When YWCA Charleston's Resolve Family Abuse Program advocates and staff are in training, they are exposed to a variety of speakers and topics. This training provides them with important skills and knowledge to serve those who turn to Resolve for assistance. When it comes to survivors, Joyce Richmond is a compelling speaker who gives new and experienced participants at the Advocates Academy a reason to sit up and take notice. They are riveted.
"When I met my husband, I knew him from a previous relationship we had. We had mutual friends and we connected right away. For the first six or seven years, everything was really good." She explained.
He started by verbally abusing Joyce and eventually, he became physically abusive. He had an affair. Ultimately, Joyce decided to leave him and began divorce proceedings. He asked her to stay, but Joyce remained absolute.
"After a while, he said he missed us and he wanted to know his granddaughter. My daughter said she didn't want him around the baby if he was drinking and abusive. I felt sorry for him, and he agreed that he'd be sober if we would just come to visit. That was June 5, 2011," said Joyce.
"Once I got there, he started drinking and begging me to come back to him. As I got up to leave, he hit me in the head with a metal pipe. Then, he was punching and choking me, before he threw me into a wall," Joyce remembered.
As the prolonged and violent attack occurred, Joyce was choked into unconsciousness several times before he started throwing stoneware dishes on her head. Eventually, she made it out the door and toward the car, where he followed and continued to punch her. Fearing for her life, Joyce staggered into the road, where a good Samaritan drove her to safety.
"When the officer came to help me, he didn't recognize me, even though I've known him since he was a kid. The officers went in to rescue the baby. They said he was waiting on me to come back and he had a box cutter, ready to kill me. Luckily, the officers were able to rescue the baby, and she only had a small cut on her leg," said Joyce.
Joyce sustained a severe concussion, a crushed larynx, required 28 stitches to close her head wounds, had her finger reattached, and had multiple bruises and cuts as a result of the attack. The baby needed two stitches to close the wound on her leg.
Throughout the investigation by law enforcement, Joyce leaned on her advocate. She began her healing journey and was supported by friends and family. Eventually, the perpetrator was prosecuted for the attack. Because strangulation is a felony, he received a sentence of 3-10 years. Every year, Joyce attended the parole hearings. Ultimately, her abuser fell ill and died in prison.
"Until someone is ready to leave, no amount of coaching or coercion is going to help. It is a very personal decision to leave your abuser. If you can get out with your body in-tact and your children, just go -- because eventually, that violence will transfer onto your children."
"An abuser is everything you need them to be, up until the first abuse. If you go back, it gets progressively worse. He never apologized to me and never admitted to doing anything wrong. My advocate was with me every step of the way. She was my best friend and support throughout the whole process through the court system," said Joyce.
The reason Joyce speaks about her experiences? Joyce explained, "Everyone needs to know the signs of abuse. Women need to hear from someone who has been in a bad relationship. It lets them know they aren't just a statistic. We need to treat every victim as a human being. Women need to hear from someone who has been there, and I've been there."
Joyce helps victims by sharing her story at the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WVCADV) Advocate's Academy. YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program staff participate in many of the excellent programs offered by the WVCADV, so they are up-to-date on topics that help them provide trauma-informed, survivor-centered care and advocacy.
Girls Night Out is truly a party with a purpose. It supports victims of domestic violence in Boone, Clay, and Kanawha Counties. Girls Night Out funds our Resolve Family Abuse Program, which provides vital resources that directly impact victims, such as transportation, safety, and supportive needs for which there is no other funding sources. We could not offer the comprehensive services that are so important to survivors without Girls Night Out.