As I bring to a close the most challenging year of my life, I cannot help but be filled with an overwhelming spirit of gratitude. I am so thankful for your words of encouragement throughout this arduous process, for the countless acts of service to me and my kids, for your support of my events, and for your generous donations.
As I’m writing this, I am in Baltimore and it is 5 am, the morning of my 12th reconstructive surgery, and I have one thing that I must do before I go under the knife again. I must write this blog about my employer and friend, Charles Sperling and the work that he does at STAND, Inc. (Standing to Achieve New Directions). If you care anything about societal ills such as homelessness, HIV, domestic violence, the breakdown of families, substance abuse, or the disproportionate incarceration of our men, please support this non-profit and please tune in to listen to my boss, Mr. Sperling this Sunday morning, June 22th with Sasha the Diva, and again during the Tom Joyner Morning Show next week.
Yes, one of the last things on my mind before going into surgery is highlighting this wonderful man, this incredible organization, and the life changing work that they have been doing in our community for the past 15 years. It was important for me to do this blog before I go into surgery because I really want you all to hear what Charles Sperling has to say in this interview.
I am on leave from my position as a counselor, but I plan to go back to work at STAND because I am as passionate about the work that we do there, as I am about the work that we plan to do at the Christy Sims Foundation, and I also hope to partner with STAND on various domestic violence programs. Everything is personal and meaningful to me, so it is impossible for me to talk about the work and the organization, without first speaking about the man and what he has personally meant to me and my life.
Charles Sperling, Executive Director of STAND, Inc.
I met Mr. Sperling in October of 2012 during an interview for a counseling internship required to satisfy my Master’s program at Mercer University. Prior to meeting Mr. Sperling, I had already researched him and the organization and I was already intrigued with his story and the work that he was doing at STAND, Inc, but it was not until I met him that I truly understood the impact of his work. Like me, Mr. Sperling is a true example of a “wounded healer”, which is a counselor who takes their own pain, and instead of internalizing it, they use it to help others. During his life, he has been directly impacted by several of the societal problems that he has been trying to address with his non-profit. The issue of domestic violence is a strong passion of his because of the death of his beloved niece who was murdered by her boyfriend a few years ago. He was affected yet again by domestic violence when a close cousin killed his partner and then committed suicide.
Mr. Sperling has a heart for helping people, and more specifically for helping those that no one else wants to help, and many that society has discarded. This is actually what I loved most about being a counselor at STAND. As a substance abuse, mental health, and HIV counselor there, I witnessed men who had been given up on by their families, by society, and by themselves; totally transformed and rebuilding their lives because of the love, support, and counseling that they received at STAND. There is no greater feeling than witnessing the positive transformation of another human being; that is what I miss the most about being a counselor at STAND, Inc.
There are many domestic violence programs across the country, but what is most intriguing about this program at STAND is that they only work with the abusers. This may sound strange, but think about it… In order to solve a problem, it makes sense to work with the problem to find the solution. The victim is not the problem, it is the abuser, so if you can divert the behavior of the abuser then you can save countless lives, and mend broken families; and this is exactly the work that Charles Sperling is doing at STAND, Inc. among other things. Mr. Sperling is not only the founder and Executive Director at STAND, he is also my Clinical Counseling Supervisor and an excellent Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse, and Anger Management counselor.
I truly believe that STAND, Inc. will be a great partner with the Christy Sims Foundation because we both have the common goal of solving the problem of domestic violence by implementing programs that prevent or divert the abuse before it occurs. Mr. Sperling is doing this via his Domestic Violence and Anger Management diversion programs for mostly men, and I plan to do it by creating programs to empower women and other victims before the loss of life or injury occurs. My ultimate goal is for no other person to have to endure the pain and suffering that I have had to endure. This is why I founded the Christy Sims Foundation and it is why I support Charles Sperling and the work he is doing at STAND.
