Interviews

Published on December 31st, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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“Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence,” Organization Leader Kristen Faith

Kristen Faith uses past experiences to shed light on domestic violence issues through her “BTSADV” organization.

They say experience is the best teacher. Truer words couldn’t be spoken, especially when discussing a topic as serious as domestic violence. One would have to know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse to truly have an understanding for what victims of domestic violence goes through. “Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence” organization leader, Kristen Faith experienced it as a kid and lived it as an adult. After finally breaking away from a 3-year abusive relationship, Faith was determined to not only shed light on the matter but help others who are in similar situations. “BTSADV” provides a voice for the abused, assistance, and has even incorporated educating the abusers about unhealthy patterns.

During our recent conversation, Kristen shares her story, explains the benefits of, “BTSADV,” and talks about the importance of catching and changing unhealthy relationship patterns.

How have you been?

Kristen Faith: So great! Christmas was fantastic and 2020 is about to be even more fantastic.

“Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence” is your organization. Most that start an organization like this was typically a victim of it. Is that the case with you?

Kristen Faith: That is the case. I left an abusive relationship about 8-years ago. And 11-days after I filed for a restraining order, I created a Facebook page. And I shared my restraining order on social media, and the rest was history after that.

What was your situation like because we know, in most instances people suffer in silence for a long time? And what made you finally decide to do something about it?

Kristen Faith: I was in that relationship for about 3-years. I didn’t tell anyone. I also grew up with domestic violence, so it was normal to me. The things that I experienced in my own relationship, was some of the things that I saw growing up. A lot of people ask, Didn’t you realize it was unhealthy,” or, “You should have left.” I tried leaving many times over. People don’t understand that, when a victim is ready to leave, the first 72-hours when they leave is the most dangerous time. The person who abused me told me he was going to kill me and bury me alive. These are just some of the threats that I heard over and over again; which is the reason why I stayed.

What made me leave, I felt, God tell me that my life was spiraling out of control and if I stayed in that situation, that’s what my life would be like. The last incident was, he bit my left arm and I decided to leave and filed a restraining order after that.

Would you say the abuse you dealt with was mostly physical or mental?

Kristen Faith: Well, funny thing you say that, because a lot of people feel that “DV” is mostly physical, because you see the situations like, Ray Rice in the elevator where he hits his wife. Or the physical things that you can see like black eyes. Situations like that. I did suffer from physical abuse, but a lot of what I experienced was also financial, emotional, mental and sexual. So, pretty much every form of abuse that someone could possibly endure, I endured from the ages of about 18-22.

Could you dispel the notion that domestic violence is delegated only to a man committing the acts of violence to a woman?

Kristen Faith: You are correct. We get a lot of men that ask us, “Where are the men? Why aren’t you sharing men’s stories?” Just like women, we don’t force these individuals to share their stories. We encourage them to for sure. We have had a handful of men share their stories, but there are so many people out there that can relate to stories like mine, and choose not to share it because they think that it wasn’t that bad or they could handle it, a woman may have hit them or keyed their car, threatened them or stalked them. All of those things are unhealthy and abusive, but people don’t talk about it. There is a huge stigma behind men admitting that they were victimized by a woman.

Even going into a whole nother realm of abuse, men who were abused by other men in maybe a same sex relationship or women abused by other women. People aren’t talking about it. We have given a space for people who admitted who have admitted that they were abusive. We give them space to kind of educate other people on what was going through their mind about why they decided to abuse someone else; i.e., my own dad. He is going to be sharing his story publicly for the first time in 60-years with our organization. My soon to be husband, when we met, he realized that he was an abusive in past relationships. We are giving him a space to share his story because he didn’t know that what he did in past relationships was abusive. So, to answer your question, we give everybody a space to share their story.

Do you feel in most cases it’s insecurities, a control thing? From the abuser’s standpoint, what do you feel seems to be the issue?

Kristen Faith: It’s really complex. The way that I kind of like to paint the picture, there are abuser’s who know they are abusive, and they don’t care. Those people need a lot more help than maybe someone like my fiancé who was educated about domestic violence through our organization. He learned that these are unhealthy things, and these are healthy things; same thing with my dad. My fiancé was uneducated. I think that’s a huge part about abuser’s and even victims. If you aren’t educated about it, how are you going to know how to have a healthy relationship? My fiancé grew up with abusive parents, he was abused as a child, his parents struggled with addiction, so this was his normal. My dad also grew up with abuse. His inner demons were drugs and alcohol. So, I sat down with him not too long ago and I asked him about it. And he said that, when he was on drugs, he couldn’t control his actions and behaviors. He realized that that played a huge part in it. But on top of that, it’s more rooted in more than just doing drugs that causes people to be abusive. The mental health around it, not being educated, not knowing, not caring, insecurities; all of those things are reasons why people become abusers.

I watch a lot of I.D. Channel, probably too much. But it’s amazing to see how quickly a domestic dispute becomes volatile and in turn becomes deadly.

