Danielle’s Story

I, like many other women all over the country, was sexually abused as a child.

I can remember it starting at 3 with being encouraged to engage in sexual behaviors with little boys in my neighborhood by my brothers, at 7 I was molested by my grandfather and as I got a bit older, faced being raped.

There is something that happens when you grow up around sexual abuse, it takes a toll on your self esteem, yourself worth and the way you see yourself in general. I hated myself. I began cutting myself when I was a teenager, drinking heavily, engaging in very risky behaviors and my grades were always up and down. I was in and out of counseling and me and my mother, who was a single mom and an alcoholic at the time, were always at odds. At 17 I became pregnant and my mother got married and moved to California, leaving me by myself in her home to struggle to pay the rent and bills. I managed, moving from place to place before finally trying to make it work with the father of the baby. He was very abusive, physically and verbally and we were having lots of problems. When the baby was still only a few months old, i took too many of the pain pills I had been sent home with and my boyfriend took advantage of the fact that though I was saying no, I could barely stay conscious long enough to fight him off and it got much worse as our son grew. He would throw bottles at me while i nursed his child, kick bags of garbage against the walls, throw dishes at me and push me down and so on. I stayed much longer then I should have, but I had nowhere else to go and I did not feel like I deserved more. It all came to a head when I found out I was pregnant as a result of the night I took pain pills. He would threaten to kill me, rip my head off and pull the baby up my throat to stomp on, all in front of his son. One night he forced me to sleep with him, I was 6 months pregnant and he was so rough that the sheets were covered in blood when he was done. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and stayed there for two weeks while they made sure Ii was not going to lose the baby. I got a restraining order and that was the end of our relationship. My mother brought me to California where I lived for several years.

I wish I could say that my story ended there, that by 19 I was finally able to see how strong a woman I was, that I was finally able to see my worth, to move from my past to a bright future yet sadly I was not quite to the point. I moved back to Oregon and found some old friends who introduced me to a man they knew. Everyone warned me about him, told me not to get involved. You would have thought that I would have seen the red flag at that point but I believe a part of me wanted to die, that a part of me did not care anymore.

There are many parts that I will skip, simply because at this point, to look back and remember what I have lived through serves no purpose but to bring tears to my eyes so I will say that I became pregnant and that the father left soon after that and I became a single mother who not only worked full time, but also went to college. I will always be proud of that fact. I landed a great job doing something I loved and making enough money to support myself and my children without struggling. I was stable enough to fully go off of state benefits and for a while, I was happy.

The father found me when his son was 3 years old, and after that, my life spiraled out of control. It started off innocent enough, I was a mistress being strung along easily because of my need to be loved, but it soon took a horrible twist that found me being raped by strangers he would bring into my house at night, being raped by his friends on car trips and eventually being raped by him. I lost my job. I lost my sanity.

The first question anyone asks is why. I don’t think I have ever been able to answer that. Why.

Why did I let a man sneak into my home with someone I did not know, especially a man who had paid for the opportunity to do so.

Why didn’t I change the lock, was I so messed up, so desperate for someone to love me that I would allow this to happen? I guess I have no answers. None that would make any sense anyway. I was terrified; I would start crying when I heard the key in the lock, wondering if he was alone or not. I was on tons of medication for depression and anxiety. Still I said nothing, never cried out, never screamed or fought back. I simply shut down. At that point I felt that I was worth nothing more, that all of my life I had never had a choice, that I was worth nothing more than this right here, this life, that this was what love was.

When he raped me, I told myself I could not do this anymore. I was forced to perform oral sex on him for 4 hours, my knees bruised from kneeling on linoleum, I can still remember that there were a few pieces of gravel that had been tracked in and they were digging into my skin. He was very drunk, so if he dozed off, I tried to as well, it was the only rest I would have all night. He choked me, bruised my neck. He pulled chunks of my hair out. He had always enjoyed cutting me, biting me and under normal circumstances I had tried to enjoy it, though then it was much less intense, but now I was covered in cuts, bruises and bite marks. Never once did I cry out, my children were asleep and I would never want them to know what happened to me ever. So when it was over, I dressed for work, gathered the children and left him asleep on the couch. I lost my job, changed my locks, got a restraining order.

For several months i suffered from Agoraphobia, I was too ashamed to be seen in public. Anytime I was out, I feared people were looking at me, talking about me, shaking their heads and thinking I was bad. Anytime a man looked at me I feared I would be hurt again. With children however I could not hide from the world, I needed to work; I needed to function in order to survive. I began gaining weight as a way to hide myself. The worse I felt, the higher my anxiety, the more I would gain.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Manic Depression and Anxiety but I refused to go on any more medication. It made me feel worse then I already did, instead I have simply learned to deal with it, to acknowledge my past, my feelings, my pain and deal with the long term effects it has caused. I still struggle with my weight, part of me wants to feel attractive, wants to date, to eventually marry, to wear cute clothes and get male attention but the part of me that has suffered a life time of sexual abuse wants to hide, to protect itself and to never be hurt again. Needless to say, I have not had a successful relationship and at 36 years old I have never been married, heck I have not even really dated for 7 years now. When I lose the weight I feel better about myself but then the fear and anxiety kicks in and I start packing on the pounds again. I have no self esteem even though I have learned to mask it for the benefit of my children. I still in many ways hate myself to the core.

