Make a Change: Let’s Talk about Domestic Violence

Make a Change: Let’s Talk about Domestic Violence

I’m using my voice as an author and a parent to continue conversations that often start because of a news report. Without a Voice, a novel set in the 1840s, tells the story of Sarah, a young wife leaving domestic violence. She travels across three states with her young daughters as they learn about their own strengths and abilities, and as they discover a new life with family and friends. I encourage you to use some of the thoughts in this book to start or continue conversations concerning domestic violence in our communities.

Who are the people affected by domestic abuse?

We are …

  • Musicians and Videographers
  • Teachers and Parents
  • Writers and Artists
  • Executives and Reporters
  • Retail Employees
  • Accountants and Chefs
  • Among many other titles …

We are from…

  • Small towns
  • Large cities
  • From Collierville and Byhalia and Chicago and L.A. and Paducah and Jackson
  • From Texas and Wyoming and Vermont and D.C.
  • From the middle class, the working class and the wealthy
  • From universities where we earned our master’s degrees
  • And from colleges where we got a two-year degree…
  • And from high schools where we barely got by…

 Our families look a lot like yours with…

  • With kids
  • Or now empty nesters
  • With 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths
  • With a two-bedroom fixer-upper
  • In the suburbs
  • Or downtown
  • With a garage
  • Or on the bus route
  • Or in a biking community…

Our faith shapes us … We are …

  • Christian, Jews, Muslims…
  • The person who walks in to worship weekly
  • The person who hasn’t been in a while
  • The person you know well
  • The person who just says hello and walks on
  • The person you prayed with or prayed for
  • The person who leads worship
  • Or teaches a class
  • Or reads the Scripture

But we face abuse…daily, weekly, whenever our abuser lashes out at us…

We stay because…

We are scared…

We are weary…

We don’t have access to any resources…

We can’t afford a lawyer…

We wonder what you will think of us…

We believe the lies…

We don’t have a place to live…

Our abuser has befriended our family and friends…you like him…

Our church expects me to carry this cross…

My children will have a broken home…

My abuser controls the money and the car and the house…

My abuser knows where I am every minute of every day….

I think it’s my fault…If I was a better person…

You tell me all couples fight…

My abusers apologizes…

I don’t know how to leave…

CAN YOU HEAR US?

Will you believe us?

Will you help us find safe places to tell our stories?

Will you listen without judgement?

Will you locate and support community resources for victims of domestic violence?

Will you keep brochures in your church or your office or your community center?

Will you stand by us as we journey through courts and through applications and relocations, as we journey to safety and healing?

We you tell us we are strong enough and wise enough and courageous enough to do what is necessary to be free from abuse?

 Understand that…

….the court process can be lengthy and challenging…

…our abusers are controlling and don’t want to lose control…

…our abusers may lie, even in court…

…our attorneys may not understand domestic abuse…

…judges may not listen at times…

 Our abusers may …

  • Manipulate our children
  • Steal our resources
  • Draw out the process so we run out of funds
  • Manipulate family and friends
  • Lie about everything
  • Apologize and beg for forgiveness
  • Bring gifts and flowers
  • Claim a need for mercy due to an illness or condition
  • Blame everyone else for the problem

How can families and friends become more aware of what domestic abuse looks like and what steps can be taken to help a victim leave the abuse? Check local resources to see what may already be available in your community. Find a local support group. Also tap into national resources.

Churches and nonprofit groups—do your part. Post small signs in bathrooms (beside sinks or on the back of stall doors) to let people know that help is available for victims of any type of abuse. Post numbers of local agencies that can provide help or information. If those agencies have small brochures, keep them handy with your other information on grief, depression, etc.

