Free At Last…the story of a woman caught in the cycle of domestic abuse.

By P. J. Stratton

Today is my Anniversary. My 'Freedom Anniversary'! 14 years ago today I began a new life, with new friends and new job in sunny Los Angeles, California. This moment was a lifelong dream come true to be in the land of palm trees, ocean views, and Old Hollywood playground of film noir movies.

My heart was thrilled and happy, but weary having ‘blazed a 1500-mile trail’ in 36 hours through the desert to California...alone! Only a few days before I had left my 5-year business of building outdoor living environments in the hands of my business partner and oldest son, and bid my beloved family goodbye departing Dallas, Texas on Friday evening.

I had desired to live in Los Angeles since I was eight years old and it only increased after celebrating my 30th birthday touring California beginning in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles where I climbed an hour up to the Hollywood Sign and snapped my photo sitting on the ‘D’ and continued all the way to San Diego.

I was, in fact, escaping an abusive relationship after receiving the biggest slap in the face as my 'Christian' boyfriend confessed the previous New Year's Eve at midnight he would never marry again and had no use for church. He confessed he had been a cheater in all his relationships and proved to be so in ours coupled with abusive anger issues when confronted of wrong doing.

The shock of his betrayal and lack of character was devastating, but this mistake laid at my feet for letting him into my life in the first place. However, through the years I had allowed other relationships and extended family members to disrespect me verbally, emotionally, and some physically. I chose to make peace, instead of fighting and take the 'high road' by setting a 'Christian' example. This technique does not work when dealing with misogynistic, egotistical, and narcissistic sociopaths with violent tendencies.

What is it about us strong Proverbs 31 women that makes us believe we can 'change' another person primarily because of our love for them? I realized this was a thought pattern in my past relationships which were ‘unequally yoked’ and these are issues only the Holy Spirit can perform. We try to talk it out and convert them.

You can talk until you're blue in the face, but some men and women will ignore you and even those with doctoral degrees behind their name. We must resist our efforts to be another person's Savior. It's simply not our calling! 

But God made a way of escape for me as He says in His Word...

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Tim Allen, a dear long-time friend from Newport Beach, CA was aware of my heartbreak and created a job for me in Los Angeles with his company. When I met Tim in 1999, he was a 'scout' and substance abuse counselor for the Los Angeles Angels baseball team and a brilliant professional. I felt in safe hands and spent a year preparing to move.

The day I arrived in Los Angeles a glorious view beheld me from Palm Springs, to Beverly Hills and on the way to the Pacific Ocean. I was now a ‘California girl’ just like the Beach Boys song played on my phonograph turntable so many years ago. My journey had begun!

As my first day at my new job progressed, reality and depression set in fast. Perhaps it was jetlag fatigue having left my family, children, grandchildren and a harsh reminder I was 1500 miles from home and alone in California. I was an emotional wreck missing my family and vast support group of loyal friends, in a new city with 144 ethnicities, 20 million people and the sheer magnitude of Southern California's geography coupled with its traffic was massive to adjust to from the onset.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

A million thoughts were running through my mind. Had I done the right thing by leaving my old life? I missed my family and friends. The tears began to fall and I found myself calling out for God to help me. In the midst of the crocodile tears running down my face, my mobile phone rang. It was a Prayer Minister from ORU Prayer Tower in Tulsa, Oklahoma calling to see if she could pray with me! What? Unbelievable as to the timing, this very incident gave me comfort and confidence in His love for me and in my heart I knew God was with me...today, tomorrow and always!

God healed me right then and I focused forward. After work, I explored the sights and found myself driving to the Hollywood Sign, which I had not seen in person since May 1985 and then to Brentwood to pay my respects to Marilyn Monroe's former home. California weather is glorious with warm, balmy ocean breezes which sweep over your face wrapping themselves around you in warm hugs. I was sold and throughout my 14 years there I rarely used my car's A/C; my windows were down, hair blowing in the wind and my Christian music blaring all the way. Southern girls do things right so make room: we are coming through!

I was meeting new friends, going to celebrity events and acclimating to my new vibe tribe. At Dave Navarro's Halloween Party held on the rooftop of Kodak Center, I met Al Jolson's great nephew, Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn, CEO of Hollywood Today an online entertainment magazine. He was rummaging through 30 pages of events for the night and I asked if I could be of service as a writer/photographer. 2 days later, I was on the red carpet snapping photos of Katie Holmes in the midst of her romance with Tom Cruise.

