Domestic Violence…. Two words labeling actions that many of us have experienced or know of someone who has experienced it. BUT, WE DON’T DISCUSS IT! We talk about sex, drugs, divorce, dating, debt, politics, traveling and who knows what else. For some reason, abuse is a topic that too many churches leave untapped.
I was recently granted the opportunity to chat with a domestic violence survivor, LaKeisha Bowling, who has found the courage to share her testimony this year after holding back for over a decade.
-How Did We Get Here?-
LaKiesha was raised in a very small town in the state of Virginia. Just to let you know how small, she says it only had one stop light. She was brought up in a two-parent home until, her parents divorced when she was eight years old. Clearly not long enough to witness the ups and downs of a relationship and the love that bonds a couple together. As an adult, she mentally revisited that time in her life and realized that she felt abandoned. Her mom found other interest and her father was distant. She felt as though she was left in the cold. Well, you can imagine the next line… she was looking for “love” in all the wrong places.
LaKeisha was looking for love to be shown to her in some way from someone and because of the lack of foundation being taught and shown love through word and action, she accepted what was given to her. She didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like and went from broken relationship to broken relationship. By the age of 18 was involved in a cycle of being in an abusive relationship with someone who physically abused her time after time.
At the age of 22, during the second abusive relationship in her life, she was living in the state of Virginia. Needing childcare for her children she found the home day care of Pam Fisher. Little did she know, God had set a divine appointment.
The irony of LaKeisha and Pam meeting is that, just prior to her settling into a new life, Pam had been praying for God to open a door to sell her home, and purchase a larger residence for her home daycare. She had a realtor, but couldn’t find a house to her liking. After some time, God answered and told her to run her business in home as she already had. Her instructions were to extend into her garage. Pam followed the leading of God. Little did they both know; their lives would change after meeting each other.
LaKeisha recalls being frail at this time. She was a mother of two now. She would come to the daycare wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants in summer weather and would keep her sunglasses on inside to cover up bruises. She remembers moving slowly at times because she would be sore from an abusive episode from the night before.
She doesn’t believe that her children witnessed her abuse visually, but thinks that they may have heard it. Even with her efforts of going as far as stuffing a sheet or towel at the foot of her door to muffle the sounds. “Listen, it is a craft to learn how to scream silently. Inside. When someone has put your hand inside of a drawer and slammed it on your hand and you have to scream within yourself, you become a master of those things so you won’t wake your children, so you won’t scare them,” said LaKeisha. So many times, she thought she would lose her life and her children would come home and find her dead.
Pam didn’t impose on what was going on with LaKeisha. She didn’t tell Pam what was going on. Growing up in a home where physical abuse occurred, Pam noticed the signs. As a childcare provider, Pam has learned that the behavior of the child usually signals activity that takes place in the home. The real tell was witnessing the behavior of LaKeisha’s children at the daycare. One of the children would have constant episodes of hitting and yelling.
Pam simply took an approach of loving on LaKeisha and her children as God gifted her to do. She complimented LaKeisha by letting her know she was beautiful, she gave nuggets of support and encouragement as moments would allow. Pam was very careful not to constantly hammer her with statements like “when are you going to leave him,” or “don’t you know you deserve better.”
LaKeisha credits Pam for being a loving friend to her and her children during this season of her life. She could feel the love radiate from Pam. As time went on, their friendship blossomed and Pam was there for her in those moments when she would get fed up with the abuse. Pam has shown up at Lakeisha’s home and stood between LaKeisha and her abuser (professional athlete) telling him to leave her home. LaKeisha recalls a time when Pam and other friends came to her home to help her and her children gather their items to put in storage and move. LaKeisha had no place to go, so Pam opened her home to them in their time of need.
Pam became LaKeisha’s best friend. She stuck by her to help her through the moments of loneliness. For instance, there was a time when LaKeisha showed up at Pam’s’ front door with her children in the middle of the night so she wouldn’t go back to her abuser because she longed for companionship.
LaKeisha’s family introduced her to Christ during her childhood but during her time of healing she had to get through her emotions of anger and disappointment towards God. LaKeisha witnessed Pam moving forward in her life and took queues and moved forward on her own spiritual journey. Pam had recently made a vow to be celibate until marriage and was growing in her daily walk. She takes joy in knowing that God was able to use her journey to inspire LaKeisha and show her that a relationship with a man cannot fill a void the way God can.
After some time LaKeisha began watching Christian television programs and reading Christian books. She felt that God’s presence made her feel a way that no one else could make her feel. Eventually she found a church and began attending services. She recalls an encounter with the Pastor when they told her “you are in a pit and the dirt is over the top of you.” The pastor was speaking to the hurt that LaKeisha had inside of her. LaKeisha couldn’t understand how God had allowed her to be in three abusive relationships. She thought maybe God didn’t love her. She didn’t know what she had done to keep attracting men who treated her the way that they did.
Over time God began to deliver LaKeisha from the hurt she had experienced and the feeling of loneliness. She was able to gain strength from God’s unconditional love. LaKeisha’s self-esteem increased and she no longer looked for men, children or anyone else to feel a void in her life. She had the love of Jesus.
-Inspired to Inspire-
A little over a year ago LaKeisha married and decided to take a break from social media for a year. God began to deal with her about sharing her testimony to be an encouragement to others. LaKeisha wanted to empower men and women who have been in or are in similar situations and let them know, “You don’t have to stay in this situation, love is out here and it comes from yourself. You have to get your healing and deliverance.” She knows that you may feel invisible, but you can fly. Whether it be domestic violence or even a struggle that you are trying to overcome, you can do it.
In just a few months LaKeisha has gone from telling her testimony of domestic violence through a Facebook live video to coming across a request from a woman who was looking for stories of domestic violence survivors to get them compiled for a book. She responded, and now her story along with others will be released in a book titled Wounds to Wisdom…The Survivor Series Volume 2 on October 7th. There will be a gala held in Atlanta, Georgia in celebration of the release.