 Be a voice to end abuse!

 www.chrispepple.com

Fun Facts and Other Random Thoughts

Some days, life is just about the little things that make you smile…for me today it was about trivia that I found fascinating. Since my novel, Without a Voice, takes the characters from Memphis to Arrow Rock, Missouri, I thought I would give you some fun facts about Arrow Rock and the city’s famous painter who helps me tell the story:

Arrow Rock is a village in Saline County, Missouri. It is located near the Missouri River. The village has important historical significance related to the travelers who came through as they headed west on the Santa Fe Trail and related to one citizen—19th century artist George Caleb Bingham. The entire village of Arrow Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Friends of Arrow Rock offers tram tours of village attractions, including the National Historic Landmark home of famous American painter citizen George Caleb Bingham, and the home and shop of renowned gunsmith John Sites. Visitors can still dine at the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Characters in Without a Voice enjoyed the food here too.

George Caleb Bingham was an American artist whose paintings of American life in the frontier lands along the Missouri River still captivate viewers today. Many art critics credit Bingham with being the first outstanding American artist from the “West.”  Bingham’s paintings relate to life and commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and to the pioneer life of the people of Missouri in and around St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Arrow Rock, Boonville, and Kansas City. His most renowned works were completed between 1845 and 1855.

in 1820, when Bingham was nine, Missouri became the 24th state. Only five years before Bingham was born, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery returned from their 1804-06 westward journey. It is possible that Bingham was Missouri’s first artist.

These facts may seem totally useless to some people. If you live in Arrow Rock or if you like art, however, you may find these facts fascinating. I remind myself that it’s all about perspective. As a mom, I have to remember to look at things from the perspective of my daughters. I remember when a certain band was all they could talk about or when they absolutely had to have silly bands to trade at school. That was what was important to them in their world of childhood and young friendships.

I often have to remind myself to remember that my perspective comes from my family, my friends, my work, my traditions, my race, my economic status, etc.…I can’t claim my perspective as an absolute truth for all people. I recently volunteered for a few hours to assist a group of people who moved here from another nation. Organizers of the event soon realized that we had set up everything from the perspective of our culture. The organizers had to make some quick changes to some foods and some signs in the bathrooms. Some basic things that we thought made sense didn’t make sense to all cultures.

So I’m trying to learn to look at things from different perspectives—from different cultures, to different time periods, to different towns. It’s making me a better me.

Tennessee author Chris Pepple announces release of Without a Voice

Chris Pepple, published author from Germantown, Tenn., announces the release of her fifth book, Without a Voice. WITHOUT A VOICE takes you on a journey across three states in the 1840s, traveling with Sarah and her daughters as they learn about their own strengths and abilities, and as they discover a new life with family and friends.

Sarah’s younger brother knows that she hides a secret, and he wants to help her break free from the pain she is hiding from others. Sarah wonders, though, if she is courageous enough to break the chains that tie her to a life of suffering and sorrow. She fears that she is not strong enough to care for her two young daughters alone.

“Writing this book has been a very meaningful experience for me,” says Pepple. “I was honored to have these characters share their voices with me and allow me to write them down for you. These voices are part of a larger story—the story of the voices that can’t share the hurts and fears that are hidden behind closed doors. There are so many hardships that people never know how to discuss. I hope this book opens the door for some healing conversations to take place.

“Writing Without a Voice changed my life because I was finally able to share the voice of so many women I know who have lived without a chance to tell their stories. I also found my own voice with this book. Of course, this book is 100% fictional, so no one person’s story makes up Without a Voice; no one character represents one person.

“Well, there is one historical character—I love to uncover stories from the past that I have never heard before. When my own daughter became interested in developing her artistic talents, I decided to research the lives of early American artists. I ran across the works of George Caleb Bingham and decided to weave him into this story. His paintings told the story of so many people from his time, so I wanted him to help me tell this story. Besides being a painter who really lived in Arrow Rock, Missouri, the other parts of his life were fictionalized to fit this work. But I challenge you to look up his works and to visit the actual town of Arrow Rock. You might be surprised by what you find.”

When asked about Without a Voice compared to her previous works, Pepple responded, “I really grew as an author when writing this book. I listened to my characters more and let them guide me. I was also less timid as a writer with this book.”

