When it comes to standing up for what she believes in, HLN news anchor Christi Paul speaks her mind. As a successful reporter and happily married mother of three, Paul has a lot to be thankful for. But last year, she decided to reveal a difficult part of her past with the hope of helping others.
According to a study done by The U.S. Department of Justice, one in four women (25 percent) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. During her marriage to her first husband, Paul was one of those women. "It was frightening to admit at first because I felt such shame about allowing myself to be treated like that," Paul admits. But telling her story helped her create something positive out of a difficult experience: her first book, "Love Isn't Supposed to Hurt." This was a first-hand account of emotional abuse and how she found the strength to overcome it.
"I recognized, after lots of therapy, that we're all equipped to do whatever it is we need to do to make things right in our lives," Paul says. "We have to choose truth, faith and courage, though, to 'flip that switch' in our brain to habituate strength and truth rather than weakness and lies. Once I learned how to do that, I thought, 'other people should know this!' so I wrote my story." In her book, Paul tells people who are currently in abusive relationships that they are not alone. Her advice? "Don't let what someone else says define who you are. Set those boundaries! [Know] what you are and are not willing to live with. You can forgive someone and still cut them out of your life."
Her story touched many people, including CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who wrote a foreword in the book. At the time, Paul had no idea how many people would be affected by her story. "I'm astounded because I get emails, daily, from women and men who say 'I feel like I'm reading about my own life,' 'Now I know I'm not alone,'" she says. In addition to reaching people personally, part of the proceeds from the book go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Paul wanted to protect her family as well. "I started [writing the book] after I had my third daughter and realized [my daughters] won't be immune to an abusive situation in their lives," she explains. "I thought if they eventually knew I'd gone through that, perhaps they won't be afraid to come to me when they have problems."
This year she had another chance to get her positive message across through music. She was offered the opportunity to record songs in Nashville that correspond with her story. Along with Rachel Thibodeau and Jason Sever at Blackbird Studios for Little Champion Music (Martina McBride's company), they penned and recorded two songs, both available on iTunes. The songs correspond with her book and can be found on the No More website, a recently developed universal domestic violence awareness site.
"I'm grateful beyond words for that experience," says Paul, who is an accomplished singer and has performed the national anthem at several opening baseball games and performed on stage with Grammy-winning artists Richard Marx and David Foster. "I've had a passion for singing since I was in the church choir, not that I had a choice since my mom was the choir director!"
Amid her demanding career and various projects, Paul is happily remarried and concentrating on spending as much time with her husband and daughters as her busy schedule will allow. "I'm like every working parent just trying to get it all done, but I couldn't do it without my husband who gave up his engineering career to be a stay-at-home dad for a while," Paul says. "We're a true team and I'm so grateful he has that time with them. I know my girls are really blessed in that sense."
At the end of the day, Paul hopes that her daughters and others will benefit from what she has learned about herself through her experience and become stronger. "I hope it will set a foundation for [my girls] to be self-sufficient, follow their passion, and recognize the biggest limits in life are the ones we put on ourselves."
More from Christi
How did you find your way to Atlanta?
It was so strange. I received three calls within a matter of weeks for jobs in Atlanta (we were living in Phoenix at the time). Two local stations and HLN/CNN. HLN made an offer, and we took it. That was more than 10 years ago!
What do you love most about your job?
What I'm most grateful for is the creative freedom they've given me to work on things I really believe in. For instance, I pioneered a segment called "Find Our Children" where we profile a missing child on the air. I called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in DC and asked if they'd partner with us. They jumped at it, and it's become a real team effort between NCMEC, our viewers and us. Since beginning the segment several years ago, 35 of the kids we've profiled have been found and are now safely at home. I love our viewers because they make that happen! Being able to do something meaningful that truly affects people's lives, that's what it's all about for me.
What advice do you have for other aspiring broadcasters?
Don't be afraid to do the grunt work. If you want it, you have to be willing to make the sacrifices. Learn to listen intently and tell people's stories. We all have something to say and we all want to be heard. The news is about people with real feelings, struggles and successes. Getting news on the air is a team effort. Appreciate everyone's part in it.
What would our readers be surprised to know about you?
We have three chickens and three beehives so we get fresh eggs and jars of honey. I'm living in Green Acres here in the city of Atlanta!
What charities are you passionate about?
ASPCA and The Humane Society: We always have and always will adopt from rescue shelters.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Hotline: Part of the proceeds from every book I sell are donated to this organization.
One Love: I'm on the National Advisory Council for this organization founded in honor of Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia lacrosse player beaten to death by her boyfriend. We're on a mission to help raise awareness about relationship violence.
Best way to relax?
Poolside with an umbrella drink in hand and Pinterest at my fingertips.
Best books you've read?
"Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson and "Facing Your Giants" by Max Lucado.
Best piece of advice you ever received?
People may not always tell you how they feel about you, but they'll always show you. Pay attention.
My relationships with my family, with my friends and with myself. It's not always easy or smooth and it can be messy, but it's work worth doing.
Who are the people that help you be your best self?
My family. They remind me what's lasting and important in this life. Also I'm blessed with smart, savvy, compassionate friends who give me a safe place to fall and who cheer me on.
How do you stay fit and healthy during the holidays?
I can't say no to frosted Christmas cookies. Now you know my weakness, so I keep running outdoors and hitting spin class.
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
The Botanical Garden's holiday lights are spectacular! It's like stepping into a glittery, magical forest. My three girls are mesmerized, and it's romantic for my husband and me.
Most memorable holiday moment?
My husband proposed to me at a park in downtown Chicago among the Christmas lights and snow. Still makes my heart flutter.