Staff Spotlight: Misty’s Story


I was raised by a single mom who did the best she could, but she started my battles with emotional, mental, and verbal abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment, and body dysmorphia. Her words were harsh, manipulative, and cold (and still are).

I was raised most of my childhood by my grandmother who was my saving grace and my rock! When I was with my mother, I never knew what I was going to get.  Either the “broken, alcoholic, anorexic, looking for love in all the wrong places,” “nothing is ever good enough” or the “you are the apple of my eye, here is all the affection you are craving” mom. I learned from her that you need a man to be happy, and sex is the way to get it, so physical touch was one of the ways I craved “love”. My body was the way to get it, so I learned to stay thin by ANY MEANS. The words bubble butt still ring in my ears.

I was molested at 13 by a neighbor, something that I have NEVER shared. I thought at the time it was ok because I was so starved for “love”.  

At 8 or 9 my great uncle went into a rage against my great grandmother (Granny) and threw rocks through EVERY window in the house, while we were there. We had to hide in the phone closet, the only room without windows. It was terrifying! I don’t know that I have ever let go of that trauma.

When I was 15, I was homeless as my mom was staying in a hotel and didn’t have time or money for a place for us to live. So for 3 months, I bounced from friend to friend until I moved back in with my grandmother.  

At 16 I had a high school friend (loose term) try to rape me, but I got away. At almost 17 years old, I started my first relationship which was on the surface great for many years, until it wasn’t. He exhibited the same verbal, mental, financial, and emotional abuse that I knew from my mom. I remember one afternoon him coming to me and saying “You need to lose weight. You are getting fat!” I was 5’9”, 145 pounds, and a size 7 (NOT FAT AT ALL). Yet, I listened, lost 20 pounds, and went down to a size 5 at 125 pounds. I looked sickly!

One night towards the end of the relationship, we got into an argument, and he pushed me up against the wall. He held my neck and choked me. I moved out shortly after, and we tried to fix the issues, but they couldn’t be fixed. After I left, I found out he was seeing someone else and that she was pregnant. This was only days after I had given up our child because he said it was the best thing for US. I learned from him that once again I was not enough. I didn’t deserve to be happy or to have a good relationship.  

In between, I lived with my dad who I met when I was 19 years old. When my mom told him I was his, he didn’t believe her as I had red hair, and the man she was dating at the time had the same hair color. There was a day after my emotional breakdown over losing my relationship and my child that my dad felt I needed discipline for my behavior even though I was 23 at the time. He gave me an enema which was one more humiliating event from my “loved ones” to show me I’m not good enough. My feelings are not ok, and I just need to get over them. 

I was single for a few years and prayed every night to find a good husband and have a family as really that is what I always wanted! In 1998, I met my now ex-husband. I had every red flag there could have been, but I ignored them all. He was one of the biggest narcissists I had ever met. Our relationship started as a fairytale. He swept me off my feet and gave me all the things that I still craved from childhood. We were inseparable after our third date, and I moved in with him after about 1 month of being together. I gave up my home and my stuff and moved into his house (which he hung over my head all the time). He started being controlling, then mentally, financially, and verbally abusive soon after. Our money was his money to do with as he pleased. He cheated on me every chance he got. I was never good enough, needed to lose weight, and told me that he cheated because I had gained weight. He also said that I needed to be more supportive of him, look past the B.S. with his ex-wives and family, and be seen and not heard when he okayed it.

While I was pregnant with our son, I was in a bad car accident and had to have one of his ex-wives come get me because he was too busy and wouldn’t answer my call.  When I got home and called the doctor to see if I needed to make an appointment, he heard me ask “is he okay?” He then said, “It better NOT be a f*cking boy!”   We went through a rollercoaster before and after my son was born. At Easter time, we were towing a van in the backyard, and he got mad because I didn’t do something right.  He took the tow chain and beat the side of the van with it while his two boys, 4 and 7, and I were in the back. When my son was about 10 months old, he came home and went out to his garage. After about 4 hours, I went out to ask him if he was coming in to eat. He responded with “NO. I f*cking can’t stand you. I don’t love you, and I wouldn’t care if you got hit by a car. I wouldn’t shed a tear! I want a divorce.” I started the process to move out while I was unemployed and had no money. It took about a month to move out with my son and start fresh. I filed for divorce and moved out of state.

