An Adult Survivor on Domestic Violence and Tragedy as a Child and Now
By Crispian Paul, Member of Women for Kansas
In the Wichita Eagle newspaper published on February 26, 1994, there was an article titled, "Dad of Girl Killed in Crash Charged in Death of Wife." It went on to state the "couple had one other child, a 15-year-old girl, who was at home" at the time. That "15-year-old-girl" was me. My name is Crispian Paul, and I am now a 38 year-old woman. In October 1991, my sister Shira was killed along with three other teens in a car accident on their way to school. My parents, who had always struggled with substance abuse and domestic violence, became completely unhinged. The year after Shira died, I awoke to find my father sitting on mother, punching her in the face. I called the police, and both were arrested. Both were injured, but neither was charged in the end.
The night my mom died, she was drunk, and I put her to bed. My dad was out late. Around 11:45 p.m., my dad woke me up, screaming, "I just killed your mom!" but was barely coherent beyond that. I went into their room to find my mother slumped over in the bed with blood oozing out of her skull. When the police began to question me, I looked down to find bits of her brains and skull mingled with blood on my hands. I will never forget that, even though so many other details are lost from that night. The police put me in a criminal questioning room, and I was wearing nothing but a night shirt and a coat while I awaited the news. I remember thinking to myself, "I know I have heard stories where people are shot in the head and live. Surely this will be one of those times.” Around 4 a.m., the police chaplain came and told me the news, and my life has never been "OK" since.
Since that time, I have struggled with intense generalized anxiety, panic attacks, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies, and depression. I went to the University of Kansas and obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in Social Work. I did an internship for SAFEHOME (a domestic violence victim advocacy organization in Johnson County, Kansas) but working full-time in domestic violence work was and is too close for comfort. I worked in child welfare for nearly 11 years, where domestic violence was often an issue. I currently work in hospice care, where we sometimes see this issue as well. My life experiences have increased the compassion, empathy, and kindness I have towards families touched by domestic violence. Moreover, what it has done is instilled in me a strong desire to share my story – over and over again, both privately and publicly, because victims and families are often stigmatized. I have had people ask why I talk about this so openly, and I simply respond, "Because I have nothing to be ashamed of." The takeaway is this: Despite the trauma, I wake up every single day with hope that I can help someone else. You are not your trauma. Your trauma is simply one part of you.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call a domestic violence or sexual assault organization in Kansas near you or contact national resources that are available to you.