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From Endangered To Empowered

Cortina Jackson had beaten the odds her entire life. She was molested at the age of seven by an older cousin; raped by a man she met at Church; and abused by her first husband. Yet, instead of succumbing to her adversities, Cortina continued to persevere. She raised two amazing sons as a single mom. She obtained a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in criminal justice and safety. And, she achieved her dream of becoming a police officer so she could help others in their time of need. However, two days before Cortina’s 40th birthday, she would face the greatest challenge of her life. It would be an epic battle that would change her – forever!

“Don’t you EVER talk about my family!”

He was supposed to be her Mr. Right! Sadly, Cortina’s second husband – the handsome, galante law enforcement officer who promised her the world – turned out to be a violent, narcissistic monster who took pleasure in regularly endangering Cortina’s physical and mental well-being. It would take only three and a half weeks of marriage for Cortina to experience his wrath. After mistaking a comment about paper plates for a dig against his family, he threw Cortina into a wall at the top of the stairs and began punching her in the back. She lost her balance trying to escape stumbling to the bottom landing. As Cortina tumbled down each step, her husband stood at the top screaming, “Don’t you EVER talk about my family!”. This would be the first of many injuries and beatings to come.

“If I ever decide to kill my ex-wife, I’ll wait years to do it. That way no one will ever suspect that it was me.”

It did not take long for Cortina to realize that her second husband had mastered the oppressive behaviors known collectively today as “coercive control”. He isolated Cortina by moving her five hours away from her family and friends. He limited her access to money numerous times by freezing their joint bank account. He shattered her dignity and self-respect through lies and cheating, and he dominated her through excessive physical and mental abuse. Always careful not to leave a mark on Cortina’s face, her husband would instead cause deep cuts and bruises to her back, arms, and legs. He would hit her with anything that was nearby: metal bars, cell phones, even a metal dog crate. In addition to the barrage of physical scars, Cortina was also subjected to intense psychological warfare. After learning that his first wife had fled to Germany with their son to escape his torturous ways, her husband’s intimidation escalated. In a controlled and haunting voice he would warn Cortina: “If I ever decide to kill my ex-wife, I will wait years to do it. That way no one will ever suspect that it was me.”

“If anything happens to me, HE DID IT!”

It was supposed to be a fresh start. Cortina’s second husband had been fired by his department after an investigation into the deep lacerations in her neck revealed years of domestic violence. With bankruptcy and foreclosure looming, Cortina was manipulated into believing another lie: returning to her family now would make her a colossal failure. So, she reluctantly packed up and joined her husband in Houston.

At first, things seemed to be falling into place. Cortina got a job as a parole officer, and her husband became a security consultant for a large oil company. Unfortunately, the old monster quickly returned - and this time with a vengeance. With nowhere else to turn, Cortina began confiding in her new supervisor. After taking pictures to document her latest injuries, Cortina gave her trusted confidante two additional items: (1) a paper containing vital information about her second husband; and (2) a secret file that held a detailed accounting of all the abuse she endured throughout her second marriage. As Cortina handed her evidence over for safe keeping, she gave her new supervisor an ominous warning. “If anything happens to me, HE DID IT!” Little did Cortina know that she was prophesying the climactic assault set to befall her in just a few short weeks.

“This is how I’m going to die!”

Her 40th birthday was in two days. As her husband sat quietly on the couch staring at the television, Cortina was creating some marketing material to celebrate the completion of her first book: On Earth As It Is In Hell. Realizing the living room was lacking the normal game day ruckus, Cortina turned around to check on her husband. His eyes were cold and mean. They looked completely black. No whites. No pupils. Figuring he was simply mad at the game, as they had not been fighting that day, Cortina turned back around and refocused her attention on the computer.

Frustrated with her graphic design software, Cortina sighed out loud, “I can’t get this”. Without warning, her husband leapt off the couch and knocked her to the floor. The pages of her treasured first book, “On Earth As It Is In Hell”, fluttered all around her. Confused by her husband’s sudden rage, Cortina slowly raised to her knees while he screamed at her. “You’re so stupid! You can’t do anything right!” As quickly as she could, she collected the disheveled pages, got up, and ran into the bedroom. She hid everything in a bag, then doubled over in pain as the bedroom door opened.

Cortina headed back into the living room hoping to de-escalate the situation, but more punches ensued. Suddenly, things went from bad to worse. With the full weight of his body, Cortina’s husband tackled her to the floor. Now in full control, he began pulling her hair with unimaginable force. Cortina could feel her scalp separating from her skull. Her pain was excruciating. When he failed to rip out her hair, Cortina’s husband wrapped his arm around her neck and began twisting her head. She could hear the bones in her neck cracking. Cortina continued her valiant fight for survival all-the-while thinking, “This is how I’m going to die!” Then, as pictures of her children flashed through her mind, something told her to pull her body into a fetal position. With her head tucked tightly into her chest, her husband lost his grasp. To Cortina’s surprise, her husband stood up and walked out of the room.

Assuming the worst was over, Cortina sat on motionless on the floor trying to regain her strength. Unfortunately, her husband was not finished with her yet. With her senses still on high alert, she heard him opening the compartment where he kept his gun. Thankfully, Cortina had taken the proactive step of developing an emergency escape plan when she first moved to Houston. As part of her plan, she hid extra car keys, money, and written phone number lists all around her house that she could easily grab and run. Those preparations were about to save her life. With her husband on his way back to the living room to murder her, Cortina got up, grabbed her purse and the car key she had hidden by the door, and escaped in her car. Cortina had her husband arrested, and she immediately filed for divorce.

Today, Cortina Jackson is a courageous survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence who is sharing her personal journey and the lessons she learned in the hopes of helping other victims. 

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