Eve party that year. (I don’t know why my children still like to bake cookies for Santa…but they do. Did I tell you they were 18 and 23?) They both said they understood, but as a mom, I wanted to give them something. I prayed about it for the whole month of December and two days before the holiday, two women gave me money for Christmas gifts for my children. Go Jesus!

There was a time when I did not have any money to pay my bills for the month. None, nada, zilch. As a matter of fact, my bank account had -$95. On top of that, I did not have any food to feed my children. We literally ate tomato soup for a whole week. I prayed and reminded God of his promises to me. His word says He is my shepherd and that He shall supply all my needs. Within a week of praying for His provision, the same two ladies that helped me with Christmas, gave me enough money to pay ALL of my bills for the month. Let me help you understand this. That’s mortgage, car note, car insurance, utilities…everything. On top of that, the next day, two ladies and a man came by my home and provided us with so much food, I was struggling to put it all in the freezer. He’s a good, good Father.

I shared all of this with you to say, if you know God is calling you to something greater, listen to me and Uncle Steve (hey, he’s my play uncle in my mind). If you want to truly live, you’ve got to jump. It’s going to hurt a little bit and you might get a little scared (sometimes a lotta scared..ok, a lotta is not a word. You get the picture), but it will be the best feeling you’ve ever experienced in your life. It’s even better than ice cold vanilla ice-cream on a hot, fudge brownie. Hey! It doesn’t get much better than that!

So, how do you know you’re ready to jump?

  1. You feel like you’re trapped in your current job or position
  2. You daydream about the “other” thing you’d like to do all the time
  3. People consistently prophesy to you about your purpose and it matches that “other” thing you’d like to do
  4. You receive confirmation in many different ways
  5. You’re unsure how to make this big vision become a reality

If this sounds like you, you already know God is speaking to you.

If you are not ready to take a “jump” in your life, but you are simply going through some hard times, just know our Father is a comforter and provider. Although things may look bleak, He is always by your side just waiting for you to ask Him to take over. If you are feeling overwhelmed with worry and anxiety, here are a few things to try to fight the enemy:

  • Sing songs of praise and worship to the Lord
  • Look up scriptures that are related to your issue. For example, if your issue is debt, do this Google search, “What does the Bible say about debt?” It will come up with dozens of scriptures about debt.
  • Write down some of the scriptures you find and meditate on them daily
  • Write down your prayers in a prayer journal
  • Get in a support group of like-minded individuals to help you realize you are not alone.

Through it all, remember God’s plans are perfect. He does not have plans to harm you. Your Heavenly Father has a glorious future planned for you in which you prosper (Jeremiah 29:11). That means you win! Stay encouraged and JUMP! – Kimya

How to Move From Tragedy To Triumph

Hey Best Friends,

Today I tuned into a webinar hosted by Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. She gave some awesome insight on how to go from victim mindset to owner mindset. I started thinking about her message in terms of my own life. When I was going through some of the worst things in my life, I didn’t realize I was following “steps” to pull myself out of the muck (mud). Once I heard her webinar today, I realized I turned my tragedies into triumphs by following some of the exact steps she outlined and partnering with God.

My life seemed to be doomed from the start. I was born into a home where domestic violence was modeled for me on a regular basis. At the age of five, I was sexually assaulted by neighborhood boys. I had been raped at gunpoint by the time I was 16,  lived a life entrenched in the drug culture of my neighborhood in my early 20s, and as many of you already know, survived an ambush where my ex-husband shot me and my daughter in the parking lot of her school when I was 38.  If anyone should be in the corner somewhere, devastated and trying to pick up the pieces of my fragmented life, it should be me…but it isn’t. I have an incredible ability to bounce back from life’s circumstances because I let God lead me through my journey, took life’s obstacles one day at a time, and ultimately changed the trajectory of my life because I didn’t allow my circumstances to keep me stuck in the muck.

