Interview

PYNK Survivor: Tamara Charles on Putting Domestic Violence Behind and Moving Forward Living with MS

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It’s always important to self-love, and as women; October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but also, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month is no different than every other accept that we are bringing awareness to women especially, but also the men that may have been effected or infected; this violence or sickness needs to be seized and first it starts with taking care of yourself and loving on you, if no one else does. You’ve got to be alright with you, and some men and women are still suffering and dealing with Domestic Violence or cancer; both are an illness. You can survive.

Tamara Charles did so, although, hers thankfully wasn’t cancer, it was a sickness.  She battled three Domestic Violence relationships and dealt with being sexually assaulted as adolescence. She didn’t feel love and she searched for love in all the wrong places, until she prayed and realized she had to love TAMARA. She wrote a book titled, “Unbroken, Still I Smile,” and we had the opportunity to discuss it. We talked about the very beginning, her relationship with herself, her children, and her parents now to her current daily battle with MS (Muscular Sclerosis). I hope this touches you like it touched me, and inspire the uninspired.

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PYNK: Well, I know that you often ask yourself, who is Tamara? At the beginning of the book you stated that. Well, who is Tamara, I ask? 

Tamara Charles: Yes, I have found who Tamara is. It took me 39 years to figure out who I was because, I was this lost little girl, teenage girl, young adult and it took me 39 years to realize who I was and to find myself all over again; and to be able to love me all over again. It was just sad that it took three domestic violence relationships and a sexual assault and I am now living as a multiple sclerosis warrior, to find myself, I’m just glad and able that I’m still here and able to share my story. To know who the person that I was lost all these years, I was able to find myself and love myself all over again. I’m glad to be here and to share my story and to be that voice to the voiceless who are not able to speak out because, either they are ashamed, or they scared, or they just not ready.

It took me 39 years to speak about it and I’m just glad that even though it took me 39 years, I’m glad you did. I’m doing it now instead of another 39 years. God willing he gave me those 39 years. I just love the woman that I have become. I just love how I’m able to inspire young women and even young adults, teenagers, older women. My story touches everyone and I’m just blessed that it’s able to touch everybody.

PYNK: We’re glad you’re here, too, to tell your story.  Do you ever believe that not having that consistent relationship with your parents throughout your younger years had a lot to do with the domestic abuse that you encountered later in life?

Tamara: I think what had happened was, when I was sexually assaulted at the age of six years old, I remember back home in my country in Haiti, I was about five probably turning six. I remember I was always daddy’s little girl. I remember my dad took me to school. He would take a taxi or a cab to bring me to school. I would remember; he would never let me sit next to anybody. He was that protective father. He wouldn’t have let anybody touch me, his little girl. He’ll let you sit on his lap but he didn’t want anybody to touch me. I remember they came to the US before we did; my sisters and brothers did that. They worked for about a year. While we were in Haiti that was happening to me for the whole year I was six years old. I remember the pain.

I remember how painful it was to have a grown ass man sexually assaulting me like that. Even until now can still hear his voice as that little girl, him saying to me, “Don’t say anything to nobody.” I can visualize when I would be in the house; he would pick us up from school because he was a friend of the family helping out with me and my brothers and sisters. I can still see him, until this day telling my little brothers and sisters to go outside and he picking me up from school and he would make me sit on his lap because, I would have a skirt because I went to Catholic school. We had those skirt uniforms. I remember him just having me sit on his lap and pulling his … I can just see all that. When I came to the US and my parents, my dad, was still trying to be that protective father and I was that rebellious child toward my family.

I hated my parents. I hated my parents for not being there for me. I didn’t want anything to do with my parents. I literally fought to myself to be taken away from my parents’ home and put in a foster care because I just didn’t want to live with my parents anymore but they never knew why I was so angry and so mad and so bitter until it took me 39 years for me to say it. I have the best relationship with my dad and my parents, now. Throughout my years it was up-and-down but now I can honestly say I have peace in my life. I forgive them. I can move forward and have a better relationship with them and now.

PYNK:  How was that healing process for you?

