Upon meeting the beautiful soft-spoken community activist and arts maven, it’s easy to become captivated by her warrior’s heart and spirit. Shirley Marie Johnson is the founder/CEO of Exodus, Inc. and the Shirley Marie Johnson Foundation. Johnson is beautiful inside and out indeed, but as the age old adage goes: ‘don’t let the smooth taste fool you!’ A combination of her life and the lives of others has planted a vested core of inner strength within her being.
She is a survivor of domestic violence (DV) and like many survivors, Shirley has many horror stories to share. This unique woman of God who now celebrates life daily and savors each fiber of it unconditionally stands on a spirit of forgiveness. She uses her gifts, artistic talents and voice to raise awareness and to empower others who may have walked the walk that she once walked. It takes a great deal of courage to harness the energy to fight back with everything within—without using physical force. This victim’s abuser used his fists daily like clockwork, beating her down and lording over her in a planned or sometimes spontaneously abrupt vengeance. All victims of abuse know this routine, but just at whom is this vengeance directed?
Where does the vengeance come from, and of course there’s the timeless question of why?’ There are way too many answers. Ironically, earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit in on a focus style support group that posed some of the same or similar questions. My own personal experience from previous years of the same type sickening DV abuse, and now listening to those women sharing their stories, presented a bevy of answers.
Summing it up, no two answers were the same. There seemed to be one agreement point that stood out when addressing the horrible epidemic of DV: The abuse often starts out mentally and verbally or with a strong combination of both.
Control is the basis of the abuser’s sickness. It isolates their victims by withholding money, emotions, affection for themselves and the children (if there are children). Even worse, the abuser often pits the children against the weakened DV victim and uses them as pawns. Training and education is so important, hence the need for speakers and activists.
The unthinkable abuse that the victim once endured is enough to make the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand up.
The interview with Shirley wasn’t a typical cookie cutter communication process. I was fortunate enough to have corresponded with her through technology, telephone calls, and studying her on point website. Ultimately, we met to break bread and talk.
Her story is compelling and some of the details are so captivating they are almost spellbinding. We laughed, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal, and Shirley shared a portion of her vision and beautiful artwork with me.
The artwork is not only therapeutic, it’s used as a fundraising tool for her organization. The end result is about educating and empowering lives.
October is known as Domestic Violence Month worldwide.
Shirley Marie Johnson does a myriad of honorable and great things for DV victims, their families and the community. Who is Shirley Marie Johnson and why are DV and other key societal issues so important to her? How do her years of hard work and dedication impact and make such a difference to God’s invaluable people?
This esteemed woman has a pure heart. She has literally faced and survived a cornucopia of abuses, homelessness, foster care, sexual assaults, human trafficking, addiction and disorders only to become an award winning author, artist, public speaker and mentor.
Check out her all-inclusive website: www.youareawinnerseries.org.