by Liz Daube
About 800 people attended the 12th annual Barbara Ann Campbell Memorial Breakfast, Hubbard House’s signature fundraising event, Wednesday at the Osborn Center.
Nonprofit Hubbard House provides shelter and a variety of support services for domestic violence victims. The annual breakfast commemorates former Mayor Jake Godbold’s sister-in-law, whose husband shot and killed her when she left him after years of abuse.
Erin Gray, a domestic violence survivor, actress, author, producer and public speaker, addressed the audience with her story of abuse and eventual recovery.
Gray and her mother were physically abused by her father and, later on, by her stepfather. She told the details of her story in third person and, like many people in the audience, teared up at particularly painful moments.
“The affectionate hugs turned to sexual abuse,” said Gray, her voice cracking. “The girl now lives in silent rage.
“Until one day she picks up a knife and says, ‘If you ever touch me again, I’ll kill you.’ That child, that woman, of course, is me.”
Gray said the abuse she experienced during childhood left her with emotional problems she could never address – until she went to California’s Haven House, the nation’s oldest domestic violence shelter. The people there helped and understood her, she said, where psychologists had failed.
“People don’t know about the conditioning of abuse, the development deficits that result,” said Gray. “The biggest question is ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ They don’t understand the traps that are self-imposed.”
She listed several symptoms of abuse for people to recognize in domestic violence victims:
• Muted senses: Abuse victims block out their painful experiences by withdrawing themselves from their surroundings, sometimes to the point of isolated amnesia.
• Attempts to meet unrealistic expectations: Abusers typically try to make their victims meet unrealistic standards of behavior and punish them severely when they fail.
• Feels responsible for other people’s actions: Victims are often told they have done something to deserve abuse.
• Difficulty with decision-making: Victims are usually told repeatedly what to do and how flawed they are, so they don’t think they can make appropriate choices.
• Inability to trust others: Victims are cautious of new relationships based on their previous experiences and often isolate themselves because of low self-esteem.
• Can’t separate emotions from actions: Abuse victims may act impulsively because their abusers justified their violent acts as anger.
“It’s important that everybody do something to stop the cycle of abuse,” said Gray, who attributes her recovery’s beginning to a friend who took her to get help. “It takes somebody in the society to say, ‘There is something wrong here.’ ”
Godbold and others shared their thoughts on the importance of Hubbard House’s efforts.
“If it can happen to Barbara Ann, if can happen to anyone,” said Godbold.
“Barbara Ann Campbell was a personal friend of mine,” added Mayor John Peyton, who worked with Campbell at Gate Petroleum. “I don’t think any of us knew that Barbara was living a life of fear and terror.”