My Good Name

The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network recently received a grant from Verizon’s HopeLine® program to enhance our work throughout West Virginia. The HopeLine program supports domestic violence prevention and awareness programs nationwide. Child Advocacy Centers in West Virginia have long been serving children exposed to violence in their homes, and domestic violence often co-occurs with other forms of abuse and/or victimization for children. The HopeLine program collects no-longer used wireless phones, batteries and accessories from any wireless carrier. Proceeds from the program are used to provide wireless phones and cash grants to local shelters and non-profit organizations that focus on domestic violence prevention and awareness. Here is Crystal’s story – a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence bringing a voice and a name to this issue.

My mother married Mr. Good when I was in kindergarten. Shortly thereafter he started sexually and emotionally abusing me. The two forms of abuse – sexual and emotional – go hand in hand. It took years for me to understand the connection between emotional and sexual abuse – both forms of domestic violence. However, abuse in whatever form it appears is simply abuse.

I was given my Good name in the second grade. My Mom explained to me that my last name would be changing from Titcher, her maiden name, to Good, her married name. In my second grade mind, I was excited that my new last name would start with the letter G instead of the letter T. That meant I could get in the lunch line sooner. I imagined that this name change would also take away some of the awkwardness I felt being a “black” child with “white” parents in a “white” town. (My mother is “white”, my father is “black”, and my stepfather/abuser is “white”. I grew up in St. Albans, West Virginia.) I was often asked if I was a foster child or adopted because of the family skin color differences and my different last name. I was excited for the  name change. I knew this would give me the appearance of being a legitimate part of a family even though I knew my stepdad was “mean”. Mean was the best way I could describe him without an adult vocabulary to explain sexual and emotional abuse. My mom, stepdad, and I went into the judge’s chambers in Charleston and there I became, Crystal Good.

I’ve been married a few times, and each time I have kept my Good name. This always perplexed my husbands. Why would I want to keep the name that held such trauma and weight for me? Why would I want to keep the name of a predator? Why would I want to hold onto abuse in my name? My husband’s came to understand that I never took their names, because I had a strategy. I explained to them that my strategy was that long arc and bend Martin Luther King spoke of – toward justice for the crimes committed against me.

My strategy started long before I imagined myself a wife at age 18 when I decided I would work hard to make something of myself in a public way. I always kept my Good name, because I knew the day would come that Mr. Good would be held accountable. I wanted people to be able to connect Mr. Good to Crystal Good, me. I feared changing my name would disconnect me from people’s memories. I also believed that by keeping my Good name, anyone he had ever harmed – at one of my sleepovers or camping trips – might come forward and together we could start a collective healing journey.

Then finally, after decades of police, persistence, prosecuting attorneys and investigations, I had my victory: my stepfather was found guilty and sentenced for his crimes. The judge said my case was one of the most heinous crimes he had seen in his courtroom and gave Mr. Good the maximum allowed, with a hefty fee and a lifetime probation. The judge said he wished he could do more but was bound to sentencing limitations.

I stood in the courtroom during Mr. Good’s sentencing and gave my testimony. I read a letter that I had written as a teenager to the court. I told the court and directly to my stepfather, “Your name is Ron Good, and I have tried to that make you ‘good’ but you are not.”

I left court with a sense of freedom. He left in handcuffs. I began the struggle to decide what to do about carrying my Good name. I realized I didn’t have to keep it any more – my mission was accomplished. My stepfather was in jail. Many other people he had abused found me, and others who have experienced various forms of abuse reached out to me for support. I was at the cross roads and moment to change my name and be free – from Good. I imagined changing my name to Roosevelt or Rockefeller or any host of creative names like Goodwoman that I tried on. Naming myself was one way to take control over my narrative. I chose instead to give a new meaning to myself and my Good name. It is mine. It represents the goodness, persistence, and victory in me. In my Good name I decided to move away from a victim identity and live as a woman who has experienced abuse. “Abuse” does not define me.

I do not have a crystal ball. However, Ball, was one of the names I considered. I cannot see the future. I had no proof when I decided to keep my last name, Good, that others would come forward after hearing the news about sexual abuse. I simply had faith and perseverance. I took power and control over defining myself and my name. I wear my name as a reminder of all that I have been through and as a light toward where I am going. I remind myself every day…..

Be Good. 

 

Crystal Good is an artist, entrepreneur and advocate. Crystal uses poetry and performance to explore the landscape of Appalachia as a lens into the universe. She is a member of the Affrilachian Poets, an Irene McKinney Scholar and performs with Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a New York-based Free/Avant-Garde experimental improvisation ensemble and The Red Neck Valley Girls. She is the CEO of Good Hemp a startup developing Appalachian small farm raised CBD infused natural cosmetics. Visit: crystalgood.net @cgoodwoman

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