About the Author, Phyllis Hain
Phyllis Hain was born in Alabama and grew up in the Gulf Coast city of
Pensacola, Florida. She considers herself an accomplished graduate of the “School
of Very Hard Knocks,” though she points with pride to the fact that, despite being a
teenage mother that forced her to drop out of high school, she somehow managed,
in her thirties, to earn a college degree in communications and at age 47, a B.S. in
Management of Human Resources from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.
She worked for over twenty-one years for the Department of the Navy. For five
and a half years she was a Navy Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) and
four years as a Family Advocacy Educator, she taught well over 20,000 students.
Working alongside military and community law enforcement, she helped educate
first-responders on how to properly document incidents and how to provide sensitive,
effective support to victims of sexual assault. She provided response to hundreds of
victims in crisis―all during a career in which she received hundreds of hours of
training in the field of domestic violence, child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual
assault and victim intervention, and the correlation between animal abuse and
Highlights of Phyllis’s DoD service include: working on the National Joint Task Force in Washington DC, which studied the problem of sexual assault in the military; working with the National Organization for Victims’ Assistance; serving as Vice President of Northwest Florida’s Victim Coalition; and being selected NASP’s Civilian of the Year for her contribution to the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Program.
Inspired by interviewing, and responding to, many courageous victims and survivors of abuse, she decided to undergo what turned out to be the multi-year ordeal of writing a memoir about her own tumultuous life as the victim of child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and spousal abuse. The resulting Diamond in the Dark is a Southern girl’s true story of growing up in the midst of jealousy and family violence―the gripping, unceasingly honest account of a blond, green-eyed child of a beautiful farmer’s daughter and a Marine sent home from WWII suffering from acute brain trauma.
Phyllis survived devastating domestic violence and abuse by creating two personas―one for the darkness of home, the other constantly seeking the brilliance of life. Persistence, and a winning smile, opened a path for her to escape, and gave her strength to confront the demons of her past and the darkness of truth. But it also led her to love, money, betrayal, murder, celebrated court trials, and prison, all taking place in what she calls the “oxymoronic world of Southern justice.”
In time, Phyllis crossed paths with a handsome Navy doctor. She and Captain Robert Hain, Medical Corps, (USN Ret). have been happily married for more than eighteen years. The two are now enjoying retirement together in the very place she spent her formative years―Pensacola, Florida.
1. How has writing this memoir helped you?
Writing my memoir brought my attention to many things I had suppressed or denied space for in my life. In order to heal (an ongoing process), I needed to be able to admit what had happened to me and be willing to open myself to the ridicule I know will come. I accept that the writing, and the sharing of my life, allow me to finally embrace myself for who I am today – the good is easy, the bad makes me contrite and humble, the reaction from others makes me stronger and wiser.
2. Knowing all of the important things that you’ve done with your life, would you change anything from your past?
Absolutely! However, how can you change things for the better without knowing what I know now? I really did the best I could, armed with the knowledge I had at that time.
3. Did you ever expose your uncle?
Whoa…. I guess I didn’t do a good job of making that one clear. It was not my uncle who molested me. The photo at the end is of my Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill is standing next to the man who molested me. He was one of his employees that I called “Him.” No, I haven’t confronted him. I don’t even know if the man is still alive. I really have no need or desire to confront him.
4. Was Paul really guilty?
I do not know. At one point, I could not imagine he could be. Now I know it was possible for him to fool me. I believe I can make a strong case that he was innocent and railroaded by Mobile’s District Attorney. Paul Leverett proclaimed his innocence until the day he died.
5. Why were you unable to get away from JJ?
I tried – repeatedly. I lived in a rural area. Every time I left, he’d come get me. Anyone who cared enough about me to help me was put at great risk. He even threatened to kill my mother and father for helping me. I had to find a way to leave without risking my loved ones’ lives. I think that part of my story should be clear. Whenever I left, the stalking and persecution would begin.
6. Where did JJ go after the night at the window with the gun? (Why were there no more mentions of him until the wedding?)
The police came out to my apartment and said there was nothing they could do. I wasn’t hurt and they couldn’t just go looking for a man with a gun in the car. I have no idea where he went that night. I suppose he went back to our home on the west side of Mobile. After that, I would park my car in other places so he would not know I was in my apartment. I was always hiding and afraid.
7. Why didn’t you shoot him then and there?
I wish I had done just that, but I just couldn’t. I was afraid. I really didn’t want to kill my husband, nor my children’s father. I didn’t want to kill anyone. I just wanted him to leave me alone and let me live in peace. People always talk about what they’ll do, but until you are faced with the question, you don’t know. He had threatened me so many times that I think I was gambling he would let me go yet again. I just didn’t have the ability to shoot him.
