A Freed Woman's Dance

Author: Doris L. Cope
Published: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934733-24-0
Pages: 197
Size: 6" x 9"
Type: Hardcover
Price: $29.95
Categories: Memoir

A Freed Woman's Dance is a memoir of courage, strength and resilience. Out of her very personal and compelling story of neglect and abuse, Doris Cope has found her way to healing and has embarked on a journey to help other survivors find freedom and empowerment.

Doris began life in 1952 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her early years were full of squalor, conflict and fear. Her father was an unemployed, disabled railroad worker and her mother was a cook, who worked double shifts to make ends meet. Arguments and fights were relentless in their household.

Although they never married, between them, her parents had eight children who survived infancy. With an inattentive and absent mother and unreliable father, Doris and her younger siblings were often left in the care of their mentally unstable older sister and severely epileptic older brother, who regularly beat them. To supplement her mother's meagre wages, Doris' parents went into business for themselves, first opening a juke joint and eventually converting their family home into a splo house--a bar where illegal moonshine corn liquor, fried fish and chitterlings were sold. For different reasons, their house became a place where slobbering drunks and the police called one of their favorite neighborhood joints. And it wasn't long before 9-year-old Doris was being molested by her parents' customers.

Doris joined the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church totally on her own in sixth grade, and began to attend regularly. The ladies of the church gave her the love and care she desperately wanted and needed, and she blossomed from the attention. In time, the church minister's wife asked Doris to babysit their young son, and she moved into the parsonage with them. Reverend Parks took a personal interest in her development and education. He also began grooming the young girl for a more sordid role in his household.

The nightmare began just after Doris turned fourteen, when touching and kissing became fondling and sex. Her hero and safety valve had betrayed her. Though she was angry, scared and utterly confused, she remained silent as the abuse continued.

Eventually Doris' mother moved into public housing in another part of town, and Doris joined her to care for her younger siblings. There she became friends with an elderly woman and her 19-year-old grandson, who had just returned from Viet Nam. When one of her older sister's friends tried to molest her in her mother's house, Doris moved in with the elderly woman. Love blossomed and she married the grandson soon after. She was sixteen.

When her husband started drinking heavily and physically abusing her, the marriage unraveled. Doris called her former high school English teacher and his wife, who gave her sanctuary for six weeks. In 1971 Doris joined the U.S. Air Force and served for three years. Afterward, she used every one of her GI Bill benefits to get both a solid education and professional mental health care to ease the spiritual wounds left from Chattanooga.

News of Reverend Parks'death forced Doris to confront her remaining skeletons. Her incredible inner drive forced her to heal all the old wounds and reclaim her past.

A Freed Woman's Dance is a book about Doris Cope's journey through grief and fear to find freedom. It's about what it takes to reclaim the most tender and vulnerable parts of oneself.