Finally, when Banko was 10, the fighting reached a critical mass, and her mother took action by filing for a temporary protective order against Banko’s father. Her mother, Banko, and her two brothers began family counseling with Dr. Kathryn Melton of Shepherd’s Rest Ministries in Dallas, where they began the road to recovery from years of abuse.
Though the children were never physically abused, Banko said her father was very abusive mentally and verbally. “That was the first time I had ever heard that my family wasn’t normal,” Banko said.
The family’s progress was set back when Banko’s father moved back into their home shortly after being ordered by the court to take drug tests.
“My dad did good for a couple of years,” she said.
But then he started using again, and the family found itself back in the same situation. At that time, Banko was 15 and in an abusive relationship herself.
“I feel like domestic violence is a generational curse,” she said. “Even though I had heard from Dr. Melton and started to learn that abuse wasn’t normal, I ended up with very abusive men.”
Seeing how her choices were affecting the ones Banko was making, her mother filed for divorce.
Banko had a temporary protective order put on her boyfriend and, once again, the family tried to move forward. At 18, Banko was attending Georgia Perimeter College on a full-ride softball scholarship. She was in an abusive relationship yet again with her high school sweetheart, who convinced her to drop out of school and move back home.
Her mother didn’t support her decision to move home, so Banko moved in with her father and one of her brothers, and the three of them began abusing drugs and alcohol.
And though years had passed since Banko learned that abuse was unacceptable, she found herself suffering from it again.
“I had taken the spot in the household as a woman in the house and I suffered a lot of abuse — a lot of mental abuse and a lot of physical abuse, too,” she said.
Finally, Banko decided she had enough. So she sought shelter and support once more at Shepherd’s Rest.
“I can’t really say how I got from point A to point B,” though she credits Melton, her mother and God, she said.
Banko has been married since July, and is determined to end the cycle of abuse.
She and her husband John hope to have children one day, to whom they can teach what a loving, supportive relationship is. A volunteer at Shepherd’s Rest Ministries, Banko has a message for victims of domestic abuse.
“Anyone can change their life,” she said. “If I can, anyone can. Shepherd’s Rest is a vital, vital resource in our community. Anyone who is being abused or knows someone who is being abused, reach out, tell someone. It really could cost you your life.”