When kids see one parent abuse the other, it's traumatic.
Former Omahan Renesia Martin, 45, knows that all too well. She says she needed years of therapy as an adult to deal with the fallout from seeing her dad beat her mother.
Martin now says she's healed and whole, has participated in family therapy and has a good relationship with her father, who is “night and day different” and remorseful. Martin divorced after a 14-year marriage.
She wants other victims — those who were abused and those who had to watch — to know they can heal too.
Martin is a former Creighton University basketball player who now is a corporate executive with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill.
Last year, she wrote a book about her experiences, “Don't Hit My Mama!” She's returning to Omaha on Thursday night for a screening of “The Children Next Door,” a documentary about kids who witness domestic violence. She'll tell her story after the movie and participate in a panel discussion.
In an interview, she answered questions about her volunteer work as an advocate, what people can do to help and what everyone should know about domestic abuse.
Q. Why are you coming to this event?
To help provide awareness and support and to encourage others, to let them know that you can overcome childhood domestic violence. I want to be a role model and a voice for those who don't have a voice. There's very little out there about children becoming victims when they witness domestic violence.
Q. How did the book come about?
I felt really called to write about domestic violence. It seemed like the book wrote itself. It was part of my purpose in life. It was almost like I could hear kids crying and saying, “We need you to tell our stories.”
Q. You achieved despite what happened. How did you go to college?
I got a full athletic scholarship. Coach Butch Rasmussen (now CU athletic director) recruited me out of high school. He was there for me. I also had gotten a lot of encouragement from teachers. Those small acts of kindness gave me just enough hope to hold on to go to the next step.
Q. You got a full college scholarship and now have a top position in your company. You seem to have been driven.
There was always something inside of me, the voice of God possibly. If you keep doing the right thing, I thought, if you keep moving forward, there will be hope.
Q.What do people need to know about domestic violence?
That you can break the cycle. It's really important for anyone in the cycle to know that they are worth a good life and feeling good about themselves. You also need to remember that children know more than you think, and you're creating lifelong memories for them.
Q. If you know an abuse victim, what should you do?
Recommend that they get help from a professional, an organization, and make a safety plan to start the process (of leaving) so that when they leave, they really leave. Call a domestic violence hotline.
Don't encourage people to leave. Let them come to that themselves. Educate them about their options. If you make the decision for them, they won't have enough courage.
Q. Are you in a relationship now?
For the past few years, I've just been focusing on the book, my career and being the best that I can be. I'd love to be in a healthy relationship and to be married again. That would be my heart's desire.