Steps I Used to Go from Tragedy to Triumph

We have to take ownership of the outcome of our stories. Yes, something horrible happened that we couldn’t control; however, we can control how we respond to it and what happens next. Leslie taught us in the webinar that we are the writers to our stories. I have a question for you:  do you let your circumstances define who you are OR will you decide who you become from here? Here are some key things I remembered from her webinar that I actually used on my road to healing and prayerfully it will help you too.

  1. Don’t focus on what you lost. Focus on what you were fortunate to keep.  Many times we sit around and think about all the negative things that happened to us. We think life is unfair, people are mean, and we are doomed to be stuck in our situations. We focus on all the things that are wrong instead of what is right. Right after the shooting, my mouth had to be wired shut for five months (5 loooong months…yes 5, LOL).  This happened and it plowed right through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. All I could think about was the food I would miss during this time.  I had to be reminded that I still had my life and my family and that was far more important. When thinking about your situation, pray about what’s right first, then pray about what you need God to fix. You could say, “Thank you that I have gas in the car, food on my table, clothes on my back, hot water to wash with, and a warm bed to sleep in.” When you start thinking about what’s right, your whole situation takes on a different light. Learn to look for “the good” in everyday situations.
  2. What you feel or tell yourself always feels true, but it isn’t always the truth. Your thoughts and feelings are connected, but that’s not who you are. That’s not your identity.  Thoughts and feelings change, but your core (values and virtues) remain pretty constant. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you think you are less than worthy, used goods, too fat, too ugly, not smart enough (or other lies we tend to believe) then you will become the reality you envisioned. You should pay attention to your thoughts, cast down any lie from the enemy (sometimes that is you), and learn to see things differently.  As a young woman, I would tell myself that no one would want me. I was too fat. I didn’t have a sexy figure. I was messy. I wasn’t smart. Why? These are the messages I was fed over the years by the men I loved.  I had to begin to speak the truth about the situation AND the truth about what God says about me. He says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I am the apple of His eye; I am the head and not the tail; I am made in His image.” When I began to replace the lies with the truth, I started changing my man-made identity into a  Christ-filled identity.
  3. You have choices about the next chapter of your life.  Yes, something bad happened to you. Someone raped you. You got breast cancer. Your car was wrecked and you have no money to buy another one. Your husband beat you. Your child was killed. Your mother died when you were young. Your significant other cheated on you and now you have a disease that you can’t get rid of. Your house was taken from you. I could go on….but I won’t. These things are terrible and we need to acknowledge them. Many of them happened and you didn’t have any control over them. Guess what? You have control over what happens next. I began this blog letting you know that I was a product of childhood domestic violence, sexual assault, and attempted murder. However, I am going to end letting you know that I took all those negative things that happened to me and allowed God to turn my ashes into Beauty.  I opened an organization that helps sexual assault and domestic violence victims. I am an inspirational and motivational speaker and share my story in hopes of building resilience in the people who hear me. I fight for a change of laws in our state and country so victims’ rights are protected.  I didn’t stay stuck in the muck.  I used the muck (mud) to make bricks so I could build something life-changing for God and His people.

Sometimes we are stuck in the muck of life and don’t know how to get out.  We have to realize that our stories are not our identities. Something bad happened to us, but we don’t have to get stuck there. We have to focus on what is right and not what we lost in the process, start telling ourselves the truth of what God says about us, and change the next chapter of our lives.  I did it.  I am still working on it daily.  If I did it, you can too! We can change our lives after any tragedy, one day at a time and with God by our sides.

Love,

Kimya

 

 

Moving On

Some women think fear, anger, depression, and guilt will magically disappear when the abuser is out of her life. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  It could take years of counseling before the damage is no longer an issue.

It may be tempting to want to place your old life in a microwave, press “2 Minutes”, “Start” and hope your NEW life will begin right away – especially if you’ve left an abusive relationship.  You’ve endured fear, intimidation, guilt, shame, and reproach for days, weeks, months, and years.  You’re free – now what? Why doesn’t it feel good?  Where is your complete RELIEF?

