Valerie Williams knows first-hand just how much love can literally hurt. The victim of domestic violence, she was shot in the head by her ex-husband who would later have a reduced sentence and is now out of jail. To heal, she wrote a book and now how an organization that warns teen girls of the dangers of violence in dating. Her goal is to have them get out before it’s too late.
Now she’s sharing her story internationally for the first-time, partnering with Denise Major to impact teens in The Bahamas with the Love Smart tour and seminars. Major is a women’s and youth advocate and CEO of The Empowerment Group as well as the Executive Director of the Bahamas Sexual Health and Rights Association under the Department of Family Planning.
“The timing is right,” said Major. “There have been a few domestic violence cases in The Bahamas this year where women were found brutally killed and other cases where children were witness to these horrendous events. Here, there are so many variables for women because the country doesn’t recognize marital rape and formally, gender equality is not recognized. There are situations where some young girls find themselves in situations where they think domestic violence, physically and mentally is normal and so they expect it. With this tour, we hope to bring light to the situation by showing them just how violent it can get with Valerie’s incredible story of survival.”
So far, the tour is scheduled for Government, C. C. Sweeting, Doris Johnson and Anatol Rodgers High Schools. The duo is also slated to speak to church groups including Bahamas Faith Ministries and the KINAS Conference hosted by Kingdom Discipleship Church. The tour takes place November 9 to 11.
“Our young people are involved in unhealthy relationships,” said Major. “They are involved in relationships where hitting each other is normal. They are calling each other degrading names and posting inappropriate photos online. They are forcing each other to engage in unwanted and unlawful sexual acts and if one party decides to leave stalking and threats of harm ensue. The ultimate goal is to stop dating violence before it starts but in situations where it is already happening we want to provide them with tools needed to recognize the signs and get help. The time is now while they are young to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of dating violence. This is an ideal time to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of dating violence that often last into adulthood.”
Williams agrees and said she is looking forward to sharing her story. She added that she is humbled to be venturing outside of the United States for the first time to tackle the topic.
“Domestic violence awareness month is in October but it goes on year-round,” she said. “To be effective in the message, we need to take it beyond the month that everyone talks about it so that we can really remind that that it doesn’t end after one month. To know that I am speaking abroad is a blessing but also a reminder that domestic violence is not isolated to one country, one city, one relationship. I am really hoping to leave a lasting impact to let them know how valuable they are and how precious the gift of life is.”