Kristen Faith: Exactly! I was actually on I.D. My story wasn’t as horrific as the ones you might have saw on there, but I’ve worked with Investigation Discovery. I was honored with an award through their giant conglomerate of an organization as an, “Everyday Hero!” I would love to chime in on your statement. We also work with a lot of families where their love one was killed. And we’re one of the only organizations in the world that created programs specifically for these families that are grieving the loss of these loved ones; whether it be 6-months ago or 6-years ago, or 20-years ago. One of the things I saw as a common theme with all of these women’s stories is, “My daughter tried leaving, and then she was killed.” “My daughter left, and then she was killed.” Like I said in the beginning of our interview, the first 72-hours when someone says, “Hey, I’m done! I’m leaving you.” Now the person who has had all of the control in this relationship, loses their mind. They don’t realize that this is illegal, this is bad, this isn’t something that I should even be thinking about. Some people have premeditated thoughts. A lot of it stems from insecurities or terrible mental health issues. But a lot of these women were killed because they tried leaving.

If you’re being abused, I’m sure there is a thin line when opening up to someone and seeking advice in terms of, this person is giving me great advice because they have my best interest or, this person is trying to ruin my relationship and household.

Kristen Faith: Gosh! That’s a hard one. And the reason why I say that is because, one of the things that I realized in my line of work… I’ve been doing this for 8-years. No one is exempt from being a victim or abuser. So, I try to do my part and help my own family. Trying to break the cycle of abuse that’s been going on for generations. There have been times where I reached out to my own family, friends and I even have one particular friend who was in an unhealthy relationship before and now she’s in another one. It really depends on the person. If you have a strong connection with that friend where you can say, “Hey, I’m really concerned about what’s going on in your situation. I just want you to know that I’m here for you.” I’ve had friends make mention of that, but at the same time, I wasn’t willing to take advice from them because they were in unhealthy relationships. You want to have credibility when trying to approach a friend or family member. If you have had history of unhealthy relationships or you just moved on from relationship to relationship, someone might not wanna listen to you. But if you just kind of plant the seed and say, “Hey, I got your back if you ever need anything, call me.” Just having that level of support is going to encourage someone to reach out. If they are ready to. The only person that can leave that situation is that individual. You can’t really force anyone to leave if they’re not ready.

Given the fact that we are in the technology age, how important is documentation? How important is it to hit that record button, save text messages and DM’s when things start to get out of hand and document the abuse?

Kristen Faith: It’s literally everything. When I was finally ready to press charges against the man who abused me, the court system said, “Write down everything that you endured in the last 3-years,” so I’m pulling my thoughts together, trying to remember dates, times and places and things. I tried my best to do it. However, a lot of people don’t do that. At the end of the day, in my situation, I didn’t get any justice for what happened to me because I waited too long. You can’t just wake up one day and say that you want to press charged on someone. You can’t just go to the police and say, “Help me, the person that abused me did it last week.” They don’t have evidence. I know a guy who recorded fights on her phone, she did voice memos of it in case she ever needed it, she had it. I know people that journaled. But you want to be careful about the things that you do document, because if the person who is abusing you somehow finds it, they are not going to be happy about that.

What are some of the benefits that your organization provides?

Kristen Faith: The things that our organization does is really different than maybe what a domestic violence shelter would offer. We provide scholarships. So, anyone who has been effected or maybe they are a child of domestic violence, maybe they witnessed it growing up, if they are wanting to go back to school or continue their education, we give away scholarships. Next year we will be giving away about $24,000 in scholarships to survivors and their families. We have retreats.

We are actually doing our first all guys retreat. It’s going to be called, “The Guys Retreat!” Guy’s don’t want anything fancier than just plain and simple (laughing). Some local men in our community are putting together a retreat; a one-day program to really just give men a space. One of the things that I’ve learned doing this work is, I see so many women. I’ve helped so many women, and I think that’s great. But men aren’t given an opportunity to share their thoughts and their feelings and their struggles. What if they are just having a bad day? It’s not the same space that women are given, so we want to give then that space, we want to teach them and want to have conversation about how to have healthy relationships. We have a survivor helpline. We also have programs for families if their loved ones are killed; just a lot of healing and recovery, and focusing on trying to break the cycle, so other families and other generations don’t have to continue this problem that so many in our families have faced.

Where can people locate you guys on social media?

Kristen Faith: Any social platform out there, we’re on it. Instagram it’s BTSADV [Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence], find us on Facebook, it’s the same, you can just type in, Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence, we’re on Twitter, @btsadv, the website is, www.breakthesilencedv.org. We also have a YouTube channel. If anyone ever needs help, what I love about our organization is that we have volunteers who are all survivors, all understand the struggle of being in unhealthy relationships, Monday-Sunday… they can call 855-BTS-1777. Contact us or reach out on any one of our socials, we have advocates to answer Monday-Sunday.


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