The following women have been honored with the Purple Heart with Hope award as a tribute to domestic violence survivors who transformed their life through empowerment, courage and determination. The annual designation is awarded to former PADV clients at its Hearts with Hope gala held in February.
Seventh PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, March 2011
Astou and her lovely, affable children live in peace now. They do the usual things: homework, share dinner, take baths, and relish a bedtime story together, yet their home is strikingly different than it was. There is order, tranquility, food and hot water, no nightmares, or 911 calls. Astou is grateful to PADV, but it is Astou who is to be commended for her courage and perseverance against a grim likelihood that she might not survive.
The 2011 Purple Hearts with Hope Award belongs to Astou. Ironically, it has been eleven years since she entered an epoch of agony that would come to define her love, her marriage, her pregnancies, and her American dream and – for far too long – her hope. Today she smiles a gentle and trusting smile. Her eyes shine with confidence, conviction and expectation.
Astou’s abuser denied her water warm enough to bathe their infant children; he denied food for her hungry newborns. While her belly was swollen with innocent life, eager for nutrition of its own, Astou’s husband starved both mother and child. He locked her in their house and cut the telephone lines. She was unable to even call her worried mother in Senegal. “She was afraid he would kill me.”
Speaking in their native French, Astou’s abuser chided her. “You’re never gonna leave me. You don’t know English. You have nowhere to go,” he threatened, censoring her hope before it could take root. She cowered in the locked apartment, babies at her breast, her senses keen to the echoes of yesterday when he returned fit with a yen to choke her physically and emotionally as he so often did.
Astou did, in fact, have somewhere to go. She contacted PADV, which she had learned about while serving a jail sentence as a result of a 911 call, in which her husband convinced the police that she was the offender.
PADV connected Astou with legal counsel, transitional housing, food, education and childcare support while she found and fed her hope. Today, Astou has her green card and works providing elderly care. She is seeking certification as a licensed practical nurse.
After eleven long years of uncertainty, Astou recently visited her mother in Senegal. She recalls, “My mother, she hold me. She cannot believe that I am alive. She can rest now. PADV help us as a family. I can say happiness.”
Sixth PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, February 2010
Padmasri (Padma) Manumari looks regal in her colorful sari sprinkled with glistening stones. She is standing in a vast sea of people at Hartsfield-Jackson International airport. Anxious, she bites her bottom lip, her eyes scanning the crowd for her parents. And then she spots them and a wave of joy lights up her face. Padma is jubilant that her parents, after 3 difficult years of separation, will be here to celebrate her accomplishments at Hearts with Hope.
Padma’s story is about overcoming hardships, cultural barriers and circumstances beyond belief. Imagine being in a foreign country without money and knowing no one, and your own culture and community have shunned you.
One of the many horrors Padma experienced in her abusive marriage included being forced by her husband to get an abortion while living in India. The abuse and control continued after they moved to Smyrna, Georgia. Padma was isolated from her family and forbidden to have contact with the outside world. She was threatened and beaten. Depression engulfed her. Feeling trapped and full of despair, Padma pondered suicide. But in the end she could not go through with it. She would not leave her son, Mohanish, alone in this world. The last time Padma was beaten she ran to her neighbors and called the police. Her husband was arrested.
Stranded in this country, something miraculous happened. Strangers, one by one, helped to open doors for her. PADV, Raksha, International Women’s House, Cascade House, Atlanta Children’s shelter and Nicolas House all helped Padma and her son find shelter, safety and peace.
Padma’s parents worried about their daughter living alone in the U.S. and disagreed with her decision to leave her husband. “In our culture, marriage is thought to be for life,” said Padma. “Women who divorce are disgraced. And there are many in my community who think divorce is wrong regardless of how abusive the husband is.” Happily for Padma, her parents have had a change of heart and are proud of her achievements.
Padma wasn’t raised to be self-sufficient or independent. But that’s exactly what she’s become. She works a full-time and a part-time job, she is raising her son to give and expect respect, and she has purchased a home of her own.
“It’s hard for me to believe what I’ve been through. But I know bad things happen to make us strong,” mused Padma. “PADV was a new beginning. It wasn’t just a shelter – but a home away from home – they treated me like family.”
Padma continues to develop a plan for success. She wants to put her MBA to good use. “Some day, I’d like to open a shelter to give something back to this community.” Knowing Padma, she will. But for now, she looks forward to planting her first garden this spring; a reflection of her new life with roots in Atlanta.
Fifth PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, February 2009
She has the shy and reserved smile of a young girl but the soul and wisdom of a woman who has lived through many hardships. The product of three generations of domestic violence, Billie Walker is determined that the cycle of violence ends with her.
