Star Myles (sitting) and her daughters (left to right) Jayla, Tamia and Briana listen to Sgt. Carol Adams.
A mother and her three girls move into a small house in the East End. The mother wears big, black sunglasses; her hair is long and frames her face. Both hair and glasses veil most of the scar left by the bullet fired from the gun held by her husband. The bullet shattered the left side of her face. She lost her left eye, hearing in her left ear, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He now sits in prison.
The mother weeps when she sees the house. She weeps when she walks through the bedroom that will be hers and the room her daughters will share and the kitchen big enough for a table to seat them all. She weeps when her youngest says to no one in particular that this is their first-ever house.
“Not a house — this is a home,” says Carol Adams, who made possible the family’s move and the rent-free year that comes with it. “Anyone can live in a house and it can still be empty,” she says later. “A home represents family, represents unity, represents peace. Home for me is love in abundance.”
Moving through the rooms, the mother, Star Myles, says, “I wish I could find a word to describe Carol Adams. She has no idea what a blessing she is. Why does she do all this?”
Because if anyone understands the ripple effects of domestic violence, Richmond Police Sgt. Carol Adams does.
“My dad murdered my mother when I was 17,” Adams says. She and her sister were in the next bedroom when they heard the shots.
For years, Adams never spoke of that night. Buried was the image of the police handcuffing her father. Buried was the wait in the emergency room and the shake of the doctor’s head. Buried, too, were the memories of her father’s drunken Friday-night rages and Saturday-morning apology money and the countless tearful reconciliations of her too-young mother and her too-controlling father.
Her father served 18 months in a plea deal, and Adams remembers no one asking her or her sister what they thought of that. He died several years ago.
Seventeen years of silence pass. In that time, Carol Adams becomes a Richmond sheriff’s deputy (as does her sister) and then, in 1997, a Richmond police officer. She finds she can no longer keep silent.
“My first radio call was a domestic, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ and it all came down on me and I thought, ‘What are you going to do?’ ” She held it all in and did her job. But one day at work, during a domestic-violence training course, “Someone said something really crazy like, ‘Well, sometimes women ask to get beat.’ ”
And out came the Carol Adams who hasn’t stopped speaking for victims of domestic violence since. “I said, ‘The only way to this earth is by way of woman, so you have to have a mother. You tell me the last time you heard her ask to get her butt beat.’ ”
Now 52, Adams made official in November what had long been unofficial: The Carol Adams Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping fill the gaps in domestic violence prevention and intervention. A publicity-shy Altria executive gave the foundation the house in which Myles and her family now live. Verizon Wireless donated $25,000, which helped rehab and furnish the property. Adams and Verizon have long been partners in the company’s HopeLine program, which refurbishes or recycles wireless phones to support domestic violence victims and organizations serving them.
Myles’ ex-husband was sentenced to 50 years. It has been four years since he shot her. Four years, 15 surgeries, depression, disability and counseling for the teenage daughter who had to call 9-1-1. “This is the beginning of the rest of their lives,” Adams says. In a year, another family surviving domestic violence — and there is always another family — will move in.
Three dozen people — friends, family, Adams’ fellow officers — gather on a quiet Saturday afternoon to welcome the Myles family to their new home. Myles’ 5-year-old daughter cuts the purple ribbon draped across the porch, and a cheer goes up. It is a moment in the life of a city that will go largely unnoticed, but one that reveals its reservoir of resilience and then, with tears and hugs and great, wide smiles, replenishes it.