“This date was the date that the monster held my face to that heater, but it was also the day that I was saved and we could build toward a normal life,” said Edmonds, who has turned the date his life almost ended to a date of celebration and empowerment for other child abuse survivors.
When Edmonds was 14 months old, an abuser held his face to an electric heater, resulting in third-degree burns and scarring to his face.
He had numerous surgeries on his face. He endured the abuse and the taunting of schoolmates, and as a result turned to substances and alcohol to cope.
“This date may have shaped my life, but by no means does it define my life,” said Edmonds, who changed his life for the better six years ago and started the Keith Edmonds Foundation.
The purpose of the organization is to empower victims in Wilson County and bring awareness to an issue that is commonly ignored or taboo. Edmonds said one his organization’s goal is to show survivors their survivor date can be a day of empowerment and pride.
“Where I am today, it’s a day of pride. It’s a day that allows to be proud of who I am and my scars. I don’t hide in dark places anymore. I come out and show the victory because I am the victor. If I continued down the path of victim, I wouldn’t be the victor I am today because I would have allowed him to win,” he said.
The Keith Edmonds Foundation will hold its first Camp Confidence next summer at Cumberland University. More than 100 children in Wilson County that have open child abuse cases will be served through the camp that will focus on self worth and self esteem.
The Keith Edmonds Foundation will maintain personal contact with the campers until they’re reunified, adopted or age out of the system. Edmonds said the survivors date is critical for the campers when dealing with their battles.
“A lot of ‘victims’ will look at the date that [Department of Children’s Services] came knocking on the door and they’re removed as their survivor date. So, when we talk about empowering child abuse victims, this is a date we really need to exploit,” he said.
Edmonds said he uses Nov. 18 as his survivors date because it was the day his journey started, although the journey has included a lot of low moments.
“In the past, it’s always been a trigger date. Obviously, it triggers emotion knowing that somebody tried to kill me. Mine happened at such a young age that I didn’t know, but I’ve seen the effects. I’ve lived my whole life knowing someone tried to kill me,” Edmonds said.
Every year until Edmonds was 18, he had to go to the Cincinnati Shriners Burn Institute to have surgeries done on his face. Also until he was 18, he had to wear a plastic mask to stretch out the scars.
Edmonds said leading up to Nov. 18, he would typically go to a bar and seclude