On any day or evening, on any given shift you might find her friendly voice on the other end of the line. It's one of the voices you might hear, one that listens and comforts, if you call a certain phone number in St. Louis. The callers: They are victims, loved ones of victims and others calling a 24-hour domestic violence crisis hotline.
Jalissa Pastorius spends a significant amount of her working hours helping callers navigate the sea of community resources for those looking for a safe way out of abusive relationships, those looking for homeless shelters, treatment centers, organizations that provide emotional/mental health support and similar care. When’s she’s not on the hotline, she’s within the walls of a domestic violence shelter in a remote and confidential location helping women and children feel ‘at home’ in a place where they come to find safety, peace and help.
Jalissa is one of the many advocates in Missouri who answered more than 88,000 hotline/crisis intervention calls reported by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV) last year. In St. Louis alone, there were 1,657 individuals sheltered. Of those sheltered 6,530 were turned away because the shelters were full.
Prior to the release of the interview, the St. Louis Healthy Living Examiner (SLHLE), CJ Spencer, asked Jalissa to send a professional photo of herself. She sent only her book cover. We get it. Domestic violence and sexual assault advocates of any sort – whether working behind the walls of a shelter, alongside or in front of victims (providing legal or medical advocacy) - are well aware of the danger they are in while serving as temporary shields and guardians for victims. Advocates, if not careful, can easily become targets – and just by association.
But the interview was not really about advocacy (or meant to serve as a formal book review). It was about the peace Jalissa found through writing. This first-time published author has written Born of Death, the first in The Thanatos Series. This supernatural drama stars Rosalinda, an awkward young lady, who has to fight the darkness that shows up on her doorstep.
SLHLE: What's your connection to St. Louis?
JALISSA: I was born in Camden, New Jersey but grew up here in Saint Louis. I graduated from Saint Louis University (SLU) with a degree in Criminal Justice; I work here as well.
SLHLE: Was there something about your experiences in St. Louis that motivated you to write?
JALISSA: Saint Louis is a city where there is a lot of history, nooks and adventures to go on. There is always something to do. In fact Carondelet Park is one of my favorite fishing spots with my dad. Then there's the Gateway Arch. Growing up, imagining it was some sort of portal to a fantasy land, wasn't all that difficult; so it inspired me to write.
SLHLE: What motivated you to write Born of Death?
JALISSA: Creativity. Writing was something that I always did as a release. Creativity is a means to help you and keep you healthy. Creativity helps stimulate my brain cells and it’s a great stress reliever. Having the ability to release my thoughts, emotions, imagination cathartically is something that I am very grateful to be able to do. It has always been a natural ability of mine; the fact that people can enjoy it makes it all the more rewarding.
SLHLE: I know we've talked briefly about the excitement of just being able to write Born of Death, but how healing was it to actually finish it?
JALISSA: Completing the book was a healing process, the constant release of emotions, imagination, thoughts can be draining at times, and soon you find yourself looking for that closure. It’s a process but once you complete the process, you’re over stimulated. You reached your goal...then what’s next?
SLHLE: Which is your favorite character and what about that character makes it your favorite?
JALISSA: It’s difficult to say. I am in love with all my characters. I love Rosalinda! She’s on the path of self-discovery; she has to find out who she is and realize that casting her emotions aside to make everyone else happy is not healthy. She becomes self-confident and comfortable in her own skin, which is the message I wanted to send out to readers. I want people to feel empowered.
SLHLE: Did you write yourself into the book? If so, which one of the characters is most like you?
JALISSA: I would say Rachel, Rosalinda's sister. She hides under a facade to keep everyone, even her family, away. She’s hurting on the inside and has no one to turn to. It takes some unfortunate circumstances for her to realize that she was never the person that society wanted her to be. Once she realizes that, she can grow.
SLHLE: I know the message of becoming comfortable in your own skin is the message you want to send to readers of Born to Death, but given this moment in time, in 2014, is there something you want society at large to walk away with after reading your book?
JALISSA: There’s a message I want to send readers, and that is ‘we are who we are.’ Living in a stereotypical hierarchical society, there are images, stereotypes, etc., that are impressed upon people in order for them to assimilate into society. David Hume, a philosopher stated, ‘...through experiences and senses that a person learns and forms their own perceptions.’ In order to be healthy and to live life to the fullest: Explore the world, research, form your own opinions and be your own person. Always seek truth, and never try to be something that you’re not. Just remember, ‘There’s a darkness inside all of us, it is what you choose to do with it that determines who you are.’---
For more on domestic violence:
- What is domestic violence?
- What could we say if someone is in a violent or otherwise unhealthy relationship?
- Are there things to consider (safety concerns) when leaving or helping someone leave a violent relationship?
- Why do victims stay or return to violent relationships?
- Are there other, better questions we should be asking?
- How can we end domestic violence (easy answer)?
- How can we end domestic violence (harder to digest)?
Some content updated in June 2015.