Marica Phipps-Johnson, Founder, and CEO of Battered Not Broken, Inc., shares her story of the pain and challenges of living through domestic violence; in the gritty and raw pain, she discovered purpose and meaning. That pain became the birthplace of something beautiful, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, she named Battered Not Broken. It would later become the platform she would use to empower and provide crisis support for victims and survivors that had been (or are still) in her shoes. Equally as important, it would become a valuable prevention tool, used to educate (especially youth) with the skills and tactics to avoid becoming a victim or perpetrator of interpersonal violence.
Her Story ….
“December 6, 2013, I was forced to flee from my home (unclothed) in the snow, with no choice but to leave my 7 yr. old daughter alone in the house; after being beaten unmercifully, by a monster, her father. As a mother, that was the worst decision in the world to make, but my survival instinct overpowered my maternal one…it was my only choice.
That night, I was repeatedly beaten, strangled, and kicked like an animal from head to toe by a man twice my size. I endured blunt force trauma that split my head open from my forehead to the middle of my skull and strangled to the point I felt my body going numb and coming closer to being strangled...to death. The entire time he beat me, he kept chanting the words "you're gonna die tonight b*t@h",…and let me tell you, he tried! It's only by God's grace he was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, that was not the first time I felt the blow of his closed fist and the force of his strength.”
December 2013 Assault:
May 2008 Assault:
Five years prior, Marica endured a subdural hemorrhage from her same abuser beating and kicking her in the head multiple times; leaving her unconscious (while her two little girls watched). The physical abuse was only a small part that Marica endured, compared to the 7 ½ years of mental and emotional abuse from his narcissistic behavior.
Marica endured severe brain trauma (subdural hemorrhage) in which she later had to regain some of her motor functions (speaking and walking normally) again. Marica’s mother, painfully recalls seeing his shoe print on her forehead in the days that followed and as Marica healed.
Behind Closed Doors
“On the outside, we looked perfect, but behind the image, there was so much more hidden. For nearly eight years, I had been beaten emotionally by his words and manipulation. I came to fear the arguments and ’emotional beatings’ that were nicking away at my soul, until so much of who I was, was gone and buried under all of his behavior. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. He told me that he loved me, but deep down I felt he really hated or resented me because his actions spoke it! My self-worth was damaged because in his eyes, I could never do anything right & he always found a way to make it my fault…and I began to believe him.
I was always on the defense, always defending myself against him twisting my intentions or his allegations. The ‘gaslighting’ I experienced was unimaginable! I felt like was going insane, I got to the point where I had to start keeping a log of things that I would tell him and have evidence ready; because he would always say I didn’t tell him or ask him something… when I knew that I did! Later, I learned that was part of his plan...to make me doubt myself. The silent treatment, trying to use a third-party (usually my mother or my kids) to validate his actions and make me look like I was the problem, the rejection, tit-for-tat retaliation's, always shifting the blame, and his up and down dark moods...were only a few of the emotional-narcissistic behaviors I experienced during our relationship.”
“My three children, sadly, suffered alongside me through all the dysfunction, fights, yelling, screaming, and tears. Two of my three children witnessed the physical abuse, and they will have the sights and sounds etched into their memories forever. They are now young adults and are still affected by it. The 2008 assault, left my face so extremely disfigured, that my 18 month- old daughter (at the time) wouldn’t come to me for weeks..because she was not able to recognize me (and my sight scared her). Looking back then and now, it literally broke my heart as a mother…to be rejected by my baby girl. I was a victim, but so were they…they lived through it with me and saw the aftermath of the abuse through my tears and injuries. I was so disconnected from myself, that I never even seen how the trauma was affecting my children. If I have one regret, in my life, it would be the selfish choice I made to remain in the dysfunctional relationship and allow my children to endure the trauma alongside me. To constantly keep them confused and anxious regarding what was going to happen next in my relationship, still brings tears to my eyes.”
Death & Rebirth
I have looked death in the face more than once, at the hands of someone that was supposed to love me. Yet, the saddening truth is I did not love myself enough to consciously see that I was dying a little every day.
It was through the last near-death experience, that I realized a part of me actually did die that night, and a “new me” was resurrected /reborn with a new life and purpose. I have learned that sometimes a part of us has to die, in order for a new way of living can be birthed in our spirit. That dark night in 2013, I felt so close to death and was in so much pain and exhausted from trying to get him off of me...that I almost let go- but God kept me, he heard my cries and answered them. It’s been a long journey of mental and emotional restoration, medical procedures- multiple plastic surgeries, court hearings, etc.; but God’s grace & mercy has kept my children and me surviving and thriving through it all.”
“I made countless rationalizations for all of his behavior…because I wanted our relationship to work. I wore my vulnerabilities on my sleeve. I wanted what I thought everyone else had. He was a piss poor excuse as a partner, but he was a good provider/father (at least that’s what I told myself). As a single mom with two other children, that was golden! I wanted to raise the child that we shared (my youngest), with him. I longed to be married and have a household like the one I was raised in; with a mom and dad.
My dad used to tell me that he didn’t think I really wanted to be married to..but that I was just in love with the IDEA of being married. Looking back, my dad was correct. I wanted the happiness I (thought) everyone else had... and I almost sacrificed my sanity, my worth, and nearly my life, to obtain that image.
Being co-dependent (pleaser/fixer) made me a target for him, a narcissist (taker/controller). Had I been in touch with who I was at my core, my boundaries would never have allowed it and I would have seen right through his charm in the beginning. I wanted to “fix” and please him and he wanted to control me (despite him always accusing me of being the controlling partner).
