"End Abuse. Begin Again." A Special Map in Partnership With AVDA

A Testimony of Finding Freedom From Domestic Abuse


For those of you who are new here, my name is Kimmie and I am a houston local artist. I create abstract maps and I design murals for residential spaces like nurseries, children’s rooms, and home offices. I also service commercial spaces, primarily restaurants and bars. 


This is a true story with the name changed for my protection. If you have experienced domestic abuse, take caution when reading this, you may be triggered. 


I’ve partnered with AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) to create a special map, one with significant meaning to me in an effort to spread hope through my story. My first map was created in 2015, I love how Houston has the inner and outer highway loops but most importantly, Houston is my Saving Grace. When I made my first map, it was strictly for my own eyes to remind myself of what I overcame to get to this wonderful city. 

December marked my 10th anniversary of moving to Houston. I escaped an abusive relationship while I was in college in Ohio. 

My Story

I met James, in high school. I was a senior and he had already graduated and was going to the local community college. Our mutual friend introduced us after the football game between our rival schools playing each other. Boy was James magnetic. It’s how all the stories go, right? Charming, charismatic, intellectual conversation, contagious laugh, incredible energy…. I was dangerously hooked from that first encounter.

We didn’t end up being together though so let’s fast forward to when I was a junior in college. We reconnected because he came back home, he was dishonorably discharged from the army. I mean, if that’s not a red flag of its own…

The attraction was instantaneous and we both were excited we finally had the opportunity to be together. 

***

I sometimes look back at that time in my life in like a slow-motion movie. How it just slowly progressed into something so devastating and toxic, but while I was in the moment, I felt like I had to hang on and prove to the world I could make the relationship work.

***

In a nutshell, I was emotionally, mentally, sexually, and financially abused for nearly one year. He got me completely isolated, telling me my friends and family didn’t love me if they didn’t support us being together, leaving him to be all I had left.

My bank account was depleted, I was his sole source of income yet had no say in how money was spent. (Let me tell you, it was not spent on anything that was needed. Lots of drugs and alcohol.) He lived in my dorm with me because he couldn't afford rent anywhere else since he could not keep a job. I had my own room because I was the Resident Advisor. Yeah, that was a tough one to explain to my residents. 

***

I do want to cut in here and say this is something I love about AVDA. They educate the community to understand abuse is not just physical. It may be very hard to identify a victim because they may not have marks on their body but their insides are in all sorts of chaos.

***

All the while I am trying to maintain a college degree earning a bachelor's in early childhood education. I’m in school full-time, I’m working part-time, and I’m doing my credit hours at elementary schools and daycares. He’s out living the college life you see in movies, wild party nights with no responsibility for class or tuition. 

An important detail of this story is when I was a sophomore in college, life was grand, the world was my oyster, I knew I’d be a teacher that would save America, I had an awesome boyfriend, and involved in all kinds of clubs and extracurriculars. One day, there was a guest speaker that came to one of my education classes who spoke about a student teaching program where rather than doing the block in a nearby school to the campus, you’d go to either some inner city school district called "Aldine" in Houston, TX or you’d go to an English speaking catholic school in Rio de Janeiro. Very different. I just thought, "hmm." And that was that.

Back to the turmoil. Things were getting rough, I was working on 4 hours of sleep per night and in a constant battle with James pleading for things to get better. For him to get a job, stop partying, and understand my needs. It would always end poorly. 

Only 3 months into the abuse (remember this is a nearly one-year-long journey) James raped me. He came back to the dorm belligerent drunk. Calling me all kinds of horrible names, degrading everything about me. All of a sudden, he just switched. Completely changed personas to telling me how much he loves me, needs me, and begging me to have sex with him. I'd say no but he didn’t listen. I couldn’t fight him or get him off me, and to avoid the embarrassment of being an RA and having my residents hear, I stayed quiet. I laid still and waited for it to be over. After being raped in two different horrible ways, he passed out. As I’m lying there, no longer feeling human, laying there like a disgusting used rag, I turned over and went to sleep next to him and I forgave him in the morning. 

But what I did do, before I closed my eyes, I remembered that guest speaker who came and talked about Texas. I promised myself there was something for me there, something better. I was going to get Houston, no matter what it took. 

The abuse continued for 7 more months, I’ll spare you the details. Many details I don't even remember since my brain has blacked them out in order to protect myself.

Come October, now my senior year, it was time to apply for that student teaching program. I held onto this inner secret, it was the last shred of hope I had left. It was an extensive interview process and not many people would be selected. There were about 85 people who applied but they only chose 7 of us, I was one of them.

I found out in November and it gave me all the bravery to finally leave. I could not have done it without the help of some free resources provided by the college. I got a therapist and a lawyer. The lawyer was to help me with the legal trouble James had gotten me involved with. The therapist was to give me the tools I needed to have the courage to officially leave James and successfully move across the country. 

On December 27th, 2012, I packed up a UHaul with my classmate, Megan, who was also accepted and would be my roommate while we student taught in Aldine ISD together in Houston Texas, and I never looked back.

I built a whole new life here!! I fell in love with Houston. My soul was rejuvenated here. My heart was healed here. It’s been 10 years of bliss, the most wonderful humans I’ve ever met are here. 

So it's with sincere love for the city of Houston, I present to you my latest piece titled as AVDA’s mantra, “End Abuse. Begin Again” in purple for domestic violence awareness. What’s special about this piece is that many of the map spaces patterns are created with my hands rather than a brush. Using my fingers or my palms, to demonstrate a part of me being poured out as my story gets told. 

My hope for this piece is to inspire other men and women who are going through their own domestic abuse situations to find the resources needed to reach their own Houston. Their own Saving Grace. 

This piece will be auctioned off at AVDAs spring fundraiser, the New Beginnings Luncheon on May 8th. 100% of the proceeds will be given to AVDA. I have prints available for purchase for $20. Contact Me if you'd like to place an order. These fit into an 8x10 frame, great for offices or small spaces like bathrooms or display shelves. 25% of the proceeds will go to AVDA. These are titled and signed by me.

Thank you all so much for listening to my story. Thank you to Friends of AVDA who were instantly on board with partnering with me and giving me this platform to share. For any of you reading, may you be a light in someone’s life every single day. 

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