Kimya and Corinne were lucky. Unfortunately, many are not. One such young woman was Audrey Atkinson, a nineteen-year-old mother to then eight-month-old son, Aiden, gunned down by her boyfriend at the Liberty Station off Almon Rd. in Covington on May 7, 2010.
Project ReNeWal, a shelter for battered women, along with Atkinson's family is dedicating a black granite bench with Audrey's picture etched on it to replace a makeshift memorial that had been erected there. A ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 13 at 3 p.m.
Director Vickie Stevenson said the bench will also serve as a continual community awareness baring the shelter's phone number. Surrounded by plantings, the bench proclaims a bleak truth - "Domestic Violence Kills." In 2013, Project ReNeWal hosted 2,400 women and children seeking refuge from abusive situations and provided 41,000 services. Their annual golf tournament is on May 16 at Cherokee Run. For more information, contact Vickie Stevenson at 770-860-9770. - Amber Pittman
Only after Kimya Motley was shot in the face, head and back while her daughter, Corinne, lay on the ground shot in the head as well, did Kimya emerge from the dark tunnel of domestic violence and into her own haven of light. The horrific tragedy made headlines in 2011 - while dropping her 9-year-old daughter at a before school day care, mother and daughter were gunned down by estranged husband Terence Roberson. After they both miraculously recovered, Motley began her quest to prevent others from experiencing a similar fate.
She believes God revealed her life’s purpose after the misfortune. “I will say thank you for that experience if it frees other women from going through what I experienced or frees other children from living under that kind of oppression.” Motley has founded Haven of Light International, a ministry which caters to the needs of women and children fleeing domestic violence situations.
Tracing her history after the fact, Motley now recognizes the patterns. Her father was abusive to her mother, and during her teenage years she endured dating violence. “I felt like I was in the same relationship over and over again, but with a different man. Terence wasn’t the first, but he was the worst. When you’re exposed to abuse so much you begin to think it’s normal.”
Married for just four years, the Covington resident and kindergarten teacher had been separated from her husband for 20 months. During that time, it became a cycle - she was open to reconciliation, but he wouldn’t follow through with counseling, and when she pressed for divorce his abusive behaviors would intensify – stalking, theft and intimidation. “He was smart enough to never threaten to kill me directly, but he would do things to make me so afraid so I would back pedal and say we can try to work things out.”
She credits friends for confronting her and bringing her to the realization she couldn’t live like that any longer. Prior to the shooting she had been lulled into thinking he was finally done. In their last conversation, via text, he told her he would be happy when he received the divorce papers. After the shooting, she learned the three domestic violence escalating factors leading to homicide – the abuser has a loss of income or the victim is the source of income, the abuser has a serious illness or when he is told the victim intends to leave or has left. All three factors were present in her relationship.
“The irony is there’s help out there, but women don’t know it’s available. If one in three women are beaten, raped or otherwise abused, why domestic violence resources aren’t advertised on billboards like McDonald’s,” she ponders. The former C.J. Hicks Elementary School teacher, now an EIP and Transitions instructor at Rosebud Elementary School, would like to see resources easily accessible, for example, in schools.
Three years after the cataclysmic event, her family has emerged the other side. A Davis Middle School seventh grader, Corinne is thriving in academics and sports. Her 19-year-old son, Theron, is studying at Georgia Southern University. And Terence Roberson is behind bars serving a 65-year sentence. Meanwhile, Motley uses any spare moment to shed light. “I feel strongly when one woman gives her testimony, it frees other women.”
She’s in the education phase, accepting speaking engagements and mentoring other victims. Her ultimate goal is to establish a longer-term transitional home for women and children without resources after they leave the traditional 30 – 60 day shelters. Another component she believes essential is a mentoring program for abusers. “Statistically, the family intervention counseling programs in place for men don’t work. I would like to pair them with men strong in faith and family who know what it takes to have healthy relationships and marriages.”
In addition to speaking before Rockdale’s Domestic Violence Task Force this Friday, Haven of Light is sponsoring a women’s conference, “Grate or Great – Defining Who We Are as Women Through the Choices We Make,” featuring Lin Sons, author and advocate, on April 26 at The Branch Worship Center from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., 2285 Iris Dr. SE in Conyers. For more information, visit www.haven-of-light.org