Billie met her boyfriend in the tenth grade. Like many young teens, she was excited to be in a relationship. Billie was attracted to him because he was smart and interesting. But in her naivete, she didn’t realize that he was also controlling. He told her what to wear, who to be friends with and where to go. He monopolized her completely.
After graduation, they moved in together. Two years later Billie was pregnant and the psychological abuse became physical. When she was two months pregnant, Billie went to visit her mother without his permission. He followed her until her car broke down and she was forced to get into his car. On the way home, he stopped at a gas station and beat her 20 times with a belt screaming, “Why are you leaving me? You can’t leave me. You have no one but me,” while bystanders watched. When they got home, he continued to beat her with a belt and metal hanger. A neighbor called the police and he was arrested.
After serving a five-month prison sentence, her partner was required to sign a promissory note that he would take care of his family. “I thought my love for him would validate my love for myself. So I stayed — beaten, bruised but still in love,” said Billie.
He was on his best behavior until their son was born. At that point, the controlling, abusive behaviors re-emerged. To protect her son, Billie moved in with her mother. Her partner turned on the manipulative charm. He financially supported both his family and his mother-in-law, bought them a car, and did everything he could to convince Billie that he had changed. Wanting desperately to keep her family together, she moved back in with him.
In 2005, Billie’s mother died. Although Billie realized she had nowhere to turn, the loss of her mother only strengthened her resolve to permanently leave. One day after her partner left the apartment, Billie moved out.
Two years later, he tracked her down. He broke into her apartment and destroyed her belongings, ripping all of her photos and identification forms to shreds. The police were called and she was advised to leave immediately.
Billie and her son moved into one of PADV’s emergency shelters. “My life changed when I found PADV. They helped me and my son begin a new life with happy memories, friends, and accomplishments. I received the emotional, financial and educational support to jump-start my life. My son also received caring support to help him process and understand his experiences living in a violent home.”
Billie now has a full-time job. She owns her own home and is one course away from earning a degree in Early Childhood Education. “My son and I will never forget our past, but we are optimistic about our future. We recognize that thanks to PADV, our future is filled with promise and hope.”
Billie Walker is being honored with the fifth Purple Heart with Hope award because she has transformed her life through courage and determination. She has been an exemplary advocate for PADV and all of us are proud of her achievements.
Fourth PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, February 2007
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” – William Shakespeare
At 4 feet 10 inches, Carrie Kerr may be diminutive in stature, but not in spirit. Carrie is a Celtic beauty with lovely porcelain-skin offset by thick jet-black hair. She inherited her rugged individualism and industrious work-ethic from her adoring father.
An outspoken advocate, Carrie speaks on behalf of PADV, sharing her story in the community to help raise awareness about domestic violence. “I was a victim. I am a victim no more. I am a survivor, like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of my former life,” said Carrie.
Carrie, one of three children, was raised in a loving and stable home. Her father worked several jobs so that her mother could stay home with their children. Carrie radiates a warm and luminescent smile as she describes her idyllic childhood: “Despite my father ‘s demanding work schedule, he ate dinner with us every night and still helped us with our homework. My parents have been strong role models for me.”
Shortly after graduating from high school, Carrie’s halcyon life came to an end. She met her ex-husband two weeks after graduating from high school. They were married five months later. Even though she lived through more than six years of emotional and physical abuse, she did experience a moment of glory with the birth of their son, her angel.
Soon after their honeymoon, Carrie lived in a constant fear. He trained her on “his way” of doing everything. If she forgot “his way,” he meted out the punishment. A prisoner in her own home, Carrie was afraid to leave and afraid to stay.
One of the worst incidents she experienced was also the one that helped her realize if she stayed he would kill her. Dissatisfied with how she had cleaned the house, he picked her up by the neck and slammed her against the wall. Tears streaming down her face, Carrie’s silent eyes pleaded for mercy. He strangled her until she lost consciousness. When she awoke, she found herself naked and in bed next to him. Bruised and sore, Carrie had been raped. For many years, this was Carrie’s existence. She often felt that she had deserved this treatment.
Carrie escaped her abusive husband while visiting her parents, but at an enormous cost. Her ex-husband retains custody of their son. Though her physical torment is over, Carrie is still struggling. She is currently fighting for custody of her son in another state, a long and expensive ordeal.
For five years, Carrie has been advancing herself through education. She has graduated with honors from Georgia Medical Institute with a degree in Dental Assisting, Georgia Perimeter College with a certificate in Paralegal Studies, and she recently completed a course in Massage and Neuromuscular Therapy. A certified practitioner with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, Carrie uses massage to heal pain in others.
