As told by Shonquella, written by Lauren Rose
Photography Credit: Michelle Nachnani
Being born into abuse, my earliest memories consisted of the volatile relationship between my parents. As a child, I was caught in the crosshairs of one of their intense fights and sustained physical injuries. At age five, my alcoholic father forced me to drink alcohol. To earn the love I so desperately craved, I became a people pleaser and tried to make everyone around me happy. My parents eventually divorced. Unfortunately, my mother dated a string of abusive men, most of whom abused me in horrific ways. I finally mustered up enough courage to tell my mother about the abuse, but she refused to believe me and even accused me of “trying to keep her from having a man,” blaming me for all the abuse inflicted upon me. In one particularly terrifying incident, her boyfriend tried to assault me, and I managed to escape by fighting him off, but instead of protecting me, she pressed charges against me! I never felt safe, so at the age of sixteen, I left my home.
I got pregnant and engaged young. My abusive partner exercised massive amounts of control over me, but because of my dysfunctional upbringing, I did not understand it was abuse, and plus he had never hit me.
I believed he loved me because he tried to protect me from my parents, yet when he didn’t get his way or thought he lost control over a situation, he punched holes in the walls, yelled and cursed, threatened me, and even removed the spark plugs from my car to keep me from going anywhere. I was so confused, but this was my normal. The belief had been ingrained into me that I was always responsible for another person’s behavior. Sometime after my partner abandoned my son and me, he was convicted of manslaughter after he murdered his friend and ended up in prison.
I developed a pattern of getting involved in abusive relationships. My third daughter was born during my second engagement. He was also mean and controlling, but I still had no context of what was really going on in my relationship. One day, as he viciously screamed at me, our apartment complex manager overheard the verbal abuse and called the police. I chose not to press charges because I truly believed the right thing to do was to forgive him to save our relationship, but that decision backfired on me, and the manager informed me I needed to move out of the apartment. My three children and I were now homeless.
Because I had a teenage son, the shelters wouldn’t take us, so for six months, we lived in a small hotel room. In order to keep my job, my gracious employer allowed me to bring my baby to work. One day during my work shift, my furious ex showed up with a loaded gun and terrorized me. As he pointed the gun directly at me and my coworker, he demanded I hand over our daughter that I was holding to him! Thankfully, he was arrested, and by a miracle of God, I was awarded full custody.
After a difficult search, I finally found more permanent housing, but unfortunately, I also found myself in another physically abusive relationship. The deep wounds from my childhood, incredible amounts of inner turmoil and pain, and the lies I allowed to shape me deceived me into believing I didn’t deserve anything better.
But God! He lovingly orchestrated a special friendship. This friend told me about Called to Peace Ministries (CTPM) and encouraged me to contact them.
I reached out to CTPM, and that changed the entire trajectory of my life as well as my children’s lives. Their support was instrumental in helping me break the chains of generational abuse within my family.
CTPM’s advocacy support educated me on what abuse looks like and opened my eyes to what I had been living in all this time. I began seeing it clearly for what it was, which gave me the courage to end the relationship with my destructive partner. I began understanding coercive control and how that profoundly impacted me as a child. Finally, someone – CTPM – believed me and loved me in all my brokenness! As all of my abusive experiences were validated, I was able to release all the shame my mother had heaped upon me. It wasn’t my fault! I didn’t deserve the abuse! I am worthy of God’s love!
I found healing in the community CTPM provided through their advocacy support and the 2023 Women’s Retreat I attended on scholarship. The love, understanding, and compassion shown to me by these women have been the catalyst to mending my deepest heart hurts. They taught me that God truly loves me and was present with me through all I had suffered. They demonstrated God’s love as they accepted and loved me for who I am.
Because of all I’ve learned through Called to Peace Ministries, I now possess a framework for understanding God’s love and how healthy relationships should function. According to 1 Corinthians 13, true love does not hurt another person.
CTPM’s advocacy support taught me to recognize when a person’s words and actions match up…and when they don’t! They taught me how to identify triggers and regulate myself when they come. I’ve learned to seek God’s truth and make wise, sound decisions. I’m able to teach this to my children as they work through their own trauma. Developing these tools has allowed me to parent from a calmer place and provide significant support to my children when they are upset.
I have a reservoir of love and support I can give to my children that I’ve never had before. Because of CTPM, life for my children is much different from what it was for me.
As I learn to live and walk in my worth and identity in Christ, I can pass that along and instill it in my children. I’ve had the privilege of speaking the truth into my daughter’s life, assuring her of her worth, and watching her blossom as an individual. In the past, I worried she would continue to repeat the cycle of abuse, but now I’m confident she will be a cycle breaker!
Although I wish I had found CTPM sooner, I am grateful that I now possess the skills to help other women as I’ve become an affiliated advocate. Through the advocacy training, I discovered my purpose and found redemption for all my pain. Recently, I was blessed to walk alongside another lady experiencing abuse and to help her find safety.
My heart explodes with joy, knowing that I can help others overcome the same lies I once believed and discover how much Christ loves them!