8. Has the law changed so that the police can act before something happens now?
Yes, thank God. In most states now, just stalking is a crime. Another positive today are the victim advocates who work with victims to provide safety plans, and we have many shelters so that victims don’t have to put friends and family at risk. Today, the things he did would put him in jail for a long time, and he would not be allowed to possess a firearm with a conviction of domestic abuse.
9. Why did you marry your third husband so hastily?
I don’t think I married him hastily. We dated for well over a year. He was a very intelligent (Naval Academy graduate), handsome man. He was big and strong, (he had been an officer/pilot in the Marine Corps), and I felt protected when I was with him. I fell in love. I had been through so much, and he was the first guy since Paul who loved me and seemed to want to fight the world to protect me. After fighting that battle alone for so long, the reinforcement was like an aphrodisiac. We made passionate love, and had fun together, and I thought we could make a good life.
10. What signs can people in these relationships look out for beforehand?
It is hard to see ahead of time. People who are trying to manipulate you are often very adept at charming and deceiving. They are perfectly capable of keeping undesirable characteristics hidden until too late. My third husband lived 50 miles away. I usually saw him only a couple weekends a month, so we were always excited to see each other for those short periods of time. After we were married, he started to disclose things to me that I found disgusting. Prior to taking his vows, he had carefully edited his life story to make himself look good. One sign that is unmistakable: If they cheat with you, they will cheat on you, and he did.
11. Why did your sister and friends never say anything when you mentioned, as a child, that a man had taken down your panties?
They laughed at me. They were embarrassed by the disclosure. I don’t think they had any idea of the impact it had on me. As for my sister, I really don’t think she cared what happened to me. It wasn’t like she was a loving or protective big sister.
12. Did you ever attempt to say anything to JJ’s new wife to help her?
No, I never had a discussion with her except to tell her to be good to my children and we wouldn’t have any problems. JJ had her thoroughly convinced I was the evil one. She was very loyal to him.
13. What was the purpose of the scene with Bob mentioning prostitution?
That he would say such a thing had a big impact on me at the time. It was as if I was being judged, yet again, as a sexual object, even though it couldn’t have been any further from the truth. I never prostituted myself, but I must have exuded some kind of sexual airs that made him think in that vein. It made me really angry and hurt my feelings terribly. I would say the point is that whatever it was about me, I was always sexualized.
14. Why was the psych evaluation included at the end of the novel?
When writing the book, I wanted to bare everything for the scrutiny of others. If I could hold myself out for judgment, maybe it would help others speak out about things that had hurt and burdened their consciences as well. It fit my motto: “The silence of shame empowers abusers.” I want my book to be a teaching tool. As far as the clinical review, I was curious as to how my story would be viewed. I didn't ask Bryan to read my manuscript until I finished it. I didn't want to entertain the idea of changing my story to manipulate a predetermined outcome. My intent was to tell my story and then see how it was perceived by an objective clinical reviewer.
15. Have there been any repercussions from your family or friends from writing this book?
Yes. My daughter and granddaughter loved it; however, they both were angry and hurt, and now have more difficulty dealing with JJ. My son couldn’t read it all; he found it too painful. My sister and I no longer speak except in regards to the care of our mother. She refused to have anything to do with my book and fears I will reveal her bad side.
16. How has abuse in the military changed since you have worked there?
We help the families more, and service members are held accountable for physical, sexual, emotional, verbal neglect and financial abuse of spouses. I believe the family advocacy program is leading the way in trying to help families heal.
17. Why didn’t Nathan tell you about the horse?
He knew it would devastate me and Jamie. He was also having a hard time accepting who and what his father was when it came to abuse. He was very loyal to his father and covered for him in many ways. He is now a man and will have nothing to do with his father.
18. How are your children coping with the story?
We are closer now than ever before. I think it is helping them heal.
19. How has your life been with Bob?
It has been a very good life. We are a good match because he is such a secure person in his own right. We have now been happily married for more than seventeen years. You asked me what I would have changed in my life. I wouldn’t want to change anything that would have kept me from meeting my Bob.
20. What can people do to help abuse victims?
Listen, care, and don’t judge. If someone tells you they are afraid to leave, they probably have a reason to be afraid. If they tell you they don’t know how they will survive financially and also care for their children, it is probably true that they will live in poverty until they find a new way. If they leave and then go back, don’t be surprised. The average victim will go back seven times before they make it stick. From the time I decided to leave JJ―that it was over and I had no love for him at all―to the time I actually left, finally and for good, three years had passed. I could never have left him and lived, had it not been for Paul. For that, I will always remember him with love.