AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – She is a familiar face to the WJBF NewsChannel 6 audience, but she has a story that is often unseen. Dee Griffin sits down with Brad Means to share her personal story of being a survivor of domestic violence and why she ha chosen to break the silence.
Brad Means: I am so pleased to, I shouldn’t say introduce, because that’s not necessary, but I’ll say please to welcome Dee Griffin. She’s my colleague here at News Channel Six, anchors the newscast here each week night. Dee thank you so much for being here, not as a news anchor and a colleague, but as somebody who’s sharing their domestic violence story. I appreciate you.
Dee Griffin: And I appreciate you shining a light on this dark subject that a lot of people want to ignore, but by ignoring it, it continues to exist. So thank you for giving a platform and a microphone to this issue.
Brad Means: Well it’s my pleasure and the viewers appreciate you being so open and straightforward about it. I think about all of the ways I can refer to you, sister, mother, journalist, activist, and then you get to the part that applies to this show, and you think victim/survivor of domestic violence. Which one goes first? Which one should we think of first, victor or survivor, when we picture you?
Dee Griffin: Survivor. Because a lot of people don’t make it out alive. And someone may think, well, it wasn’t that severe, he just pushed me, or he just yelled at me, or he just cursed at me, but they all gain momentum that could lead to that eventually.
Brad Means: You know, we hear so many facts and figures and stats and I’m so happy that you are here to put a face to all that. So put a face to this part, so many people have come here from shelters and said that there are warning signs that women would just heed them. Did you ever have warning signs when you were suffering abuse? And just by way of background, we should say this abuse was at the hands of Dee’s now ex-husband, the better part of 10 years ago. Did you ever have any indication that it was gonna get worse?
Dee Griffin: No.
Brad Means: It came out of the blue?
Dee Griffin: Yeah, the night before, he was perfect. I smile, because our courtship was amazing. We were both Christian, we had both vowed to God to abstain from sex before marriage. That had been my life for 10 years prior. And I wanted to continue that and a lot of people in the dating world were like, I’m not about that part, but he was. And he was working in his church and very spiritual, so I thought that this was the person that God had sent for me, and the church and Scripture, a lot of women would recognize Boaz, waiting for your Boaz. And I was like oh okay, God sent me my Boaz. So I saw nothing, until the night before our wedding. We got married here in Augusta, August of 2010. And the night before, I was waiting for a special gift for him that I had designed. Something that was really special for him. And I was waiting and waiting and I missed the rehearsal. I was missing the rehearsal dinner. And he called and just went off on me. And I had never experienced that and I remember the feeling of fear over the phone. If someone can put fear in you over the phone? That’s pretty bad. I had burst into tears. I remember a storm had started up and it was thundering and lightning and there was a lot of rain. Everyone had left to go to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. And he was on the phone just going off on me. And I told him, that’s it, we are not getting married.
Brad Means: Did you?
Dee Griffin: I did. I said, I can’t do this, I cannot marry you. And that turned into panic for him. It’s like, wait a minute, I’m about to lose her.
Brad Means: Sure.
Dee Griffin: So it went into the tears on his part. “I love you, I’m sorry, it’s just the stress.” I hung up on him, I called friends. They were like, oh it’s pre wedding jitters, we all go through this before we’re getting married, you’ll be okay. And after about an hour and a half or so, I conceded and I said okay, and I went downtown to our rehearsal dinner. Most people had left by then, but I did come, present him with the gift because it arrived finally at the house.
Brad Means: You know, if we followed the expert’s advice to a T, Dee Griffin, then you should’ve said, in that moment, I am outta here, it’s over. But you know what, on your wedding eve, that’s a tall order. Sitting where you are now, would you say to a woman, I don’t care what time of your life it is, or what special occasion’s coming up. Get outta there.
Dee Griffin: Get out.
Brad Means: Would you say that?
Dee Griffin: Oh yeah. I should’ve saved the food and everything and we should’ve had a big party the next day for my cousins because as you know, I have a big family.
Brad Means: You do.
Dee Griffin: We could’ve eaten all of the food and the cake. But thinking about it, there was embarrassment, which is typical for a victim. You are very embarrassed.
Brad Means: Where is the embarrassment come from? It’s not your fault.
Dee Griffin: It’s embarrassment of being a professional woman with a Masters degree from a very elite college, a university and knowing that all of my life I was able to end relationships if they were not for me, but I fell victim. No one wants to admit that they’re a victim of someone’s cruelty or meanness. So that embarrassment. And then embarrassed because you had so many people come from all over the world, I had friends come from other cities, and other states and out of the country.
Brad Means: You can’t leave them hanging.
Dee Griffin: I cannot leave them hanging. But now in hindsight, I look back and I’m like, we could have had a great party with that food and all of the money I pumped into that wedding. But I went through it thinking that this is not him, we were stressed. And that’s what a lot of victims are taught to believe, that oh, it’s just stress and if I act good, he won’t act like that, he won’t do that. And the biggest misconception about abuse, is that there’s a black eye, there’s a broken arm–
Brad Means: Right.
