Darlene Hills-Clinkscale

Darlene was raised in the church, an institution that remains the centerpiece of her life. All her life, she strived to do the “right” thing…to be the best wife, mother and home maker she could be. But along the way, sherealized that something was not quite right.

 During her 14-year marriage, Darlene worked full-time while also perfecting the art of homemaking…well-tended kids, delicious meals and a sparkling clean house were hallmarks of her art. Regardless of how hard she tried to please, nothing could curb the abuse inflicted upon her by her husband, an aspiring minister and leader in their church. Falling back on what she thought the scriptures were guiding her to do, Darlene endured his physical and emotional abuse in an effort to be “the perfect wife.” She thought it was something that she was doing wrong that spurred his wrath…that if only she tried harder, it would stop. But it didn’t.

 For Darlene, the final line was crossed the day her children witnessed a particularly violent act of physical abuse by her husband. This was after he intentionally blocked her car in the driveway with the church van in an attempt to prevent her from going to work. At that moment, she found the strength to break from the life she had endured for so long. Darlene called her sister who in turn called her mother, who notified the church. Darlene had the locks changed, and never looked back.

 Her secret was out. She was exposed to her faith community. She felt humiliated…a failure. In hindsight, she knows these were flawed thoughts — byproducts of years of conditioning — and that letting those feelings out was actually the first step on the journey to healing.

 With newfound freedom, Darlene threw herself into her education, her children and work. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information and a master’s degree in Education with a focus on counseling from Youngstown State University. Through her master’s program, Darlene learned that the type of abuse she had endured was unfortunately common in society, and that it was no different within the religious community. It just was not talked about.

 Darlene made it her personal mission to educate the religious community about domesticviolence through faith-based counseling and education. While a delicate path to navigate, she has been successful getting people to acknowledge the problem exists. Her pastor fully supports her mission, and has started discussion groups at her church.

 She initiated the Faith-Based Task Force of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, and has been appointed to numerous commissions and panels to share her own experience. Darlene was featured in an article in Black Enterprise magazine entitled “Breaking the Chains of Financial Abuse.” As many abuse survivors, she struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and debilitating anxiety, both of which have impacted her career path.

 In the mid 2000s, Darlene was employed as a career pathway coordinator at Youngstown State. Life circumstances necessitated a move to Columbus, and she held different jobs over the years. She graduated from Goodwill Workforce Development in 2014, and was hired as a counselor for Wright Choice, an agency that mentors and assists young adults with disabilities as they complete higher education. The confidence she gained by participating in Workforce Development programs helped Darlene not only get a job, but pursue the advocacy work she loves.

A vital support to Darlene along the way has been Goodwill Family Strengthening Coordinator Lutrell Jolly, who continues to guide and assist as she navigates her career path. “I would not have the strength and confidence to be where I am without Lutrell and Goodwill,” Darlene said.

“When she first came to Goodwill, Darlene’s anxiety was so debilitating that it would have been impossible for her to do any sort of public speaking,” said Lutrell. “There were so many feelings of shame left over from the domestic violence. Today, Darlene has grown so significantly that she gives public presentations about domestic violence and financial abuse. She has come so far and her progress is absolutely remarkable.”

Darlene’s greatest pride and joy is her four children. Despite struggling financially following the divorce, she managed to ensure they were educated. Today, they are pursuing successful careers and leading highly accomplished lives. One has given her the gift of four grandchildren.

Rallying the support of her church, her family and her Goodwill community, Darlene has empowered herself to reach deep and find the warrior within. Through intervention, education and sheer grit, she has redefined herself -- not as a victim, but a victor.