Local woman writes book about domestic violence experiences
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 10, 2009 2:00 AM
Stephanie Sutton still recalls the night her husband, without a word, took some of his personal belongings and moved into the guest bedroom.
Thankful and relieved, she was still afraid he might return to attack her.
So, she slept with the door locked.
As a Christian, she knows divorce is often frowned upon. But nowhere in the Bible does it say one is supposed to suffer abuse.
Now divorced, she has channeled her own experiences as a victim of domestic violence into a book she hopes will serve as an encouraging lifeline for others.
But, she said, she never set out to be a writer.
"I don't have a library of books to reference me as to what to write," she said.
Her decision to put pen to paper sprung from her belief that everybody has their own unique story.
"It was just on my heart to write this book," she says now. "There's so many women that don't talk about it or they put on a facade in public."
That was definitely true for her, she said.
Growing up in a Christian home, her parents' own marriage served as a model she thought would also be hers one day.
That did not turn out to be the case, however. In contrast, she experienced emotional, physical and even sexual abuse in her five-year marriage.
There were challenges within and without -- not wanting to speak out to anyone, and yet stuck in a painful and at times frightening situation, one complicated by her faith and the many people who weighed in, some even manipulating the scripture against her.
Her wake-up call, she said, was actually her now-deceased brother, Brad, who had cerebral palsy. Growing up, she had always felt her life's purpose was to help care for him once their parents -- Edward and Diana C. Sutton -- were no longer around.
"I started going with my mother to doctor's appointments, getting the right medications. I would question the people that would come in and take care of (Brad)," she said.
When he died in 2004, at age 35, suddenly she was forced to reassess some things.
"I grew up thinking that was my job, and for him to have passed, what in the world is my purpose?" she asked.
Looking around her parents' home, she discovered a stuffed rabbit that had belonged to her older brother, and asked if she could have it.
Soon after, during a conversation with her then-husband, he responded to one of her comments with the advice, "'Just go talk to the rabbit,'" she said.
"It was like he was degrading my brother. It was the highest form of abuse. At that moment, I knew something had to be done," she said. "My brother was part of my inspiration for getting out of the marriage, as well as completing this book."
The relationship ended, yet there were still ripple effects in the aftermath. The emotional scars took longer to heal, but prayer helped, she said.
In fact, it was from those prayers that the title for her book -- "To Die Is Gain," based on a Bible verse -- evolved.
"I was just praying out to God about my situation," she recalls. "I was on my way to work and letting it all out. He was dealing with me about writing the book. It was like God simply said, 'to die in gain.'"
Friends encouraged her to share her experiences, but Ms. Sutton was hesitant to go public with her story. So she prayed about that, too.
"When you're in that situation and you get out, you still love the abuser," she said. "I prayed, 'If he never decides to treat me right, would you remove him from this area,' because I'm born and raised here. A couple months later, he decided to leave."
She actually began writing the book at the end of 2006, but didn't become serious about the project until almost two years later. Then it probably only took about six months to complete, she said.
"I worked nights, so I would go home and unwind, then I would write until 3 or 4 in the morning," she said. "Sometimes I would end up waking up in the night, making notes."
And when she was finished and it was time to seek a publisher, divine intervention again guided her.
"I prayed throughout the process for the publishing company, for the right person to work with me on it," she said. "Everything went as smooth as could be."
Beyond being her own story, though, her book contains two other elements.
"Not only do I write to the victim, but I write to people that may know someone that's in that situation," she says. "A lot of times, women in that situation need someone to reach out to them, especially if others can see it. I explain how you have to go from a victim into a survivor. If you don't, you're going to have that victim mentality."
It is woven together with scripture references for different situations, and attempts to cover all the bases of domestic abuse.
"Everything that I write about is something I have been through in my marriage," she points out. "It's tools to help them become the survivor that God intends them to be."
The second part of her book is geared to those on the sidelines, witnessing someone in a bad situation.
"I titled it, 'Are you called to rescue?'" she said. "I think God puts different people in your path, gives you unrest about that person to ask, 'Am I supposed to help that person?'"
She hopes her words help others recognize the signs and respond.
The paperback book is now available for purchase, at $10 a copy. It is currently at Christian Soldier and through online sellers such as Amazon and Books A Million, or through the publisher, ChristianPublish.com.
"It was a humbling experience, I questioned myself and whether or not I could write it," she said. "I am glad I can finally help women that are in secret."
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