Never would I have been able to guess all that I learned about Shay in just a few days.
Here is Shay’s story…
Thank you for your willingness to share a bit about yourself and your experiences with the [FriendsOfCoachD.com] audience!
Please tell us a little about your background including your childhood.
I was born a child that was the subject of a heroin addict [who used] while she was pregnant. I was a full term child born at only 3 pounds, so I’ve been a fighter from the beginning. I was placed in foster care because my mother couldn’t complete a drug rehab program. I was in foster care for 3 years until I was adopted by a family that took me under their wing and molded me into the young lady I am now.
I was born in New York, but raised in Kissimmee, which is a suburb of Orlando. I graduated from Osceola High School with a 3.6 GPA. I relocated to Jacksonville because my adoptive mother fell sick and my sister was already living here, so we came here to support my mother.
I was raised in a house with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. I have 4 children. 13, Diovione (girl), 7 Corinthian (boy), 3 Aaliyah (Girl) and Arianna (Girl).
Give us an idea of where you currently are in life and how that came to be?
At this point in my life, I am dedicating all of my time to Domestic Violence. I own my own collection agency, which gives me the opportunity to employ those who most agencies will not hire [because of background issues, lack of experience…things of that sort.
Going a little deeper, what types of challenges have you faced over the years prior to arriving where you currently find yourself?
I went through being homeless, sleeping in a car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I had family and friends turn against me because they were tired of me asking for help which in turn, helped me to become more independent.
Years prior to where I am now, I found myself lonely. I couldn’t talk to my family or friends, I couldn’t go anywhere without him and found myself losing control of my own decisions.
Family stopped talking to me at those times where I was ALLOWED to talk to them. They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just leave.
Employment was hard to keep, because he was either jealous of someone or I missed work due to injuries sustained in any altercation with him.
On Being a Survivor…
Tell us about your relationship with the abuser. How did the relationship come to be?
I met my abuser at a Life Insurance class. I thought he was absolutely adorable and he was very respectful. He was (at that time) fighting for custody of his daughter, and that made me look at him in a different light because most men don’t petition their children’s mother to court to get visitation with their children.
He was the funny, cute guy. He was the humorous one and stuck out from the rest of the men in the class. The Insurance class was supposed to go on an out-of-town trip and everyone had to carpool. That was his way of getting my number. From there, he called a week or so later and that’s when we began to date.
We went on a couple of dates. By January 2006, I was pregnant and living by myself. At that time, we made the decision to move in together. September 1st, 2006, we got married and on September 25th, 2006, I gave birth to our first son, Corinthian.
Throughout all of those times, we had arguments, and he wanted me to do things HIS way. Prime example, he wants the dirty clothes FOLDED in the dirty clothes hamper. I am left handed, and he made me hang clothes as if I was right handed (which is actually pretty hard). I had to hang towels a certain way. The cans and boxes in the pantry had to be in alphabetical order and facing the front–if not, an argument would occur.
Do you recall the first incidence? Tell us about that.
The first incident seemed trivial but it was the door opener to many more issues and increased severity. We were arguing and he back me up to a wall. I thought he was going to punch me but his fist passed my face and he punched a hole through the wall.
The very first incident of PHYSICAL abuse was after I gave birth to my son. We were arguing over the baby throwing up and some got on his clothes. I told him I would wipe it, and he gave me a look like never before. He grabbed me by my neck and said, “The next time this baby (not our son) throws up on me, I can’t put into words what I’m going to do to you.” I asked him, “What are you gonna do?” He took our son, placed him in the playpen, and threw me down a flight of stairs. He said, “I am the head of THIS household…Don’t question me on ANYTHING!”
Now, before the abuse started, would you say there were any signs that would have caused you to believe that being a victim was possible? If so, what were they?
Yes, there actually were many signs. He wasn’t respectful to his mother or any family member for that matter. He was always saying that his past relationships were the other persons fault.
Would you mind sharing with us your most memorable occurrence of abuse? What was the scenario?
The most memorable occurrence was actually abuse he directed at my mother. They were arguing at our house and he went to his car, got his gun, LOADED IT and put it to my mothers temple. The fear in my mother’s eyes will be a look I will never be able to erase from my memory.
What happened afterward?
She said she was going to call the police, but I started having contractions. At that point, I was 8 months pregnant. He stayed home while my mother and I went to the hospital. They stopped my contractions. Once they let me go home, my abuser spoke with my mom about what happened and expressed that he was very sorry at what took place so she didn’t press any charges against him.
All of these scenarios are increasingly disturbing Shay, and I could not imagine being in your shoes so can you give us an idea of what is going through your mind when you know an occurrence is pending or when it is taking place?
There are a couple things that ALWAYS went through my head:
1. I hope the kids aren’t hearing/seeing anything.
2. How long is this going to take?
3. What excuse am I going to give to my doctor for these scars?
What are you thinking afterward?