I do not enjoy sexual encounters with men, I cannot experience orgasm with a man either. Most of my “relationships” turn out to be nothing more than a few weekends, as I do not know how to get involved in a lasting relationship.

I have no memories or experiences about being in a healthy relationship at all, and though I feel the effects of being alone, though I dream of having someone by my side, I cannot fathom how anyone could possibly want, love or choose to be with me in the first place. I have negative self talk every day of my life and it is exhausting.

Needless to say, my past has influenced me greatly and in all aspects of my life regardless of how far I have come, how strong I am and pretend to be or how well I am managing myself. Trauma never goes away, many people don’t understand that. It never stops hurting, there is no forgive and forget and time does not heal all wounds.

So that is my story, that is what helped to make me into the person I am, for bad or for better, these are but a few of the scars that I carry around on a daily basis.

Melissa’s Story

I am a 37 year old mother of 4. and here is my story.

I can remember it starting at age 7 by my brothers. I was the only girl with 3 brothers. I didn’t know better at the time. They would have one of them hold my hands above my head and take turns getting on top of me, telling me to be quiet. They would count. I would hide in the closet for hours after they let me go. We lived on a farm but I was scared to leave not knowing what they would do. They would shoot me with bb guns in the back yard; and urinate on me when I was sleeping. As I went into 4th or 5th grade they would tell me to stand in the middle of the bedroom and they would jump off their dressers and kick me to the ground. Many times getting hurt but was told not to tell or they would hurt me more.

There is something that happens when you grow up around sexual abuse, it takes a toll on your self esteem, yourself worth and the way you see yourself in general. I hated myself. I began staying in my room more and more, only coming out to eat or use the rest room. I was not allowed to say anything or my brothers would hit on me.

Shortly after this my mother started using drugs and my stepdad was an alcoholic and a drug user as well. I moved in with my grandparents and lived with them for about 6 months. When I moved back home I thought things were going to be better.

When I was in second grade I was burnt badly on my right hand and forearm. My mom and stepdad wouldn’t take me to the doctors. It got so bad my grandmother took me to the hospital and I had 3rd degree burn on my wrist and 2nd degree on my forearm. I had to have skin grafts on my wrist.

My stepdad started beating on my mother more and more so we went to shelter home to shelter home. At 17 I became pregnant and my mother got very sick. After having my son I told my mom she had to make a choice. Her new grandson and me or the drugs and abuse. I moved out got a job and still went to school. I managed, moving from place to place before moving back home to take care of my mom for a while.

I soon met my ex-husband and fell in love with him and we had 2 wonderful daughters together. We got married 3 years after we met. He was very abusive, physically, emotionally and verbally and we were having lots of problems. I tried to make it work and pretended things were fine for as long as I could. I stayed much longer then I should have, but I had nowhere else to go. It all came to a head when I found out he took our rent money to the bar to play poker. I left him. One afternoon I dropped the girls off to visit their father and he forced me to sleep with him, I told him no several times and tried to force him off of me. He told me if I didn’t stop fighting it he would hurt me and then the girls wouldn’t have a mother. All I could do was cry and tell him “no you are hurting me”. He didn’t care.

I got a restraining order and that was the end of our relationship. He would violate if all the time but nothing would happen. The judge told him “it’s just another bite out of the apple.” This went on for a couple of years. I was so scared. My kids and I went into hiding for 2 years to get away from him. In 2008 I filed for divorce and was granted full custody of my kids. During the time of hiding I had a surgery and the doctors found cancer. (Been in recovery since 2007).

For several months I suffered from Agoraphobia, I was too ashamed to be seen in public. Anytime I was out, I feared people were looking at me, talking about me, shaking their heads and thinking I was bad. Anytime a man looked at me I feared I would be hurt again. I to this day have a very low self esteem and am worried I will never find a man to love me for who I am and understand what I have been through. I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Manic Depression and Anxiety. I still struggle with my weight, part of me wants to feel attractive, eventually marry, to wear cute clothes. I have had a (somewhat) successful relationship for 4 years this October 7th2012. When I lose the weight I feel better about myself but then the fear and anxiety kicks in and I start packing on the pounds again. I have no self esteem even though I have learned to hide or ignore it for of my children. I do not know how to get involved in a lasting relationship where he would want to be with me for the rest of my life.

I have no memories or experiences about being in a healthy relationship at all, and though I feel the effects of being alone, though I dream of having someone by my side, I cannot fathom how anyone could possibly want, love or choose to be with me in the first place.

I want to thank the ones that was there for me.

Story of Abuse

I always knew growing up that if I made the wrong move, said the wrong thing or did not please those around me that I would pay the consequences with pain. A spanking there, a slap here, words of degradation were what I thought was normal. How could I consider it abnormal when I was flawed and it was par for the course when I messed up, which I seemed to do so often.

While I must admit that I always thought that I was broken, that I was bad, that I deserved to be “strengthened” with physical reinforcement.

I finally broke as a person when I was around 14 years old. I had been exploring with smoking. I was in my bedroom and I had a pack of matches in my pocket and was lighting and blowing out the flames out of boredom. I blew out the last match and looked up to see my father looking in my window. When our eyes met, he took off in a run around the house. I knew I had it coming. I unlocked my bedroom door and sat on my bed waiting for him to arrive. When he did, he was red with rage. He stared at me for a good two minutes before he took of his belt.