Please tune in to Mr. Sperling’s interview this Sunday Morning June 22, 2014 on KISS 104.1 with Sasha the Diva, and again during the week June 23rd-June 27th on the Tom Joyner Morning Show as he speaks about his Domestic Violence and Re-entry Programs at STAND. Please also visit their website to learn more about them and to donate to this worthy non-profit at www.standinc.com
Many have questioned why I have no bitterness towards men, in spite of the damage that has been done to me by a man. The answer to this question is that I have too many examples of good men around me, to let one bad one change my perception of all men. This blog is dedicated to the men in my life who make me want to continue to believe and to love: My father, Thomas Tucker; my children’s father, Machon Sims; my brother, Anthony Tucker, and so many other good men…you know who you are.
To my father:
I Love you for being so humble and gentle, and for allowing me to be free to make my own decisions. You have been there for me when I needed you the most, and your presence in my life these past few challenging years has made all the difference in the world to me. You are so young spirited, and as I have grown into a woman, our relationship has become a friendship that I truly enjoy. You are so funny and cool, and so easy to be around. Dad, thank you for being by my bedside last year, I couldn’t speak or see you, but I knew you were there. I heard you crying, and I felt your presence. I felt so loved by you while in that coma and I am so glad that God allowed me to live so that I can be an even better daughter to you. I know how heartbroken you are over what happened to me, your baby girl, but I will be okay because God is with me, and He is with you. I hope that you are proud of me, because I am so proud to be your daughter.
To the father of my children:
Thank you for being such an incredible man, I felt you holding my hand every day while in that coma, and I heard you praying, and keeping me posted on the kids. You have always been not just a great provider for our children, but you have been present, active, and involved in every aspect of their lives. You are balanced in the way that you father our children, and I love the examples that you are setting for them every day. We have owned homes together, run businesses together, raised children together, and buried an angel together. You continuing to be a great father to our children after six years of divorce was not a surprise to me because I would expect nothing less from you. But, you being such a good friend to me and continuing to go over and beyond what any man would be expected to do for his ex-wife, is awe inspiring. I am overwhelmed at times at what a good man you are. This past year has been the most challenging year of my life, and there is no way that I would have survived it without you. Knowing that you were caring for and nurturing our children has allowed me to have peace and heal. Marrying you and raising children with you was the most important thing that I have done in my life, and I am so grateful. Thank you for being my friend, my daddy at times, my counselor, and most importantly…thank you for being such an amazing father to our children. I want you to be happy, to be free, and to find love again. You are my family and you always will be…I love you and I appreciate you. Thank you so much for loving me all these years…
To my big brother,
You have been loving me and protecting me my entire life. You are gracious, loving, and extremely kind. Big brother, I have been walking four steps behind you my entire life and I was so proud to follow in your footsteps. I love you for standing in the gap for dad when needed, and being a brother and a father to me. I love you because you are hardworking and driven to succeed. I love you for being courageous and resilient in spite of the odds that were against us. I love you for showing me the way out of our environment; education saved us both. I love you for being just as vulnerable as you are strong. I love you for the respect that you show our mother, you are an amazing son. I love you for being that person that I can always count on, you have never let me down. I love you because you are passionate about your children, I get joy from watching you with them. You are the best big brother in the entire world, I could not have asked for better. Thank you for being here for me during the most horrific time in my life, you have been my rock and my best friend. I love you so much, Quinn, and I am so proud to call you my brother.
A Special thanks to the other good men that I know:
Thank you all for helping my heart to mend by showing me daily examples of what a man and a father should be. Because of my wonderful male friends, I have decided to allow my tragedy to make me better and not bitter. Your words of encouragement, donations, and the lending of your resources has made me feel loved and safe during the most horrific time of my life. I love you all for being such good friends to me, and for being such great men.
