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Stopping the Cycle: Troy & Tommi Vincent’s Commitment to Combating Domestic Violence Starts at Home First
by Brittney Oliver
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September 19, 2019

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Stopping the Cycle: Troy & Tommi Vincent’s Commitment to Combating Domestic Violence Starts at Home First

The Vincents turned their pain into purpose. They open up to Black Love contributor Brittney Oliver about how their work in domestic violence prevention and awareness has also made them stronger as a couple. 

Courtesy of @vincentcountry

Troy and Tommi Vincent have spent the last 26 years building a commitment to faith, family, and food. Their family mantra is all about making a difference. With their lifestyle platform Vincent Country, a faith-driven family brand committed to positive social impact, they’ve dedicated themselves to combating domestic violence and sexual assault. Generations of women in their family have experienced violence against them, and the Vincents are committed to breaking the cycle. 

The Trenton, New Jersey natives met through Tommi’s sister Lisa who was dating Troy’s friend at the time. However, their relationship did not form until much later. Troy, who had been drafted by the Miami Dolphins, eventually asked Tommi’s sister about her and sent over football trading cards to impress her. At the time, Troy was at football training camp in Florida, and Tommi was a student at Temple University. They fell in love with each other over the phone and were engaged to be married eight months later. They forewent the bells and whistles of a typical NFL wedding for an intimate exchange of vows at the Ft. Lauderdale wedding chapel followed by a dinner buffet.

However, the Vincents did not realize on their wedding day that trauma from their shared experiences with domestic violence would show up early on in their marriage in different ways. Troy grew up in a household where domestic violence became normalized. He witnessed domestic violence from the age of seven until 15 when he and his mother left that situation. “I just decided that I didn’t want to be what I grew up seeing. I wanted to be part of the solution. I didn’t want to be part of that world of harming women or inflicting violence amongst women,” he shared.

Related: How These ‘Black Love’ Couples Emerged From Darkness

Domestic violence was normalized for Tommi growing up as well. When her high school boyfriend physically abused her, she thought it was the way he showed her love. “The first time I witnessed [domestic violence], I was three years old. When you see it early, it begins to shape your perception of what love is,” she shared. For Tommi, there were no red flags that warned her that the abuse wasn’t okay, until her abuser picked her up to throw her off of a bridge. It was then that she knew she had to get out of that relationship.

“When you’re in the courting and dating stage, there’s a lot of aspects of your life that you don’t disclose because you may consider it to be dirty secrets or things that don’t make you feel good about yourself,” – Tommi 

The Vincents never shared their experiences with domestic violence to each other while they were dating, and the baggage crept into the early parts of their marriage. “When you’re in the courting and dating stage, there’s a lot of aspects of your life that you don’t disclose because you may consider it to be dirty secrets or things that don’t make you feel good about yourself and what you’re ashamed of,” shared Tommi. Her trauma showed up in the marriage as combativeness. “I was used to being extremely combative, and I didn’t know Troy’s experience with his mom and what he witnessed or his commitment that he made that he would not engage in any form of [abuse],” she explained.

When the couple would have disagreements, Tommi expressed herself by yelling, screaming, and sometimes by throwing things – however, Troy would not engage. “It wasn’t until we started to unpack that baggage and become more vulnerable with one another where we able to understand the aspects of each other’s makeup,” she said. The vulnerability helped them learn what triggered them, like, a tone of voice or a touching gesture could set Tommi off, and, in return, her combativeness brought Troy to the headspace of when he was a child. “Being willing to be vulnerable in the marriage from the beginning of it is extremely important so that you can unload that baggage, and you’re not carrying it around from room to room in your marriage.”  

