Friday, September 29, 2017

Former Bahamian Beauty Queen Empowering Domestic Violence Victims in Atlanta

Darlene Higgs-Hollis

By Arthia Nixon

Atlanta, Georgia… Darlene Higgs-Hollis knows firsthand what it is to walk away from physical and emotional abuse from someone she once loved. The mother of three nearly lost her sanity in a bitter custody battle and through prayer and a resurrection of strength and says there were days she thought she would lose everything, even her life.

Now she’s an advocate, author, lifecoach, conference host and the founder of Broken Silence Ministries. She’s also on a quest to show women and girls that it is possible to come back victorious after being a victim.

“You have to force yourself to get out of depression, you have to learn to forgive even if you feel the person is unforgivable,” she says. “You have to look in the mirror and see that you are so much more than a conqueror. How can you come back if you keep allowing the prison of abuse to hold you hostage. It is far from easy and you need someone to help you when you can’t help yourself. Someone stepped in to speak life into me and because of what I went through, I must encourage others to see their potential and to get to the next level of their life, not as victims but as victors. Our story is truly our glory but we have to take up the pen to write it.”

Higgs-Hollis’ is originally from The Bahamas where she recalls being a shy teen who lacked confidence growing up in a large family. When she finally got the courage to put herself on a national platform as a contestant in Miss Teen Bahamas, her faith-focused community condemned her for being vain and lacking modesty by wearing a swimsuit in the contest and she opted out of the finals. Still it gave her the boost she needed to apply herself and launch out into the deep. That newfound bravery led her to focus on tennis a sport she played since the age of 10, representing The Bahamas at the Junior Orange Bowl in Florida. She eventually secured herself a scholarship at Fort Valley State University, ast the number one seed player. That was where she met the man she would eventually marry.

“People change,” she said. “We all do. Sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes it can be for the worse. When that change begins to negatively affect others and you find yourself losing your mind, being put in situations that are unimaginable and in a situation where you are emotionally or physically being harmed, you have to get the strength to leave. You may not have a plan on how to do it put you have to. Once you leave it doesn’t end there. It is a process, it is a journey and those who need to go through it are one set of people. Those who are in a position to help them also need to learn how to deal with such individuals.”

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Higgs has already scheduled a conference in the greater Atlanta area, “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?”

“The conference caters to a balance of mind, body and spirit,” said Higgs-Hollis. “This conference is for the woman who is ready to invest in herself in order to move her life forward, to live, not just exist. To move from adversity to triumph. The goal is to inspire and empower the woman who is either broken, searching for her purpose and/or questioning areas of her life, but is ready for her change. It’s to enlighten and educate a woman who knows she is her sister's keeper, but she's ready to gain more understanding to take her definition of sisterhood to another level. Basically I want to empower women to use what she learned during the conference to go into her community and her tribe and empower other women.”

As with her other events, Hollis-Higgs wants it to be a safe space and an atmosphere for building or rebuilding  sister-sister relationships while reconnecting with true sisters.

​Since launching Broken Silence in 2014, Higgs-Hollis has held other events including a teen girls’ conference and masquerade ball and fashion show. She says it is far from the life she thought she would be living while a child in the Caribbean, and certainly not the place she expected to be during her days of domestic abuse. But, she accepts her role.

​”I became the vehicle in which God would use to birth, coach and restore girls and women, local and abroad,” said Higgs-Hollis. “Women all over are compelled to share their stories to overcome shame and to let other women know that there is still hope and that you must give voice to your pain and speak up for what you want and believe in. The silence must be broken.”