New Book Reveals How A U.S. Medalist Athlete
Battled Abuse & Recovered To Help Others Fight Back
Tammy Stamps courageously reveals the harrowing landscape of growing up and enduring a home life riddled with secrets and lies. "Our Time" is the chilling expose of surviving, escaping, and ongoing healing from longtime serial abuse: a tour-de-force of an undaunted spirit's journey toward wholeness. Bravo, Tammy!"
--James D. Huysman, PsyD. LCSW
"Tammy's story is the story of too many unheard voices. It may help others who need to be heard and liberated from their tragic childhoods."
--Joan E. Childs, LCSW
Tammy Stamps is a former medalist of the United States Tae Kwon Do team, a popular singer and songwriter, an author, and a 5th degree Black Belt Master Instructor in Choi Kwang Do and Tae Kwon Do. She is also a victim of severe sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her father during four decades of hell. She reveals her moving story in her debut memoir, Our Time: A True Story of 43 Years Of Abuse, Survival, and a Life Changed Forever (www.OurTmeStory.com).
The Wichita, Kansas native details the stunning level of abuse rendered by her dad, a Korean War veteran, telling the story of how even as an accomplished woman into her 40's she was still being raped at home. Her heart-wrenching book, though, serves as an inspirational tale for women seeking to break free from abuse. From guilt, shame, fear, pain, and confusion, she transforms herself into a healed, strong woman who now helps others survive and thrive.
"In writing my story," says Tammy, "I am making myself vulnerable to criticism and to judgement, but I feel that helping others outweighs my ego. I hope by others reading it, that it helps those who have suffered at the hands of others to realize that they, too, can overcome."
Tammy is available to discuss the following:
- How women and girls can break free from abuse - and go onto live healthy lives.
- Advice and support for those seeking to recover from abuse and their psychological jail.
- Why keeping the past a dark secret does more harm than good.
- Why a 4-time U.S. team medalist in the martial arts couldn't fight back when she was abused.
- What society needs to do to protect the innocent and voiceless from the cycle of abuse.
- How one can use music or the arts to heal.
- Why things are not always what they seem for others.
- How to discover and live your truths.
- How it feels to be 15 years free of abuse.
"The book was not written to hurt anyone," says Tammy. "It is about my truth my experience, my life and my struggles. It is also about the small victories I have had during my healing journey. My hope is that whoever chooses to read it will gain strength from it and realize that abuse can happen to anyone. They are not alone and did not deserve or cause it. Mostly, I want people to know that it is not their fault. I am proud to say that I am a survivor. Some days it is still one breath at a time, but I am breathing still."
Tammy, who is now residing in Amarillo, Texas, is fighting back and seeking to help others. The USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame member formed RISE UP (Regain Inner Self-Esteem Using Power) as a way to teach anti-bullying tactics to empower domestic violence victims. It has evolved into helping girls, boys, and adults. With over 30 years of experience in martial arts Tammy offers the benefits of empowering the human spirit and sharing the gift of knowledge with her students.
"I am living proof that one can overcome the ugliest experiences and live a good life," concludes Tammy.
"At that moment, when I realized what I was doing to myself, I pictured the earth with me standing in the middle of it and all at once the earth shattered into a million pieces flying off into the atmosphere leaving me as I am, naked, human and someone I wanted to know; labels gone. I am starting over at age fifty six and whenever I find myself struggling to react, to love, to show compassion, I remember that I am me, that is all, just me and what a wonderful me I am. I am finally compassionate with myself. It has taken fifty-six years, but it has finally come. I have discovered a love I had not known before; the love for myself."
--Our Time, ExcerptTammy Stamps
Tammy, what inspired you to pen your moving and inspiring memoir of abuse and recovery, Our Time? I was at the end of my rope and body reactions were ruling my life. After years of therapy, nothing seemed to be working, so out of desperation, I traveled to a highly regarded therapist in Florida, Ms. Joan E. Childs, for a five-day intensive session. After I shared my story, Joan said it was the only one she had seen in her over 40 years as a therapist. My passion has always been to empower others and we both felt that both my story and my journey could help many other people who have suffered at the hands of someone else. Writing my story was therapeutic for me and my hope is that it will encourage others to use their voice and find their power.