A special thanks to: Charles Sperling, Odis Williams, Joseph David Smith, Stanley Nelson, Dr. Benjamin Stong, Dr. Robert Spence, CP, Monroe, Warren Mitchell, Jejuan Hall, Bustrum Perterson, Walter Jordan, Ralph Long III, Trevor Roseberry, Dexter Rhymes, Robert Rhymes, Jasper Cain, Keith Gulley, Marc Michael, Clint Browning, Marques Neal, Corey Allen, Niqua Jones, Ronald Sims, Marlon Nichols, Allan Rock, Dante Charles, Frank Thornton, Homer McEwen, Kevin Ware, Maceo Heard Jr., and several others. I have not spoken to most of you, but I know you are there, supporting me through your efforts and donations. All of you make me proud to know you because you are great fathers to your children. You let me know that it is still safe to be a woman in this world because you have shown me so much love and concern.
Happy Father’s Day, with all my love,
This blog is based on my personal experience and not my professional experience as a counselor. My purpose in sharing something so intimate is to save lives by creating awareness and letting people know that domestic violence can happen to anyone, including a well educated, strong minded, socially connected, family oriented, and trained counselor like me. I am Christy Sims, a mother, a professional counselor, a realtor, and a survivor. What happened to me can best be termed separation violence because the violence happened likely due to the ending of the relationship. Actually, 75% of all calls to law enforcement happen after a person has decided to leave an abusive relationship, so it is important to seek guidance and plan carefully once you have decided to leave. I was not in what I and most think is the typical cycle of physical abuse, so I did not feel that I was in danger for my life. I was wrong.
I met my abuser before I was a mental health counselor, I had already become attached to him prior to even studying human behavior, and in the beginning he was extremely charming, romantic, and charismatic. It was not until I started working on my Master’s and began interning at a male substance abuse treatment center did I began to see the signs of abuse, and even then I dismissed them initially because he masked them so well, and I was already attached to him. All of the signs in the list below did not apply to me. The most prevalent were extreme jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, controlling behavior, isolation, quick involvement, mood swings, and passive put downs. Oh, and the last two straws for me were him making comments about what I wore to work, and showing up at my job. I kept my professional and personal life very separate because I was a counselor and my work was confidential, and his breaking that boundary line was all that I could take. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but I probably should have ended the relationship immediately and cut all ties, instead of just backing away. But, I had broken up with him several times before and it never went smoothly, he would always charm his way back into my life. Also, I cared about him and his feelings and I felt that I had to handle him delicately. My plan was to end the relationship in the kindest and most gracious way possible…but he never gave me a chance.
The Types of Abuse and the Warning Signs
The following is a list of warning signs for potentially abusive relationships. They are presented as guidelines and cues to pay attention to, not as judgments on the worth of the other person.
Question relationships with partners who:
- Abuse alcohol or other drugs.
- Have a history of trouble with the law, get into fights, or break and destroy property.
- Don’t work or go to school.
- Blame you for how they treat you, or for anything bad that happens.
- Abuse siblings, other family members, children or pets.
- Put down people, including your family and friends, or call them names.
- Are always angry at someone or something.
- Try to isolate you and control whom you see or where you go.
- Nag you or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to be.
- Cheat on you or have lots of partners.
- Checking your cell phone and email without permission
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Controlling behavior
- Are physically rough with you (push, shove, pull, yank, squeeze, restrain).
- Take your money or take advantage of you in other ways.
- Accuse you of flirting or “coming on” to others or accuse you of cheating on them.
- Don’t listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings.. .things always have to be done their way.
- Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you.
- Lie to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days.
- Make vulgar comments about others in your presence
- Blame all arguments and problems on you.
- Tell you how to dress or act.
- Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them, or tell you that they cannot live without you.
- Experience extreme mood swings. . .tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute.
- Tell you to shut up or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, fat, or call you some other name (directly or indirectly).
- Compare you to former partners.
Some other cues that might indicate an abusive relationship might include:
- You feel afraid to break up with them.
- You feel tied down, feel like you have to check-in.
- You feel afraid to make decisions or bring up certain subjects so that the other person won’t get mad.
- You tell yourself that if you just try harder and love your partner enough that everything will be just fine.
- You find yourself crying a lot, being depressed or unhappy.
- You find yourself worrying and obsessing about how to please your partner and keep them happy.
- You find the physical or emotional abuse getting worse over time.
Adapted from the Domestic Abuse Project (http://www.domesticabuseproject.org)
As we know better, we do better.
