Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Shellivie Smith-Lumsden: A real survivor

Published:Monday | April 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell
Shellivie Smith-Lumsden and her children.
Shellivie Smith and her children.

Shellivie Smith-Lumsden never thought that she would be raising four children all by herself.

After having one child out of wedlock, she married the love of her life, and the union produced three children.

With big dreams of making life better for the family, and powered by what she described as 'crazy faith', she did whatever it took for them to move out of a rented house to having their very own. That dream became a reality when they bought their home in Longville Park, Clarendon.

Wanting to help her husband shoulder the responsibility of providing for the family, she told him she was going back to school to further her education. She thought this would have been welcomed news. The last thing she expected was his resistance. "That was when the abuse started. I showed him numerous possibilities, but he said that he was discussing it with his friends who were laughing at him to say that I am going to leave him when I got my degree," she related to Flair.

Her husband had it in his head that she would "run off with a white-collar man" and there was nothing she could do to convince him otherwise. However, she went ahead with her plans, and that was when the relationship took a turn for the worse.

First, she had to deal with the verbal abuse, then it got physical. "I didn't fight back, trying to be the submissive wife - for the most part what I thought submissive meant. Things continued and got worse when he hit my eldest child (his stepdaughter) who was 14 years old at the time and told me he didn't want her in the house," recalled Smith-Lumsden.

That was an enormous blow for her as she had never been apart from her daughter. She defied his orders and kept her child and endured the abuse.


Affecting the children


She finally realised what all the abuse was doing to her children when a counsellor from the boys' (twins) school called and told her of the drastic changes in their behaviour. "She said they were drawing broken purple and red hearts, with tears around them, and family members apart and sad. It was then that I decided that I would stop going to school," Smith-Lumsden told Flair.

Although she gave up on her studies hoping for a more peaceful life to stabilise her children, that didn't help. Instead the abuse got worse.

He started to demand that she and the children leave the house. She got so stressed that she ended up in the hospital.

Things reached a head for her one night when after one of the many abusive episodes, her eldest child pulled a knife from the kitchen, threatening to kill her stepfather if he didn't stop abusing her.

"I decided to leave with the children because I couldn't allow them to continue hurting," she said. Leaving proved a challenge as she was operating an early childhood class out of the house.

While not staying there, she still had to go there to conduct her classes.

Her ex-husband destroyed a section of the enclosed classroom, and became a mischief,constantly intimidating her.

Paying rent and mortgage proved too much for her, and she made up her mind to return to the house which, by this time, her husband had abandoned.


Moved Back in


But as soon as she settled back in, he was back instructing her to get out. That argument led to a big fight in which he banged her against the wall and the furniture. The sight of the children crying got to him and he stopped.

"That day I called the police, a statement was taken, and charges were pressed." She eventually dropped the charges with the provision that "an occupation and protection order" be put in place. "The judge honoured my request and he had to take his things and go," said Smith-Lumsden.

Starting over with four children was not an easy task, but she said that through it all God has showed up in her situation. "Since 2008 I have received four scholarships. These have afforded me the opportunity to acquire a diploma in Early Childhood Care and Development, a certificate in Special Education, a certificate in Advanced Children Education Programme, and presently I am completing a diploma programme in entrepreneurship. I was also recently selected to receive a $100,000 grant to enhance my business and the promise of another," she revealed, adding that she is also currently pursuing a Bachelor in Education at Mico University.

An added blessing for her is that her daughter who was severely affected by the unstable relationship (there wasn't much hope of her finishing high school) is now also pursuing a Bachelor in Business degree at the University of the West Indies.

"My sons are now in high school and the youngest has just taken the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and looking forward to high school," Smith-Lumsden revealed, adding that it has been challenging, but her commitment to her children has seen her pressing on.

"It is my passion to help a sister understand that if they are feeling lifeless due to abuse, enough life is still in them to experience a rebirth. I am propelled to be an inspiration to women. For them to find hope in understanding that their best days are yet to come," said Smith-Lumsden, who is also the president of the Longville Park Parent Support Group.