Your father abused you from as early as age six until you were 43. Your mom knew what was happening. Your sister, unknown to you at the time, also sustained abuse. How in the world could this go on for decades without anyone stepping in to help? A perpetrator uses "covert language" and my father was one of the best. Covert language is a gesture, a look or something the abuser says that only you and the abuser recognize as a threat. I was threatened many times that "I better not say anything, or there would be hell to pay". My father was violent, controlling and a sociopath. Our family's reputation was the most important thing and anything that put that in a bad light was not permitted. From the outside, our family seemed normal, somewhat controlling, but happy. We had been trained well. No one suspected anything was going on. There were signs but no one chose to see them, or if they did, the signs were ignored.
What was the process like for you, to confront the fear, pain, anger of your earlier life, as you revisited dark memories while writing your book? When I first started writing my book after my escape, everything was so raw, but in the same breath, very clinical. After all, the abuse was not something that I had repressed, in fact, I remembered every time it happened after age 17. The feelings of fear, pain and anger didn't just appear, I've carried each of them with me, even to this day. After time went by, I was able to put those feelings in check and revisit my book. At that moment, I was able to see my story from a different perspective. I knew it was something that could truly help others and that, in itself, enabled me to rewrite my book, tell my truth, share my struggles, betrayal, survival and the healing process.
As you talk openly about what happened to you, how does it feel to no longer be burdened with keeping your life's deepest moments a secret? It is life changing, freeing and scary. I'm not good at vulnerability and was so used to silence and stuffing everything, that finally having a voice was quite alarming. I had to start out slow with this new found freedom and life presented me with a gift called music with which to express my feelings in a safe way, stepping into the light slowly. Music gave me a way to put my pain, anger and fear into words. After my book had been out for a couple of months, I was getting ready for a singing gig. I looked in the mirror and I looked into my eyes and at that moment, my inner self said to me "You are breathing, your heart is beating and I am so damn proud of you." It was then that I realized I was free from the secrets and was using my voice to regain my power.
What advice can you give to those who may be suffering abuse right now? Silence will keep you a victim and I wish that on no one. Tell someone, tell someone you trust, but tell someone. There are people out there who care and will help you. No one can see or feel your pain, nor can they read your mind. Every moment you are silent empowers the abuser. Do not let your power be taken from you. The longer you are abused, the longer your healing is. You do not deserve to be abused, you did not cause it, it is not your fault. Find the power within you, the strength to use your voice. The abuser is not worth one more minute of your pain.
What could you tell those in need of recovery that might move them to get help? It is YOUR life and you can either choose to dwell in the past, let it haunt you and ruin the life you could have or you can step forward and reclaim your power and your life. We cannot change what has happened to us, but we can stop having tunnel vision which causes us to focus only on the pain, anger and fear that abuse creates. There is a life after abuse, there is hope, love and joy and most of all there is a choice. There is no shame in getting help to enable you to heal and have a wonderful life, the shame comes when you self-loathe and stay in the cycle of abuse, self-abuse.
In certain passages of your book, it feels like we're reading diary entries about a monster. Is that how we should view your father? No one is all bad or all good. We are flawed human beings. I hated what my dad did to me and at times, I hated him. He had so much power over me that I was afraid that when he passed away that he would come back from the grave and haunt me. I was terrified. However, when I heard of his death in 2017, I felt sorry for him. He was no longer a monster to me, he was a sad, weak, pitiful old man. After my book came out, my view changed slightly. I began to realize that what happened to me for all those years actually prepared me for my destiny... to help others. You have to see the dark, before you know what light is. A monster, yes...a human being...yes. He was a man who did some awful things.