“There are moments in life that define us, set us on a new course that we had never even dreamed of. Sometimes those moments begin when an unexpected person finds their voice. Sometimes it begins when we decide to listen.” (Chapter 1)

 

voice book cover 1

Chris Pepple is a motivational speaker, published author, and freelance writer with articles regularly appearing in national and international publications. She has five published books, including a book she uses in her writing classes for children and teens. She has a writing degree from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree from Emory University. She lives in Tennessee with her two daughters. www.chrispepple.com

With Eyes Wide Open

With my eyes wide open, I saw your post about the overweight woman in the gym, about the “losers” on welfare, about the older woman with dry skin still wearing sandals with her cracked skin on her heels exposed, about the shoes a female political candidate was wearing, about the “riff raff” who can’t get insurance, about the fake news you were spreading without checking other sources, about the immigrants that you have never even talked to, about the gay people you think are trying to destroy your faith, about the transgender people you think are trying to harm people in bathrooms…

With my eyes wide open, I looked for your posts about trying to stop sexual abuse on college campuses, but I didn’t see one. I looked for your posts about ending domestic abuse, but I didn’t see one. I looked for your posts saying you were meeting with scared, pregnant young women to sit with them and talk with them about their options, but I only saw your post judging them because they considered abortion.

With my eyes wide open, I looked for your post that says you talked with many of us who are uninsured to discuss why we are insured and ways this nation may help families who are struggling. I just saw your posts about hoping you save money. I looked for your posts about stopping fake news and getting back to truth. I just saw your posts that repeated falsehoods that made you feel comfortable.

With my eyes wide open, I looked for your posts that said you sat with immigrants to hear their life stories. I only saw your posts about “radicals” who you think are trying to kill us all. I looked for your posts that said you sought out this nation’s hurting people so you could comfort them and spread love. I only saw your judgments.

With my eyes wide open, I looked for the invitation to the table you share with others…it never arrived…

Walking Together

I want to tell you a true story. Johnny was my cousin and my favorite person to hang out with as a kid. He was four years older than me, but never excluded me from what he was doing. We played in my grandmother’s attic for hours in the winter and on top of her flat-roofed garage every summer. During his teen years he turned to music. He could play anything. I loved to hear him on the piano. Once, when I was a teen, I told him that more than anything I wanted to play a song on the piano (I couldn’t read music). He numbered the keys in the order I would hit them, and I played The Entertainer!

He died when he was 30–January 1993. I lost someone very special. He died of AIDS. Yes, he was gay, but to me he was almost a big brother, a musician, an artist–he could turn any fabric into bedspreads, comforters, curtains…he died in Key West surrounded by friends and his parents. I flew down and conducted his funeral because, despite the fact that he had been a church musician before he contracted AIDS, no preacher would visit him. The church as a whole…all churches I knew of…turned away. It was that same year I met a woman in Georgia as she wept. When I asked her what was wrong, she answered, “I can’t tell my church that my son is dying of AIDS. They won’t let me return, or they won’t conduct his funeral.”

When I flew into Key West, a very kind gay young man picked me and fed me lunch. That night two gay men fed me dinner and invited me into their home as a friend. They rented a boat and a group of gay men went out onto the ocean (along with his parents) to scatter his ashes. They packed a lunch for us all. They never asked me to pay for my own meal.

The year before, I had been struggling with serious family issues. The only professor at Emory to reach out to me was a professor who also happened to be a lesbian. She helped me find a Christian counseling group that basically saved my life for the next two years.

During my lifetime, I have been friends with several people in the LGBTQ community. I haven’t thought of it much until lately, because I just thought of them as friends. I didn’t worry about their sexuality. But with all of the news about their rights being taken back away, I can’t help but want to speak up. No one in that community has ever harmed me, tried to have sexual relations with me, tried to “recruit” me, judged me for my faith or my struggles. They have just been friends.