Tamara: I had to put God back in my life. I had to realize I was being drawn to men just who weren’t good for me because, I was that lost little girl and that lost young adult. I was attracting the wrong type of men and I was dealing with the wrong type of men until my last abuser almost strangled me to death. Two months, exactly, after that was my last incident. I woke up one Saturday morning; I was blind out of my right eye. I remember screaming after my daughter to take me outside on my porch so I can see. I still wouldn’t be able to see out of my right eye. They called the ambulance that brought me to the nearest hospital, from one hospital to another hospital back in Boston. From there, they knew exactly what it was.

As soon as I got there, they asked of me, does anybody in my family have any MS, multiple sclerosis. I said, “No.” I remember calling my mom and my dad to figure out does anybody in my family have it from grandmother, great grandmother. Nobody has it but I had to confirm that with my parents because what I knew in my heart, I knew the reason why I was diagnosed with MS is because I was in an abusive relationship. This man used to just bang my head on the hardwood floors. Bang my head on our back room floor. MS, it’s in my brain. All I can picture and see is him banging my head all the time. When I explained to the doctor nobody in my family has it, he said, “It may not be in your family but it could be environmental. It could be stress that brought the sickness out of you.”
I already knew that’s what it was. It was just confirmed by a licensed doctor; that made me want to change my life around. I think it was God saying if MS is not going to wake you up to leave this relationship, this unhealthy relationship, then I don’t know what else is going to wake you up. It took me to be diagnosed with MS to change my life around, to want to do better. From there, I started praying to God for the rest of my life. Everything I do, I asked God for guidance, for leadership. I asked him to lead the way. I asked him to give me peace in my life, to make me a better person, to allow me to forget. I mean, not forget, I mean I have to forgive. Without me forgiving, I couldn’t move on. I was able to do that.

PYNK:  Speaking on the relationships that you had been in, three of them, what were some of the red flags or the warning signs? Do you now, that you look back and say  “Wow, I saw that all along?” 

Tamara: The first time, I was probably … I was a teenager. I was 14. I was in high school. He would tell me I can’t hang with my friends. I’m 14. I’m still a little kid. He would tell me I can’t hang with my friends. I was with him, I don’t know, from high school up to I was, I believe ninth or 10th grade until I had my children with him. He was just there. He didn’t want me to hang with certain friends; just wanted to control my life. I’m still young. I want to go outside with my girlfriends. I wanted to go sleep over and he didn’t like that. I’m like … Those are the times I look back with that first relationship. I was young. When you’re young, you don’t see things as you would see them now. The second one, it got me to … It was because, like I said it, I was looking to be loved.

I was looking for love. I just looked for love in all the wrong places and it took three domestic violence relationships that I looked for love and that was very unhealthy for me. It goes back to my parents, even though I’m not saying they didn’t love me. I believe my parents loved me dearly from birth but back in my country, parents don’t say, “I love you,” all the time. With everything that happened to me at six years old, I was looking for that love. I was looking for my dad to say I love you. I was looking for that hug. I was looking for my mom to hug me. I was looking for my father to be like, “You’re not here. I don’t want you to sit; you know what I’m saying, next to nobody.” I looked for that but I looked for it in all the wrong places and I ended up being, I was just so immune to it; to the point that it took, almost, my life. I realized that was the wrong choice that I made in my life. I’m just happy that I was able to get out before it was too late, and God gave me a second chance to make the right decisions and not go back.

PYNK: How would you describe that period in your life in one word?

Tamara: LOST!  I was lost. I was very lost. I was very lost. I was just; I was living in darkness. At one point, I didn’t want to live. I tried to take my life. I tried to take my life at 12 years old and I was committed to a mental institute for evaluation for 14 days. I didn’t want to live anymore. I was that lost child. I was very lost.

PYNK: Now that you’ve overcome it all and you have that relationship with your parents again and you’re so much better than you were yesterday, what advice after survivorship would you give another woman or child that may be lost?

Tamara: I would tell them to speak out. I would tell them to let their parents, somebody, know what they’re going through because that was what the thing with me was I didn’t know how to speak out. Back then, I didn’t have the resources, the network, to be able to know how to speak up. I would tell parents a child may be going through that rebellious stage. There’s a reason why they’re acting out. You just got to keep pushing to find out why is the child acting that way. I believe, like my parents, I feel bad about my parents. They gave up on me. They had given up on me to the point when I was being taken from their home; they felt like I needed to go through what I went through for me to change. Did it make me change; yeah, because I missed my sisters and brothers at the time.

