MEMPHIS, Tenn. — According to the Memphis/Shelby County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council, there are about 16,000 domestic violence cases reported in Tennessee a year, and more than half of those reports come from Shelby County.
Sheronica Virgil is an eight-year domestic violence survivor. She said she met her ex-husband in 2008 through work. It was a typical love story. He was charming, handsome, had his own car, apartment and was everything Virgil wanted when they were in their early 20s.
But within their first year of dating, she noticed red flags. She said he became quick-tempered and insecure.
"It started verbally first," Virgil said. "There are levels to it."
Virgil said she thought she could change her partner, so she endured the abuse for eight years. She learned what triggered her ex-husband and tried her best to keep him happy. After two years of dating, they already had a child together, so she thought getting married would fix their relationship, but the marriage only lasted two months.
"You try to do all that you can. You try to release all of yourself. You try to give them everything that you have, thinking if I give you all of me then maybe you will give me all of you and you will change and you will see what I and the kids are worth having and worth keeping," she said. "But that doesn't work. You can give your all, you can empty yourself out, and that doesn't work. An abuser changes if they want to change."
Although Virgil said she left the relationship multiple times after they divorced, she always came back. He would apologize or show changed behavior for a short period of time, tricking her into thinking he was a changed man. But in 2016, she said he nearly choked her to death. That is when she knew it was time to leave the relationship for good.
"My process didn't take a day," she said. "It was maybe over a year to really get the plan out into play. You know, once you start to think your way out you will start to take action on how to get out."
After saving enough money to leave, Virgil said she took her children and left. When her ex-husband didn't know where she escaped to, she said he became verbally abusive to her. But since she was in an undisclosed location, she said she didn't want to keep her kids away from their father. She said she demanded his respect so they could co-parent.
"Thank you for the journey, because now you created a woman of boldness, a woman of self-confidence, a woman that would never go back to that dark place, a woman that would never accept (abuse)," she said.
It's been five years since Virgil left her abusive relationship. Now she is enjoying her new fiancé, growing her food truck business, called Maja Wings, and has her own radio show giving a platform to victims and survivors of domestic violence. Her show is called "Da Fellowship Hall."
"A lot of women get caught up thinking there is no life and there is life after that, it's companionship after that, it's real love after that, it's self-worth after that, self-love after that," she said.
Here are resources for domestic violence victims in Shelby County:
PO Box 84, Cordova, TN 38088
Access to civil and criminal cases in courts to include filing orders of protection, family and immigration attorneys available free of charge, weekly support groups in Spanish, free and confidential sessions with bilingual/bicultural counselors, access to information and referrals
Family Safety Center
1750 Madison Suite 600
Advocacy, referrals emergency housing, legal assistance, Order of Protection (intimate partners), safety planning, spiritual support, LGBTQ resources, and support groups
Crime Victim & Rape Crisis Center
1060 Madison Avenue
901-222-3950 & 24-hr Sexual Assault Hotline (901) 222-4350
Comprehensive advocacy services, referrals, counseling, and resources to victims of crime; assistance with filing Order of Protection (non-intimate partners), legal services, and bilingual services available 24/7/365 forensic medical exams for victims of sexual violence; specialized services for seniors and homicide survivors; support groups for gunshot victims and Latinx victims of violent crime.
23 S. Idlewild St.
901-272-2702 ext. 222
Mental health, advocacy, education, therapeutic victim support groups, individual counseling services for IPV and other traumas. ***Must have Ryan White card to receive services.***
Love Doesn't Hurt
Emergency Housing, Food, Basic Need Items, and Educational Sessions for victims of crime in the LGBTQ+ Community
The Athena Project
Department of Psychology, University of Memphis
Provides free, confidential mental health assessments for women aged 18 and older who have experienced intimate partner violence. Treatment for women survivors with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder stemming from IPV is also provided. If our treatment services are not a good match, we will help you find the type of therapy that is the best match for you. Open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 7 pm. Free parking is available. Contact Dr. Gayle Beck.
The Memphis Shield Project
Helps victims obtain orders of protection and file with the clerk of court, provides a day of court advocacy, provides mobile services. Contact Jerica Burgette, Jessie Honore, or Virginia Walker
Tennessee Correctional Services-Memphis
156 Court Avenue
(901) 505-2890 or (901) 487-8912
Court liaisons in Division 10 providing court-ordered domestic violence classes to include Batterers Intervention Program (BIP), Anger Management, and Parenting. Contact Wilbert Hill or Linda Wherry
Walking Into A New Life Inc.
PO Box 1163, Memphis, TN 38101
Provide community education, advocacy, and tangible resources to individuals who have been impacted by domestic violence.
Advocacy services, referrals, emergency housing, safety planning, bilingual services, and career training.
You can also call the national hotline at 1-800-799-7233.