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Scroll of Ruth serves as new life manual for domestic violence victims

Felicia Haney | 10/23/2013, 9:55 a.m.
Pneuma Life was founded as a result of Ruth’s own real life experiences.
Ruth Johnson-Williams teaches domestic violence victims how to look at life with new hope through her Pneuma Life Foundation. (Photo by Vincent White) Vincent White

As we close out Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we explore the story of Ruth Johnson-Williams. Ruth recently celebrated the 16th anniversary of Pneuma (New-muh) Life Foundation – a not-for-profit organization for the prevention of abusive family environments.

Pneuma Life was founded as a result of Ruth’s own real life experiences.

Pnuema is a Greek word meaning breath. What Ruth strives to do with Pneuma Life is not only provide her clients with the options of a new life, but give them a breath of fresh air.

There are also two perspectives when you look in terms of services provided for domestic violence victims through Pneuma Life Foundation. It provides faith-based and community services.

“It’s a non-profit organization. It is not in itself a religious organization. It is scientific educational,” Ruth said in her definition of Pneuma Life.

“So, what we do is seek and provide education and training for faith-based organizations for all denominations, staying with the issue of how to assist a victim of domestic violence within the compounds of their own faith entity.”

The way that is done is by training an advocate for every religious institution that would provide resources in direct correlation with that faith entity. The advocates do not serve as counselors, only resource providers. They provide all the options and let the individual make the choice for themselves – when they’re ready – based on the best option pertaining to what they believe.

“We work with all different faiths – Islamic, Jewish Family Services, United Methodist, Christian, Presbyterian, Protestant, Baptist, non-denomination… We have 168 advocates. We have 49 strong partners, but we’ve reached 350 associated partners,” said Ruth of her organization’s growth.

With that education in training, the advocates make sure there is information in those religious institutions at all times.

So what prompted Ruth to want to advocate for and breathe new life into broken women? What else? Personal experience.

“Personally, I’m a born-again Christian and a survivor of sexual assault as well as domestic violence,” Ruth said. “When I was 13, I was taken off the street in broad daylight on my first day of senior high school. A man came out of nowhere with a .38 (caliber pistol) and put it to my head, put me in a cab, took me to an abandoned building and sadistically raped me. He put me back in a cab and the cab took me back to school with scars that lasted ‘til this day where I’m not even able to wear certain things because of them. The Bible is true when we talk about Dinah [attributing her situation to the story in Genesis 34 often referred to as The Rape of Dinah]. Rape is Biblical. It didn’t start today.

“I never told my parents what happened and I just walked around kind of disoriented and couldn’t understand why bad things happened to good people. Then, at the age of 15, I was moved to another high school, John Adams, where I purposely tried to have a boyfriend who was the baddest boy in school. He was 18 and I was 15. See, once you experience sexual assault it becomes a commodity. I’ll give you this, if you give me that. I felt like whatever you wanted from me I would give you as long as you didn’t let anyone else hurt me. So, one day I proceeded to his apartment. He wanted sex. We had sex. Then he said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ When I speak to the youth about this, I always darken the room to show them what it’s like to be left alone in the dark. He left out, but didn’t come back. Instead, one of his friends came in then another guy and another guy until six guys came in, one at a time. [They were] 18-25 years old. I was on the fourth floor so I couldn’t get away. I couldn’t jump out. And I knew there were at least six of them. I didn’t know what to do and, at that point, one guy – who wasn’t my boyfriend – said, ‘we should let her go.’