While this abuse was taking place you were a premiere athlete, serving as an alternate for the United States Olympic Taekwondo Team. Did you ever think of using your skill as a weapon against your dad? There were times I came so close, but he played so many mind games with me that I was actually too scared to. It seemed that there was a piece of saran wrap between reality and that which held me back. I could see both sides and it was a daily struggle to know which side to choose. Fight back or give in. My dad used to tell me "Your parents can do anything to you and you just have to take it." Many times during abuse, the abuser plays the carrot and the stick game. They control you and can take everything away from you in one breath and yet be kind in the next. Growing up, that is confusing. They make you feel guilty for hating them.
How do you teach people to fight back? With their voice...this is the best way to fight back. It empowers you and exposes the abuser. Tell someone. Again, silence keeps you a victim. I know this firsthand.
What can society do - schools, neighbors, coaches, counselors, or family - to help prevent what happened to you from happening to others? Care enough to look, to see, to do something. There were so many signs in my life that spelled "abuse", but no one did anything. People do not want to get involved. Ask yourself, if it were happening to me, what would I want someone to do? The answer is to get involved, look into the eyes. It is there that you will see their pain. If you do not look, you will not see, especially in those of us who are masters of disguise. It took one person to care enough to look into my eyes and within one week, I was gone. As far as in our Society, I believe we need to take the perpetrator out of the home, not the child. By taking the child out of the home the chances for further abuse increase at the hands of others.
You also use music to heal. What role does it play in your rehabilitation? Music and Martial Arts saved my life. Music made me feel. I used to go into my room, put my headphones on and crank up Celine Dion's music. I would lip sing and I could feel her music, the energy and vibration coming from my toes to the top of my head. I was alive and it was my escape. It opened my heart just a little bit. I really started writing music after I escaped. It was a way for me to use the voice I was never allowed to have. I was also able to touch others through my music and make them feel as well. They say that your voice is your most powerful asset and there is something about hearing the sound and vibration of your own voice that gets you in touch with who you are.
As you reflect back on our trauma, does it shock you as to what you endured for so many years? Yes. It also shocks me that I endured such horror without turning to drinking, drugs, sex, cutting, etc. I do not know why, but I never did. Putting a gun to my head, yes, several times. It also saddens me that I always felt weak. However, I kept telling myself that I was strong enough to handle the abuse so I wouldn't tear our family apart. It was only after I left and looked back that I discovered the strength I had all along. To be able to walk away from a life I knew for 43 years in the middle of the night not knowing what was in store for me, but walking away anyway. To know that I not only survived the horror, but I am thriving now. I still question why I didn't leave earlier, but I was frozen, dead and accepted my fate, until one day I didn't. I am proud of who I am, but I also realize that what I endured, made me who I am today.
How do you hope the telling of your journey will empower other girls and young women? I believe that abuse is so prominent in our society and has been kept so hush-hush for so long, that it is high time we stand up as a human race and demand a change. Women are stronger than they think they are. We were brought up to be subservient and passive. It is horrible to not have a voice or to feel like your pain does not matter. To feel alone, controlled and made to feel like you have been put here to fulfill someone else's desire is criminal. I want to empower other girls and women to use their voice to say "No more". We have the right to protect our bodies and our spirits. I want women to know that they can survive and thrive after they use their voices. It is not wrong to do so. I want them to discover the power they hold to change the world, their world, for the better.
The #MeToo movement has opened the doors to giving women a voice they didn't quite have before. Does the country need to go through a national mourning and healing process? Ido not believe that we should mourn anything, but we need to learn from it and become better people. Healing, yes. Healing begins with the spoken word, with support from others. We need to bring an awareness to our society, educate our youth, give them the power to know they have a right to say no. Teach respect. Mourning only comes when we do not learn from our mistakes and continue to inflict pain upon others. Speak our truth and others will follow.
What is life like for you now, almost 15 years free of abuse? Life is still a daily struggle. Abuse creates a trauma bond that continues after the grave. The reactions, the feelings, the triggers all continue and have to be dealt with to enable a fulfilling life. I am just now realizing that my thoughts determine my destiny, my self-talk is a choice and that the most important thing is when I look in the mirror that the person looking back at me, loves me, trusts me and is proud of who I am. Things have changed for me in monumental ways and I am finding my biggest reward in helping others. This is how I help myself. I'm thriving and you, too can do the same. It is a choice.