After the shooting, I wanted to change EVERYTHING – hair, clothes, and the walls in my house. It seemed as though I could feel him in every room and I couldn’t sleep at night – especially in my own bedroom.  I asked my friend’s husband to come over and paint the house.  He did a marvelous job and it made me feel better. I could then sleep soundly every night – good change! 

I even decided to leave the place where I was teaching.  I didn’t feel heard or appreciated there. Some of the staff members, including myself, felt trapped in an abusive relationship while working there.  It reminded me too much of what I’d just been through; so, I put in my letter of resignation and left at the end of that school year. I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. I just trusted God and left.  What that a good change? YES!  Did it have potential for disaster because I didn’t exactly think that through? YEP!  

Ladies, you may even be tempted to start a new relationship.  You miss the love, affection, and intimacy from your previous relationship and you may even have the thought that a new relationship is just what you need to help you get back on track. DON’T DO IT!  Wait four seasons (one year) before you start a new relationship.  Go rediscover who you are and what you like to do…Learn all you can about abuse versus healthy relationships.  If you don’t, you might find yourself in another abusive relationship OR you could damage a perfectly healthy relationship because you are broken.

Change is a process; however, it is like cooking something in a crock pot versus cooking something in a microwave.  Trust the process. Allow God to mend your hurt and change your mindset.

Believe me you want your changes to be long lasting and if you give yourself a break, take time to pray to God, and allow Him to make the necessary changes, you will be healthier and happier in the end.

You CAN rebuild your life one day at a time and with God by your side.

Love,

Kimya

Be Authentic- Love Who You Are

      My name comes from the Swahili language and is spelled K*I*M*Y*A, but it is pronounced KEEM-yuh. (Ok, say Hakeem…now say Keem-yuh. That’s it!) It is also pronounced this way in Turkish and Azerbaijani. For years I would just tell people my name was Kim. People could not pronounce Kimya (Keem-yuh) so it was easier to just tell them to say Kim.  I was not strong enough to correct them and insist that they say my name correctly. It is amazing how a person can feel so diminished from abuse even your name doesn’t matter and you can’t even speak up for it.
     In 2008, I began to get the courage to proudly tell people my real name and had expectations that they say it correctly.
I am proud of my name. It belongs to me. It is my identity. In Swahili, Kimya means “Silent,” my middle name means “Star” (don’t even ask me how to pronounce it). In Turkish or Azerbaijani, Kimya means “Chemistry.” {I bet you didnt know my favorite subject is science, I majored in Pre-Pharmacy (Chemistry) before I switched to Education and worked in the Biochemistry dept at UGA my first two years of Undergrad}.
     Today, I am so happy to be God’s Silent Star that identifies what things are made of but causes things to change…for the better! Did you see how I used the definition of Chemistry that description of myself?  Way to Go Jesus!
     Now what does all of this have to do with you?  My point is you don’t have to make yourself smaller to be accepted by anyone. Be proud of who you are. We can all find something about ourselves that we don’t like very much OR not feel strong enough to speak up about those things we love and believe in because they are not accepted by others.  So embrace your name, freckles, glasses, short hair, pigeon toes, knock knees, long legs, big feet, extra curves (or lack thereof), big nose, flat butt, gap in your teeth, social awkwardness and LOVE it all.  To wish to alter or change EVERYTHING about yourself is like saying, “God you made a mistake in making me who I am. I hate it!” Sure, we all could make some positive changes in our lives like eating healthier, working out a little more, getting your hair done if it pleases you, or buying a new outfit from time to time, but if you find you hate everything about yourself, especially if you feel that way because of what others told you, “Houston, we have a problem.” I want you to look in the mirror everyday and tell God he did a PHENOMENAL thing when he made you.  Say, “I am worthy, beautiful, strong, intelligent, funny, creative, and amazing!” Say it everyday until you mean it. You are God’s child!
     Whether you were made fun of because you were the kid that loved reading instead of video games, played in the dirt instead of with dolls, made chemistry experiments in your house, were too short, or too tall, were pretty so people said, “You think you’re cute?”, or loved to sing but did so off key, or couldn’t dance but danced like you didn’t care what people thought, or were picked last for all the playground sports because you didn’t have an athletic bone in your body but loved kickball anyway, or wore the heck out of some Payless Shoes because you loved the SuperHero brands and your parents didn’t make much money…the point is be you.
     Imagine how boring the world would be if we all were the same.  Embrace who you are, shine your light, work on your lesser strengths, and present yourself to the world as your MOST AUTHENTIC and FABULOUS self!
#ChampionForCulturalChange #Swahili #Turkish #Azerbaijani #Inspireadifference #GoJesus #SilentStar #KimyasRock

Are you Afraid of the PTSD Boogeyman?

