Marica Phipps-Johnson: A Voice for the Silent
Marica Phipps-Johnson, a survivor of domestic violence, transformed her harrowing journey into purpose by founding Battered Not Broken, Inc. This non-profit focuses on education, resources, and empowerment for those trapped in cycles of abuse.
The Turning Point: Two Assaults, One Decision
On December 6, 2013, my life reached a critical moment in time that I could have never anticipated. After being repeatedly strangled, kicked, and punched, by my attacker—twice my size and the father of my child—relentlessly chanted, "You're gonna die tonight b*t@h." I found myself in a life-or-death situation. The assault was so brutal it split my head open from my forehead to the middle of my skull, pushing me closer to the edge of life itself, my body going numb.
Faced with no other option, I made the harrowing choice to flee my home, unclothed in the freezing snow, leaving behind my 7-year-old daughter. Though it shattered me, it was a necessary sacrifice for both our survival. My maternal instincts collided with the urgent need to escape, prompting me to run to a neighbor's house. It was close to midnight when I banged on their door in desperation, fear gnawing at me that he would come after me. Miraculously, the door was unlocked—left that way by the neighbor's son earlier in the evening. Yet, I can't help but feel something more divine was at work that night, ensuring my escape. By God's grace, I survived that night, and my daughter left with residual trauma, was physically unharmed.
December 2013 Assault:
May 2008 Assault:
Five years before that fateful night in December, I had already faced the brutality of the same man. He left me with a subdural hemorrhage after beating and kicking my head multiple times, all while my two young daughters (7 years & and 18 mos) watched in horror. The severe brain trauma not only affected my motor functions, requiring me to relearn basic skills like speaking and walking but also left me with lasting issues that I will likely grapple with for the rest of my life. My mother painfully recalls seeing his shoe print on my forehead in the days that followed. But the physical violence was only the tip of the iceberg. For over seven and a half years, I endured a relentless barrage of emotional and mental abuse fueled by his narcissistic behavior. It was an abuse so insidious that it blurred lines and left me questioning my own reality.
The Illusion of Perfection: A Maze of Emotional Abuse
To the outside world, we looked like the perfect couple. But that facade hid a deeply troubled reality. For nearly eight years, I was emotionally beaten down by his manipulation and harmful words. The constant arguments and emotional assault chipped away at my soul until I was a shadow of my former self. I began to question my worth, as he was always ready to shift blame onto me for anything that went wrong.
His actions—often contradicting his words of love—made me feel like he despised me. I felt trapped, constantly on the defensive against false allegations and twisted interpretations of my intentions. The 'gaslighting' was so severe that I started keeping logs and gathering evidence just to prove my own sanity. He would even try to manipulate my own family against me, using third parties like my mother or our children to validate his wrongdoings. This cycle of blame-shifting, tit-for-tat retaliations, and fluctuating moods became my daily life. His insidious emotional abuse left me doubting my self-worth and even my sanity. It was a labyrinth of emotional and narcissistic tactics designed to make me lose myself—and for a long time, it worked.
The Silent Witness: My Child's Journey Through Our Trauma
My three children were silent witnesses to the dysfunction and abuse, carrying the emotional scars into their young adult lives. Even now, at the ages of 27, 22, and 17, they each suffer from PTSD, grappling with moments that continue to deeply affect them today. The 2008 assault disfigured me so severely that my 18-month-old daughter couldn't recognize me, withdrawing from me in fear. This was heart-wrenching, not just for me but for her as well. My children not only saw my physical injuries but felt the emotional weight of my tears. In my disconnection from myself, I didn't fully grasp how this trauma was affecting them too. If there's one regret I hold deeply—and that still brings tears to my eyes—it's the choice to stay in that toxic environment, subjecting my children to its chaotic emotional landscape.
