Tenickia Polk turns tragedy into hope for fellow victims of abuse

A portrait photo of Tenickia Polk

Melanie Mobley

It was the summer of 2010 when Tenickia Polk lost everything. After years enduring an abusive marriage, she sought help from her church and ended things with her husband. This led to more pain as she lost her home, child and personal health.

Many women have experienced domestic violence and lost everything, and Polk is one of them. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1.3 million women are victims of domestic violence each year — a staggering 1 in 4 women. Tenickia Polk has come a long way since that fateful summer and now leads a busy life fighting for women who experience domestic violence.

One year after everything fell apart Polk founded her own publishing company, TP Rewards. At the end of October she will be releasing, “Jesus Juice for Health and Freedom,” which exposes her experience with domestic violence and explores the roots of this problem and how to overcome the trauma.

After Polk ended her marriage, she had to short-sell her house and since her ex-husband refused to contribute financially, she couldn’t secure a home for herself.

“I had bad credit,” wrote Polk. “No one wanted to rent to me with bad credit. And so I was homeless.”

Info-graphic on homelessness in the U.S.
Info-graphic on homelessness in the U.S. | Courtesy of Good Shepard Housing

Because she had little money, she sought help from friends and service providers such as House of Ruth to guide her through the continuous court battles. Polk had to fight for court protection orders and then her divorce, which was eventually granted in 2011.

Polk finally secured an apartment of her own through the non-profit organization Good Shepard Housing, based in Virginia. This good news was short-lived when she suffered another miscarriage.

“My third one,” Polk writes in her upcoming book. “I could get over the failed marriage, but why-oh-why didn’t God allow my baby to live.”

Fearing that her ex-husband would track her down at work, she quit her job as a school teacher and was unemployed for months.

“He knew where I worked,” writes Polk. “I just needed time away from him. I just didn’t need the stress of watching my back while going to work.”

All these events took a toll on Polk’s health that led to her developing multiple allergies and food sensitivities. Since she was unemployed, she didn’t have healthcare to back her up.

“I ended up turning to vitamins and supplements which gave me some relief and actually I became very dependent on them,” Polk said. “I started taking them like every three hours or so just to manage all these symptoms.”

Polk went through excruciating days, sometimes just being able to consume one meal and not even drink water.

Mattie Palmore, co-founder of the Women’s Group of Mt. Vernon, met Polk through a colleague when she worked at Good Shepard. Polk is currently the Vice President of this group.

“When I met Tenickia she probably weighed 100 pounds,” Palmore said. “She was stressed out, her hair was falling out. She was very strong, but her self-esteem was very low. She was just running from herself.”

Palmore explains how Polk started coming to the Women’s Group of Mt. Vernon and immediately participated and helped other people by telling her story. Today she serves as Vice President of the group.

The cover of Polk’s new book. Amazon.com

Through the support group, Polk learned about the Be In Health ministry that taught her about the spiritual root causes of diseases. She was suffering from Lupus, an ailment that had been part of her life even before she got married, and through the ministry found out that the spiritual root cause of her disease was self-hatred.

At first she couldn’t believe it. She had always thought that her self-esteem was pretty high.

“I started monitoring my thoughts and I found out it was true because the thoughts that I had towards myself were not very kind,” Polk said. “I was blaming myself for everything that happened.”

She decided to change her mind towards loving herself and when she finally did, the Lupus disappeared and it hasn’t returned in over five years. Polk began to research the rest of her diseases and says she has been cured of many.

“It’s just getting to the root cause, which a lot of times is fear, which a lot of people don’t consider a sin, but it is,” she said. “The whole thing is just lining up with God’s word. Once we can line up with God’s word, our body will do what it is supposed to do.”

One of the most important ways to heal oneself after going through a trauma such as domestic violence is learning how to forgive. Polk states that it doesn’t necessarily mean forgiving your perpetrator but most importantly it is about forgiving yourself.

“It’s always about teaching people how to move forward in their lives,” said Polk. “There is physical healing in it, but there is emotional healing.”

“When she forgave her perpetrator she just flourished and began to just keep on glowing,” said Palmore. “She looks back to tell her story, but she never falls back.”

Faith is a huge part of Polk’s life and she says her church was instrumental to helping her get out of her abusive marriage. From the first moment that she disclosed to her ministers that she was not safe with her husband, they worked on finding her a place to stay and a protection order. They accompanied Polk to her home to pick-up her things.

“It was my pastor’s voice that really helped me to finally resolve to leave,” she said. “He just asked me one question: Why would you want to stay with someone who treats you like that? And coming from a pastor, that’s huge.”

The unconditional support she received from her church challenged everything she knew about the church’s relationship with marriage. She had assumed that they would frown upon her divorce, but that wasn’t the case.

“That is when I really started realizing that maybe God loves me more than this marriage,” Polk said.

In 2009, when Polk was still a schoolteacher, she self-published her first book. As a computer technology teacher, she felt that her students didn’t have the proper books to engage them so she published her very own.

The book was a huge success with the kids and from there other people started asking her to help them publish their own books.

One of her most rewarding experiences as a publisher was when she o published her mother’s book about her own experience with domestic violence. Until she worked on her mother’s story, Polk did not know that her mother had gone through this as well.

“That was just further confirmation, divine confirmation, for me that the publishing is something that I needed to do. I just feel like there are so many stories that are untold,” Polk said. “I’m thankful that I finally did learn her story.”

Christie Jones is one of the authors that have worked with Polk through TP Rewards. Her book “Are We Home Yet?” is a story about a young boy experiencing homelessness.

“Her best characteristics as a person and as a publisher are the same. What she is going to give to you if you know her personally is what she is going to give you as your publisher,” Jones said in an interview. “She is driven and she believes in your story and if she feels as if this is a story that the world needs to know, she is going to work her very best to get that story out.”

Courtesy of the Center for Survivor, Agency and Justice

Tenickia Polk was fortunate to find the support she did. As a single woman experiencing homelessness as a result of domestic violence, she was lucky to be able to find housing. Sixty-three percent of homeless women have experienced domestic violence in their lives, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. And not all of them fare as well as Polk eventually did.

A woman who experiences domestic violence, whether she is single or has a family, has to deal with a lack of affordable housing and long wait-lists for shelters. She then has to make a decision: live on the street or go back to the abuser.

According to the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team’s 2014 report, 44 percent of murders that occurred in the county were due to domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Prevention, Policy, and Coordinating Council (DVPPCC) unanimously endorsed these findings during their January 2014 meeting.

The members of the DVPPCC are  county leaders who meet to decide on policy towards domestic violence. Polk recently was appointed a Marginalized and Underrepresented Population Representative at the organization.

The violence that these women face affects them in more ways than one, leading to poor credit scores and employment histories, which in turn complicates their situation even more.

Having a protection order against an abuser is sometimes cause for an eviction by landlords who fear violence on their property. These actions are illegal under the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 and it is important for tenants to know their rights.

Domestic violence and homelessness are widespread problems that too often go hand-in-hand. Polk aims to inspire hope for a better future by sharing success stories and knowledge of support services through community meetings, TP Rewards publishing and her online television show, DomesticViolence.tv 

“One of the biggest goals I have is just to teach people how to overcome their situations,” Polk said. “It’s to teach coping mechanisms as far as how to deal with your anger and disappointment and with the domestic violence, your self-image.[It is] realizing that you are worth more than this relationship.”

Polk interviewed Rev. Bruce Lagwiser for “Community Chat” on Domesticviolence.tv.

Issues |Domestic Violence|Health, Physical|Housing|Jobs|Lifestyle|Spirituality

Region |Virginia|Washington DC

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.