 

Just the other day, I was being interviewed by an associate producer for a national television show.  She asked me to describe the events leading up to, during, and after the shooting.  One of the questions she asked,  has been asked numerous times,  and I felt was pretty easy to answer.

“Do you suffer from PTSD?”

I gave her an immediate and proud response, “No.”

That answer was true on Tuesday when she asked it; however, my answer would change just one day later due to a knock at the door which led to a threat by a stranger.

According to the folks at the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder is classified on the DSM-V as a mental health disorder usually ignited by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic or terrifying event.

.https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Accompanying symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, increased anxiety, hypervigilance, trouble sleeping (which may be why I am up at 1 a.m. typing this blog), digestive issues, preoccupation with thoughts and feelings related to the incident, and/or emotional numbing. These symptoms can last for months or even years.

 Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to help reduce those symptoms and improve functioning in daily life.

After my ex-husband shot my daughter and me, I was afraid of literally EVERYTHING:

  1. White Chevy Silverado trucks
  2. Strange cars on my street
  3. My reflection in my car’s side mirrors
  4. Fireworks (the smell is just like the smell of gunfire…and let’s not forget about the sound)
  5. The snap, crackle, and pop of leaves and sticks breaking under someone’s feet
  6. Voices raised in an argument…

I could go on…

However, I overcame all these obstacles with God, counseling with my awesome therapist, Valerie, my fabulous support system, and exposure therapy.  This technique puts you in the midst of people, places, and situations that ignite the PTSD episode.  The idea behind it is you are “exposed” to the trauma over and over again until you no longer feel fearful when placed in those situations. So when I was afraid of fireworks, I smelled the smells and heard the loud booms of the explosives until my five senses were no longer affected and my PTSD episodes were rendered null and void.

The last thing to go was the sound of the breaking of leaves and sticks under someone’s feet.  I was free!  Free at last!…or so I thought.

On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, just one day after I proudly proclaimed that I did not suffer from PTSD, a gang member showed up at my front door.

I’d ordered something from Best Buy for my daughter and missed the delivery the day before.  The delivery person left a note on the door telling me he/she would return the following day after one o’clock.

I decided to take a nap that afternoon after I had a morning meeting with another DV warrior over some events we were thinking about collaborating on this year.

Right around 1:00 I was awakened to the doorbell ringing.  You already know how it feels to be startled awake. You are discombobulated – eyes half open, groggy, and disheveled.  I looked out the window and saw a Burgundy car, so I automatically assumed it was the delivery person.  (Did you know delivery people do NOT come in marked cars anymore?  They don’t. Uber drivers can deliver things to your home now.)

I started running down the steps and yelled for him not to leave the porch.

“I’ve got to turn off the alarm.! Hold on! Don’t leave!” I yelled as I ran into the kitchen to disarm the alarm system.

When I unlocked and opened the door without looking through my peephole, I walked out onto the front walkway and excitedly asked, “Do you have my package?”

Upon looking at me, he had an expression on his face that suggested he was surprised I was the one who opened the door…and I quickly realized that this was NOT the delivery guy because he wore gang symbols on his head and body.

I was too far from the front door to run inside and did not want to make any moves that would make this bad situation worse.

He demanded, “I need to see the owner of this house.”

I began to think  if something was about to happen to me, I needed the whole neighborhood to see; so, I slowly started walking towards my front yard.  There were no cars in the driveways on our street.  No one was home it seemed, except me. I explained to him that I was the owner of the house.