I covered AFI Film Festival and interviewed Gil Cates Sr. and Jr.

 

From this day on I worked my day job downtown and moonlighted as a photojournalist in Los Angeles. I would be up until 3 am on those nights editing and formatting the photos to upload them to the WENN's London portal for the international sale to media news services. This was tough on my body and was not getting enough rest but I was having a blast. Yeshua was making a way for me as my photos sold around the world, I made 50% of proceeds.

 

Another exciting development came along as a new friend had a friend who knew of a room to rent near Runyon Canyon at the foot of the Hollywood Hills…a cool address to be in the mix. I called and moved right away. I had a rooftop 180 degree view of Hollywood, all of southern Los Angeles and Century City and it was within walking distance of the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Kodak Center where the Oscars take place every year on Hollywood Blvd’s Walk of Fame and the Metro train which would take me to work and back every day for the next year.

Proverbs 18:16  A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.

Shortly thereafter another surprise came to me at Sylvester Stallone's 'Rocky Balboa' movie premier at Grauman's Chinese Theater. I was approached by a fellow photographer and photojournalist to shoot for London, England’s WENN Los Angeles Bureau. What an honor and 60 days into my Hollywood journey I had become an internationally published photojournalist for both World Entertainment News Network and Hollywood Today!

P. J. Stratton and Phil Crosby, Jr.

As the 2006 Christmas holidays approached, I was invited by friend and client, Phil Crosby, Jr., to attend his family's holiday party. I was pinching myself standing in the presence of hosts Peggy Crosby (Dean Martin's former love), her  husband Jack Klugman (Quincy M.D.) happily smiling at me as he tended bar, Neile Adams (Mrs. Steve McQueen), James and Alba Caron (actor), Larry and Nancy Manetti (Magnum PI) and Mr. Cadillac: Frank and Linda Corrente.

The night was surreal as I snapped photos and Old Hollywood stories echoed in the room. Phil began to sing with his band and impressed us with a 6 hour performance intermingled with breaks as the Bing Crosby and Dean Martin ‘bobble heads’ bobbled to the music being played on the piano. What a talented guy and very dear friend. His grandfather, Bing Crosby, would be so proud of how he has blazed his trail as a 3rd generation star. Yes, it was a very surreal evening to be included in the Crosby/Klugman party as I was alone. God also knows when you are alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

2007 continued to be a whirlwind of meeting new friends and  working prestigious A-List red carpet events such as VIP music events on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, CBS Studio City, Fox Studios, Paramount Studios, RKO Studios, and On The Lot Studios. The original United Artists Studios created by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith on February 5, 1919.

Speaking of old Hollywood, from the moment I arrived in Los Angeles my path would cross those of first, second and third generation descendants; Phil Crosby, Jr., John Barrymore III, Eden Alpert, Alex Quinn, Monika Henreid, Ann Rutherford, Marjorie Lord, Helen Racken, Gloria Stuart, Lou Rawls, Jr, Ann Jeffries, Kirk Douglas, Sean Connery, Hugh Hefner, Jaime Gomez, Peggy Crosby, Chad McQueen, Neile Adams, Willie Chambers, Jon E Love, George Lynch, and the list goes on and on and on. I was living a movie script as it unfolded day by day. Many of these individuals also faced some form of abuse along the way of their journey.

 

 

 

I was thrilled to cover my favorite show’s 20th Anniversary of The Bold & The Beautiful. For the first time since meeting Phyllis George in 1989 I was star struck to see Brooke, Ridge, and Thorne...sounds like a walk in the forest!

Summer 2007 found me on the red carpet for the AFI Tribute Honoring Al Pacino, as Sean Connery and wife, Micheline, Kirk and Ann Douglas, Powers Boothe, Andy Garcia, Hugh Hefner and so many more attended his celebration. Al spoke to me and beamed smiles for my camera. What a great night of fun and hard work for me.

 

Another annual red carpet I never missed loomed on the horizon: The Annual Tony Award Viewing Party benefiting the Actors Fund held at the Skirball Theater.

