Portland News

Artist and Author Suzette Shanle Shares her Story as a Survivor of Domestic Violence

Our life experiences, especially during the formative years, mold and shape us into adults. And for many people, carrying childhood trauma into adulthood can be debilitating for growth and success. Often the only way to emerge victorious is to tackle these traumas head-on, heal and possibly forgive all involved. As a survivor who went through the horrors of domestic violence at the hands of her stepfather when she was a young girl, Suzette Shanle has risen above her adversities, expressing her incredible tenacity and resilience through creative arts. She now aims to inspire other survivors to create a new narrative for themselves and grow beyond their pain. 

Growing up as a child, Suzette Shanle had a difficult home life. While she would bask in the love of her sweet and gentle mother, her father, a convicted felon and lifelong criminal, was the monster in her story. He would constantly torment and attack Suzette and her mother, once pouring gasoline around the house while the family was inside due to anger.

Richard was a hero in the eyes of Suzette’s mom because he was there to restrain her attacker when she was stabbed. But his iron first has led Suzette and her brother to fear the man they once thought to be a dream father. Living in this precarious situation with an unstable and violent man, the little girl had to learn to defend herself and stand strong -a circumstance no child should have to experience. Because of Richard’s ties with the mob, the family would constantly be on the run and go into hiding in a laid-back community in Clearwater, Florida. Yet, throughout the harrowing ordeal, young Suzette remained optimistic and maintained a success-enabling disposition as it was all she had to get through the dark times.

As if her domestic situation was not challenging enough, life threw Suzette another curveball as she sustained a head injury that permanently altered her perception of things. These encounters might trample an ordinary person, but Suzette Shanle found strength and persevered, making the best out of her situation. Realizing millions of other survivors may share her experiences, she wanted to inspire them to soldier through, find their voice, and live the life they truly desire. For this reason, she wrote her captivating memoir, Suzette’s Daddy Issues: A Memoir of Violence and Hope.

The inspiring individual attributed it all to her mother when asked about the secret behind her incredible resilience and optimism. Recalling her mother’s words, she said, “we must learn to let go of past hurts and embrace tomorrow. The sun will be out tomorrow, and it’s sure to be a better day.” With this, Suzette stands tall, her head unbowed and undefeated, facing life challenges head-on while empowering others to do the same. 

Aside from being an author, Suzette Shanle is a creative powerhouse. She is a painter, photographer, fashion designer, and retired hairstylist. Her artwork is a vibrant display of her creativity. Her struggles and triumphs shine through as she remains true to her unique perception to give her artwork its distinctiveness. “For years, I was beating myself up trying to keep my ducks in a row and making my art in an unnatural form. Compared to my work, now I am free to be me and embrace my flaws and celebrate my unique qualities,” Shanle shared. “I can celebrate life and art as it’s all the same. Whether it’s my photography, paintings, clothing design, or the books I write, I always hope my work is appreciated for its originality. That is what sets me apart from other artists,” she added.

On a mission to empower and inspire other survivors, Suzette Shanle continues to establish initiatives that materialize her goals. In the coming years, she hopes to continue being a beacon of hope for others while encouraging them to reach for the stars. 

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