“No, I want the male in the house!” He started reaching inside his pocket as if he were carrying a weapon.

After a long back and forth discussion of several demands on his part for this mysterious male he had “business with” and explanations on my part that there was not a male in the house, he finally decided to threaten me with a very cryptic message.

His eyes were void of life or expression. It was as if I was looking evil in the face all over again.

This kid had the same look in his eyes as my ex-husband did on the day he shot my daughter and me.

After he issued the warning to me, he jumped back into his little Burgundy car and left.

I ran into the house, locked the door, ran upstairs to retrieve my phone, and called 911.

They came (eventually) and I gave them a full description of the young man.

Can you believe they knew who he was?    

Can you believe he actually lives in my neighborhood?

Needless to say, I have discovered I have a new trigger – men reaching into their pockets, posturing as if they have a gun, and threatening me that they “know all and can see all” meaning he could easily watch my house.

My PTSD symptoms returned like an explosion.  My body immediately went  into fight or flight response.

I dropped to the floor and started crying.

My heart started pumping like a racehorse.

I started hyperventilating.

I started looking for exits all around the home and my weapon to protect us.

I grabbed my dog, Peanut, phone, laptop, and drove to my sister’s house.

On the way there, I called my prayer partner, Nichelle and she prayed while I was en route.  I began self-talk  to calm myself down.

At this point, Peanut started vomiting all over my car.

“Nichelle!” I screamed into the phone. “Peanut is vomiting all over the car.  He never does that!”

She answered, “It’s because he senses YOUR anxiety.”

Can you believe your pets can experience your symptoms of PTSD too?  Crazy huh?

Eventually, I calmed down after praying and talking through it.  I arrived at my sister’s house and called two of my best male friends, Alexis and Shuron.

Shuron immediately asked, “Do I need to come up there?” I answered with a speedy yes!

Alexis is a former police officer and he gave me some tips on what I needed to do to ensure the sheriff did what he was supposed to do. His explanation of the process of what happened helped me to know what to anticipate.  The sheriff did not do one of those very important things.

Shuron came from Washington County and installed lights all over the perimeter of my home so it would be well lit at night.

The sad thing is everyday when I leave my house and everyday when I come home, I have to pass his house.  I have to see his car and today…I saw HIM standing in front of his house.  I guess this is going to be my exposure therapy, but I don’t like it…not one bit.

So apparently he has been issued a “criminal trespass warning” which means if he comes to my home again, he will be arrested. And they told his mother this information as well.  Strange but, he didn’t give me the impression that he listens to his mother.  So this little fact does not give me comfort.

When I asked the sheriff for the case number, he told me there wasn’t a case number;  it was in their “system.”

Well, I’ve heard this one before.  So let’s just say you will hear a “to be continued” about my discussion I’m about to have with county officials about how they mishandle crime victims in this county…

It looks like I have two choices. I can:

Choice A:  choose to live in fear because I do not feel fully protected by law enforcement in my county AND because this lovely child is my neighbor.

OR

Choice B: choose to live by the principles I have outlined in my book, Born of Violence, to ensure that I am not a prisoner of fear.  If you are dealing with PTSD symptoms, these strategies and the ones found in my book, can help you as well.

“I will take Choice B for 1000 Alex” (I had to find some corny humor in all of this mess)

  1. Find scriptures: I have to go through the Bible and find all the scriptures that speak to me about fear and write them down (again).  Every time I feel fearful, I will recite one or more of them.
  2. Pray for him: Right now I feel angry and violated and I have every right to feel that way.  However, it won’t get me anywhere.  Unless he moves, I still have to see him or his car daily.  I am determined that bitterness will not set up in my heart.  So guess what I have to do? I am committed to praying for him daily.  My pastor, Eric W. Lee of Springfield Baptist Church told us to make a commitment to pray for someone for the next 21 days.  I guess it will be this young man.  He is a child and I need God to change his heart.  I don’t even know his name, but God does.  I ask you to join with me and pray in Jesus’s name for a heart change in this young man.
  3. Talk to someone:  For now, I am journaling and talking to my friends about how I feel about this situation.  If I don’t see marked improvement within a week, I will go back to counseling.  There is a lot of stigma about counseling in the communities of people of color, but it is needed and it is nothing to be ashamed about. Having a good therapist can help bring you to a place of peace.
  4. Pray for myself: Father God, fill me with your perfect love and throw away all fear from me.  Help me to deal with the number of emotions I am going through right now. I thank you that you have not given me a spirit of fear.  You have given me love, power, and soundness of mind.  Thank you for my trials and tribulations. I know you are using them to shape me into the person you’ve called me to be.  If I need to return to therapy, help me not to be prideful. Counseling, along with your Holy Spirit can heal me emotionally.  I am looking forward to the day I walk in complete restoration. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

