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Selena Rodgers Dickerson, Domestic Violence Survivor: ‘I Choose Not to Look at Myself as a Victim’

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Salena Rodgers Dickerson, owner of SARCOR LLC, and engineering firm in Birmingham, will serve as a Domestic Violence Survivor Ambassador for the City of Birmingham’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 17. (Juwan T. Dickerson, Provided) 

By Chanda Temple | For The Birmingham Times

Selena Rodgers Dickerson’s college years should have been filled with happy days as she pursued her degree. Instead, a portion of her college career was marred by fear and pain as she experienced domestic violence.

Dickerson is the owner of SARCOR, LLC, and engineering firm in Birmingham, and her story of survival is tough in that a boyfriend she had while she was a co-op student in Huntsville, Alabama, choked and body slammed her onto a coffee table. He then hit her so hard in her left eye, that she suffered a swollen face and a partially detached retina.

Her ex-boyfriend may have left her beaten, bloodied and bruised, but she was determined not to be permanently broken.

After the brutal December 1999 attack, she returned to her studies at Tennessee State University. A program offered by the State of Alabama helped her source the assistance of a domestic violence counselor with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. At the time, she was 22 and her then-boyfriend was 25.

Prior to the attack, Dickerson put her then-boyfriend’s needs before her own. As a result, her schoolwork suffered. “I was made to believe that my relationship was more important than my education,’’ she said, adding that the two worked together at her co-op job in Huntsville, and he would berate her at her desk.

“I didn’t recognize the verbal abuse and the manipulation,” she said. “It took me going through counseling to know that. I thought (what he was doing) was love because it felt like someone cared about what I was doing and how I did it.’’

On Friday, May 17, Dickerson will serve as a Domestic Violence Survivor Ambassador for the City of Birmingham’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Linn Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mental health and domestic violence experts, healthcare agencies, free depression screenings and more will be on hand that day to remove barriers for the public in accessing needed resources.

In 2020, Dickerson publicly shared her story in a written opinion piece after her former boyfriend requested a court hearing to get his gun rights restored. He didn’t get it.

Now, several times a year, people contact Dickerson, asking for direction on what to do in cases of domestic violence. Sometimes, the callers are afraid or embarrassed. Other times the callers are unsure about where to turn. And then there are people who praise Dickerson for sharing her story because they experienced something similar.

She feels their pain and doesn’t want anyone to feel the anguish she felt in 1999 or even what she is still dealing with today. The attack also left her with a deviated septum; a left jawbone that sits a little higher than the right side; and a left eye that sometimes twitches, involuntarily.

“It’s something I have to live with, and I silently pray it stops,’’ Dickerson said of the eye twitch. But it hasn’t stopped the 47-year-old from running SARCOR, a 16-year-old civil and transportation engineering design company in the Magic City.  “I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I choose not to look at myself as a victim.”

Dickerson hopes the May 17 event in Linn Park will empower people to break free of their fear and look for and use available resources that can help them.

For more information about the event, email Crystal Mullen-Johnson of Nurture Alabama at cmullen@nurturebham.com.