He stood two feet in front of me with the belt doubled up, snapping it to create loud SNAP’s. I knew what was coming and started to shake. He told me to take my pants off. I did not respond in the acceptable time. He started hitting me with the belt and then stopped. He reiterated his request for me to take of my pants. I knew that it was going to be bad and that the more I held my pride and refused, the worse it would be.

I took off my pants and then my underwear at his instruction. I stood in front of him with nothing on. I started to cry as he told me to turn around and bend over. I obeyed his demand. As he hit me with his belt, I curled up into a ball. He told me to take it like a man and rolled me over and started welting me with his belt all over my body, each blow getting stronger.

At that time he told me that if I would roll over and take it on my behind that it would be over faster. I obeyed him, but as he beat me, I curled up again in the fetal position. I remember looking down on myself, removed from my body, as the beating continued. I couldn’t feel it, but I saw every blow, every look of satisfaction on my father’s face.

Finally my father lost his steam and left the room. I remained in a ball and sobbed. I still know what had happened was wrong. I still knew that I was okay. I had just messed up and “played with fire”. I had it coming. I would be better.

I was still in a ball two hours later when my father returned to the room with tears streaming down his face. He told me that he had been wrong and that he was begging for my forgiveness. I didn’t respond. I was still looking down at myself from above.

He told me that he had made a mistake in beating me and that I needed to return the infliction to him. I remained in the fetal position as I was told this. Of course the tears on his face tugged at my heart and I was finally able to get up to try to comfort him. Once I was up, he insisted that I take the belt from his hand. Next he took off his shirt and instructed me to beat him back. When I refused he when through his usual spiel about “this was harder on him than it was for me”. Eventually he took the belt back and started beating own back. I could see that he was sincerely remorseful for what had happened in the previous hours, but for some unknown reason, this was the time that I turned my heart away from him and started hating him. I don’t know why this particular time my heart broke. Beatings were not that unusual in my childhood.

The next few months are a fuzz for me. I remember refusing showers at my high school for gym class. There is no way I could have explained the X marks all over both sides of my body that were left by the welts that were a result of the belt. I sank into depression. Stopped eating and withdrew from everyone. I started smoking cigarettes on a regular basis and pot. I lost my faith in God.

Flash forward 4 years, I turned 18 in the September of my Senior year in high school. The day of my birthday, I packed up my few belongings and left the house. My father tried to bar me from leaving. I was told “things would change”, that “if I walked out that door, I would no longer be his son”. I remember having to physically move my father from in front of the door. I no longer wanted to be his son.

My Senior year was pretty painful. I had to work every night after school and on the weekends in a convenience store to pay for shelter over my head. I had to hitch- hike to school each day (I had moved out of the country into the “city” so I could be close to work and get an apartment). Some days I made it, and some days I didn’t.

My mother worked at my high school and had her own sort of breakdown. She told the entire staff that I was gay and that I had ran away. There were a couple teachers that reached out to me, and for that I am grateful. Of course it was all done on the DL as they were afraid of my mother and for their jobs. I asked several teachers if they could pick me up for school since they drove in from the city, and all refused out of fear.

After graduation from high school I went to a trade school and worked to build a career. I also took more drugs to cope with the dead part of myself. I entered a relationship with a liar, drug dealer, manipulator and verbal abuser. That lasted for 7 years.

At the age of 26 I decided that either I face my demons or I quit life. I decided to face my demons and started therapy. During this period, I had no contact with my family, except for the occasional time spent with my brother. I spent a lot of time inside myself and eventually came to the realization that I had no control over what happened to me as a child, but I do have control over my future. That was a big “a-ha” for me.

I quit drugs (although to this day, I can’t seem to shake the smoking habit). I worked at rebuilding a relationship on my terms with my family. It was painful and there were times when I would visit my family when I just had to get up, walk out the door and drive away.

25 years later, I have a loving relationship (14 years and counting). I do not take any type of illegal substance into my body. I still don’t trust too many people, but have those in my life that love me and I love them. I have a strong career and no longer worry about taking care of myself.

Really, the bottom line is this: It will get better. Hang in there. Don’t let anyone push you into anything that you don’t want and you will not end up running from anything. Now I know when I have challenges that I was the one to make the choices in my life which resulted in things that I must work out . I can no longer blame my choices on what happened to me as a child.

For me, breaking the chain involved breaking down my life and then rebuilding it. I don’t have children and do not beat my pets. This is a choice that I have made for myself and while at times, I really want to abuse someone, I don’t. I am in control, not my father, his father or my grandfather’s father.

Carol’s Story


I cannot thank you enough for giving me and other abuse victims the chance to speak out so others can see that they are not alone in this struggle.

When I saw this shirt 2 days ago while searching for graphic’s to help me build my profile on my AOL site…I thought, I have to have this shirt! My favorite color is purple, I love scroll type work (which I have on the fender of my Purple Harley) and I had just won a Permanent Protection Order only last week….I thought how APROPOS!

The man I was with was my ex boyfriend. He was verbally and physically abusive. I allowed this behavior from him believing that I could change him if I showed him by my actions how love is suppose to be. He had tried to take my life 5 times, he was physically abusive to me and it had finally escalated to him losing control in front of my son. My son had called 911 and I told my son that if he signed the police report that I would no longer talk to him (my son was only 15). The police told me and my son that he did not need to sign the report because the police could see the physical evidence on my body. I was so in love with this man but more afraid of what this man would do to me or my son if I were to press any charges.

