posted May 15, 2009

Memoir Focuses on Breaking Cycle of Family Violence

A memoir by Kim Douglas of the Hope College English faculty is geared toward helping others break the cycle of family violence that marked her own life growing up.

Douglas, who is an adjunct assistant professor of English, is the author of "High Desert: A Journey of Survival and Hope," published this month by Baha'i Publishing.  In the memoir, she reveals her childhood experiences in an abusive home and shares her journey to healing, hoping that her story will make a difference to others who have endured similar circumstances.

"There are a lot of hurting people out there," she said.  "We need to break the cycle of violence.  How do we go about doing that?  I hope my story offers inspiration."

Therapist and nutritionist Dr. Marla Friedman has said, "This beautiful book by Kim Douglas is a touching, poignant story that is exquisitely sensitive and powerfully insightful.  It is a story about enduring abuse, survival, healing through adversity, the resilience of the human spirit and hope.  I am recommending this book to all my patients, colleagues and all those who care about in-depth healing."

In "High Desert," Douglas recalls the character of her home life while growing up, such as a time when her father stormed into her room when she didn't feel well and then cursed at and berated her:  "'You're not sick.  You just think you are.'  He threw his fist at me, pinned me to the bed, slapped my face, continuing to holler.  Then he left the room and continued to rant and rave at Mom." 

The emotional and physical abuse left deep wounds.  She describes a wide range of resultant issues - eating disorders, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, and troubled relationships with friends and other family members.  She also recounts the challenging path to overcoming them - committing to ongoing therapy, learning to apply spiritual teachings in a more nurturing and less authoritarian way, and cultivating a sustaining relationship with her body.  This holistic approach - informed by the teachings of the Baha'i faith and the encouragement and support of family, friends, mentors, and therapists - enabled Douglas to find effective ways to cope with life's challenges, trust others in a close relationship, parent without repeating the cycle of abuse, and forgive the abuser and those who don't help in a time of crisis.

The book is one manifestation of Douglas's desire to help others who are struggling with their own abuse experiences.  A past board member of the Center for Women in Transition, she is also scheduled and arranging to speak at a variety of organizations in support of abuse victims, in addition to engaging in readings and other events tied to the book's release.

Douglas has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1995.  Her interests include multicultural education, race relations, and domestic violence and child-abuse prevention.

She was a co-founder of the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony in Holland.  During 2005-06, she and her husband David, who teaches with the West Ottawa Public Schools, and Dr. Jeanine Dell'Olio of the Hope education faculty received support from the National Diversity Education Program to develop presentations to increase cultural sensitivity and awareness among area middle school teachers.

Douglas was a keynote speaker in the Family Forum during the 10th Anniverary of the U.N. International Year of the Family conference in Dublin, Ireland in 2004.  She has also been a featured speaker during the local annual Challenge of Children conference.

Her publications include the nonfiction essay "Pilgrimage" and poems in the anthology "Where Art & Faith Converge" (George Ronald Press, 2008), short stories for children in the "Core Curriculum Education Series" (Baha'i, 2002), and poems in periodicals including "Grand Valley Review," "Orison" and "Iowa Woman."  She was a semi-finalist in the 2003 Elixir Press Third Annual Poetry Awards, and in 2003 was named professor of the year in the Educational Support Program of Grand Valley State University.

She completed her undergraduate and MFA degrees at the University of Arizona in 1987 and 1990 respectively.

"High Desert: A Journey of Survival and Hope" costs $20, and is available through the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore, located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street, as well as other area booksellers.