“If it weren’t for organizations like PADV, women like me wouldn’t survive. I’m grateful for the emotional support and financial assistance PADV has provided me with over the years.”
Carrie Kerr is being honored with the fourth annual Purple Heart with Hope award. Her steadfast commitment to self-sufficiency and her relentless drive to gain full custody of her son is an inspiration to all who have crossed her path.
Third PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, February 2006
Nikki Cureton is tall and elegant, with bright eyes and high cheekbones that inspire envy. Beauty and personality radiate through her dazzling smile — a smile that PADV helped restore.
Twelve years ago, Nikki met a man through a mutual friend. After their second child together, things started to change.
“He tried to shut me out from the world,” Nikki said as she described the abuses that ensued from her batterer. She enrolled in college but soon encountered impediments: her car wouldn’t start, or the garage door would be locked, and her partner would have the opener with him at work. Nikki began taking the bus and train.
When her batterer’s transportation hurdles failed to stop Nikki, he took away her cell phone and surreptitiously unplugged the home phone. He made her keep the blinds closed and isolated her from her friends and family. Jealous of the attention she lavished on their children, he would scream at the kids to leave them alone. Before long, the children were afraid to show affection of any kind.
Nikki dropped first out of school and then out of life. One evening, desperate to talk to her mom, she snuck in the bathroom with her batterer’s cell phone. He kicked the door down and punched her in the face in front of the children. When she woke up, he blamed her for making him hit her.
“That was the first and last time my kids would ever see him hit me. This is not how I wanted to live my life. The next day we moved to a PADV shelter,” Nikki related.
Determination and tenacity became second nature to Nikki. She returned to school, graduating from Georgia Medical Institute. Today Nikki works with AIDGwinnett as a medication manager and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in public health.
Nikki is also enrolled in PADV’s Face to Face, a life-altering program that repairs facial and dental injuries resulting from domestic abuse. She has new temporary partials and is scheduled to receive implants, all at no cost.
“I love the skin I’m in now. I feel vibrant, alive and in control. And best of all, my kids and I share hugs and kisses every day,” Nikki shared, her resplendent smile exuding hope and confidence.
Second PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, February 2005
I met my abuser when I was 19 years old. We had the typical romantic courtship like most. At first he treated me like a queen, then 6 months into the relationship the abuse began. Embarrassed by the injuries and black eyes, I would hide the abuse with baggy clothes and excessive make-up.
When I was eight months pregnant with our son, my abuser asked me to help him rake our lawn. When I voiced that I didn’t feel up to it, he hit me in the face with the rake.
I have been beaten, robbed of my money, and isolated from my friends and family. I had to tell him where I was going and why. On one occasion, I visited my grandmother for lunch, and I didn’t tell him. He drove by and saw my car and called me outside. He punched me in the mouth and burst my lip. I called the police. An officer came and spoke to me while my mouth was bleeding, but he was not arrested.
I called the police on several occasions, and never once was he arrested for beating me. Finally the police got tired of me calling and threatened to arrest us both if they had to come back. At this point I felt that I had no options and had no other recourse.
But then I contacted PADV. They helped me when no else would. They gave me the resources I needed to help keep me and my children safe. They invited me and my children to attend a support group and offered us a place to stay. My children and I have been safe and free from his abuse for 4 years. Thank you, PADV, for all your help and support. – San Davis
First PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, February 2004
Myrtice Myricks has double dimples – two on each side – and they make her smile twice as contagious. She is tall, lovely and joyous. She is free from violence. She is free from physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse. Above all, she is free from fear. She has survived, but she has chosen not to be free from her past. Rather, she is using her past and her profound empathy to help other women escape domestic violence and for some, like Myrtice, the triangular hold of domestic violence, drug abuse and homelessness.
There was a dream in the beginning. “It was like Cinderella, you know? I wanted the white picket fence, someone to take care of me, someone for me to love, someone to love me,” she said.
Then there was the reality. “We were staying in an abandoned building. There was nothing; we were using the bathroom in a coffee tin. Can you believe that?” she asked, her voice as incredulous as her words.
There were other dreams too, followed by more reality. “I could have had a dance scholarship to Spelman. My mother would have loved that.” “Some nights I was afraid to move. I was afraid I would wake him up and he would beat me. And when he left, I never knew how he was going to act when he came back. Should I be quiet? Should I be happy? I would ask myself, ‘What would set him off?’ The drugs numbed the pain.”
Tears well up in her eyes, but there is no hint of self-pity on her proud face. It is as if the tears are pure power – fuel for the life of purpose she now leads. “Now that I’m clean and sober, not homeless and not abused, it’s all so clear to me. When you walk out of denial, it’s a whole new world.”
