Years after she met and married [someone], she was murdered, and the person responsible for her death has never been charged and it remains a mystery. And we talked about the difficulty of having that open wound for my father especially, for my mother and myself. And we realized a lot of people who experience violent crime have that open wound for one reason or another.
TR: Do you think sharing her story will prevent other women from being victimized? Is that your hope?
TH: That’s always a hope. I can’t say what impact it will have. I’m not sharing that story for any reason [other] than that. It’s difficult for my mother. My sister had children. My nephew is now married and has a son of his own who constantly asks, “When can I meet Grandma?” I’m not telling this story for therapeutic reasons for my family. I am telling it in the hope of saving a life.
TR: Do you think hearing stories about women like Rihanna has an impact on younger girls?
TH: I think it would have to have an impact. I don’t know if it is eye-opening.
TR: Specifically Rihanna’s struggle with domestic violence?
TH: I don’t know if it’s a struggle with domestic violence. I can’t speak for her because I don’t know all of the details. I know what we’ve reported in the news and I know that [she and Chris Brown] reconciled, and I think that young women see that, but how they process that I don’t know. I think celebrity culture is something we discuss a lot, but I think what happens in your home has a larger impact. If a girl sees [that] her mother, sister or loved one in her home is a victim of a domestic violence situation, that has a larger impact than our celebrity-obsessed culture, than what’s happening in Rihanna and Chris Brown’s life.
So when I talk to girls, I’m not talking to them about the latest headline on TMZ. I’m talking to them about what they are seeing in their home and what they are experiencing. I think that has an impact, when a young girl is trying to understand why her mother or sister is staying in that relationship, because that’s what I was trying to understand with my sister, and what we discussed in our intimate conversations … Why do you stay? That’s something that haunts me because I feel I didn’t listen as much and didn’t know what to do. So I don’t think young women are obsessing over Rihanna in the way they’d obsess over their sister or mother or selves.
TR: Do you have any advice for a woman who is struggling with domestic violence or has a family member who is?
TH: I think you have to talk to someone. Even though the images and messages are there, I still believe people feel alone and that there’s no one to talk to, and we’ve got to break that cycle. There’s still this feeling of loneliness or helplessness. My passion for all of this is the desire to help people know they are not alone.