The enemy desires to sift you as wheat…Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

 

Three weeks later all hell broke loose! My dear friend and co-worker who brought me to Los Angeles left our company in a dispute with its CEO over six figures in back pay and our paychecks bouncing. Now I had no advocate as the CEO retaliated against us both. I confronted his abusive behavior only to find myself locked out of our office and fired in a secretive maneuver. The next day was Tuesday and my paycheck bounced. On Wednesday my rent check bounced and on Thursday my truck blew a piston and stopped working. The CEO had borrowed my truck, and did not put oil or water in it prior to driving it as he was told to do. This man, a trust fund brat living in a multi-million dollar house in Montecito, destroyed my vehicle, shelter, and vocation in one fell swoop.

How ironic just as my photos are being published from London, England's WENN around the world, I was carless, jobless and about to be homeless.

P.J. Stratton and producer/musician, Sean Fodor

I kept my cool and prayed for miracles! Here is what God did next through my friend, Sean, and soon to be client. He gave me every penny he had so I could rent a car to find a new job. The next weekend we went shopping for a new car and thirty days later I moved to an apartment near Marina Del Rey and 90 seconds from the beach. Our Heavenly Father supernaturally provided these miracles again and again. I was speechless and looked toward Heaven in humble adoration, gratitude and absolute wonder of His goodness!

At this juncture, I would also add His divine appointment in meeting and photographing Sean at a red carpet event in December 2006. For the next 14 years Sean would come to my rescue every time danger lurked and reared its ugly head. He kept me safe for 14 years and knew how to handle these unsavory creatures! Praise God for him and he is still my friend, client throughout the ups and downs of this thing called 'life'. I can count on him and he can count on me.

Los Angeles is a beautiful city in a setting of gorgeous ocean views, balmy ocean breezes wafting as one drives the streets lined with tall palm trees, and a 100 years of Old Hollywood history of the movie industry. What one doesn't see is the underground cesspool of predators, sociopaths, narcissists, murderers, grifters, users, abusers, and walking demons, dragons, vampires and vultures! If I had not seen it with my own eyes then it reads like a movie script. They stalk the city as 300 young girls aka 'fresh meat' arrive every day lured to 'Hollywood' seeking international fame and fortune. Some of these young ladies will not be allowed access through the 'Gatekeepers' and find themselves hungry and unable to pay their rent/bills. This leads to their being captive in sex trafficking, prostitution, and abuse on every level. The only escape is to go home in a humiliating defeat but unbeknownst to them: their physical and mental safety! (see my blog on the truth of 'human trafficking'.)

Photo Credit: P. J. Stratton

By September 1, 2007 God had provided an apartment near Marina Del Rey and life couldn't have been a better dream comes true living 90 seconds from the beach by car! Pinch me!!

2007 also brought me into Producer Skip Saylor and his wife's circle to be their publicist after inviting them to numerous events. they were gracious, down to earth and downright fun to be with. Skip Saylor Studios is state of the art in the San Fernando Valley and everyone in the music business has recorded there. If walls could talk!

 

Photo Credit: P. J. Stratton

 

Life was not perfect from that moment on as I would have to find lodging and a job again and again because living in ‘Lost Angels ‘is a ‘meat grinder’ and not for the faint of heart for you will ‘pay’ for the honor of living in wonderland. A few years later I would find myself in a similar situation except I had the car! Again, through a friend I met at an event, an opportunity as Assistant to Controller to a non-profit in Beverly Hills presented itself. After interviewing there was an abnormal wait to hear of being hired. It was urgent; nearly penniless and about to be homeless…again!

God once again stepped in with a provident encounter. I was at the Beverly Hills Hotel having lunch and on the phone with a dear friend in OKC. All of a sudden I noticed Laurie Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network and Elizabeth Keener, actress Katherine Keener’s sister at a nearby table. Laurie was an acquaintance of my friend and she told me to ask Laurie to call her. I approached their table to give Laurie the message and was invited me to sit down with them. I shared that I was a 1992 Rhema Graduate and a bit of my amazing journey in Cali as a Texas girl all alone. I asked them to pray for favor to be hired for this job or else I would be living in my car in the near future. We prayed together and the next week I was hired.

