Sarah Jackson calls herself an unusual victim of domestic abuse.
“Domestic violence is not something in which you wave a flag and say look at me,” the Gadsden resident said Saturday of 22 years of marriage to a minister who was her late husband. “You will hide it.”
Her story illustrates that “anyone can be a battered woman,” said Nancy Barton, executive director of Sistercare.
“Not really knowing what it was, I got trapped,” Jackson told the crowd of about 300 people at the annual Mayor’s Walk Against Domestic Violence, held at Spirit Communications Park in downtown Columbia.
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She encouraged those abused to rebuild their lives by escaping and undergoing counseling as she did in the early 1990s.
Jackson has become an ambassador for Sistercare, a group that provides such assistance, as well an adviser to other victims of abuse in her role as a minister at Unity Missionary Baptist Church in Hopkins.
In an interview, Jackson said she initially had a traditional view of marriage with her husband in charge of the family.
“We were controlled in every area of our lives,” she said of herself and her two children. “I started losing my freedoms, told to do this or do that. Then I found I couldn’t make any decisions.”
Life became “a living hell” with threats and stern demands about behavior expected with the congregation and other people, she said.
It took three tries before she left for good out of concern that raising her daughter and son in a one-parent home wasn’t right, Jackson said.
Staying too long “was the biggest mistake I made for the children to remain in an abusive home,” she said.
Jackson, who describes herself as “a rising senior,” said she counsels woman today about abusive relationships as repayment for the aid she received.
“I know what they’re going through and tell them there is help,” she said.
Sheridan Johnson, meanwhile, took part in the walk wearing make-up that created a bright bruise over her left eye in memory of her late sister.
She said she wanted to encourage others to recognize dangers she says remain hidden and neglected.
“People need to talk about it rather than look away,” she said.
The walk was in its new location after a year’s absence forced by record rain and flooding in the Columbia area last year.
It also was delayed three weeks this fall by storms across the Midlands caused by Hurricane Matthew’s brush of the S.C. coast.