DVAM – Harralyn Rawls Survivor Story
Harralyn Swinger Rawls, a long-time victims’ advocate, co-founder of Fellowship Community Outreach Ministry, and minister, is a self-proclaimed “abuser magnet,” after having endured cruelty and assault from eight different abusers in her lifetime — the worst being her ex-husband whom she escaped 25 years ago.
Her ex-husband not only beat and raped her, but also raped her daughter. The court responded with only a three-month sentence taking note that the church sided with her ex. Harralyn did not feel any support from her community, her church or the judicial system during this trauma. This was a time when no one spoke about domestic violence and a woman’s word — or even pleas — were ignored.
While she was trying to put her and her children’s lives back together after the divorce, Harralyn discovered that her ex’s new wife was forging checks and stealing money from her at his request. It didn’t take long for the new wife to realize her circumstances were no different than Harralyn’s when her husband brutally beat their baby. It was then that the church changed course and reached out to Harralyn to speak for her.
Despite having loving, and supportive parents, they never argued, thereby never providing an example of healthy conflict resolution. Harralyn was ill-equipped to spot the many red flags abusers often display to avoid harm. Another factor was the indoctrination of her church at the time, that the abuse she was experiencing was an expression of love — as demonstrated by their lack of support during her most trying times.
After 25 years, Harralyn still experiences PTSD and is triggered by seemingly benign things like cologne and men in red shirts. Despite her trauma, Harralyn’s experience has driven her to help others find their voice after escaping domestic violence. She became a minister and founded the nonprofit, Fellowship Community Outreach, to advocate for other victims. Harralyn also works Marsy’s Law for Georgia having helped pass its legislation in the Georgia Constitution and now serves as an advisory board member, and works with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on the human trafficking task force.
Harralyn counts her blessings as a domestic abuse survivor. She’s now married to a wonderful man; she and her ex-husband’s ex-wife are now friends and she’s found a more evolved and supportive church. To continue her journey, she even decided to attend therapy for the first time this year to navigate her and her offspring’s healing process.
Even though she didn’t have the support available at the time, Harralyn is thankful for Marsy’s Law now because it gave her a stronger voice in the community and continues to provide victims with a voice to tell their stories. Her late mother once told her that she didn’t go through these traumatic experiences to make her stronger, she went through them so she could be the voice for others and to help them avoid these situations.