Schantel Thomas, founder of the awareness group No More Silent Tears, said there are plenty of other options in the Killeen-Fort Hood area.
On Wednesday, representatives from seven local entities — including Killeen Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Blackstone — gathered at the Shilo Inn to discuss the services available to victims in Central Texas. It was all part of Thomas’ effort to start a community movement against domestic violence.
“If you envision the community holding hands in a circle, the victim is in the middle,” said Thomas, a survivor of domestic violence who started the awareness group in 2011.
Victim shares her story
Bethany Hall, of Killeen, discussed her abusive boyfriend. All seemed well at first, she said, but he grew more possessive and demanding of her time, eventually becoming physically abusive.
“My thought was, ‘I’m a strong person. I can handle this,’” Hall said. “But to come from such strength down to nothing — it has taken years to get that strength back.”
Programs that can help
Aware Central Texas provides education about measures to prevent domestic violence, and the Harker Heights Police Department’s Healthy Homes Program seeks to reduce crime by identifying families in need and referring them to resources in the community.
“There is no one agency that can eradicate domestic violence,” said Billy Floyd, manager of the Fort Hood Family Advocacy Program. “We need each other, and the victims need us.”
Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper will sign a proclamation against domestic violence at a later date. He was unable to attend Wednesday’s event due to a family emergency.
Killeen Daily Herald
For nearly 15 years, Schantel Thomas of Fort Hood couldn’t bring herself to think about the domestic abuse in her past.
Then she began writing and singing gospel-style songs about it.
She also began talking to battered women and created a Facebook page, No More Silent Tears, to reach others suffering from abuse.
While those processes helped her out of her depression, the next and perhaps final step in Thomas’ healing will come this week, when her new talk show about domestic violence airs on Austin’s FM 88.1 “The Candle” independent Christian music station.
“It’s starting out as monthly,” she said of the show, also called “No More Silent Tears.” “After we get settled and everything starts taking off, we’ll do it two times a month.”
Thomas has already taped several episodes, which feature interviews with survivors of domestic violence. She’ll introduce her show live, however, said station manager Sherland Priest.
The show’s theme compliments The Candle’s mission to be a ministry, not an industry, he said.
“It’s part of being a friend to the friendless, a father to the fatherless, hope for the hopeless,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there who can’t speak out.”
Thomas, 37, is now happily married, a mother of two teenage daughters, and a budding gospel artist.
But when she was 22, the Oklahoma native almost lost her life to her first boyfriend.
“He had put a gun to my head and told me that everyone always leaves him, and I promised and begged him not to kill me,” she said, “that I wasn’t going to go anywhere, just to get away from him.”
Over the course of their 10-month relationship, there were signs – unwarranted suspicion, a slap, a punch, a threat – that such a moment might come, Thomas said. But they sneakily increased in severity, playing on her naiveté.
The self-described baby of a large and loving family, Thomas was sheltered when it came to relationships.
“You think that there are signs of aggression and overprotectiveness, and you think those are signs of love,” she said. “But those are red flags.”
Thomas was able to talk her boyfriend, a childhood acquaintance, into putting down his gun. When he calmed down, she headed to a friend’s house to hide out.
She also confided in her family, despite her boyfriend’s ongoing threats that he would harm them or her if she told anyone of the abuse.
Those threats proved empty, however, when a few visits from Thomas’ uncles and cousins caused the man to stop contacting her.
She only saw him once again, but by then, she was married to her husband.
“I saw (my abuser) at a church function and I was able to look him in the face and keep walking.”
Later, after she learned her husband would never hit her, she became less anxious but fell into a depression, losing interest even in her motherly duties.
She sought counseling, but never returned after the therapist suggested that her condition might stem from the past abuse.
“I didn’t go back,” she said. “I didn’t want to cry anymore, every session, so I just stopped going.”
Path to healing
Thomas’ path to healing came on her own terms, two years ago, when she began writing songs for new independent gospel CD “Higher.” Many of the lyrics that came to her related to her experiences with abuse, and she suddenly found herself talking publicly about it.
But her most public forum will be “No More Silent Tears,” which is set to air sometime this week.
Thomas hopes that her show will help anyone – man, woman or child – silently suffering from abuse to speak out.
“One of the things the abuser does is keep you isolated,” she said. “So when you’re in a bad situation like that, you feel like you’re alone and you can’t tell people. We lose our voice, who we are.”
For more information on “No More Silent Tears,” including air times, go to Facebook.com/no.moe.silent.tears.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.
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