One local woman gave a harrowing, and ultimately inspiring, account of overcoming tragedy and abuse as a small group observed a candle light vigil Thursday night to remember Georgians that have died in the past year as a result of domestic abuse.
The vigil was organized by Promise Place and took place outside the courthouse in Fayetteville.
Michela Duplechain, a Coweta resident, recounted the cycle of physical and emotional abuse she suffered from her husband leading up to a day, around six years ago, that he killed her 14-year-old son and himself right in front of her.
Duplechain spoke about some of the heartbreaking details leading up to and including that day. She has since spread her story to others as a message of resilience, faith in God, and as a reminder to other women to speak up when they are being abused.
She said Reggie Hines, her husband of two months at the time of the murder-suicide, had always been extremely physically abusive, but was also “very charming, handsome. He was a deceiver.” He was repeatedly able to convince her he was sorry, even apologizing to her in front of members of her church. That show of contrition convinced her to agree to marry him, but the abuse resumed as bad as ever soon after.
She said she used to think of herself as very strong and independent, but the abuse destroyed that.
“To have a man beat me when I was so strong, to have him bring me down, I started believing that I was nothing,” Duplechain said.
She said she was moving furniture out of the house one day when he pulled up. Seeing the furniture and assuming she was trying to leave him, Hines pulled out a gun and shot her only son, Anthony, killing him. She said he would have killed her too, but a white car pulled between them at just the right moment, and he turned the gun on himself.
“To lose my child, my only child, that affected me in such a way I felt my life was over because I didn’t know how I cope,” Duplechain said.
Remarkably, she resolved to find a purpose in the tragedy, strengthened by her faith in God. In honor of her son, she went to college at Clayton State for a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and counseling. She graduated last December, in the same year that Anthony would have graduated high school.
“I never enjoyed school. I thought I wasn’t smart enough,” she said. “But the inspiration to walk across that stage and graduate in 2013, the year my son would have graduated high school, that felt so good to be able to do that.”
In addition to bettering herself, she has gone out and told her story in the hopes of helping other victims of abuse. She said she never thought she would be speaking publicly, as it used to scare her.
“My son can’t speak. He’s not physically with me, but he’s spiritually with me. I can speak for him. I’m not afraid any more,” she told the group. “If you know anyone going through domestic violence, encourage them to report it. Step out in faith and believe God will use organizations like Promise Place to help them. With God, all things are possible. All you have to do is believe that.”
According to its website: “Promise Place was established in 1987 to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and their children. While originally established to provide services in Fayette County, Promise Place answered the call for the need of assistance for victims throughout the Griffin Judicial Circuit.”
The crisis hotline is at (770) 460-1604. For more information visit www.promiseplace.org.