Valdosta Daily Times

October 6, 2012

Haven holds annual luncheon

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Author of “Room 939: 15 Minutes of Horror, 20 Years of Healing,” Jenny Lynn Anderson shared her story of violence at the Haven Battered Women’s Shelter annual luncheon on Friday.

“I am not a victim of domestic violence,” said Anderson. “I have not lived that story.”

Though the Haven assists mostly victims of domestic violence, Anderson shares a common bond with those victims. Though her violence was not domestic, it was never the less traumatizing to say the least.

“I am a victim of violence,” said Anderson.

Anderson set the scene more than 20 years ago in 1990 at a conference she was attending in Atlanta.

“I went up to my room,” said Anderson. “Room 939.”

She went up to prepare for a very important meeting. On her way out, a man approached her. Suddenly, he drew a knife to her neck and forced her back in her room.

“He sexually assaulted me,” said Anderson.

Anderson cried out to God and in her aid, he sent what Anderson refers to in her book as her angel. It was a housekeeper.

With the looming danger of begin caught at that point, the man fled.

“They never caught him,” said Anderson.

That experience changed

Anderson.

“Before that night I was a fighter,” said Anderson. “But this event silenced me.”

According to Anderson, her silence was brought on by cue’s from society.

“No one wanted to talk about this,” said Anderson.

Anderson became, according to her, an actress.

“I became a very different Jenny Lynn,” said Anderson. “I hurt so badly, but no one knew what was going on inside me.”

Aside from fear, trauma and confusion, Anderson’s sexual assault brought on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She would wake up from night terrors, startling and sometimes even attacking her husband Mark.

“He had to convince me every single day of my life that that man wasn’t out there,” said Anderson.

To deal with the trauma, Anderson “white knuckled” her way through life. She held on, threw herself into raising her two daughters, volunteer work, anything. She didn’t want to do therapy or seek help otherwise because she felt she couldn’t be fixed, or at least by no one other than God.

It was nine years after the attack that Anderson had a revelation during a Bible study group that she then realized that she needed to forgive her unknown attacker.

“But how do you forgive someone whose name you don’t have?” Anderson pondered.

Anderson didn’t have a name, but she did have a face and to remember that face, a forensic sketch. She pulled it out of the very back of an old file.

“I saw a man who knew nothing about the life I had led,” said Anderson.

Through looking at his sketch, Anderson realized that people who are hurting hurt others. However, Anderson still did not seek counseling. It wasn’t until two years ago after a PTSD incident that she could not even recall but instead, lived through the account as relayed by her husband, that she realized that something had to be done.

“I knew that I needed help,” said Anderson.

That help, after a calling from God, was to write.

“It came out of me like a spigot,” said Anderson. “It became the truest part of my healing journey.”

While the story flowed from Anderson as if exhaling after holding her breath for years, the hard part was knowing that the book would be on the shelf. What if the attacker knew? He could come find her. But Anderson persevered.

“I know that if I could be honest and tell the truth, I could put out this book,” said Anderson. “I found my voice again.”

Before the book, Anderson carried around what she called a “ball and chain”. While it’s not gone, she said it’s lighter.

“This journey is not over,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s story of violence, suffering and then victory was fitting for all the great news and great people that the Haven had to celebrate Friday.

Not only are they almost done building a new shelter, but they just received another grant to build a new crisis center.

Those honored at the luncheon include:

• Attorney and Haven Board of Directors Member Al Turner for his relentless dedication.

• Christ Episcopal Church, the Exchange Club and Gayle Moreen and Adrianne Mollay from New Horizons were awarded with a community partner awards.

• Volunteer recognition was given to Marce Denson.