Mt. Juliet Child Abuse survivor uses scars
to help others
Mt. Juliet, TN – Burn marks and scars remain on Keith Edmonds’ face from being held to an electric heater as a 14-month-old in a horrific case of child abuse.
Edmonds, 38, nearly died, but life would require dealing with a youth filled with surgeries and being bullied and called names such as Freddy Krueger and Scarface, pain that he eventually numbed as an adult through alcohol.
Today, Edmonds of Mt. Juliet is sober and able to wear his wounds as a way to help victims of child abuse and neglect, ditching his career in sales to start The Keith Edmonds Foundation, which became licensed this month as a nonprofit.
“Being able to be a child abuse survivor and wear the scars of my monster has enabled me to share my story with other child abuse victims,” he said. “It really resonates with the person I’m talking to, whether it’s a child abuse victim or community member who has an open heart.”
One of the first endeavors for Edmonds’ foundation was to engage 30 local businesses and organizations as partners in child abuse awareness videos for each day of April, which is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month.
Already, Edmonds has more than 100 videos with different partners that he shares on social media platforms and can be linked to from the foundation’s website. Videos include Mike Fisher, Carter Hutton and Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators and a number of businesses throughout Wilson County.
“When you meet Keith you see he has been scarred, it’s very evident,” said Gary Whitaker, executive vice president at Wilson Bank & Trust, a video partner. “It just makes you mad. And the thing I know is Keith is not the only one this has ever happened to. That scar is external. It’s visual. But once you get to know Keith, the internal scars have healed.”
Edmonds’ abuser was his mother’s boyfriend at the time in Flint, Michigan. The abuse occurred because Edmonds wouldn’t stop crying, he said. The abuser was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to Edmonds, who has never met the man, though he knows whom it is.
The surgeries included multiple skin grafts, enlarging his nostrils and sewing an ear back on.
The Central Michigan University graduate describes his adult life as a functioning alcoholic, able to work but drinking heavily until his 35th birthday.
“I had a conversation with God who I didn’t know was there,” said Edmonds, who still attends Celebrate Recovery meetings. “I never had community when I was a child. I know if I had somebody I could trust, I would have been a better person for it.”
In 2014 Edmonds released a book, “About a Baby,” and has been in demand as a speaker to groups throughout the country.
Edmonds is equipped with an array of child abuse statistics about how it’s reported every 10 seconds and how two of every three people in substance abuse recovery programs were subjected to abuse as a child.
“In many ways, Keith has changed my life and the way I view things,” said Cathey Sweeney, director of Wilson County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a nonprofit that advocates for neglected or abused children in the court system.
“He has overcome obstacles that would be hard to even fathom. We both have a common goal.”
Edmonds hopes to kick-start his foundation by taking youth impacted by child abuse on outings, such as to a Predators game. Next year, Edmonds hopes to hold day camps called Camp Confidence for child abuse and neglect victims, and eventually expand those into a series of week-long camps, he said.
His overall objective is to increase awareness about child abuse by engaging the community and leaders in campaigns such as the current video series about a subject Edmonds believes is often pushed under the rug.
“Child abuse victims, survivors need attention brought to them now rather than later when it’s too late,” said Carmelita Stafford, part owner of Sister’s WhimZy in Mt. Juliet and one of many local businesses that have shot a video with Edmonds.
“If he can help even one child out there, I’m going to stand behind him and help him also.”