Once in a new state, I started a job that fell into my norm for abusive relationships. My boss/owner was emotionally, mentally, and financially abusive. I worked for him for 7 years without a raise, being treated as if I was never doing enough and never good enough. “If you want to make more, do more, and sell more!” When I was in an auto accident that could have ended my life, I called him as if he was “family,” and he was too busy. Now, where have I heard that before?!

Verbal, mental, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect and abandonment, started for me as a very young child, and I let a lot of it continue as I didn’t recognize it for a very long time. I always said, “if a man hit me, I would leave!” I just didn’t consider the other types of abuse as abuse.  It has taken me 5 years to get the confidence, inspiration, and love of self to see that I am worth it! I am enough! I am beautiful and deserve amazing things!   

Words hurt, and have a HUGE impact! Don’t let them continue to keep you down. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Rick Dougherty


Rick Dougherty just hit his one-year anniversary on the blog team at BTSADV.  He was named Volunteer of the Month twice, and received a President’s Bronze Volunteer Service Award in 2021.  Rick is embarking on his biggest project yet, as he prepares to walk all 620-miles of the Ireland Way in June and July.  In addition to the physical, mental, and spiritual purposes for this pilgrimage, he is also trying to raise money and awareness for BTSADV. 

Rick grew up in a home with an abusive father.  As an athlete, marathoner, and now hiker, Rick has made it a personal goal to show than men can be strong and traditionally masculine, without exhibiting the traits of toxic masculinity.  He has worked or does work for multiple professional sports teams; spent over a decade in sports radio; and has spent over a decade in rock radio.  Rick wants to prove that strong men treat women with respect.

(This picture is from a recent 20-mile hike in Fort Christmas, Florida.)

Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Paschen


I was in a physically, emotionally and financially abusive relationship for 8 years. The first time I left my husband was after he told me he was going to kill me – and the events leading up to that day made me know he meant it. I left the state the next night while he was at work, with only a few bags of clothing in my car. Slowly, over the next month, he convinced me he had changed, and I went back. It became obvious very quickly that change was just more lies and manipulation. His son came to live with us full time shortly after. Because of that, I stayed a few more years before finally making the heartbreaking decision to leave for good. I spent the next year as a single mom to my stepson, as my ex husband couldn’t get a stable job and home. Just 2 months ago, my ex-husband took his son back. While I’ve already begun healing from my abuse, I’m just now beginning the journey of healing from the loss of my son, and figuring out who I am again after losing the role of “mom.” 

Before my marriage, I had no idea the different kinds of domestic violence, or narcissistic abuse. I reached out for help one night when I was at my lowest of lows. But through a call for help, I was given the validation I needed and some suggestions for education on what I was going through. This opened the door to changing my life. I found BTSADV through facebook and here I am, 5 years after originally reaching out for help, volunteering and advocating for others.

Volunteer Spotlight: Odalis’ Story


In May 2019, I experienced my worst fear which is possible death by asphyxia. Being asthmatic my whole life and knowing the feeling of not being able to catch my breath terrified me. On May 8th, 2019, my fear became a reality. My ex-boyfriend strangled me to the point where I passed out multiple times and truly believed I was going to die.  I always chose to deny signs and symptoms of abuse because I was just happy to have someone to love me. He yelled and pulled my hair because he loved me is what I thought. I always made excuses for him. I didn’t want to be alone. 