From the Ashes: A Journey to Rebirth
In the past, I've looked death in the eyes, coming dangerously close to losing myself—both metaphorically and literally—in a relationship that was suffocating my spirit. At the hands of someone who claimed to love me, I faced death more than once. Yet, the haunting truth was that I didn't love myself enough to see that I was dying a little each day. It was during a harrowing near-death experience that I felt a part of me die, making room for a new me to be reborn with a refreshed life and purpose. That dark night in 2013 almost broke me, pushing me so close to the edge that I nearly let go. But something—call it divine intervention or sheer will—pulled me back. Since that fateful night, it's been a winding path of mental and emotional restoration, numerous medical procedures, and legal battles. And through it all, grace has been my anchor, enabling me and my children not just to survive, but to thrive.
Blinded by Illusions: The Trap of Codependency and Narcissism
I had a knack for rationalizing his behavior. It was my vulnerability—wearing it like a badge for everyone to see. I was a single mom with two kids, so having a 'good provider' felt like striking gold. Or so I convinced myself. I yearned for the family portrait—the mom, the dad, the kids. A happily ever after that almost cost me my sanity, my worth, and even my life.
My dad always told me I wasn't so much in love with the man as I was in love with the idea of marriage. He was right. I was chasing a mirage of happiness that I thought everyone else had. Being a pleaser and a fixer, I was easy prey for a narcissist like him, who was a taker and a controller. Our roles were twisted yet strangely complementary. He accused me of being controlling, but he was the puppeteer, pulling the strings to keep me emotionally and mentally bound.
Narcissists have an insatiable hunger for control, akin to an alcoholic's craving for a drink. He knew my weaknesses, and my fears, and exploited them to keep me where he wanted me—trapped in an unhealthy relationship that was doomed from the start.
In my deep-seated need to be loved and my emotional vulnerability, I became the ideal match for a narcissist. My longing for affection and stability blinded me to the red flags that were clearly there. It was a dangerous mix; my yearning for love was like an open invitation for his manipulative tactics. I mistook his attention for genuine affection, not realizing that to him, I was just another opportunity to assert control and feed his ego.
The Illusion of Charm
Charm can be a deceiving veil. I once read a book by Gavin DeBecker that framed charm not as a personality trait, but as a calculated ability. It's an instrument used to compel and control, masking true motives under the guise of allure. Thinking back, had I realized he was 'trying to charm me' rather than simply finding him 'charming,' I might have seen through his actions a lot sooner. Charm is not benign; it's a purposeful strategy that has a motive. It was another trap, another link in the chain that kept me bound to a destructive relationship.
Over the years, I've met hundreds of survivors, and despite our diverse backgrounds and circumstances, one common thread unites us all: each of our abusers was undeniably charming. This shared experience serves as a potent reminder that charm often acts as a veil, concealing the true intentions lurking behind it.
From Pain to Purpose: A Journey of Transformation and Faith
Returning to school to earn a Bachelor of Science in General Psychology wasn't just an academic pursuit for me; it became a critical part of my healing journey. Understanding the psychological aspects of my experiences allowed me to navigate not only my recovery but also helped me comprehend the trauma my children endured. That wisdom now serves as a cornerstone in my work, helping others navigate their crises and find their paths to healing.
I see God's hand in my story, transforming my suffering into a larger purpose. My faith and relationship with God have only intensified through these hardships. The man who tried to break me ended up strengthening me in ways I could have never envisioned.
I won't glorify the choices that almost cost me my life and scarred my family. But nor am I burdened by shame. I see them as necessary steps on my journey to where I am today. The part I played in that painful chapter? I own it, without offering excuses for the man who harmed me.
The true revelation has been recognizing the purpose within that pain. Each challenge I've faced, every hurdle I've overcome, serves to propel me towards a greater destiny. I was lost, but God always had a plan. Battered Not Broken is more than just a platform to share my story and educate others about domestic abuse. It's my testament to the power of transformation, a living proof that our painful experiences are not meaningless—they're lessons that shape us, push us, and ultimately, reveal our purpose.
