R&B Divas star Keke Wyatt would rather forget that unfortunate incident where she stabbed her ex-husband, “but the world just won’t let me,” she says. “It was a sad situation and I wanted to protect my kids,” she adds. Wyatt filed for divorce in 2009 after what she describes as years of domestic abuse — adding that the stabbing incident was an act of self-defense.
Now remarried to ordained minister Michael Ford (who goes everywhere with her, much to the dismay of her Divas co-stars), Wyatt says she’s created a brand new abuse-free environment for herself and her four children.
In honor of Domestic Awareness Month, the 30-year-old singer signed on as a spokesperson for the Saving Our Daughters organization’s “YELL Confidence” initiative aimed at providing support to young women and single mothers who have experienced domestic violence and date abuse. She spoke to ESSENCE.com about her abusive past, making sure her daughters don’t repeat her history, and her message to women in abusive relationships.
ESSENCE.com: Why did you get involved in the “YELL! Confidence” initiative?
Keke Wyatt: For a couple of reasons; first, everyone knows I have been in an abusive relationship, and my girls were in the middle of that mess. After that experience I’m very aware of not wanting to re-create an environment like that for my girls. They won’t go down that road.
ESSENCE.com: Your experience with abuse made headlines. Do you think you’ll ever live down the stabbing incident?
Wyatt: People are going to say what they’re going to say. All I know is the average person isn’t going to stab someone just for the heck of it — my life was in danger. People won’t understand until they walk in my shoes. I felt so bad for what I did, but I couldn’t let it consume me. It was my faith in God, and my family that helped me through this. Those are the people that really know what happened, and they don’t judge me.
ESSENCE.com: You also grew up in an abusive home. How are you making sure your own daughters don’t go through what you went through, or what your mother went through?
Wyatt: By having them in an environment that isn’t like that. It’s a process but hopefully they won’t go down the same road. What’s crazy is you go down a road and don’t even know that you’re going to end up going down that road. I did all I could to make sure my current husband Mike isn’t like that.
ESSENCE.com: What happened between the time you divorced your last husband and married Mike that guaranteed that things wouldn’t be the same?
Wyatt: Mike just seemed to be way different. The people who raised him just wouldn’t allow him to be anything but respectful towards women. [Laughs] I can tell you now, if he did anything crazy I could call his family and they’d come set him straight.
ESSENCE.com: What do you say to a woman who is in abusive relationships and is just too afraid to leave?
Wyatt: Either you leave or you stay and are miserable and continually put your life at risk. There are always options for you, just have faith.
ESSENCE.com: What, in your experience, are the signs of an abuser?
Wyatt: There are many, but if he does things like punch a wall when he’s mad, or throws things…one day it might be you.