I have had access to a microphone for many years. Any message I wanted to convey or issue I desired to discuss, I have had an attentive and available audience willing to hear my words. That is a blessing not afforded most people. Yet if we passed the microphone to most people, most moms, the stories of trials. lessons learned, and victories claimed would echo through the earth. One such story is that of Brooklyn native and Sexy Mom, Tonya Blount. She survived years of abuse to emerge a sought-after speaker and award-winning author. Here is her story.
Denise: While reading your book, The Resurrection of Me: A Spiritual Memoir, your story was so compelling that as the reader, I really wanted to find out what happened next. The writing and the transparency were phenomenal. Tell us about your life and “The Resurrection of Me.”
Tonya: The Resurrection of Me opens up with me giving the readers a glimpse into my childhood. I came from wonderful parents who were gifted in their own right. My dad was an NYPD officer and a renowned artist and my mom worked for the phone company but she was an amazing singer. So creativity is what I was exposed to at a very young age. I developed a love for singing. I played the piano and the violin. My parents kind of pushed me to share my gift with other people.
Denise: As you grew what changed?
Tonya: As a teenager my dad’s sister got executed and he was on beat at the time and he had to be the one to go to the home it happened in. After that, he never was the same again. He became addicted to drugs and our lives changed dramatically.
Denise: But it wasn’t just him addicted.
Tonya: No. Everyone in the house except for my mother became addicted. It was me, my three siblings, my mother, my father and there was extended family. We were very close. And so all of that I had to witness. We went from this wonderful life to being exposed to that sort of abuse and tempers flaring and the house just became a house that I didn’t want to be a part of anymore.
Denise: That was a big change from where you were. I know you admired your father and looked up to him like any daddy’s girl.
Tonya: Yes, yes. I love my dad and it was a disappointment of course. So my thought was I needed to get out of that house…and I did. I became an adult very quickly and I met up with this man that was much older than me and he was addicted when I married him.
Denise: That was one of my, “What?” moments in your book.
Tonya: Yeah. I don’t think most people can wrap their mind around that. People ask me, “What started it?” They don’t really know that dark side. And I don’t blame anyone for it but I know if I did not have all those challenges I would have made better decisions. I always will believe that because [my husband] was older, even though he didn’t look like my dad, he reminded me of him. And so I feel in love with someone that kind of reminded me of my father. Self esteem issues didn’t come until we were married. After we were married that’s all I heard, that I wasn’t good enough for him and I wasn’t good enough for anyone, and I was too light, I was too big, no ones gonna want you with all these children. It was constant drilling into my spirit. He did it so quietly that no one ever knew. My mother knew but no other women or my family ever knew the private pain I was going through. Then the physical abuse began after my third child.
Denise: What does somebody who is at the beginning, where someone is just subtly pouring negative things into them, what do they need to know so it does not escalate to physical violence?
Tonya: A lot of women believe they can change men and that’s not our job. We are not supposed to go into a relationship trying to change the other person and vice versa; a man can’t change a woman. Usually after they have shown themselves, after two or three times, that is who they are…and believe that. I think we get involved too quickly emotionally and a lot of times we women, we have too much baggage going into these relationships thinking this man is going to be our savior and that is not their job.
Denise: When you go out speaking and offer empowering words to women, what words do you say and what wisdom can you give us if we are on the outside looking in seeing a friend or loved one experience domestic violence?
Tonya: I always tell women to not turn your back on the person that is going through it. Don’t get frustrated because it is frustrating watching someone go through abuse because they will make excuses for the abuser all the time. Don’t give a whole lot of judgment. Remain their friend and remain close to them because she is going to reach out to you at some point and need you. What you can’t do is get in the middle of it. You have to continue to pray for them. Give them resources. Give them the National Domestic Violence number (1-800-799-SAFE). You give her that 24 hour hotline and let her know the resources that are available to her; resources I didn’t know or were aware of at the time. Just don’t pass judgment. Listen to her and whenever you get the opportunity let her know that she does not deserve this. This is not love. Love doesn’t hurt.
After a domestic fight that almost claimed her life, Tonya found both her and her husband arrested. Upon her release she realized she could take no more. In her words, “I was just tired.” With a 24-hour window before her husband’s release, she packed up her children and left. Homeless they lived in her car until it was repossessed. For some nine months they stayed in subways and where ever they could find space until she found the strength to stand up straight and take care of her family. Today Tonya Blount is an international domestic violence speaker, advocate, and ordained minister, founder of the Esther Crown Ministries, and award-winning author.