I’m sorry. They remember I used to just wonder if my sisters and brothers, if they missed me. I wouldn’t want to know kids to go through what I went through because it wasn’t a good feeling. Or any pain because that pain it’s not a good pain. If you’re a child and you’re lost, try to get comfort. I would tell them, speak out, and open up. As a parent, I talk to my kids. I have children myself. I taught them. I make it my business to open that open relationship where they can feel comfortable to talk to me. I tell them I love them all the time. Everything I was looking for in my parents, I do it with my children. My parents would say I love you. I hug my kids. Before I go to bed, I say I love you to my children. I have two oldest lines, they are in school in Boston but I picked up the phone and say I love you or text message.

My son will not even leave the house without saying, “I love you, mommy.” If I’m sleeping and he’s going to school, he’ll wake me up to let me know that he loves me because I want to feel that relation. I want my son to know that he’s loved. I want my daughter to know she is loved so where she doesn’t feel like she has to go look for love in guys, these young little boys. These are all the things I didn’t have I give to my children.

PYNK: As women that maybe in or enduring that relationship, that abusive relationship or domestic violence, what would you say to them?

Tamara: I would tell them you need to learn how to love yourself, first. You have to love yourself. You have to love the person you are. If you don’t love the person you are, just look at yourself in the mirror and say I love me, I love the woman that I’m looking through in a mirror. Even to this day, I still say to myself I love me. If you don’t love yourself, no man can love you more than you can love yourself. It takes self-love, first. I just want to let these women now love is not supposed to hurt. It’s not supposed to hurt. Any man who can put their hands on you the first time, they’ll do it a second, a third, and a fourth and it will just continue. I want to be that living proof to women that domestic doesn’t just include mental, physical, or emotionally.
It will bring sickness out of you that you would never imagine you would have. I look at myself, thank God today, I’m still walking, and that I’m not in a wheelchair. The long term with multiple sclerosis, I can be walking with a cane tomorrow or and a wheelchair. I thank God every day that I’m able to still function. People, when they look at me, they don’t believe that I have multiple sclerosis. They don’t know, even though I look fine on the outside but on the inside, I’m going through it. I don’t share my pain and stuff but I go through it. I have muscular pain. This time I couldn’t even get up on my back and put my feet flat on the floor because, I don’t feel underneath on the bottom of my feet. There are a lot of things that come with multiple sclerosis.

I wouldn’t want anybody to go through what I have gone through this is why I am a voice to the voiceless. Because women think it takes some men to put their hands on you. No, that’s not all that comes with domestic. A lot of things come with domestic violence. You just got to love yourself first. You got to put yourself first. If you have children, you need to say, “I want to live for my kids.” I remember I had a bad relationship with my oldest daughter because she was … I didn’t see that but I see now, this is why she was like she didn’t want to listen to me at one point. She didn’t care. She didn’t respect me as her mother because I didn’t respect myself enough to leave that abusive relationship so how can my daughter respect me if they see their mom, you know what I’m saying, accepting the fact that she was getting abused.

My daughter, she’s not going to respect me. Now we have the best relationship because she sees I turned all the negativity into something positive. She loves who I am. She loves the woman I have become. She loves what I stand for today. I want to be the role model to all my children. Not just my daughters but to my sons.

PYNK: If you had to write a letter to your younger self or if you had to speak to that six-year-old girl, now, if you could look at her, what would you say?

Tamara: I think I would hug her. I would hug her and I would tell her we made it. I would tell her we’re still here. I would tell her I got her. I would tell her this would never happen again. I would just hold her tight and let her know that she was safe, basically.

 

PYNK: I don’t think you will stop.

Tamara: I don’t plan on it. I’ve gone through so much to be here for me to give up now, to stop now. This is God’s purpose for me and I know tomorrow, I know where I will be tomorrow and I know I’m going to get there.

Photo Credit(s): Tamara Charles’s IG and Twitter

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