Last June 6th 2009 I told my ex that I no longer ever wanted to see him again, hear from him again and that I no longer loved him. It took less than 1 minute for him to call me a ” F%## Face” and start punching my face. I ended up in the hospital with a broken cheekbone, broken back molar, face beaten and bruised, hematoma on my eye, broken hand with a spiral fracture plus he bit my finger all the way through to the bone. I had over 30 bruises all over my body.

I had had enough. I had been silent for too long. It took me almost 4 months to have him served so I could get a temporary protection order. Every 2 weeks I would go to court and have to hear the Deputy tell the Judge that he was evading being served. After 30 days, I would have to fill out all of the paper work again…and start from ground zero. It was very disheartening and it was hard to keep pressing forward, but I felt an obligation to myself, my family and to other women not to allow this man to go unpunished and to let as many people know what kind of man he truly is.

My temporary protection order was going to expire on September 11, 2010. I knew I was in grave danger once this had expired. I was told by many government officials that it is next to impossible to get a Permanent Protection Order. I decided I had to try! I went to court, not expecting him or anyone representing him to be there….like so many times before, but I was wrong. He had hired an Attorney…after 1 & 1/2 hours of hearing his Attorney object to everything I said…the Judge said the most wonderful words I could have heard. He gave me the Permanent Protection Order and found him in Contempt of Court.

Today, I have to go back to Court, this time I am going to the Criminal Court and I have taken out a Criminal Warrant against him. Once again…how APROPOS, the day I am to go to court…I ordered your shirt to break the chain of silence.

I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing and for helping me to get dressed with a purpose!

God Bless you for helping so many.

August 17, 2010

Laura’s Story

“Reign of Terror”

My name is Laura Cowan, and this is my domestic violence story:

Some of seven children and teenagers who were removed from their father’s Aguanga home were so deprived of food and nurturing that they looked half their age, a pediatrician testified Wednesday. In 1999, Marlon Boddie, (Muhummed’s son), was almost 20. He was 4 ½ feet tall and weighed 78 pounds when Dr. Clare Sheridan-Matney examined him and six of his siblings after they were removed from defendant, my ex-significant other, Mansa Musa Muhummed’s home. Mansa Musa was their father and my abuser. “He didn’t look like a 20-year-old. He looks like a kid,” said Sheridan-Matney, who is the head of forensic pediatrics at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Marlon Boddie’s weight and height would have been normal for a 10- or 11-year-old, the doctor said. Mansa Musa Muhummed, whose given name was Richard Boddie, was on trial at Riverside County Superior Court after more than nine years of legal wrangling in which he changed lawyers four times and represented himself for more than two years.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of torturing seven of the children, abusing 12 of them and falsely imprisoning two wives, which I was one of them. The trial delays may have hurt his case because his children — once reluctant to talk to authorities — are now telling strangers of extreme deprivation, physical abuse and starvation. Standing just 4-foot-6 and weighing about 98 pounds, Sharon Boddie, 27, told jurors that she had grown and gained weight since her father was arrested nine years ago and the children were sent to foster or group homes. But she still has scars from beatings and burns. She said she was taken out of school in second grade because she kept running away and teachers no longer wanted her there because she stole other children’s lunch. “I’d go like a week without eating, not even water,” she said in a flat, unemotional voice. She said she would be beaten when she tried to steal food from the refrigerator. One son caught sneaking food testified that he was forced to eat what he took until he regurgitated. Then he was forced to eat his own vomit. Another daughter said she was ordered to hand feed her father while she was denied food.

Doctors said the children were extremely malnourished. A 19-year-old daughter was 4-foot-1 and weighed 56 pounds. After moving to rural Riverside County, (before I had met them), they lived for about three years in a van at a Muslim campground, this is what one daughter, Sharon Boddie testified. The van had no running water or gas for cooking. District Attorney Baldwin said Muhummed had no known occupation. The now-adult children have testified that Muhummed forced them to beat each other when he wasn’t doing the hitting. His lawyer has suggested some of the children abused each other and he had challenged their testimony as exaggerations. Baldwin said she expected the defense to accuse the wives (which included myself) of being responsible for the abuse. Muhummed has told authorities he believed his Muslim religion allowed him to have multiple wives. Polygamy! Marva Lewis Barfield, 53, the first of Muhummed’s three wives and mother of 14 of his children, testified that she beat some of her children with a boat oar at his instructions because she feared he would kill her if she disobeyed. Marva said she married Boddie when she was 18 and that she was repeatedly beaten and threatened with death during 26 years of marriage. Marva was jailed for 17 months in the case and pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment as part of a plea bargain to testify against Muhummed.

Then I, Laura Cowan, his second wife, told authorities that he took control of my bank accounts and finances. Me and the other members of the family also collected public assistance. It was I, who finally got the attention of authorities when Muhummed took me with him to a post office and that is when I was able to slip a 13-page letter about the abuse to a postal clerk. The letter was sent to the county social services agency and to sheriff’s deputies, who found us living in a filthy garage in a gated community. I presented authorities with tapes that I had secretly recorded of some of the beatings. Sharon Boddie said social workers had checked on their welfare before, but her father put food boxes in cupboards before they arrived and the children were taught to lie. “I told them everything was OK because my dad had coached us what to say,” she recalled. “I’d say my dad treated us really good — that he was the best parent in the world.”