Dee Griffin: There’s a bruise. No, it’s mental. That’s how the victim is taken advantage of at first, mentally, and beaten down mentally.
Brad Means: So how long into the marriage did you finally get the red flag that said, I’m out. It did get physical.
Dee Griffin: It did.
Brad Means: It did get heated. But how long did you stay happily married before you thought, no sir, not this time?
Dee Griffin: Well the first time was three months in.
Brad Means: Three months in?
Dee Griffin: We got married in August of 2010, I moved to Boston in November of 2010 because he was working there. So I moved to be with him. And I moved on November fifth or sixth, I have to look up the date still. But by the end of November, say the November 26 or 27, I was living in a Marriott. We had gotten into our first marital squabble, as I thought it was, and he called me the N-word. He got in my face and called me the N-word. And I had never been called the N-word. And so he was an African-American man, saying it to me. And I knew then that I was in trouble. And I left and I was newly pregnant. And I left and I went to a Marriott and I stayed there and I talked to friends and once again, this time it wasn’t pre-marital jitters, it turned into, you’re hormonal.
Brad Means: Sure.
Dee Griffin: So everything had an excuse behind it. And then I started taking on the excuses, well he’s just over-worked, he’s just stressed, you know, new city, and here I am. But it just got worse and worse and worse.
Brad Means: Eventually, thank goodness, you had the courage to get out of it. You left, you became a single mom.
Dee Griffin: Yeah, when my son was five weeks old, he fully attacked me. He had already pushed and shoved me before. The verbal abuse was just getting worse by the day, but when my son was five weeks old, he full out attacked me, where our neighbor heard everything and called police. So at five weeks old, I had to move back to Augusta. At one point, I was pinned up against a refrigerator, I was pushed into cabinets, I was punched and I had just had an emergency C-section five weeks prior. So it was just very bad. And I was able to get away from him and I called my sister. So the next morning my mom and my sister came and they pretty much said, we’re giving you four hours to pack your things, we’re on the road to Georgia.
Brad Means: Dee, you tell this story all over the country, as an advocate for domestic violence victims, and as a warning sign and a cautionary tale, if you will. When I look at you and I hear you tell this story about the abuse that you suffered, I feel like it happened to you yesterday. Does it feel that fresh to you?
Dee Griffin: It does. I had a nightmare night before last. And I woke up and I was out of breath, and I was thinking, he’s here, he’s here. It does. And it does not mean you’re not healed. It’s just PTSD exist, and it continues. I’ve gone to therapy, I’m healed from it and I can help others. I can’t help heal but I can help lead them to healing. But it exist. It’s just like a soldier going to war, years later, he may have some triggers or flashbacks. And it’s just a part of life and you learn how to deal with them.
Brad Means: Have you taught your sweet eight year old son how to treat women, or is he too young?
Dee Griffin: He knows. He’s heard my story, the parts that he can digest as a young kid. So he’s very gentle with girls.
Brad Means: He is?
Dee Griffin: He doesn’t even like to really hug anyone, or touch anyone. He’s very mild mannered. Because, as he said to me one day, somebody hurt mommy really badly, and so I don’t wanna hurt anyone else.
Brad Means: You ever get sick of talking about it? Do you ever say, you know what, I’m gonna go back in my shell now, I’ve done enough.
Dee Griffin: No, I don’t. And a lot of times after I talk, I’ll need some time to decompress, I may shed some tears or whatnot. I spoke with a friend of mine, Shannon, in Houston, it’s been some months ago when we talked about it, and she says, the moment you stop getting emotional, that’s the moment I want you to stop talking. And I was like, why? And she says, because your emotions help others, it makes it real. And she says, and it makes you real. People who stop having emotion, or they have a connection to it, they can’t help other people, because they become mechanical and methodical. So this was the mission that chose me, I didn’t choose the mission. And so if I can help somebody else, even through my emotions, then so be it. My living is not in vain.
Brad Means: Have you forgiven your ex-husband? Does he deserve it?
Dee Griffin: I’ve forgiven him because that’s what my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ tells me to do. And I have to forgive him in order to successfully raise my son. Do I like being a single mom? No way. But I had to stop looking at it as a burden and look at it as a blessing, because if I had not gotten away, my son could be in an abusive family, a volatile family situation, because he could’ve grown up watching mommy being punched, or mommy being berated. Because all of this happened in front of my son, he was five weeks old and he was in his swing, and all of this happened in front of him. So I wanted to make sure in his life that he didn’t have to see me being mistreated. So I’m glad I got away, but I had to forgive my ex-husband in order to move forward. But that forgiveness doesn’t mean that I have to be quiet and not help other people.
Brad Means: No and thank goodness you’re not. Dee Griffin, I know our time has flown by.
Dee Griffin: Yeah.
Brad Means: But your presence has helped people as it always does. And we appreciate you.
Dee Griffin: Thank you. I really hope you’re right.
Brad Means: Absolutely, we appreciate it so much. Dee Griffin, sharing her story, unashamedly, here all these years later.