Speaking out on domestic violence

As a former Mrs. Connecticut and current advocate for battered women, I recently spoke out at a local conference center in Northampton about my past experiences with living in the shadows of domestic violence.

I sadly recalled having to withdraw from the Mrs. USA pageant over 20 years ago due to having been disfigured from chronic bruising, broken bones and even, at one point, only being able to drink and eat with a straw. I remember feeling alone and afraid to tell anyone about this abusive life that I so well hid from the public eye. Even my family were oblivious to this terrible truth.

After many years of struggling to find a way out to a “normal” life, and after the brutal realization that I couldn’t change someone and their actions, I finally was able to move on after a divorce and grow from this experience.

I want to emphasize that the saving grace amongst all of this violence was my three daughters and my profound faith in God. Without these two blessings in my life, I know I wouldn’t be here today.

I am astonished that throughout such turmoil in my family’s past, my daughters still have grown up to be three accomplished women actively pursuing their dreams and aspiring to be more than what I could have ever hoped for. My oldest is actively working to be a nurse practitioner, my middle daughter will be graduating this May with her psychology degree and my youngest is also working to become an advanced practical nurse. I am very proud that my daughters still have great compassion for people, despite what they have been through. I attribute this to their resilience and strength that they have readily learned from me.

I am the founder and ministry leader of the free community meals that take place at the Greenfield Alliance Church once a month. This year will be the fourth year since these meals have been established. I want to emphasize that these meals aren’t about just coming to get free food. I know my calling within the church is to reach out to anyone who needs a friend, who is lonely, homeless or otherwise feels hopeless. My faith in the Lord has saved my life countless times and I trust that God will guide those that need help to me and my church, whether it be due to domestic violence or not. I encourage those who read this to reach out to others and not keep abuse of any kind a secret as I did for many years.

I would like to give a special thanks to Jason Dean of Foster’s Super Market and to all of those within the church who have donated to the community meals for I couldn’t have done it without them or without God’s saving grace.

Linda Johnson lives in Montague.

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