Myrtice’s “whole new world” consists of: a safe, peaceful and pleasant home; a strong and loving relationship with her higher power and her family; her work at the Mary Hall Freedom House, a residential substance abuse treatment facility for women; her volunteer work at PADV, and her education.
“PADV came to the Mary Hall Freedom House while I was a client there. When this lady stepped in the room and started talking about abuse, I felt like she had stepped in my shoes. I actually thought Iwas unique,” she said, laughing. “That was when I realized that I had been abused. Before that, I thought it was normal. I believed the things he said. When somebody tells you the same thing over and over, you begin to believe [it]. Do you know, one time I actually sat in the same spot downtown in a park – in pouring rain – the entire day, waiting for him? He told me not to leave, so I was afraid he might walk up, or ride by and not see me exactly where he told me to stay. I wouldn’t even get under any shelter. He smacked me in public – in the park. Nobody stopped him. I was afraid to even look at a policeman.”
While in treatment at the Mary Hall Freedom House, Myrtice enrolled in PADV’s Transitional Housing program that helps bridge the gap between shelter living and independent living. “The program is awesome. They helped me get my first apartment – with my name on the lease. And it was freely given.”
Myrtice is studying to be a Certified Addiction Counselor and hopes to get a Master’s Degree. Eventually, she would like to open her own treatment center for women.
The following is a former client’s true story of her experience with PADV. To protect her and her children we have changed their names.
One December night, Laura called PADV’s crisis line. Frightened for her safety, she and her five-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son needed immediate shelter to escape from her husband’s abuse. Laura confided in Susan, the crisis line advocate on duty explaining how for years, her husband controlled, harassed and battered her, telling her what clothes to wear, how to style her hair and when to be home.
Because she was “too proud’ to tell anyone about the terror in which she lived, Laura endured years of beatings and sleepless nights when her husband would yell at her for hours at a time, hitting her when she dozed off. Severely sleep deprived, Laura frequently arrived at work bruised and exhausted, unable to perform her work duties without error. Economically controlled, Laura constantly needed to spend her salary to repair her car, which her husband damaged in many ways, including secretly putting sugar in the gas tank.
One day, Laura’s work supervisor gently expressed her concern about the errors that Laura was making. Crying, Laura admitted that her husband had beaten her, and revealed a blackened eye that had become infected from a recent beating. A coworker who volunteered for a domestic violence shelter urged Laura to reveal her secret and call PADV’s crisis line.
Her children, Elise and Donnie, eagerly participated in PADV’s childrens’ programs. Elise enjoyed the art projects, videos, and group meetings with other children. Donnie liked to be a helper, offering to assist the children’s program coordinator with projects. Both children enjoyed the friendships they developed with other children. As Donnie told Laura, “I’m glad we’re here, Mommy. Because I didn’t want you to get hurt any more.”
Three months later, they moved into their own home, thanks to a local church’s generous donations to PADV. Today, the family is “doing well.” Laura kept her job, and recently received a promotion. Donnie and Elise have adjusted and continue to progress, says Laura. “I feel that now I can help someone else who is hurting. Without PADV, I couldn’t have done it.”
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the help you’ve given me. I have gone to many agencies asking for help for my kids and myself. Our situation lately has been the worst I’ve ever been through in life. Unfortunately, my self-esteem and self worth were brought down even more by those I asked to help us.
That was not the case with your agency.
Heather was very professional and easy to talk to. She didn’t make me feel bad about my situation; instead, she was very encouraging. It has been very hard to talk about my depressing past relationship because I felt like an idiot for what I let myself and my kids go through, but with Heather there was no painful ridicule, and she didn’t look down on me. Instead, she let me know I was talking to someone who would help. She also gave me information that has helped me protect my family.
I hate to admit this, but after so many months (9 to be exact) of trying to receive financial assistance and constant rejection, I felt the only thing to do was go back to my abusive ex-boyfriend, something that I thought I would never do after all the fear and pain he put me through. But my kids badly needed food and a place to stay. I would have done that and anything else for them. They are my world and I thank God for them everyday. The doctors told me years ago that with Sickle Cell Anemia I would never be able to have children and live, especially since my prosthetic hips would make it more complicated. So every morning that I wake to their smiles, hugs and kisses is a very blessed day for me.
Fortunately, your organization saved my family from that terribly wrong decision that may have been fatal. You have made a positive impact in my family’s life, like a Guardian Angel, when everything looked so negative and hopeless for us. Words cannot express our gratitude well enough! My boys and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your help.