When they were removed from his Muhummed’s home, most of the children said they could not read or write and had not been to school. The brothers and sisters have said they were denied use of a bathroom and could not bathe for weeks at a time or wash their clothes. Sometimes, Boddie took them in the yard and hosed them down. Sharon Boddie said she was strung upside down by her feet and left in a dark basement for hours at a time.

Baldwin said many of the children were unwilling to talk to authorities when their father was first arrested in 1999. Even when her father was handcuffed to a car outside their home, Sharon Boddie wouldn’t speak because she feared he wouldn’t go to jail. She said he once waved a gun around and said, “I can kill all of you and nobody will ever know.” She said she decided to tell her story when her father was behind bars and she realized she was “finally going to have a life.”

In February of 2009, Mansa Musa received seven life sentences for torturing and endangering seven of his 19 children and abusing and imprisoning his three wives. A jury found Muhummed guilty of such acts as beating his children with hoses and boat oars, starving them and forcing them to eat their own vomit and feces. In addition, he imprisoned two of his wives in the house’s garage by chaining the doors shut, leaving them for weeks without running water or bathroom facilities. Muhummed will serve a separate sentence of 16 years and eight months before beginning his seven life sentences.

Peter J. Morreale, Muhummed’s attorney, asked the judge to allow his client to serve the sentences concurrently, which would allow the defendant out of prison on parole in as few as 23 years. “The nature of this case is very serious and extremely egregious [but] nobody died as a result of [Muhummed’s] actions,” Morreale said. Judge F. Paul Dickerson III denied that request and dealt the harshest punishment available to ensure Muhummed would never come out of jail. The judge stated he believed if Muhummed ever emerged, he would try to harm his family members.

Dickerson explained the severity of the sentence by stating Muhummed had “shown no remorse or accepted any responsibility” for his “years-long reign of terror over defenseless children.” In response to the sentence, Muhummed rambled semi-comprehensibly for more than four minutes. He defended himself, claiming the family members had lied because one of his wives wanted “revenge” on him. Several of his children and one of his wives – who were sitting in the back of the courtroom – stood up and left while Muhummed spoke. “It’ll come back to haunt them. What they’ve done is wrong,” he said. “My family never suffered like they said they did.”

After speaking for several minutes, Morreale whispered into Muhummed’s ear, shortly after which Muhummed brought his speech to a close. After the sentencing, Morreale called the judgment “overkill.” “I think this case was a good case for concurrent sentences,” he said. The sentencing came more than 10 years after Riverside County police arrested Muhummed in his home in Aguanga. For Muhummed’s children, the last decade has been a period of growing, healing and fearing Muhummed may one day go free. Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson III, who said Muhummed’s treatment of his family, amounted to “a reign of terror over defenseless children.” Muhummed, spoke before sentencing and denied ever mistreating his three wives and 19 children. “I never tortured anyone,” he told the court. “I don’t know where that came from.”

The judge dismissed his comments. “Mr. Muhummed showed no remorse and accepted no responsibility for his twisted behavior, and the court is sending the strongest message possible,” he said. Muhummed was arrested in 1999 at the family’s house in rural Aguanga in Riverside County, but legal maneuvering delayed the trial for years Originally from Virginia, Muhummed — whose given name was Richard Boddie — came to California, converted to Islam and moved his family from place to place, living in houses, small apartments and vans.

Muhummed was convicted in June of 25 counts, including torture, child endangerment, false imprisonment and corporal injury on a spouse. At his trial, family members testified that he would beat them savagely with boat oars, hoses and electrical cords for any perceived infraction. Grounds for beatings included sneaking food, failing to recite a passage from the Koran accurately and not asking to use the bathroom. He also organized fights between his boys.

Muhummed tightly rationed food for everyone but himself. He carefully locked up the cabinets and chained the refrigerator. His children said he “ate like a king” while they went hungry, going without food for up to seven days. They had to beg for it or pick a lock and steal it. If caught, they were beaten or made to stand all night in a corner. Buckets in bedrooms usually served as their toilets, they said.

When police found Sharon Boddie in 1999, she was 18 years old, weighed 48 pounds and stood barely 4 feet tall. Her older brother Marlon weighed 53 pounds. Another brother, Curtis, 16, weighed 42 pounds. Marlon Boddie, in an interview before the sentencing, said his father hung him upside down in the basement by a cord and beat him for hours. He said he was made to eat his own feces and vomit. Marlon Boddie, now 29, said he once smashed a bottle against his head in order to get sent to a hospital and out of the house.

The Boddie family lived in Bakersfield , North Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Moreno Valley , Riverside and Aguanga. Muhummed made money selling his food stamps and collecting Social Security on himself and his children, family members said. His children were pulled out of elementary school or never sent. The wives and children were often locked up in a dark garage for days with no heating, air conditioning or toilets.

I testified at this Muhummed’s trial and my accounts of the abuse were essential in getting him sentenced to life in prison. After Muhummed was arrested, my children, Maryam, Ahmed and Tasslimah, stayed in battered women’s shelters in California for more than a year before returning to my home town in Ohio. I didn’t let my past bring me down, and decided to become an influential role model to those I encountered. I went to school and received an associate’s degree in Applied Business Management in Information Technology. I now work for the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority teaching and training those living in their facilities on computers and new technology.

