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  • Writer's pictureericjcarrig

Domestic Violence: One Woman’s Story with the Justice System, Self-Healing, and Caring for Others

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Whitley is a victim of domestic abuse and Founder WNC GEMS (Girls and Guys Exercising Mindful Solutions). She joined us on Solutions for the Underaffiliated to tell her traumatic and inspiring story.



Picture — Image by Peter Mayer from Pixabay


The Initial Trauma

  • Three years ago, a romantic partner beat Whitley, who is Black, for not going home with him after visiting a night club. They had been dating for three months.

  • He gave her multiple facial fractures, a broken nose, and knocked out one of her front teeth.

  • He was caught during the attack and released 48 hours after the incident. He said she fell.

  • He was convicted of first degree kidnapping and felony assault.

  • She blamed herself.

Re-Punishment

  • People blamed her. They asked “What did you do?” “What were you wearing?” “What did you say?” “How much were you drinking?”

  • One counselor told her that her need to drink alcohol got her attacked.

  • People were dismissive and encouraged her to not talk about it because it is personal.

  • She felt like people were saying that she was in a relationship, and it’s what you get.

  • She was denied support for dental needs, and an implant cost $9,000

Alone to Heal

  • A judge denied her a restraining order because she didn’t file a request within three weeks. He said she didn’t fear for her life if she took that long.

  • She didn’t know how to file for one.

    • Should a traumatized person with no experience with the legal system, nor a support network to help, be penalized for not filing for a restraining order within three weeks?

    • Does not filing for a restraining order in three weeks mean she isn’t afraid for her life, so should be denied one?

  • The system lacked any sense that it was serving her

    • The court appointed her a lawyer

    • There was not a person of color with similar experiences to help her navigate the system.

    • She felt like a number in a file and that the people in the justice system were not looking at her as a person.

  • Meanwhile, he was free.

The Recovery Core

  • She felt frightened and needed at the same time — her daughter had to see her beaten face on the first day of 4th grade

  • She had to heal herself because there was no one there for her.

  • She set out to turn pain into purpose and purpose into power

    • “I survived this for a reason”

    • Turned to a higher power — Jesus Christ — but she is not Christian, more spiritual she said.

    • She turned to prayer and meditation;

  • Building from her foundations

    • Her goal has always been to help others and to help them be their own hero She was already a community health worker and trained in peer support for those with mental health and substance abuse issues

    • Her traumatic experience showed her that it is needed in domestic violence

    • Now her life’s work is GEMS

  • She believes we all have life forces and energy in us that some power gave to us.

Girls and Guys Exercising Mindfulness Solutions (GEMS)

  • GEMS serves victims and abusers or all genders and races, but especially marginalized people by encouraging them to take charge of their own health and well-being

  • It provides free and affordable holistic healing practices

  • Its focus is on mindfulness practices that can heal emotional, mental, and physical symptoms.

  • GEMS provides a safe space for people to be heard and is committed to listening to their needs without judgment and speaking up for their rights.

  • The primary activity to date is free monthly mindfulness sessions of peer-to-peer circles that include:

    • Sound healing crystal quartz sound bowls, and reiki energy healing

    • Groups typically choose what they do

  • She connects victims to services in the community for their specific needs.

  • She helps walk victims through the legal process.

  • People can also make one-on-one appointments with her

  • In the future, she wants to include other teachers and healers and provide yoga, massage therapy, reflexology, essential oil therapy, and acupuncture.

Complications

  • You get the justice and healing you can afford

    • Her attacker paid his way out on bond four times before his conviction

    • She believes that if she was a prominent white woman, the situation would have been handled differently

    • Holistic services are not free, nor are they typically covered by insurance

  • Priorities

    • The system sends people to prison for drug possession for 10 years, when abusers get less time, e.g. her attacker got six years and 10 months for first degree kidnapping and felony assault.

  • Hopelessness

    • She believes the system favors wealthy and white people and cannot be changed.

    • Victims must help themselves cope and navigate the system alone

Solution

  • Systemic changes

    • We have to stop blaming people who claim to be victims of domestic violence and abuse by making them explain how their actions may have brought violence on themselves

    • We have to provide adequate support for people to navigate the legal process and get the support they need to make their case.

    • Put caps on what people can spend on their legal defense or give victims more financial support

  • Focus on Self-healing

    • Being healthy is a choice. Create your own way of coping. You can stay where you are, or try something new.

    • Turn to yourself. You can find strength. You have the power.

    • You are not alone. It’s not your fault. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be scared.

    • Don’t stay that way, though.

    • You have the right to seek help. Healing is a positive journey that could last for the rest of your life.

    • Forgive and keep working on it.

    • Don’t let anyone hurt you. Don’ let anyone defeat you

    • Be an example

    • Contact people with experience like yours.

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