 

 

For the next then ten years, I covered Old Hollywood events and VIP Rock Star Music Events as well as being Assistant to Controller of a Beverly Hills 501(c) 3 and 501(c), 6 managing $7 Million in annual revenues across 11 entities. Wonderful experience, however, parts of this adventure were challenging as my boss and his boss revealed their narcissistic personality disorder coupled with verbal and mental abuse towards me and the other office staff.

 

 

Proverbs 26:27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.

Praise God for he wins every time and provided a great job in Beverly Hills for 10 years, cozy apartment in West Hollywood for 12 years, navigated a 15 year journey which brought lifelong friends who were loyal, protective and treasured my irreverent sense of humor!

More importantly, I lived 12 miles from the ocean and found myself driving up Pacific Coast Highway in both directions on several occasions to remind myself why I moved to Cali in the first place. A few hours of ocean views, sea, sand and sure always calmed me down as I focused on my journey to Heaven!

A beautiful gift emerged in Summer 2009, Sean and I went over to Jaime Gomez' (Nash Bridge, Training Day, Crimson Tide) home to visit. We're having dinner with Jaime's ex and daughter, Zoska and Ula Gomez. All of a sudden a small kitten jumped into Sean's lap and her sister was not far behind. We contemplated bringing them home together, but I wasn't sure about the sister who had part of her tail missing. We went home, but thoughts of this special kitten who liked Sean kept going through my mind.

A few weeks later on August 10, 2009, Sean walked in with the special kitten and put her in my lap. She was adorable, frightened, timid and in a strange place, with strange people away from her mama. We cuddled her for 48 hours and got her settled down. I named her Miss Priss Meow Meows as she would step every so careful and would 'meow'. The name stuck and she's now 11 years old. Miss Priss is the greatest blessing to me!

 

Other great blessings came into my life through a friend of a friend for Thanksgiving Dinner at the home of Amber Keys and her mom, Judith Keys Ransdell. I made a homemade deep dish Apple Pie/Cobbler and was amazed to meet these two beautiful, strong, witty and generous women. Our relationship clicked which led to my renting a room in her home.

PJ, Judy Keys, Amber Keys Photo Credit: Sean Fodor

Judith's weekly Saturday night dinner aka ‘Feed the Musician's’ and 'Musician's Jam' lasting into wee hours. She blessed struggling musician's as a tithe unto her Savior. Judy was blessed through her  years as a producer, production manager, and paralegal for the law firm representing Freemantle Media. She experienced the 'highs and lows of the music business' first hand in her marriage to a wonderfully talented musician. On tour one year, rubbing nickels together the next. So, she fed them every week, keeping them nourished, practiced and ready for their next gig...whenever the call came to tour.  This was Judy's ministry and I loved being a part of it as Amber, a culinary graduate, and I prepared their feast every week.

To people in her former life she was Judy Keys, a former top fashion model in NYC and rocked & rolled with her best friend, Anita Pallenberg, aka Mick Jagger's girlfriend. As they traveled with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles against the backdrop of the rich and famous hanger's on and groupies, Judy became close friends with George Harrison, who loved her as did Mick Jagger. Every guy wanted to be her 'guy', but Judy met, fell in love and married Texas saxophonist Bobby Keys. They were living in New York , Judy was pregnant with Amber and Bobby waiting for his next gig to call. George invited them to London for a visit. George introduced Bobby to Mick Jagger which clicked beyond belief. off Bobby went on tour with the Rolling Stones. The rest is in the history books.

 

 

Life was great for Judy. She went into labor and George was there to care for her. She was excited for Bobby to return to meet his daughter, Amber. But Bobby never returned to Judy and Amber. While on tour, he met a woman from Paris and moved in with her. Judy was living with George Harrison and Patty Boyd and was thousands of miles from home with a new baby. Now she was humiliated on a national stage with the abandonment of her husband. George helped pick up the pieces and she was forever grateful for his loyalty. The last picture of Judy and George together was often in her hands and in her heart. I loved seeing it myself.

Judy's irreverent honesty in all things called life entertained us over dinner and drinks as she regaled us with stories of her former life as a NYC fashion model, her close friendships with George Harrison and Anita Pallenberg including her rock star life with husband, Bobby Keys, saxophonist for the Rolling Stones. The abusive situations Judith faced by men made her an even stronger woman as she raised Amber alone. She taught us all to keep blazing our trails!