I’m a member of the Living Truth Center in East Cleveland, which taught me to release resentment and channel my energy positively. I also was nominated and won the People’s Choice for the 2010 American Red Cross Heroes Award, and was selected as one of the Plain Dealer’s community heroes recognized on March 14. My real joy is being a volunteer at the Domestic Violence Center of Greater Cleveland and giving back that was given to me, help and my way of repaying the care my children and I received from shelter workers after years of being terrorized. I am an advocate and domestic violence survivor. Now I just want to serve as a beacon for other survivors of domestic violence and friends of those who lost someone to domestic violence. I want share my story as an example for others.

To read more on my story, just Google the perpetrator’s name in Google: (Mansa Musa Muhammed, California) and you can read more about my case. I’m now a co-host on WERE1490AM radio show under Radio-One called “Women Share” my partner, Lulu Woodruff is a domestic violence survivor also. We share information to our audience and give them hope and inspiration by inspiring, motivating and encouraging those who listen to the show by sharing with them that they too can overcome their fears and life obstacles by discovering the secret of self empowerment. Love yourself, and the rest will come. “Remember……..LOVE DOESN’T HURT

Laura Cowan

Ruth’s Story

When Tammi first asked to write my “story” I thought “yeah, sure…no problem…I’ll get to it sometime.” I didn’t really have a major issue with writing it, although I would have a couple of years ago. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve really gotten comfortable acknowledging, owning and even cherishing ALL of my past – without guilt, shame or feeling that I was somehow less than others because of what I went though. So I didn’t put it off because I was scared or ashamed – I just really didn’t get that it would make a big difference.

I’ve been a coach and seminar facilitator for years now and I have the honor of helping people learn about themselves and gain tools so they can get past barriers (most all are rooted in our past experiences) and design lives they love. I’ve always thought that my gift to give the world was to teach people how to move forward and have never spent much time in the story of why or how I learned the lessons myself. Yesterday I did a tele-class and afterward received the most touching email from a woman I didn’t know. I had very briefly shared about my childhood and it really connected for her since she had just left an abusive relationship. It had clearly had an impact for her and it touched me deeply to know that my life could have such a profound effect on another woman. It is from this place that I share my “story” with you.

I was adopted as a baby at a time when the adoption process was fairly loose and didn’t effectively screen out parents who had no business having children. My biological mother was a teenager and chose to give me up because she thought I would have a better life that way. My new “parents” took me home when I was 3 days old and according to my adoption records, there was one home visit by an SRS representative before my adoption was finalized.

As a young child, my siblings and I all endured some pretty healthy “whippings” and back in those days it wasn’t all that uncommon but as I got older, the frequency and intensity became worse. We had a large family and I always felt like I was singled out because it seemed that I got more of this special attention then my brothers and sisters. My father never kept it a secret that he hadn’t wanted me so I thought it was because I was adopted but, when I look back now I realize that my personality or attitude was probably the biggest factor. While the others learned to shut up and take it, I refused to let it be ok and I protested as much a little girl could. I became a rebel and I chose to fight back.

Much of my childhood is now a blur (this isn’t due to age – I’m only 42!) and has been for sometime. I think I chose to block it out because it was so painful. When I do think about it, the feelings that come to mind are pain – both physical and emotional, a constant state of fear, and extreme loneliness. I think the loneliness was the worst of all. I didn’t feel I could tell anyone. First because I thought maybe I had done something to deserve it. Maybe there really was something horribly wrong with me; otherwise it surely wouldn’t be happening. My father told me many times that he hadn’t wanted me and neither had anyone else – including my biological mother. This really helped to feed my feelings of worthlessness and I felt very ashamed.

I remember going to school with welts on my legs and wearing sweat pants in gym so the teacher wouldn’t see them. I remember dressing in the bathroom stall so the other girls wouldn’t see them. When I started sleeping over with girlfriends it became more and more apparent to me that what took place in my house wasn’t normal and that maybe I didn’t deserve to be hit. As I got older, it became harder and harder to keep it to myself.

I have a vivid memory of a particularly bad beating from my father. I had triggered him and he beat me with a leather belt (he called it a razor belt) until my legs bled. I was so hurt and outraged that I couldn’t let it go on another day. I left the house on foot and headed toward the police station, which was about a mile away. My mother caught up with me in her car and told me that if I went through with reporting my dad, it would be the end of our family and that it wasn’t fair to the other kids. She said that she would rather I got in her car and we could both drive off a bridge together. I went back home with her.

Within a year of this event, I reached my breaking point and decided I would rather die than continue living the way I was. My father found out that I planned to commit suicide and told me that if I was that unhappy, I should leave. He said there was a big world out there and that perhaps I would be happier somewhere else. I left the next morning and never returned home. I was 14.

Over the next several years I married, so I could become legally emancipated from my parents, and decided to have a child. My teenage logic said that I could just make my own family! Crazy as this was, my daughter has been the greatest gift in my life. I’ve always felt that my life really began after I left “home” and I guess we raised each other in many ways.

For many years after I left home, life was a real struggle and I continued to feel angry, hurt, and inferior but, I was never hit again and I never allowed anyone to abuse me in any way so the struggle seemed to be worth it. I felt like I’d overcome my past and I had WON. It wasn’t until years later that I realized I was still a victim to my past – even years after I left. I figured out the source of my unhappiness wasn’t the events that had taken place – they were over and dead – but the decisions and beliefs I had created about myself. I had decided as a little girl that I was a mistake and had no value and this pain was constant and endless.