Domestic violence has been a generational curse in my family for as long as I can remember stemming from my great grandmother to my mother, was unspoken of, and no one ever took a stand. I joined Break the Silence of Domestic Violence 3 years later close to graduating nursing school because to this day I hear the words of the police officer that came to my home the day of the incident. This police officer looked me in the eye and told me with 100 percent seriousness and said, “You could have died today” and that is when the power of fight, the power of self-love, the power of determination, and breaking generational curses became by truest mission. I moved in one week and never looked back because I understood that I have the power to choose, and I am the voice of my voiceless 5 yr. old child. My child deserved a strong mom who would love herself and put us first. My healing has been eye-opening, hard, long and I have been able to incorporate a lot of self-accountable coping skills. I have been able to set boundaries and keep my great qualities of love, peace, advocacy & passion for mental health. I am four out of five semesters from finishing nursing school and my goal is to continue advocating for domestic violence, mental health, and breaking generational curses for survivors like myself to have the opportunities to become our best selves every day even on the hard days. My mission in volunteering is to reclaim my power while using positive coping skills and a listening ear to help other survivors reclaim their power as well.

Volunteer Spotlight: Melia’s Story


I knew something was wrong. My parents never behaved like this. I didn’t see other men denying their partner touch, calling them derogatory names, or closely monitoring every social situation where another male is present. It didn’t seem right that I would be punished for hugging my friend or giving a high-five to his coworker. I knew I should be allowed to go to the grocery store of my choosing, alone, without opening the gates of Hell. It didn’t feel right being pinned up against the wall or being woken up by an angry drunken rage, chased out of my bed, out of my home. Something felt off about his obsession and control over birth control. It felt wrong that he hid my first pregnancy until it was impossible to hide, I didn’t understand why he wanted nothing to do with our growing family. I knew I shouldn’t feel scared to ask my partner for help paying our family bills. Alarm bells went off in my mind frequently, I acted on them multiple times, only to wind up feeling foolish for leaving and trying it again. My first born moved 10 times in the first 8 years of her life.

This was all domestic violence. I didn’t know. I spent 7 years in a DV relationship and had 2 children who were not products of love, but products of reproductive coercion. My gut was always right, but society was louder. The fear of judgment and struggle, being a single mother of 2, and the belief that its best to stay for the kids, on top of the manipulation and abuse from my partner, made it impossible to escape for a long time, but we did.

It has been 4 years, and the journey of healing is long but going well. There is so much that I wish I had known about before this, like what unhealthy relationship signs are, what consent truly is and how it works, or how to trust myself. I can’t go back, but I can prepare my daughters for the world and give them the best chance of not experiencing the same abuse I did.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness: Krista’s Story

Teen Dating Violence is real.  No matter the age, it can make life decisions even more difficult, when you are put in a situation of fear. 

The first time my high school sweetheart put hands on my throat I was 17 years old. He apologized and made it very clear it wouldn’t ever happen again.  Fast forward to July 2020 when that same high school sweetheart and now my husband of 18 years put those same hands around my throat and almost took my life.  It took me 23 years to get brave, 23 years to know that it wasn’t love, 23 years to realize I was worth so much more.  I regret never speaking up to my parents and asking for help. I do not regret my 2 beautiful boys, who are now teenagers themselves.  They were subject to family violence their whole lives.  What I couldn’t understand is how my then 17-year-old and 14-year-old knew that it wasn’t okay, but the 17-year-old me couldn’t understand it wasn’t okay.  I know that if I had understood there was help out there, I think my decisions to get away from the situation would have been better.

I know now that I am worth more than the bruises and excuses. I am worth more than feeling second. I am worth more than lies and betrayal. I am worth more than ER visits. I am worth more than telling my children, “Dad, was just upset. I will be okay. Let’s not tell anyone this happened.” If you are a teenager and you are being hurt, know your worth, ask for help, get into a safe environment, and know that you are worth more. I hope that the abuse I took, can be turned into a positive note to help others that need to get out.  Find your bravery and love yourself. 

Happy doesn’t hurt nor is it supposed to. If I could only go back to 17-year-old me and give the same advice, I would have listened. Love isn’t supposed to hurt. God put me on this Earth, just as everyone else to be loved, not abused.