As both a married and now a single woman, plenty of straight white Christian men have invited me to “sleep around,” let them “comfort” me, have a little fun that I didn’t ask for. Some of them were married and asked me to be discreet if I accepted their offer. I turned them down. That’s not who I am.

I get it that for some of you this is an issue of faith–you see a gay person as a sinner based on your theology. Please live out your faith! If that’s what you believe, never engage in a same-sex marriage. I live in a democracy that supports religious freedom. Many of my friends live out their faith differently. Many of my friends identify as Christians also and worship, serve on mission teams, teach, etc. I support their rights in this democracy also.

I will be hurt if my friends lose the right to love whom they choose to love after they fought for that right. They have stood by me when the church didn’t. I will stand by them out of the same friendship and love that they showed me. I am not going to try to define anyone’s theology. But I am going to speak up for someone who wants to grow old with a person they love. That’s beautiful, and it hurts no one!

This is not a theological debate on what defines sin. None of us would ever agree on that. When I was going through my divorce, I had plenty of people quoting Scripture to me and telling me how sinful I was. And for friends remarried, many Christians believe a second marriage is a sin. Divorce and remarriage are legal in this country (even though I wish divorce never had to happen–it hurts many people). I would not have survived my marriage if it had not ended.

But nowhere does Jesus tell me to legislate what I define as sin. And if I could, I would legislate most of his words that people forget to live by. Feed my sheep. And what if we legislate his words to the rich young ruler when he said the man had to give everything away? And what if we legislate turn the other cheek? Luke 14 telling us to bring in the poor? Matthew 20, lead by being a servant.

We can’t legislate our beliefs. We can only live them and in this nation we are blessed that we can share them. But this is about the secular world and democracy. I will not legislate away the rights of people I care about.

When I Say the Words

When I Say the Words

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

When I say the words

“I love you” to my neighbors,

to my friends,

to those I’ve known for years,

and to those I met

on the journey today,

I’m telling you that I see you—

The whole you…all of you.

I am not afraid of

the sight of your scars

or the sounds of your crying

or the knowledge of weaknesses…

I love the darkness of your

chocolate-colored skin

and the depth of brownness

in your soul-revealing eyes…

And I also love

the desert-kissed skin of

you, my friend, with

your deep black hair and

your chestnut-colored lips

that highlight the smile

that draws us all

into your joy…

And you with the

terra-cotta blush and

the laughter in your eyes…

And you with the

sand-colored hands

and green eyes

that disguise your mischief…

And you with the

ivory unblemished skin and blue eyes…

Or you—the one who wears your age

and shows your leathery arms

as you toil again through the day…

And you as you paint with the sunrise

or sing well past the sunset

or dance with the wind

or hum quietly as you write

or cook like your grandmother

the buttery-rich comfort food

or you—the one who adds

the spice that kicks in with each bite.

I love you

because you are like me—

You seek joy,

follow hopes,

love deeply,

daydream,

toil,

fear…

I love you

because you are different—

You sing a different song,

dance to a different beat,

create with a different style,

love in a different way,

toil using your unique gifts,

fear a different enemy…

I see you—the whole you…

And celebrate us all today…

 

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

What this is about…

What this is about…

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

This is not about politics,

not parties, not platforms…

This is about people…

And possibilities…

Promises to keep…

Hope to hang on to…

This is about being loved…

And being love…

About the love that can’t

be defined or controlled

by one group alone…

This is about the justice

longed for since

the most ancient of days…

About peace dreamed of…

About faith that goes beyond

human logic and beyond

my own desires and wishes—

A faith that sees humanity as a whole…

A faith the tells me to open doors

and share hope

and build homes

and shatter abuse

and feed the hungry

and drive out hate

and speak truth

and take chances

and walk on water

and break bread

and shine light

and walk away from my comfort

in order to bring about

a safe place where

all can seek faith and hope

and love and light and joy and peace

and justice and mercy

Together…

For God so loved the world…

— Chris Pepple ©2017