Ezekiel 12:25 For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God.

Abuse comes in many forms including financial. I’ve seen emotional vampires lock onto a person and suck out all their energy, resources, finances, and sometimes their very ‘life’. I’ve seen it happen to friends and have also experienced all levels of the aforesaid abuse.

22 years ago I prayed for God to intercede and provide a way of escape of an abusive husband (whom I met at Bible College) holding me captive at all levels possible. He would spend hours verbally abusing me over some minute thing. One day I was home late from work and he wanted to know why, the next day he was screaming at me because I was watching a movie instead of reading my Bible. Every day it was the same pattern and in due time I was slowly slipping away in heartbreak all because of MY choices.

He had thrown me out of our home at 2 a.m. when I refused to be raped. Once the legal authorities were involved he backed down. The final straw came when he walked into my work, grabbed me by the hand and tried to drag me out physically. The next day he showed up at my apartment and spit in my face calling me a four letter word. By the grace of God I moved my things out of the house piece by piece and planned my escape from his clutches. It took a Texas Judge to put him in his place once and for all. I loved seeing this with my own eyes after ten years of his abuse and the time I wasted with him.

I learned so much about abuse through my life's journey. Escape is possible, but only certain if YOU are willing (God gives us free will) to snip ALL the ties that bind and free your mind, heart, soul, and body.

  • Never be afraid to escape an abuser at home, work, or in church
  • Step out in faith and take a chance
  • He is the God of second chances
  • It is never alright for violence to be tolerated in relationships
  • Beware of the smooth talking sociopaths
  • If in doubt...check him out at all costs
  • Abusers are attracted to strong women to break them
  • Abusers are attracted to weak women to dominate them
  • Abusers enjoy their total control over another person
  • Some abusers enjoy physical violence over others
  • Some abusers lose control putting others in danger of their lives
  • Develop a deeper relationship with Yeshua
  • He is with you every step of your journey
  • Be equally yoked in all relationships
  • God does not bring you a soul mate you have to ‘fix’
  • God feeds where He leads
  • God provides where He guides
  • God does above all we could ask or think
  • By all means, call local police, Sheriff's office or Help Line
  • Your life may depend on any of the above
  • Any relationship which does not support you in every aspect is NOT a true, is not a true covenant with you.

Revelation 3:8 know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Jeanine Kirk, Jaclyn Smith, P. J. Stratton, Lauralee McFarling

Yes, my friend, step out for a magnificent and glorious future awaits you. I know because God did it for me in the 14 years I lived in Los Angeles and He will do it for you because he loves you. Your perfect soul mate will find you no matter where you are. Just be ready, be the best person you can be for yourself, for your future husband/wife, children and more importantly, for your Heavenly Father!

This Texas native and California girl made it to Los Angeles and made it in Los Angeles just as other fellow Texans, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Alana Stewart, two of whom I have met. Yes, God opens a door no man can shut! I also made it out of Los Angeles as home to Texas. I miss my wonderful Cali friends, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, windows down, lunch in Malibu with my girlfriends, dinner with my rock star and movie star friends.

Someday, when the coast is clear, I'll be Oceanside in Paradise!

Blessings, P.J.

P. J. serves as UFM Board Secretary and is a 1992 Rhema Bible College graduate, with a P.R. and business background with non-profit's, corporations and entrepreneurial endeavors.
A Plano Texas native, she's internationally published as a photojournalist for London England's World Entertainment News Network and Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn's, Hollywood Today magazine and currently writing her memoirs.

 

Domestic Violence Advocates in North Texas:

Friends of the Family in Denton 24 Hour Crisis Line (940) 382-7273(800) 572-4031 Text option | (940) 382-7273

Denton County Friends of the Family P.O. Box 640 Denton, TX 76202-0640Phone: (940) 387-5131 Fax: (940) 383-1816

Denton Outreach Office 4845 S I-35 E, Suite 200 Corinth, TX 76210

Restored Hope Ministries (Brings girls out of sex trafficking) sam.pollinzi@restoredhopeministries.org 4301 Bryan St. #204 Dallas, Texas 75204(833) 334-0035