Like her mother before her, Holly Crump spent most of her marriage in fear and misery.
As a child, Crump watched her mother beat and belittled. Anything could trigger her father’s anger. A finger in his food provoked an overturned dinner table. Sometimes to make his point, he killed their pets. So Crump and her siblings worked hard keep him calm by being perfect.
As an adult, Crump married a man with a law school degree. But two weeks into their marriage, she got her first beating — as sudden and terrifying as her father’s outbursts. He ordered her not to take fresh vegetables from her parent’s garden, but she insisted that they needed the food. But he screamed and tired to push her down the stairs.
Crump didn’t leave though. Surely if she changed, the beatings would stop, she told a rapt audience on Thursday at the climax of the Time Out Shelter’s annual walk to end domestic violence. All throughout the roomful of domestic violence survivors, women nodded their heads in recognition as Crump told her story.
Crump doesn’t fit the stereotype of a domestic violence victim. She is educated, successful and a life coach respected in the community. She helped start Girls on the Run and works for the Eastern Area Health Education Center.
Many women look up to her. That’s why Crump decided to share her story.
“I’ve come to believe that telling our stories of abuse and survival can break the cycles of unhealthy relationships,” she said. “When we speak our truth and expose our authentic selves, we can heal ourselves, our families and our communities.”
For Crump, the abuse started in the womb, both for herself and her children. Born into an abusive home, she brought her first two children into one as well.
Just like her mother, the abuse started during her pregnancy.
But their stories would diverge eventually.
Now 92, her mother spent 50 years with her abuser. Crump had the courage to leave much sooner.
“She spent 53 years with a man who beat her, belittled her and kept her in a state of anxiety,” Crump said. “She tells me now what she really had wanted her life to be like. It breaks my heart to know that she will leave this world with regrets.”
Crump has her regrets as well.
Two of her children witnessed Crump not only get physically abused, but stay. “I taught my son and daughter that women stay in abusive relationships and that even though they are abused, they will do and say almost anything to make it work.”
At the time, Crump wanted to end the abuse — but not the relationship.
“I didn’t know then that my children would be better off in a broken home rather than living in one that was broken.”
Only with the help of friends and a new job did Crump finally leave. That was 38 years ago.
Today, Crump is married to a “wonderful man” who accepted her and her children 33 years ago.
Even still, Crump said she has little self-esteem and must battle feelings of worthlessness. “Sometimes I wonder if I will ever really play it big and live my life as fully as those who love me know I can.”
Even with her insecurities, Crump came forward, hoping to help others. “It is a preventable disease and I want my legacy to include that what I’ve experienced and learned in this life will transform how men and women interact so children can grow up and grow into a full and purposeful life. I want the world to know that domestic abuse is handed down generation to generation.”
To that end, Crump brought the Girls on the Run program to Payson with the help of her daughter. The program focuses on self-empowerment, giving girls the tools to run a 5K run. This year’s run takes place Nov. 2 at Green Valley Park and 46 girls are signed up. “These girls are 8-14 years old and already they are transforming their beliefs about themselves and the possibilities awaiting them.”
Crump is also working on the Clothesline Project. All around the Methodist Church Thursday night were shirts pinned to clotheslines. Victims of domestic violence and their children had decorated most of the shirts. Eventually, Crump hopes to string the shirts around town hall to air the “dirty laundry and secrets” surrounding domestic violence.
“After a night like tonight, I can’t help but think Payson is about to see a change in how we treat one another,” she said.