Life and Religion
|Darkest hour was greatest blessing|
|Domestic violence survivor finds key to thriving|
|Published Thursday, November 15, 2012 10:07 am|
akisha Jones grew up in Bishopville, S.C., a small town she describes as having two stoplights, a couple of grocery stores and no banks.
|PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III|
|Takisha Jones turned a night of domestic violence into a campaign to become self-sufficient. Sheenrolled in vocational training programs at the Urban League, where now works. “I am more confident and believe that whatever I set my mind to doing, I can do,” she says.|
As a child, Jones did not have many positive examples of success to emulate. She says most of the people she knew did not have “real” professions. Instead, they sold drugs or did “other things” to makes ends meet. Many, including members of her family, ended up behind bars.
A product of her environment, Jones says she did not aspire to be much more than what she saw. She says it wasn’t until she nearly lost her life that she realized how valuable it was and how much more she wanted from it.
That fateful night occurred in March 2008. Jones had gone out for a girls’ night with friends, and her live-in boyfriend was none too pleased when she came home late.
She woke up to find him in a rage.
“He was sitting on top of me, screaming and yelling,” she recalls. “He was saying how disrespectful I was.”
The argument continued to escalate. Jones, who was living in hotel with her boyfriend after being evicted when he lost lost his job, started packing her belongings to leave. She made her way to the balcony. Then, she says, her boyfriend pulled a gun and shot at her.
“Luckily, something told me to duck down,” Jones says. “The bullet went over my head, but if I had not ducked down in time, that would have been it for me. It was a matter of seconds.”
Jones ran downstairs and called her friends from the lobby to have someone pick her up. She says it was the first time he had ever gotten violent with her, and she was determined that it would be the last.
Jones broke up with him, got a restraining order, moved in with her cousin and began taking steps to put her life on a different course.
A new beginning
Jones, who was 19 at the time, says the incident was a wake-up call. For two years she had been living with her boyfriend and was totally dependent on him.
“I didn’t work,” she says. “He took care of me in every way, shape and form… If I wanted to eat or go out and do something, I would have to wait for him to want to do it because he had the money. I was just making it day by day.”
Jones had to find a way to provide for herself, but with limited education and no marketable skills, the only job she could find was working part time at a fast food restaurant.
She remembered her ex telling her about free vocational training programs offered at the Urban League of Central Carolinas. She decided to enroll and convinced her cousin to do the same.
They took courses in customer service, keyboarding, Microsoft Office and business English. After completing her training, Jones did an unpaid two-week internship at Coca-Cola. At the time, the company was under a hiring freeze and unable to offer Jones a fulltime position.
Jones’ cousin, who interned at United Way, was immediately offered a full time position while she went back to flipping burgers. It was a jagged pill to swallow.
“That was very stressful for me,” she says. “I had a hard time understanding why she got hired and not me… I didn’t go to training to wear a hair net. That wasn’t for me. I was very unhappy.”
Jones was offered a two-week internship with the Urban League. She accepted the offer even though she had little confidence that she would be hired on fulltime.
On the final day of her internship, Jones was gathering her things when Urban League Senior Vice President of Programs Sheila Funderburke offered her a job as an administrative assistant.
That was three years ago. Jones is still employed with the Urban League, where she provides outreach and job placement and travels to Hickory to facilitate orientations. She has moved from a cubicle to her own office and recently purchased a new car - something that just three years ago, she’d never even imagine doing on her own.
“I’m in a really good position,” she says. “I am more confident and believe that whatever I set my mind to doing, I can do. Before I was very materialistic. It was all about (a man), what kind of car he drove, what type of income he had and what type of shoes he could buy me. Now I understand that you have to work for what you want. Nothing is going to be handed to you.”
A lesson learned
Each year, the Urban League asks program graduates to share testimonies during the agency’s annual meeting. This year, Director of Development and Communications Shannon McKnight asked Jones to speak.
Jones agreed, but told McKnight she wanted to highlight another aspect of her story.
She wanted to share how she turned her life around after becoming a victim of domestic violence. It was something that until now she didn’t talk about.
“I had been coming here for four years, and nobody really knew my story,” Jones says. “I guess I had a fear of being judged about my situation.”
Jones hopes that by sharing her story, she can inspire others who may be in similar situations and are in need of courage to put their lives on a more positive track.
“The most important thing you can do is speak on what you’ve been through,” she says. “You never know who you can help. I’m kind of upset with the fact that I didn’t say something earlier because I’ll never know who I could’ve helped.”
Jones will speak Nov. 15 at the Urban League’s annual meeting at the Extravaganza Depot (1610 N. Tryon St.) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served. The event is free and open to the public. For more information call (704) 373-2256 or visit www.urbanleaguecc.org.
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