Thankfully, as I got older, I met some wonderful teachers who showed me that I could change my beliefs and I could create and allow the beautiful life I wanted. As I sit here and write this today, I feel incredibly grateful for my life – today, yesterday and even the days as that lonely, hurt little girl. I now have a wonderful, healthy life full of family, friendship, fun, passion, learning, growing, sharing and LOVE. I KNOW that I am a courageous, loving, lovable, passionate, valuable woman and I don’t hurt anymore.

Both of my parents have passed away and I feel a lot of empathy for them. I know now that my father was terribly ill and that my mother was simply living out her life the way she’d been taught by her parents. I love them both for the gifts they gave to me and brought to the world. I know that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today or have the gifts I’m able to give had I not been taken into their home.

If nothing else, my wish is that I can offer you hope. Regardless of our pasts, or even present circumstances, every one of us can create a beautiful life. I don’t care who you are or where you came from or what has happened to you – you deserve to be happy and to live a life free of pain, fear and abuse. There is hope.

Ruth Hensley
July 16, 2009

Trisha’s Story

I grew up with alcoholism in my family.  My father has been recovering now for the past 27 years.  I have many uncles and my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family that are still drinking or are recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.  I always searched for my dad’s love and approval growing up.  Dad just wasn’t around much.  Mom was always the disciplinarian, etc.  In high school, I never felt like I fit in, so when I started dating my now ex-husband, I was in a hurry to get out of the house and start my own family.

So 3 months after graduating high school, I married.  I never felt like I had his approval either.  I was verbally and mentally abused the entire 10 1/2 year marriage.  I had by that time alienated ALL my friends, except the 2 that were friends of ours in the marriage.  Whom I found out at the end of my marriage were not really my friends.  I even limited my time with my sister.  I lived with guilt trips and the silent treatment for being with friends, or doing something that he did not approve of.  At one point in our marriage, stupid was his word of choice for me.  Eventually, I started feeling like I was.  By the time I had had enough, I had pretty much no self-esteem.

I even had affairs to try to feel like I had some self worth, because I didn’t get it at home.  It wasn’t even the sex that I was craving, it was the love and affection and attention from a man who I thought appreciated me.

I finally left and went directly into another relationship with a man I had met through work.

I moved to Molalla to live with my sister and be closer to this man.  BIG MISTAKE!!!!

I should have seen the signs, but didn’t.  I thought this man was my BEST FRIEND.  We did everything together…….hunting, fishing, boating, etc.  I had caught him with marijuana in the beginning of our relationship and he said he would quit using it and threw it away………so I thought.  I wanted so much to believe him.  He was also very controlling, verbal and mentally abusive and ended up being physically abusive.  He alienated me from my friends, but not my family because they had money to offer.  By the end of the 3rd year I felt like there was something wrong in the relationship.  He was working long hours and he just didn’t seem the same.    We had broken up for about 2 weeks, as he had found out about an affair I was having.  I was tired of living that way, so I finally confessed to it.  I broke things off with the other guy and I decided after 2 weeks that I wanted to work things out.  Little did I know…………he had started using Meth.  The next year was HELL!!!!  We were living on a boat docked at a moorage on the Columbia River for the next year.  I thought I needed to try everything possible to make things work before I “gave up”.  In that last year the abuse got worse.  Besides the mental and verbal abuse, he also started getting physically abusive.  He had pushed me a couple times, telling me that if I wouldn’t get in his face that he wouldn’t push me.  My family was afraid that they would end up finding me on the bottom of the Columbia River.  I finally had the proof I needed that he was using Meth and cheating on me, so I left him.

I ended up getting a restraining order on him due to the drugs and physical violence.  He chose to fight the order and we had to appear in court on August 3, 2003.  He showed up at the Multnomah County Courthouse with a loaded handgun in his briefcase.  That was the must vulnerable and insecure feeling I have ever felt in my life.  I then had to appear in court a couple more times to make sure he sat in jail for what he had done.

That was my breaking point.  I started going to the bar a lot to drink and dance.  It was every weekend and at least 2 or 3 times during the work week.  On June 15, 2006, my best friend invited me to go to church with her and her kids.  After inquiring about her church I decided to go……………I have been going ever since.  I am still working on my life and it is a daily struggle to do the right thing and keep my self-esteem up, but I know that I deserve to be treated with respect.  I know that the way I reacted to the abuse was not the right thing either.  Affairs are not a solution, they only made things worse.  I needed to look within.  I have since totally evaluated my life and am working daily on being the person I know that God wants me to be.

I have become a volunteer with Clackamas Women’s Services doing youth presentations at middle- and high schools teaching kids about domestic violence. What domestic violence is (the 5 types), how to get out of and recognize a domestic violent relationship. I hope that if I can help just one child, then I have done my job.

Thank you,

Hillary’s Story

Hi my name is Hillary and I am a survivor of emotional and physical abused endured as a child by my father.

I never really understood why my father treated me as he did and it wasn’t just me either my older brother was tormented as well. I don’t exactly remember when the abuse started, I know I couldn’t of been more than 7 yrs old at the time. First it started out as punishments of staying out past dark in the cold to rake leaves or pick up sticks. Then it became my father would wake us up in the middle of the night to make us get on our hands and knees to clean the kitchen we were only about 8 and 10 at that time.

