The story of Joan Wright Good as told to Michelby Whitehead
May of this year I had the honor of being recognized by the White House under the leadership of President Barack Obama as 1 of 5,000 women who are U.S. State of Women Game Changers. As I sat in the presence of other great women and government officials, a lot ran through my mind. I didn’t think about my talk on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, I didn’t think about the success of my Career Mommy and Child Conference, I didn’t even think how lucky I was to be at the White House with Oprah and Shonda Rhimes…
I thought about how getting my butt kicked for no reason pushed me to start a business with only $125 to my name.
My pain was the sole navigator towards my purpose. If I was in my comfort zone and living life easy I would not be on the path that I am today, liberating and empowering women and helping to birth visionaries and business owners.
My name is Joan Wright Good and I am a domestic violence survivor. I knew abuse since I was a child. I witnessed my mom suffering verbal, emotional , and at times physical fights with my stepdad. In one of these fights she burned him with a pot of hot cornmeal porridge. I thought it was the norm for people to live that way, so I was always saucy, defensive, and on edge in my relationships.
Life was bitter sweet living in Jamaica. On one hand I had the innocence of running around carefree almost half naked as a child in the “ghetto,” unaware of the ills that belied me. I enjoyed the culture that is Jamaica—the sun, sea, food, music, and people of Jamaica. I was born in the inner city where life was about gun violence, big jam sessions with loud speakers, weed-smoking, and single moms making ends meet.
Sadly, I found myself in a foster home at age four, roaming the street aimlessly late one night. At age six I was sent to the country where I was raised as a Christian farm girl. We had church every day and in between church and school I had to go with my grand aunt to the the sugar cane field or the pimento field. We raised pigs, goats, chickens and cows. I was 11 years old when my innocence was stolen on campus at middle school (considered high school in the United States.)
You see, I had a really good friend who I would eat lunch with everyday. Her uncle was a teacher at our school who lived on campus, like many other instructors who were from out of town. One day my friend was absent from school, and I went to his quarters for lunch alone. I was raped by him and from there my life took a nose dive. I was sent back to Kingston to a life filled with the unknowns. I dropped out of high school at 17, had a baby and became homeless soon after.
Being a pregnant teen was horrible. The degradation that comes with being such a “disappointment” was hard to get over. I was a very bright kid who society now deemed a loser with no chance of a future. I had become one of the statistics from the inner city. For a long time I was known as the girl who got pregnant in school. I had no support, I was homeless until my child’s father decided to take me in and make me a part of their family.
Things only got worse from there because I felt so broken. I faced domestic violence in my first relationship at 17. It was emotional and psychological torment and it didn’t help that my “dad” slapped me in my face when he found out I was pregnant. So again things went from bad to worse as physical abused surfaced in the next relationship, and in my first marriage.
The first marital beatdown happened during the engagement, but I felt ashamed and deserving because I did something he told me not to do. I was too ashamed to tell anyone and those who knew were Christians and kept it hush-hush (love covers a multitude of sins is what we were told). So I learned how to live in pain.
The turning point for me happened when I actually filed for divorce. I was sick and tired of life, church, people, being “punked”— just tired of everything! I threw up my deuces and said goodbye to the Joan who was fearful, bitter, ashamed, rejected, abused, and downtrodden. I was ready to start anew, to start walking in purpose without fear of what people thought about me. My ex-husband was a local celebrity and when I recognized that hardly anyone believed me, or wanted to help me through my pain, it reminded me that God created me to make an impact. I was not here just to exist, but to thrive. People did not owe me anything—not even sympathy. Therefore, the change had to begin with me, for me…by myself. And that it did!
I quickly discovered how to encourage myself through prayer, scripture, and my five diva sisters who are there to lift me up. Every woman needs a Fab 5! Sometimes I read sections of my own books to see how far God has brought me or to encourage myself as I encourage others. It’s good when a doctor can take his own prescribed medicine, right? You don’t need money to leave; you need your sanity and self worth. A lot of women stay because they don’t love themselves enough to see their worth or their way out. When women recognize who they are and who they were created to be they will refrain from being abused. Some women really don’t want to leave. At this point the problem is no longer just the abuser, but the victim. Many people have lived with dysfunction so long they are unable to thrive where it does not exist, but I’m an example that you can.
To learn more about surviving domestic violence, visit joanwrightgood.com for resources.