For their sons, Troy wanted them to make sure they understood that a “hand is supposed to be gentle. You hold your wife’s hand, you hold your significant partner, you hug them, and you embrace them,” – Troy 

“We’re not going to keep the generational curse living through our legacy, so we gotta break this. We’re gonna break this curse, and it’s actions that speak louder than words,” shared Troy. First, the Vincents wanted to make sure their five children and two grandchildren were raised understanding how to resolve conflict. The Vincents desire is to put out assets, not liabilities, when it comes to their children, and they wanted to be their most significant influence. “For us to effectively do that, we have to have our non-negotiables as a family and values and principles that we use as our foundation in raising our children,” explained Tommi. The way their daughters have seen Troy show love for their mother and towards them is something that Tommi feels will make a lasting impression. “If a father loves his daughter in a way that is true and authentic, she will know a counterfeit when he comes into her life,” she shared. 

Courtesy of @troyvincentsr

For their sons, Troy wanted them to make sure they understood that a “hand is supposed to be gentle. You hold your wife’s hand, you hold your significant partner, you hug them, and you embrace them,” he explained. Setting an example for his sons is important for Troy because he believes domestic violence and assault is a man’s issue. “Oftentimes we’re the perpetrators, and we’re the ones that are bringing this violence against women in, and we allow this to happen. We have to look at how we raise young boys moving into the future,” he shared.

Troy’s work doesn’t end at home. He is the EVP of Football Operations at the National Football League and one of the highest-ranking executives in sports. Being a player in the NFL and working on the corporate side, Troy has stayed committed to being an advocate to prevent domestic violence. “There’s been a war on women for centuries, and it’s not a National Football League problem, but because of the nature of the business, there are eyeballs there. We do have an opportunity to right some wrongs, but we have a systemic cultural problem in the United States. As a player, he spent his free time volunteering at shelters and programs which helped women and children affected by domestic abuse.

“You can’t be in a workplace and allow and laugh at jokes that are condescending towards women. All of those things fall into that category of how we see and how we respond,” he explained. As an executive, he’s helped with education by providing players and their families with tools to prevent and be a first responder to situations of assault and abuse. Troy explained that first responders are siblings, parents, or friends of victims, and not the police. The people who victims trust to share their experience with are the people who can help or save someone. “Every employee has mandatory training around areas of domestic violence and sexual assault. The programs, the partnerships, the resources are provided to families in every city,” shared Troy. The league is working on “making sure that there’s a circle or community of care that’s established in 32 cities around these particular issues.”

For the Vincents, advocacy work does not look like one particular thing. Together, Tommi and Troy work with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, financially support many centers around the country, host luncheons to raise money, and lead discussions to drive awareness and have healthy community dialogue about domestic violence. “We are confidants and accountability partners with many couples all over the United States. We host couples, family, and women’s retreats to help foster self-development, fortifying marital and family relationships,” Tommi shared.  

Pain turned into purpose for the Vincents, and their work in domestic violence awareness has helped make them stronger as a couple. “Our experiences of domestic violence is a common thread we share together.

She was able to use the gifts that she has as a chef to create a quarterly brunch series and a life-saving conversation. The brunch is held throughout the country to raise money for the hotline and a safe house. The Vincents utilize the gifts and talents that every family member has to make their programming work; whether it’s generating the invite, making the flower arrangements, preparing food, or being the greeter. “Whatever it is. We do it as a family. We put an action in everything we do because faith without works is dead. That is a personal mark that we’re making, and it’s something that we’re incredibly proud of,” Tommi shared.

Related: Communication 101: Learning How to Fight Fair

Courtesy of the Vincents

Pain turned into purpose for the Vincents, and their work in domestic violence awareness has helped make them stronger as a couple. “Our experiences of domestic violence is a common thread we share together. Those threads bind us closer together. We have a view into each other’s heart of unimaginable pain you only understand through personal experience,” Tommi explained. For 20 years they have mentored other couples, and the Vincents stress the importance of turning those common threads of pain into power. “This is a life-long commitment, especially when we look in the eyes of our grandchildren. Tommi and I want to ensure a better society standing on the hope that what happened to my mother, doesn’t happen to them,” Troy added.

Be sure to tune in for more Black Love the series this fall on OWN! Also, make sure to binge watch seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon and Urban Movie Channel.

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