Eventually physical abuse started my father would pick us up by our throats and yell at us , hit us where the bruises could be hidden. He would be little us and put us down. For the longest time I was scared of my father I would cry any time my mother left the house or we were left alone with my dad. I was afraid to tell anyone for fear it would rip my family apart or that no one would believe me. I never realized then until I became an adult how much my friends knew or at least thought they knew what was going on. The abuse lasted until my mom finally decided enough was enough.

I was 12 yrs old when my mother said she was leaving my dad. Honestly, at that time that was the best day of my life. I continued to be afraid of him for years, my mom would try to get me to go visit him but the fear over came me. In the mean time he got remarried had more children, he had two step children.

One day when I was 18 I did go visit him and I had heard that my father was doing the same to the step-children as he did to my brother and I. So I decided that day that I had to do something , even though my father meant nothing to me at that time those were still my brothers and sisters no matter if we were full blood or not. I hadn’t gotten all my courage yet but I wrote him letter telling him that his new family was his second chance and if he didn’t straighten up , I would call social services myself I explained to him how because of what I went through as a child , what he put me through. I was afraid to love , I was afraid to find someone just like him and feel stuck, I lacked self-esteem. I told him he was my father from blood and that was it.

That was 7yrs ago and my father is no longer my father because of just blood, he’s my dad that finally heard the plea of his children. I will probably never forget what happened to me and I still to this day still suffer a bit but, I’m not afraid any more. I’m me! If I hadn’t of stood up to my dad and broke that chain of abuse , I don’t know where I’d be but I don’t think I’d be as happy as I am now.

Tiffany’s Story

My name is Tiffany & I am an ex-military wife & survivor of domestic violence.

As a military wife, I lived 2,000 miles from my home & family. I gave up my career to live the military life. My husband had been wonderful prior to our marriage – hard-working, loving & a dream come true. Literally from the first week we were married, however, he started bursting out in violent rages, calling me horrible names & threatening to harm my daughter and I, & burn our belongings. Too embarrassed to go back home, I went for help & was told it was PTSD so I forgave what he did and committed to helping my husband heal.

It didn’t heal – It grew worse. Over the years, the more I accepted it, the more it escalated until finally, the violence grew physical and he began threatening to kill me. By the time I left, it was clear that he wasn’t suffering from PTSD – I was.

The guilt I felt for accepting abuse in my life was overwhelming. His power was in my silence. Speaking out, I am regaining my power and my life.

January 25, 2010

Tammi’s Story

My name is Tammi and I am here to make a difference!! I am a physical and verbal abuse survivor, and I AM going to change the world.

Being a domestic violence survivor has had its many challenges. I have had to learn that I am a valuable person again and that not everyone is out to hurt me. I was in a very verbally and physically abusive relationship that rocked my very soul. I was always too fat, too thin, too lazy or a whole laundry list of other things that were “wrong” with me. In my relationship we had both suffered forms of abuse in our childhoods. I was physically attacked and raped by my spouse, he also threatened to end my life as well as his, I knew how to push his buttons and he knew how to push mine. After many years of being told that I couldn’t make it on my own, and as I watched firsthand the physical and mental abuse escalating to what I knew would one day end in death to one or both of us, I packed up my kids and we left. We went through many more episodes until it finally ended.

I have had to retrain my brain, to think normally instead of thinking strategically. I no longer have to fear that my words or actions are going to cause me physical or emotional pain. I do however still have scars internally that will take time to heal completely. Until recently I used to check the windows every night, and lock my car at least 2 times to make sure “he” can’t get to me. My fear was still real and I was running on adrenaline every day. I had completely lost control of my life and I felt lost and scared. I understand how others feel in similar situations. The one thing about my story that has not been mentioned is that this abuse did not come from one person. It was many.

My current husband is very supportive and has learned that some of my actions at night with the windows and car are just residue from my past. He has been very patient and loving, and he truly is my hero.

I have learned that even though I was in a situation that was out of control that I now know how to take my life back and share with others what I have learned. I am able to make the decisions that have turned an ugly past into something wonderful.

It has been many years since the pattern of abuse ended in my life, and I am ready to help others make a stand. I encourage you to stand with me. I have created a clothing line that gives hope to victims and their families. It allows each person to wear how they feel without being invasive. Everyone reads t-shirts standing in line at the grocery store. Why not make a difference by simply getting dressed? Why not make a conscious choice to choose something that has a message of hope?

It’s not just apparel, it’s also racing, rodeo, and sports where ever people play we want to to be there to reach the masses.

Almost everyone knows someone affected by child abuse, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, bullying etc.

We are giving back to our community by donations to various organizations that are in the trenches everyday and want others to do the same. Together we can make a difference.

We can look at the statistics and it will show us what many of us already know that we have a problem in this country that it is not an easy fix, but we need to remember that those statistics are people. People like you and me. Our mothers, daughters, brothers and fathers. Our friends and coworkers. When you put a human face on the statistics they become and are reality.

Each one of us is unique.  We all have good days and bad days.  I choose to look forward instead of backwards.  I choose to move past my abuse, and look towards a brighter day ahead.  I choose to put one foot in front of the other even when it seems impossible.  You can do the same.  It is through my brokenness that I can help others.  My story is what has transformed me into the woman I have become.  God has played an integral part in my healing process, and I know without him I would not be where I am today.

It starts with one voice.

Our voice is speaking without saying a word.