Abuse survivor gives thanks for Guardian Shelter at Catholic Charities fundraiser

Published 11:44 pm Friday, April 20, 2018


NATCHEZ — In front of a crowd of more than 100, Brenda Brown told her story of abuse, escape and redemption.

Brown, who confided later that she was nervous speaking in front of crowds, stood behind a lectern at a Catholic Charities fundraising event clutching a few sheets of paper.

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“I titled my story ‘the invisible abuse,’” she said, looking out at the crowd.

Brown moved to Natchez from Chicago in 2015 after marrying a man she loved, but that relationship soon became toxic.

“It was supposed to be a new chapter of my life,” she said. “It was supposed to be my happily ever after, but it had a dark side.”

Brown said her new husband began accusing her of cheating, checking her phone records, questioning her if she did not answer the phone immediately and following her.

He would check the floor for footprints, she said, and question her if she left the house for anything other than work.

The emotional abuse culminated, she said, when she saw him spying on her as she sat inside the house one day when he was supposed to be at work.

The crowded room fell silent as she shared her experience.

“I knew I had to get out,” she said. “The relationship was not safe or healthy. … But it took a while for me to realize the situation I was in.”

She was alone; — a thousand miles from her family in Chicago — and she was afraid.

Brown fled to Natchez’s Guardian Shelter for Battered Families.

“From February 2016 to May 2016, I lived stayed at the Guardian,” Brown said. “I cannot thank the staff enough for what they did for me.”

Brown said the Guardian helped her find a new job, a house and perhaps more than anything else, they made her feel safe.

“For the last two years, I have been employed,” Brown said. “I have been happy. … I do not take this journey lightly. This is a success story.”

When she stepped down from the dais, the room full of people stood clapping. Some wiped tears from their eyes as they hugged and congratulated her.

Brown is just one of the dozens of women in the Miss-Lou who each year escape abuse and find shelter in the Guardian.

“The purpose of this event is to highlight the work of Catholic Charities in the Natchez area,” said Joseph Kopacz, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson and executive director of Catholic Charities.

The fundraiser highlighted Catholic Charities social programs — sexual assault trauma centers, crisis hotlines, domestic violence programs, shelters, thrift shops, among many other programs.

“These events not only help us keep the programs running, they help us market the program,” Kopacz said.  “Maybe someone in need will hear about this and seek help.”

Hearing from real survivors of trauma, Kopacz said, highlights the impact these programs can have in people’s lives.

Dr. Gwen Bouie-Haynes, division director for the Guardian Shelter and Guardian Sexual Assault Center, who has been involved in Catholic Charities for more than 30 years, said those who could not attend the event can still support the programs through volunteer work or monetary donation.

Those interested in reaching Catholic Charities can reach Bouie-Haynes at 601-442-4579.