By Holly Kestenis, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Nicole Marchman is finally taking a stand. A victim of domestic violence for over nine years, Marchman is now standing up and talking about it. Her movement entitled the None Lost Movement was inspired by three generations of domestic violence in her own family, as well as childhood abuse, and with it she is bringing a much-needed voice to the community.
Concerned citizens and victims gathered for the Speak Up and Speak Out Break the Silence of Domestic Violence Workshop held at Old Landmark Cathedral COGIC. Some were there to gain information to help a friend in need, others to help themselves.
The None Lost Movement is a ministry that goes out into the community to talk about domestic violence and abuse. Marchman created it after her mother passed just a year and a half ago. She was just 49. “It makes you age,” said Marchman who divulged her mother endured domestic violence every single day of her life and her body was that of a 70 year old.
The cycle of abuse continued and all that comes with it: anger, alcohol, mental anguish, all being placed on Marchman as she was growing up. Every night for as long as she could remember she said she was sexually abused. Physically abused since before she could crawl, Marchman can recount two failed drowning attempts in the bathtub at her home.
“You see, abuse, that was my life, that was my reality,” Marchman said.
Story after heart wrenching story was told. Stories of molestation, bruises, choking, mental abuse and rape filled the room, most who spoke out having endured it all. For many it started from infancy or as young girls barely out of preschool; the result, a lifetime of suffering. Each speaker who stood before a room of mostly women told of horrendous and debilitating offenses committed by friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and family members.
Those who have lived through abuse of any kind know the paralysis of the vicious cycle. You want to leave, know that you should, yet fear holds you back. Fear of losing respect from the community. Fear of losing the love of the one harming you. Fear of what others will think. So the cycle continues. Predator and prey.
“Two broken people do not make a whole,” said Jennifer Belser a mother of three who was molested by her adopted father when she was just a young girl. “I never healed from that pain. I never dealt with it.”
Belser had one bad relationship after another throughout high school. Thinking that love only came through sex, she made one bad choice after another. Each person she wound up with needed help themselves in overcoming an abusive past. Belser’s story was repeated by other victims, with a twist here and there…but essentially the same scenario.
Amy McAuley grew up with her elementary school years being riddled with sexual abuse. Keynote speaker for the event, she spoke of how she was molested at just nine years old. McAuley knows first-hand about the ripple effect in families where abuse is happening. Parents, often the mother suffering from some form of abuse, will pass on the violence to their own children. Instead of blaming her mother though, McAuley is trying to get past it.
“I understand she couldn’t do any better,” she said. “She was broken and barely holding on.”
Another reoccurring theme. But that’s domestic violence. That’s abuse.
A student at Gibbs High School when she was younger, McAuley was just 13 when she met up with a student four years her senior. She didn’t know what she was getting herself into. But her violence-ridden background did. Another abusive relationship.
“That was my first experience with a boyfriend,” she said. Again the cycle continues.
She began to drink, and then do drugs. Her house was soon known as the party house. McAuley’s ideals about relationships were skewed. Never having a real role model of a family, what could she compare it to? She made bad choices finding herself pregnant soon after. He would urinate on her, punch her and run around on her with other women. Still she stayed.
“When you are in domestic violence you don’t know how torn down you are mentally and physically,” she said. McAuley would turn to getting high in order to deal with the pain. “I felt like I couldn’t be with anyone else because no one would understand the depth and the nastiness that I was coming out of,” said McAuley. An all too common sentiment among those raised in abusive homes.
So much destruction among families often leaves victims wondering if there is any way out. Shawn Saxton believes there is. A victim of domestic violence for some 13 years before she realized it, Saxton understands there is a difference between knowing you’re in an abusive relationship and being able to actually act on it.
“It wasn’t like I could escape right away,” she said.
Thrown around like a rag doll on more than one occasion, it took some time before Saxton came to terms with the fact that when someone puts their hands on you, they don’t really love you.
She urges those in similar situations to not get lost in the hopelessness of the abuse. Talking to someone who is willing to listen is a good first step. Saxton also recommends being prepared when it comes time to finally say goodbye to the abuse.
“In order to leave your captor, you have to prepare,” she said rounding up birth certificates, clothes, and securing a safe place to reside. Oftentimes victims find themselves without a place to go and are forced to return to the abusive relationship. Saxton warns that is the worst thing to do because sometimes you don’t get a second chance. “I know women that tried to escape. They didn’t make it. They got killed,” she said.
When dealing with violence in a relationship, it is necessary to work in secrecy. Victims should have a foolproof safety plan. Staying at the home of family members might put them in danger warns Saxton, who views the act of leaving as taking power back from the aggressor. She emphasized the main goal when finally deciding to leave is to tell almost no one about your plans. Confide instead in social workers or friends outside the abusers range of contacts.
The workshop continued with breakout sessions each one contributing to the ideal that domestic violence and abuses stem from four important sectors that if mastered can lead to a new you. Breakout sessions included self-esteem, self-value, self-awareness and self-defense sessions all aimed at creating a strong individual that can overcome the perils of a lifetime of suffering.
One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. There is a strong correlation between domestic abuse and child abuse. It’s an epidemic that will affect you sometime in your life.
Marchman and the None Lost Movement pledge to stop abuse in its tracks. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to domestic violence or any other type of abuse, contact someone who can help.
Here’s where to get help locally:
- CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) 727-895-4912
- The Haven of Religious Community Services 727-442-4128
- Florida Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-500-1199
- 211 Tampa Bay Cares – Dial 211