LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A USM graduate who said she endured two decades of domestic abuse is speaking out. On Tuesday, she shared her story of pain and recovery at the Gulf Park campus. Her main target is college-age women.
Christy Pickering is not an expert on domestic abuse, but she said she lived it.
"Do I look like I would ever allow somebody to abuse me?" Pickering asked. "Well, I did for 21 years."
Pickering told a group of USM students and faculty the problems started while she was dating a young man in college.
"This was when I made my mistakes. And I want you to know what the signs are, the things I didn't see," she said.
After the couple tied the knot, Pickering said the abuse escalated from verbal to mental, then physical violence.
"I did get punched a couple of times. I did get pushed down, but one time is too many," Pickering told the group.
"I thought it was very emotional. I feel like it's something everybody should hear, especially young girls," said USM Freshman Jamie Hocker.
The mother of two divorced her husband and has since remarried. Now, she's sharing her story in a program called "Girl, You Deserve Better."
"I've gotten healthy and happy and I'm not embarrassed to say that I made bad mistakes. Just think about the lives that I might touch," said Pickering.
"I have to applaud her for coming here. I know something like that takes a little bit of courage for her to explain her situation," said USM Freshman Joseph Miller.
Pickering hopes her message will encourage more women to break the bonds of abuse and the silence.
"Things happened behind my closed doors that nobody knew about, and that's the problem. We're not talking about it. It needs to come out from behind those closed doors, so it stops happening," she said.
Pickering never identified her ex-husband and no charges have been filed against him. She will share more personal stories and life lessons Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.at the Fleming Education Center Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.