A narcissist is the mental equivalent of an alcoholic…they have a drive and insatiable appetite for power, control, and manipulation and will do anything to obtain it. He preyed on my vulnerabilities and my weakness and kept me right where he wanted mentally and emotionally. This was an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship disaster that was doomed from the beginning.”
“When a person shows us who they are, we must believe them! We must stop being so quick to rationalize away the red flags because when we do that, we miss the message that our instincts and our higher power are trying to send us. - Marica Phipps
Pain & Purpose
"My circumstances inspired me to learn more about the reasoning behind the choices we make; therefore, I went back to school and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in General Psychology. This knowledge has not only helped me to better understand myself through the recovery process but also understand my children’s trauma. This knowledge has and continues to be a vital resource as I support other victims and their families through crisis and healing
Through the trauma and trials, I believe God gave my pain a purpose! I am a living testimony of how God’s grace and mercy will always prevail over any evil that tries to penetrate it. My abuser tried to break me, emotionally and physically so that I would not be any good to anyone; the irony is it made me stronger than I ever imagined! It has deepened my faith and my relationship with God.
I am not proud of my past choices and decisions which almost took my life and traumatized my family, but I am not ashamed either. I know they were all part of the journey that led me to where I am now. I make no excuses for his behavior or anyone that physically harms someone. I do, however, take accountability for the part I played in allowing his behavior and not leaving sooner.
Now, I am able to see the purpose in that pain, and any other experiences that have come after it; I can see it’s a necessity to elevate me to the next level of God’s purpose and path. I may have been lost, yet God always knew my destination and the path that I would need to take. Battered Not Broken, was the platform given to me to share my experience and educate people regarding domestic abuse and how it affects any and everyone- regardless of age, gender, social class, etc. Yet, my experience was even bigger than what you see on the surface. It was a vehicle given to me to drive home the ideology that there is purpose in our pain, that all of our painful experiences have meaning and something to teach us."
Life & Loss
"Domestic violence is only but a small portion of my story, it’s simply just a chapter: I often tell people " if I told you my entire story, it would make your head spin!" Battered Not Broken, became my first offering to give back; to be an abundance of empowerment & resources to help those in need. Yet, as the years have followed, I have come to learn that it’s far more than just the name “Battered Not Broken” it’s a mindset for living life and our experiences leave us just as battered and hurt emotionally, as I once was physical. No one is exempt from suffering and loss, we all experience it in different ways- loss of ourselves, our marriages/ relationships, loss of our loved ones, our jobs, our health, etc.
Yet, the most important thing to remember, is there is so much our suffering has to teach us if we are willing to learn from it.
2017 was an entire painful year /season of loss..far more unimaginably painful than my experience with abuse. I suddenly lost my high-school sweetheart & significant other, John in April of 2017, and two months later, tragically lost my little brother, Kareem. Those double losses, took me to my knees in a way that I did not know was possible; it was a pain that surpassed any other. Yet, their losses mirrored the same type of feelings and emotions the domestic assaults did; I felt helpless, lost, confused, and lost all will to live; just like before, a part of me died once again.
We all experience different types of loss and suffering; yet they all feel the same, no matter who we are. Our experiences change us, we are never again the same people we once were before… and yet that’s the point. Yet, the most important thing to ask yourself is how will you choose to live AFTERWARDS? All of our most painful experiences hold a valuable lesson; they teach us what NOT to do and they also teach us what we DO need to do- which is to live more consciously and intentionally. We can choose to let our experiences leave us battered and broken OR we can choose to allow those experiences to strengthen us in the weak and shattered places."
We need to realize that no one is going to save us…we must save ourselves by being consciously informed and intentional in understanding and recognizing the control of abuse".- Marica Phipps-Johnson
"I can’t lie, it’s not been easy...it’s been gut-wrenching “heart-work” to arrive at the mindset I have today. The pain of my experiences, losses, and lost loved ones, will always remain.. it’s not something I will ever “get over”, yet what’s important is how we move forward with life, our experiences and adjusting to our “new normal” when life leaves us battered and feeling defeated. The experience with domestic abuse, and the losses of the loved ones I lost, have taught me so much in these last eight years than I have learned in my entire life! I am at a point in my life where I am embracing all my experiences and what they have to teach me. Writing a book is on my bucket list, one day; yet for now, I believe my purpose in the lives of others, is to share a little of my story (and their crazy chapters that keep being written) so that they may be able to understand their own."
Moving forward allows us to move toward the blessings that God has for us. I have been blessed with an amazing man that loves my complicated beautiful life and all that comes with me; he is a true testimony to how God answers prayers when He placed this patient and compassionate soul in my life (despite me thinking I would never be loved or be in love again). Our family has been blessed with a beautiful granddaughter named after me who is my pride and joy. This little angel came at a point in my life when I saw nothing but loss and I had no idea what God's plan was for her life. The irony is that her life gave me and our entire family life again. It's not always easy to see the path before us and the plan He has for us years down the road. Looking back, I had no idea of the blessings that were yet to come. Making the decision to move forward is a powerful choice that only you can determine; it's the one thing that moves us closer to what God has for us."
The Story Continues...
I am happily married to an amazing husband that loves me, my complicated story, and has embraced all of my scars, and sees the beauty in them and me. I am blessed that God put a man in my life whom I know He designed for me, that loves, respect, and honors me and our blended family.