The Power of Surrender
In the whirlwind of suffering that was 2017, I faced unimaginable losses that took me to my knees. In April, I lost a partner with whom I had shared a deep connection since our teenage years. Only two months later, tragedy struck again when I lost my little brother, Kareem. These heart-wrenching events paralleled the complex emotions I'd felt during times of abuse; once more, I felt helpless, and shattered, and a part of me died anew.
Through this crucible of sorrow, I learned volumes about the nuanced relationship between suffering and surrender. In fact, when someone once asked me to sum up my life and what I've learned in just one word, after a moment's thought, I said: 'Surrender.' That word resonated so deeply with me that I decided to tattoo it on my wrist. Now, whenever I find myself in moments of despair and put my head down in my hands, I look up to see 'Surrender' inked on my skin, serving as a perpetual reminder to let go and trust the process.
A book I later read titled 'Will' by Will Smith, articulated my sentiments in a way that validated my own experiences.
'Surrender transformed from a weakness word to an infinite power concept... Letting go was equally as powerful as grasping. Surrender, to me, no longer meant defeat, it was now an equally powerful tool of manifestation. Losing could be equal to winning in terms of my growth and development.'
This resonated deeply with me, clarifying a phrase that had always confounded me: 'Let go and let God.' I had mistakenly interpreted it as giving up on personal responsibility, but through my journey, it transformed into an empowering philosophy. Surrender became not an act of defeat, but a conscious choice—a tool in my arsenal for personal growth and spiritual evolution. Life's various forms of suffering, whether the loss of loved ones or the scars from abuse, each presented an opportunity for such growth. When I began to see it that way, each challenge, each loss, became a lesson, another rung on the ladder to a higher self.
I won't sugarcoat it—it’s been a grueling journey of 'heart-work' to arrive at the mindset I have today. Surrender isn't just ink on my wrist; it's a guiding principle that's led me through the labyrinth of my life's experiences. The suffering and the losses—of my partner whom I'd known since we were 13 years old years, my little brother, and other loved ones—these aren't chapters I will ever 'get over.' Yet, I've learned that surrender doesn't mean defeat. It's a courageous act of accepting, learning, and then moving forward with newfound wisdom.
Moving forward allows us to inch closer to the blessings that God has in store. For me, one such blessing is the love of an incredible man whom I am honored to call my husband; he embraces my complex yet beautiful life. He's a living testament to answered prayers—a patient and compassionate soul I never thought I'd find after so much loss.
Another blessing is my beautiful little granddaughter, named after me, who arrived at a time in my life when I was struggling to see the road ahead. Her life rejuvenated our entire family at a time when I had surrendered to not knowing God's grand plan. It's worth noting that her father, my son-in-law, who I call my "Son-in-love" has been a quiet but constant support in both our family life and the work we do through the non-profit.
As I continue my journey, I'm grateful for the man who loves me, scars and all, and sees the beauty in our blended family's intricate tapestry. This journey has blessed me with two wonderful bonus children—who I simply call my children, no 'step' needed. Our family is a beautiful blend of love, trust, and unity.
Surrender taught me that life doesn't happen to us; it happens to us. It's this powerful concept of surrender that I choose to carry with me as I pen the ongoing chapters of my life.
The Story Unfolds...
As I stand here, in this moment of my life, I've come to realize my story was never solely about me. My journey—full of heartache, lessons, and unanticipated blessings—has been a tapestry woven through the lives of others as well. Through sharing my vulnerabilities and my triumphs, I've not only been able to see people in their pain but also offer a mirror for them to see themselves anew. My story serves as a testament that life continues beyond our suffering. Yes, we may be battered by life's unpredictable storms, but we are far from broken.
In laying bare my struggles and my moments of surrender, I hope to show that resilience isn't just an abstract concept; it's a lived experience. It's the smiles of my children—both biological and bonus ones—the love of my husband, and the legacy we're creating together. My ongoing story is a living narrative, proving that even when life leaves us feeling battered, we have the inner strength to rise, rebuild, and surrender to the beauty that awaits us.