I have learned that this young man is not the problem. The systems that are supposed to love, protect, and educate us all have failed him.  There is an unmet need beneath every bad or dirty deed.  I do not need to be afraid of him.  He is not the boogey man.  PTSD is the evil that is birthed by the enemy of our souls.  However it will not hold me captive and it doesn’t have to hold you captive either. We can defeat the boogey man together!

Ready to get started? Want to read more about how to recover after trauma? Purchase the book today.

https://www.amazon.com/Born-Violence-Triumph-Tragedy-Purpose-ebook/dp/B0782YH48Q/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8

NOTE:  Stay tuned on how I am about to really exercise my stance as a crime victims’ advocate if something is not done immediately to address how violence is handled in our homes and our community….

Psalm 118:6 The Lord is with me: I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Hebrews 13:6 Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?

Romans 8:31 What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us

I would LOVE to meet you and hear your stories of overcoming your personal tragedies and how you triumphed over them! Come and meet me at my book signing party on Saturday, January 27, 2018.  Here’s the link to register.  See you then!

https://bornofviolence2018.eventbrite.com

Who is Going to Save the Little Girl Inside of You?

Who is Going to Save the Little Girl Inside of You?

I was cleaning my office and ran across this picture of me when I was six years old.

In this picture, my mom is styling my hair in a pretty flip like hers.  I thought my mommy was the most beautiful woman alive and I wanted to look just like her.  My smile shows my approval at how close she came to “making me preeeeeetty” like her.  My favorite question she would ask was, “Where is my pretty girl?”  and I would respond, “Right here,” in a sing-song voice.

In addition to that question, she is probably asking me, “Little girl, what is your name?”

“What is your mama’s name?”

“What is your daddy’s name?”

“What is your address?”

These are questions she would ask me almost every day of my life up until the day she died.  She felt knowing the answers to these questions would keep me safe if I ever got lost.  She didn’t know that by the time this picture was taken, I was already lost.

My favorite thing to do was to wear my Snow White or Alice in Wonderland dress.  Who I was that day depended on my mood.  In this dress, I could be either one of those princesses.  I had an active imagination because although I had a sister, she was 11 years older than me and by the time this picture was taken, my seester (Sandy-Pandy) had moved out of our family home, so I felt like an only child.  My dolls, my dog (a black poodle), and my imagination kept me sane in the midst of violence in my home and sexual predators in my neighborhood.

Today while looking at this picture in my office, I stepped outside of my self and looked at the picture with a different eye and thought to myself, “Who could look at this baby and want to have sex with her?”

I wasn’t like any other little girl; I played with dolls, raced the boys on the playground, baked cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, made mud pies, loved Disney Princesses, built trains and model planes,  and loved to roll down the big hill by our school until my skin itched from the grass.  I was super silly and would make up goofy songs about how Looney I was (like Bugs Bunny).

But…someone still looked at me, several some ones, and wanted to violate me.  “Ever since I was five years old, I felt like someone always had their hands or body on top of my body. Touching my vagina. Rubbing me.  Humping me. Simulating sex with me. Boys. Girls. Men.”

For years I lived with these secrets.  I would cry at times and scream at the Lord, “Why didn’t anyone save me?  Why didn’t anyone protect me?!” But no one knew.

