BY HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
Laqulia Shinn had never been more terrified in her life. She knew she was about to die as she looked i to the eyes of her boyfriend, Derek, while he held a knife to her throat.
“I saw pure hatred, no love whatsoever in his eyes,” Shinn said. “I began to pray to God to forgive me for my sins, and to watch over my babies. Then, a miracle happened; he dropped the knife and walked away.”
Shinn said she sat there, rocking back and forth, shaking. Her boyfriend, and father of her children, went to bed.
“I sat there and thought about killing him,” Shinn said. “The Devil had a hold of me. I stood up, got the knife and thought to myself, ‘I’m going to have to kill him.’ I closed my eyes and my little baby said ‘Mama’. I broke down and cried. It was horrible.”
It’s an all-too-familiar story: girl meets boy, they fall in love, and slowly, the abuse begins. Shinn met her boyfriend in high school, after she and her family had moved from Columbus to Douglasville, Georgia. When they met, Shinn said she was already coming to terms with a cycle of abuse she had suffered at the hands of a family member. The abuse began at age five and ended when she was 14.
“I had to deal with it alone for so many years,” Shinn said. “It was swept under the rug. In a family, you’re supposed to be loved and protected, but I was told I should be quiet. If you don’t deal with that kind of thing, it will come back to haunt you.”
When she became involved with Derek, Shinn said she was happy, did well in school, was outgoing, versatile and had a lot of friends.
“People just loved me for me,” she said.
Shinn’s life changed, she said, when she was a senior in high school. Her family decided to move back to Mississippi. Shinn said she talked her mother into letting her stay in Georgia with Derek’s family to finish the school year and they became inseparable. Soon, his attitude began to change. Shinn said he became extremely jealous and he started to control all aspects of her life. Shinn said he started hitting her, punching her in the legs and stomach so the bruises wouldn’t show.
‘Some days I could barely walk to school, but I had to go,” Shinn said. “His mom wouldn’t believe me. He’d say ‘You made me mad. You made me do it.’ He genuinely believed that it was my fault. I tried to anticipate his moods. He was always accusing me of cheating.”
Around this time, Shinn said she found out she was pregnant. Her daughter Saddiyia was born in September 2006. Having put her life on hold for him, Shinn said she was changing, too.
“He brought out a temper in me,” Shinn said. “I started to mimic him.”
Shinn discovered in early 2007 that she was pregnant again. The abuse continued, even to the point where he was allegedly punching her pregnant belly. Her doctor suspected something, so he sent Derek out of the room for an examination one day and told Shinn he could help her. In November, 2007, Shinn said it was arranged for her to come in a couple days earlier than her due date to induce labor. Her plan was to have the baby in secret, then go back to Mississippi with her children. Everything was going well, she said, until Derek’s sister, who was visiting a friend in the hospital, saw her walking in the hallway while she was in labor. Her son, Derek, Jr. was born with Derek in the room.
“I felt it was pointless to fight back,” Shinn said. “I knew if I stayed with him I wouldn’t live much longer. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.”
Their last fight, which culminated in the knife incident, began over a pair of shorts she was wearing. When it was all over, she left her children in Georgia and went to Arizona. Her four year ordeal was over, but the effects still linger.
“Sometimes, I still have nightmares,” she said.
Shinn said she made a new life for herself, eventually starting a relationship with a close friend. She said she felt emotionally detached, so the relationship suffered. They were blessed, though, with the birth of a daughter, Keasia in March 2010.
“Even though we’ve been through a lot, he is a great man, and we have a stable friendship,” Shinn said.
When she came back to Mississippi, Shinn began to get her life in order. She decided to go back to school and is currently studying Psychology at Meridian Community College. She has loved writing ever since childhood, especially poetry. Last year, she and her best friend since 8th grade, Dianna Jefferson, decided to meet up in Florida for a week. They both began to collaborate on a book. Soon, it was clear that for Shinn it was more of a soul-cleansing experience and the week turned into three months.
“I was more interested in writing about my own life and experiences,” Shinn said. “The more I wrote, the more I realized how big a survivor I am. Dianna was very supportive and understanding and insisted I keep on.“
The result is her book, “Lyfe in My Stilettos”. It is the account of her struggles with abuse and how she found the strength to overcome. As a result of her writing, Shinn said she wanted to do more to help others. Shinn and her friend, Tisha Lagrone, are the co-founders and directors of Rising Stars “All-Girl” Youth Ministry.
“It is our mission to help young girls gain knowledge and power and to give them what nobody gave us — the realization that they’re in control of their own selves,” Shinn said. “It is a joy to work with these girls. They make me cry so much, because they are so strong and better than me. We take girls from ages six to 17. If a girl can get to us, they’re welcome.”
The group meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 at Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, and Shinn said they are hoping to expand to Tupelo, and eventually, everywhere.
Although it has been a hard thing to process, Shinn said she is in a good place now.
“Not everyone would be willing to put it all out there, but it helped me heal,” Shinn said. “ In order to tell a story, you have to be a story, and I am a living testimony to that.”
“Lyfe in My Stilettos” is available from Amazon.com., Kindle, and in paperback.0