Wife of former UT basketball coach witnessed mother’s abuse
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When she was just 3 years old, Brandy Pearl became a witness to domestic violence, as her mother was being abused by her father.
However, she was fortunate enough to see the abuse end after her mother finally mustered up enough courage to put an end to it and leave.
Seeing the abuse her mother endured at such a young age inspired Pearl to get involved with causes such as Haven House, following in the footsteps of husband Bruce, former men’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.
Pearl was in the process of helping renovate the Haven House’s undisclosed safe house shelter when she spoke to The Daily Times about the abuse she saw her mother go through, and how it made her more aware how abuse can affect those around her.
“I know it sounds funny, but when you’re young you have some memories, but some of them really aren’t that clear,” Pearl said. “It’s very vivid for me, even that young. I’m lucky in that I wasn’t in it for a long time. My mother was brave enough to get out by the time I was 6 years old. It was only for a few years, but it was in the very early stages of my life when this occurred.
“Even with it being that short period of time, the fear that you feel and the helplessness that you feel as a child carried on through my life a little bit,” Pearl continued.
“I’m doing this (Haven House) because of my mother. She was brave enough to get out. She saw that eventually it was going to affect me and my relationships. There was nothing like this for her to go to. When I was young, you didn’t really talk about it. Even the family didn’t want to talk about it.”
‘I HEARD IT’
Pearl said she was not certain of the exact amount of time her mother took the abuse.
“It could have been going on before I knew it was going on,” she said. “It was one of those situations when my mother would put me to bed and shut the door. I was never afraid of the dark when I was little, but I understood what was going on.”
Pearl then had to pause for a moment, became emotional, shedding tears of pain for what her mother had to go through.
“I didn’t officially see it, but I heard it,” she said, somber. “It’s just hard when you have two parents that you love, and one is hurting the other. You feel like you’re so helpless as a kid. They don’t understand, they’ll say, ‘Why is Daddy hitting Mommy?’ And there’s nothing they can do about it because they’re little.”
As she got older and realized more of what was going on, Pearl said she never tried to reach out to any other adults about her mother’s abuse.
“It wasn’t like my father let her go; it’s hard to leave, because they can’t,” Pearl said. “My family didn’t talk about it, but my grandparents knew it was going on and we would go there sometimes to get away, and maybe a neighbor would know and go to their house. I didn’t have to go through my whole childhood in that situation.”
TRUST ISSUES SURFACE
Pearl said when she first got together with her husband, she had some lukewarm trust issues.
“My dad did this, and I thought if he can do it, any guy can do it,” Pearl said. “There’s some girls out there I’ve seen in situations where they might be too trusting or fall into that same pattern of finding someone that is abusive to them. It’s very common in girls, but as a child, when you are a witness to something like that, you kind of lose some of your innocence, because you are subjected to something you shouldn’t be subjected to.”
Pearl described her mother as her “best friend. She is the strongest woman I know, and that really helped me.”
She said she had been wanting to get involved with Haven House for a long time.
“I knew (Haven House CEO) Valerie Day had been with the March of Dimes and Bruce had a golf tournament through them,” Pearl said. “I called her and she was like, ‘Come on, that would be great.’ I volunteer one day a week, whatever she needs me to do. This opportunity came, and this beautiful old house can make it comfortable for the women and they have a calm place to come to.
“I’m proud of Valerie for this campaign and my husband for doing all of this,” Pearl continued. “My dad wasn’t an evil person — he just had this thing. I feel people can be helped. There’s hope to try to rehabilitate them and do better.”
Pearl said knowing her mother’s helped her to grow as a person.
“I saw my mom and saw how she was selfless,” she said. “She saw her kids and saw the situation, and didn’t want them to be subjected to that. Some women stay for some reason, and they feel like they can’t leave. It made me see how strong she was, and know if there’s some obstacle in my life, I can overcome it, too.”