I was always just glad to be alive afterward. However, in the moments shortly after, I always feared [that] he would just snap and actually kill me.
It is common knowledge that many victims of domestic violence go back frequently after leaving.
Did this happen for you? If so, about how many times did you leave and go back?
It is very common. I left a total of 5 times before I left for good. Some leave many more times than that.
Shay, do you have children? Were they ever abused? If so, how did that make you feel as a parent?
We have 3 children together. He never abused them. He was a HORRIBLE husband [yet] he was a great father.
How did the children respond within the situation? How are they coping with it now?
The two youngest are handling it well, however our oldest son is still having a hard time with how to deal with our separation and his father abusing his mother.
What was the occurrence/situation/
thought that caused you to say, “This is ENOUGH!”?
We unfortunately share different religious beliefs. He is a Jehovah’s Witness. I am not. Never was.
[With] my last daughter, I had a c-section. He was in the operating room, as always. After the doctor pulled my daughter out of the womb, an emergency occurred. Once the doctor pulled the placenta, he ended up tearing my bladder and uterus. The doctor’s didn’t know that the placenta had infused into my bladder and uterus, so when the doctor pulled the placenta, it tore everything it was attached to.
The doctor asked my abuser, “Can she receive blood?”. I didn’t hear a response so I turned towards him. He was shaking his head no. The doctor said, “We can worry about religion later, but right now, she’s going to die if she doesn’t get blood”. That’s when I verbally heard my abuser say, “NO!”.
The doctor advised him to leave the operating room because it had turned into an emergency situation. As soon as my abuser was no longer in the operating room, the doctor asked me if I could receive blood. I gave him a thumbs up and said, “I don’t want to die”. From there, the doctor gave me the thumbs up. I blacked out at 5:59pm. I woke up on life support, with a ventilator breathing for me at 7:30am the next day.
At that time is when I noticed that if he could, he would’ve been able to LEGALLY kill me. That’s when I knew, enough…was ENOUGH!
On Support after Survival…
You have now left and have been out of the situation for a year. Tell me the scenario of your leaving.
Yes, it’s been a year of freedom.
The evening before I left, I contacted Hubbard House. I told them that I had to leave but couldn’t do so until my abuser left for work that morning.
Morning came and Hubbard House called to confirm they could still pick me up. I confirmed and they sent a cab to get me and our children.
Once you decided to leave, what types of support did you receive from those close to you and/or from the local community?
Those that were close to me were skeptical because I had left before, so I am sure to them, it wasn’t a surprise. They didn’t believe until I had a sit down meeting with almost my whole family and a group of friends.
The community outreach was surreal. Hubbard House provided financing and multiple resources to be able to find a [home] for myself as well as my children.
Were people around you aware that this was going on?
For my last time leaving, nobody knew what was happening. At that point, I felt it was pointless to call family because I knew they wouldn’t believe me.I expected to have to deal with that so it wasn’t hard for me to deal with.
Shay, what has been your focus? What guides you on your path? What is it within you that caused you to say, “I WILL SURVIVE!!!”.
My children. I refuse to let my children believe that any actions they have witnessed are acceptable. I OWE THEM my life. I literally have to live for them. It took a long time to come to grips on leaving and STAYING gone, but it’s the best feeling I’ve felt EVER in life.
Shay, if you could share a word of advice or tip with other victims or survivors, what would you share?
I would tell them that they will know when they are ready to leave. Even family members of victims have to, at some point, let the victim fight the battle. At times, the victims are sincerely afraid to leave or they feel guilty for leaving, so they choose to stay hoping that the circumstances would change.
Finally, knowing where you are now and all you have experienced up until this point, what words of advice would you share with your younger self?
With my younger self??? Wow. I would probably tell my younger self to pay more attention and have more of a say-so in my life. I would definitely tell myself to be more confident and comfortable in my skin. Men pick up on low self-esteem, and for an abuser, that’s a perfect concoction for them to manipulate you.
What do you have in store for your future?
My dream is to open my own domestic violence shelter. Until then, I would love to at least open a referral service or have a hotline for individuals to call for help or just to talk–men and women the sam.
Abuse doesn’t have a gender which is why my event on 10/26, “Silent For What” Denim and Diamonds, is geared not only to straight victims, but also victims in the LGBTQ community as well.
Lastly Shay, what would you like to say to the offender? What would you want this person to know?
I would honestly tell him, “Thank You. Thank you for beating the courage into me. Thank you for knocking strength into me. Thank you, for our children. Lastly, I forgive you.”
Thank you for beating the courage into me.
Thank you for knocking strength into me.
Thank you, for our children.
Lastly, I forgive you.”
– Shay Brown, Survivor