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Overcoming PTSD; ‘Don’t ever stop believing in yourself’

Triumph over PTSD leads to new career path

Val Voyles, of Richmond, graduated with honors this past June from National American University in Independence with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. After being told she wasn’t smart enough for years and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, she achieved a high GPA and will graduate in June 2018 with her master’s degree. (Submitted photo)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer – Living 50-Plus

The definition of courage means “strength in the face of pain or grief.” Local woman Val Voyles, who suffered incredible abuse as a child and young woman, has bravely fought the demons that were her childhood and risen out of those depths with a new focus, a new career and new passion.

Voyles holds nothing back as she describes her childhood, saying she wants others to know that they, too, can rise above any trauma and come out on the other end joyous and jubilant.

“I was abused by my father for the first 15 years of my life,” Voyles said. “Mentally, physically and sexually.”

It takes a lot of grit to make such a statement to a stranger, and grit is the backbone of Voyles’ new lease on life.

“That abuse took me to where I am today,” she added, referring to her June 2017 graduation with honors from National American University in Independence with a degree in criminal justice. Voyles is already just six classes away from earning her master’s degree and will receive that degree next June.

The beginning

Voyles said her mother was a drug addict and alcoholic and was married with four children prior to her marriage to Voyles’ biological father. Her mother left her first husband and children due to her drug habit.

Voyles’ mother then married the man who would become Voyles’ father. Voyles said her mother did not intervene against the abuse she and her sisters suffered.

“She couldn’t help,” she said. “She was escaping her own pain – she was abused, too.”

Voyles described her father raping her mother and dragging her down the hallway to rape her again.

“And you would hear her screaming and crying – he would beat her,” Voyles said. “She had so many stitches in her head. My grandmother came over and called the ambulance and told the responders, ‘Oh she tripped on the rug and hit her head on the coffee table.’”

Voyles said she knew how her mother had been hurt, but these horrific abuses occurred long before abuse became a well known issue, before there were support groups, before the police would intervene, before women felt able to stand up for themselves.

Voyles was raised in Ebony, Va., a short distance from the North Carolina border. She said her father abused all of the children, but she was the only one sexually assaulted.

“I was the baby,” she said, adding that her father assaulted her every night.

On one occasion, Voyles said her father lined the family up on a bed, and he had a shotgun in his hand.

“‘I’ve got one bullet – one of you is going to die tonight,’” Voyles remembers her father saying. He never did fire that bullet, but she said the fear he instilled in her head still pops up in her memories once in a while.

She said she never understood how the extended family could ignore the abuse.

The complete story is in the Friday, October 6, 2017 Richmond News.

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