Spring has always been my favorite time of the year because it is the season of new beginnings, the season when the flowers bloom, when we awaken from the hibernation of winter and shed our heavy coats. It is the season for my favorite things, like flip flops and sundresses, baseball games and ice cream, and long sunny days ended by lovely sunsets. It is the season of warmth, beauty and renewal. This spring is especially important for me, because my last spring was cut short by tragedy, and it was expected that I would not live to see another spring…but I’m still here. I lived, in spite of the odds against me, and I am so grateful. Life is so much more precious to me now, my relationships are richer and deeper, my level of spirituality has been enhanced, and my level of compassion and empathy for others has increased as a result of my tragedy.
I awakened from a two-month coma last June with a resolve to not only live, but to thrive, and not only to rebuild my life, but to help other survivors of domestic violence rebuild their lives as well. The Christy Sims Foundation is a 501c3 (pending approval) non-profit organization which was founded this year to assist me in raising funds for my extensive reconstruction process, and to aid in the sustaining and rebuilding of my life. Our ultimate vision is to become Georgia’s most renowned foundation in support of domestic violence victims, serving as the state’s primary resource for recovery by issuing grants to individuals as well as other worthy organizations that support our mission. Our goal is not only to assist survivors after their abuse, but to empower them in ways that will prevent them from becoming victims of abuse. My personal goal is to be able to use my personal experience and my counseling knowledge to educate and empower others.
Our mission is to educate the community, increase awareness, and raise funds to support survivors of domestic violence and their children, providing resources to help them rebuild their lives and support for their journeys to recovery. Your financial support, your resources and your time will help us achieve our mission and see our vision become a success. Financial donations are tax deductible (pending 501c3 approval), and any amount is appreciated. No donation is too small. Please go to our donate page on www.christysims.org.
My journey to recovery is just beginning and I will require many more reconstructive surgeries that are necessary to rebuild my face, and these surgeries are my only hope of regaining a normal life for me and my two children. I am so grateful for the donations that we have received thus far, and I am truly overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people, but I have a long way to go in my recovery process, and I still need your help. I will require at least an additional $400,000 in burn reconstruction surgeries over the next two years. My hope is that we will raise enough money to complete my surgery process, and then we can go about the business of helping other survivors of domestic violence. I am keenly aware that my suffering was not just meant for me, and I am determined to not let my personal suffering be in vain. I am determined to rebuild my life, so that I can assist others in rebuilding theirs.
We appreciate any form of assistance, and if you are unable to make a financial donation at this time, we would also appreciate a donation of your time or resources. We have a formal application process for our volunteers to ensure that we utilize your unique set of knowledge, skills, and experience. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
The launch of the Christy Sims Foundation has been a pivotal part of my healing. My hope is to heal myself by helping others. I am so excited about what we have planned for this organization; we have an incredible team of passionate and professional people, all with hearts for helping others. I am so grateful to my team, which includes: co-founder, Anthony Tucker, Attorney, Odis Williams, Board Chair, Maggie Kempken, CSF board members: Dr. Benjamin Stong, Charles Sperling, Dr. Cherry Collier, Walter Jordan, Inger Jackson Garnett, LaNese Harris, Ralph Long III, and our board advisor, Dr. Quinn Gentry. Our other team members are, Joseph Smith, Jonell Myers, and Laci Texter, who is our social media specialist. We are especially grateful to our website design team, Mike DePadro and Leigh Lambert at Findlocal Company.
My life has been forever changed, I will never have the look or the life that I had prior to April 28, 2013. However, I am slowly realizing and accepting that maybe that is the point of it all…to be forever changed, and as a result of my tragedy and my drastic change; to promote a drastic change in our society. I am so excited about the possibilities, and so grateful for getting a second chance at life. Thank you for being on this journey with me and for your continuous support. Please visit my blog often, and stay engaged with my media sites on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. You can access all of them via the christysims.org home page.
As I go into this new and unfamiliar phase of my life, I am filled with love, excitement, and hope. Yes, I made it to another spring!