For years, I tried to push the memories of what happened  deep down in a place inside of me where they wouldn’t surface until I couldn’t do it anymore.  The truth had to come out and I knew that only by telling my truth would I be able to save the little girl inside of me and protect her.

You may be reading this and something I said may have triggered your own “secrets.” You must know that the abuse was not your fault and your life can be free of guilt, shame, and blame.  All you have to do is save the little girl inside of You. You may ask how can I do that Kimya? Well here are a few tips:

  1. Get it out:  Write down or tell someone that you trust (really trust) about what happened to you.  The important thing is not to be silent about it anymore.  Silence hides violence.
  2. Pray: Ask God to heal you emotionally and spiritually from the wounds of the past.  Ask Him to show himself to you to be a protector.  Ask Him to show you how precious you are in His sight. Ask Him to show you just how worthy you are to Him.  Others may have walked away, rejected, or hurt you, but He promises never to leave or forsake you.
  3. Forgive:  Ask God to help you forgive yourself (because again, you didn’t do anything wrong).  Ask God to help you forgive the perpetrator of the molestation. This is the only way to live in true FREEDOM. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  He teaches us that where forgiveness reigns, there is freedom too.

If you do these things, and follow the other tips I give you in my book, Born of Violence, in no time you will be healed from the wounds of the past.  You can save the little girl inside of you and watch God turn your tragedies into triumph!

Love, Kimya

 

 

The Art of Self-Care: Healthy Habits for Your Well-Being

I am in New York for an event for People magazine and Investigation Discovery Channel because I was named their Everyday Hero for November 2016.

The last two days made me reflect on the importance of self care.  Although I am here on “business”, I said it was important for me to be able to build in some fun in as well.  Even though I woke up at 6 every morning to do some work, I made sure I prayed every morning before beginning anything, took an extra nap each day, at tons of fruit with my meals, walked all over downtown NYC- visiting places like Chelsea Market and the High Line, drank plenty of water, and I even had a makeover done! What are you doing to ensure you take care of yourself?

As defined by me, self care is any activity we do that takes care of our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well being. So, let me help you begin or continue your journey to self care. 

SELF CARE helps you effectively treat compassion fatigue which is  absorbing the emotional pain of others.  It also helps you deal with stress, and helps you to reset and rejuvenate. So how can you do it too?

You have you take care of your PHYSIOLOGICAL self care needs. Do you eat balanced meals, drink plenty of water, take vitamins, eat several times a day (at least every 3 hours), eat a combination of at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day, avoid skipping meals, get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep, reduce screen time before sleeping, limit social media intake to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, set a night time routine, AND get in at least 30 minutes of activity a day?  Don’t raise your hands all at once, LOL!  Pick one of these things you are going to start right away to start to take care of your physiological needs.

You have to take care of your BEHAVIORAL and COGNITIVE self care needs.  Do you ask for help, delegate tasks, pray and meditate for at least 30 minutes before you start your day, make a list of fun activities and do them, find humor in situations, set healthy boundaries, give and receive affection, schedule mini retreats such as mani-pedis, massages, or 30 minute power naps? Pick ONE of these things you are going to start right away to take care of your behavioral and cognitive self care needs.

Take your time today to create an action plan of success for your own self care. Take those two things you picked and begin to work on them little by little every day.  Check in here and let me know how you are doing on your journey to wellness.

While you’re out here saving the world, it is important to do somethings to reset, recharge, and rejuvenate in order to build your RESILIENCE!

Smooches,

Kimya

 

A

Born of Violence – Triumph Over Tragedy: Living Out God’s Purpose

My hands are shaking as I share “my baby” with the world. After 5 long years of writing, it will soon be here!

Born of Violence is the story of how I entered a road of abuse as a child and teenager and how that road led me to the fateful morning where my life and my child’s life could have been taken…but God!

All the pain, tears, trials and tribulations birthed something greater in me and my family. The lessons in resilience we learned are featured here so you know that you too can Triumph over Tragedy!

Thank you for taking this journey with me! Pre-sales will be coming soon!  Stay tuned!

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