I grew up in Spearsville, a small town in north Louisiana. I later moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to pursue undergraduate studies and complete law school. I was so elated to accomplish my childhood dream of becoming an attorney. Within a year, I got married and later had three amazing children. My husband and I were blessed with great jobs and were very active in the community, holding leadership roles and prominent positions. Our public life was perfect- or so it appeared.
The reality was, I wasn’t happy. Privately, I was dealing with physical and emotional abuse. Early on in the marriage there had been warning signs, but I rationalized the behavior. Rather than identifying the abuse as domestic violence, I downplayed it as ‘marital problems’ that we needed to work through. I ignored signs of jealousy and control. I justified the physical abuse and acts of rage and worked harder to not set off the triggers that I felt would lead to the abuse. The emotional abuse ultimately escalated to threats to destroy me if I ever left the relationship.
I remained in the volatile marriage for eight years and it was a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The relationship started to take a toll on me and I felt a sense failure in a magnitude of ways. As a mother, I felt I failed my children in that I couldn’t give them the family structure I had growing up. I felt failure as a wife, because I knew the marriage would end in divorce. Most importantly, I knew I’d failed myself by not being true to who I was.
Our separation and subsequent divorce was a very public ordeal. My abuser became angrier at the thought of his picture perfect image being destroyed. He leveraged our children to hurt me which resulted in the ultimate blow- losing custody of my three sons.
I was devastated. I couldn’t comprehend the evilness that would allow someone to attempt to separate a mother from her children. I was angry that the legal system that I had once taken great pride in did not understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and the manipulation that was being used by the abuser. It left me exhausted, depressed, broken. I didn’t recognize my own value and I lost all faith.
My oldest son gifted me with a devotional journal he purchased from a book fair at his school. He’d bookmarked it so that I would open the page that corresponded with the date that he had given it to me. The passage discussed how you should cope with loss and the importance of being grateful in every season of your life. It was a message that I would meditate on purposefully in the days ahead.
It was no coincidence that he gave me the devotional on that particular day. I was in a downward spiral dealing with the loss of my children. Even though my son didn’t understand everything that was happening, he saw the pain I was trying to mask.
I recognized that I needed to become intentional about moving myself beyond my current place of despair, for myself and for my children’s sake. I began to understand that abusive people obtain power in your weakness. They count on you believing all the negative things they said and being too broken to move beyond the abuse. I had to tap into my core to rediscover my strength.
I didn’t want another mother to experience what I’d gone through and what I continue to deal with as I fight for custody of my three sons. I began to advocate for equitable processes to ensure that the attorneys, judges, etc. who are dealing with family law matters and child custody determinations actually understand domestic violence. I committed to using my voice to highlight injustice and be a support to others who have been subjected to domestic abuse. That’s how I turned my narrative from one of pain to purpose.
I know pain.
I know disappointment.
I experienced domestic abuse.
I am no stranger to failure.
I am beautiful.
I am intelligent.
I am confident.
I exemplify strength.
I am inspiring.
My laugh is infectious.
My energy is contagious.
I am everything that my abuser said I could not be.
From pain to purpose…
I have a voice.
I own my story.
My company, TH Authentic LLC, is committed to inspiring and offering support to survivors of domestic violence. As author of Authentic Me: A Story of Strength, Perseverance and Faith, I share with readers my personal story of overcoming domestic abuse. My recent film project, The Last Time, is a declaration that there is life after domestic abuse. Starring Tommy Ford, Charmin Lee, Reece Odum, Wardell Richardson, DeEtta West and more, the project uses film as a platform to invite discussion regarding warning signs, support mechanisms, self-worth and authenticity. For additional information, visit www.thauthentic.com.
Tiffany Hill, Esq. of TH Legal Consulting, LLC is an employment and consumer law attorney and member of the Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma bar associations. Her legal career includes litigation, policy development, corporate compliance and higher education law. As a filmmaker and author, she is a passionate advocate for survivors of domestic abuse. Connect with Tiffany through her website www.thauthentic.com, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on social media @th_authentic