NOTE: Ms. Pickering is speaking tonight, Weds., March 1 at 7 p.m. Brevard Hall Room 134. The event is open to anyone. Ms. Pickering has spoken on several Mississippi college campuses on this topic and has found that many who may just know of someone in an abusive relationship may gain some valuable advice for their friends.
Christy Pickering spent two decades in a relationship with her abusive husband before she realized she needed to leave for the safety of her children and self. Since, she has dedicated herself to educating college students and will be telling her story at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Brevard hall.
According to the NCADV, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have suffered violence at the hand of an intimate partner, and women between the ages of 18 and 24 face the largest risk. Pickering said statistics like this are why she visits college campuses.
“I made my biggest mistakes in college,” Pickering said. “I didn’t know the things I know now. And my daughter saw friends at Southern Miss who were in abusive relationships and asked me to come speak. I want these young women to learn from my mistakes. I thought my love would change him, but people don’t change unless they want to.”
The Violence Prevention Office at the university is sponsoring the lecture. Assistant Director of Violence Prevention Lindsey Bartlett Mosvick thought having Pickering speak on campus would be a good learning opportunity for students.
“I heard rave reviews of her presentation at Mississippi State University and researched her background,” Mosvick said. “The power of hearing a personal testimony is something that is unmatched by other types of programs. Christy has an engaging and motivating spirit that will inspire our students.”
Mosvick said she hopes students on campus will have an increased awareness of domestic violence, potential warning signs for abuse and get inspired to know if something like this is happening to anyone they know, healing will also happen.
Pickering, who is a certified public accountant and a member of the board of trustees for the Institutions of Higher Learning, endured 21 years of abuse from her ex-husband. She said the issue is not talked about enough. Embarrassment over the situation can often lead to victims remaining silent.
“It’s crazy, because I am a businesswoman and all those years no one knew about the abuse,” Pickering said. “I had to get over this embarrassment so I could talk about it, because I was a strong woman and I had let myself be abused. Victims don’t want to talk about it, and it keeps happening. We need to bring it out from behind closed doors and support each other.”
Relationship violence remains prevalent in the state and the nation, but Pickering said she believes students can change that.
“Millennials are willing to open up and listen,” she said. “We see so much on TV about athletes who abuse their wives and girlfriends, and we see it on social media. The doors are starting to open, and it’s time to dig in and end it.”
Universities play a part in the prevention of violence and healing process for victims. Ole Miss has resources like Title IX, the Violence Prevention Office and Rebels Against Sexual Assault.
“Universities need to continue to get the word out about what resources are available,” Pickering said. “They need to engage and provide a non-judgmental environment, and they need to be visible on campus, visiting dorms and sororities. If they do that, there is no telling how many people they can help.”
Pickering said she plans to make the most of her time on campus and has more than just the lecture. Pickering planned a flashmob at a surprise location on the Ole Miss campus to get students excited and to spark interest about the event.
“I can’t tell you where it’ll be exactly, but it’ll be a place that’s crowded between classes around noon,” Pickering said. “We are going to dance to “Break the Chain” by Mississippi artist Tena Clark, whose goal is to end violence against women globally.”
Pickering said her goal is to keep women from going through what she did and her talks have given her life purpose.
For Pickering, it took seeing the impact her abuse had on her children to build up the courage to leave. She is quick to offer advice to those affected by violence in relationships.
“If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, be supportive and available,” Pickering said. “And if you’re being abused, get help. Get out. There are so many resource on campus; there are preachers. But be careful and have an exit plan.You can’t settle, and you can’t find ‘happy’ if you are unhappy and unwilling to step out.”
Rachel Lambert is a student in the Meek School of Journalism.
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