David Garlock: A story of surviving abuse and a second chance

Photo courtesy of Robert Greenwald

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sam Houston State University hosted criminal justice reform advocate and abuse survivor, David Garlock to share his story. Garlock walked students through his personal journey beginning with abandonment and abuse and ending with favor and freedom in the seminar titled “The Chapters of my Life.”

Garlock’s childhood was anything but ideal. Growing up, he and his brother were pawns in a custody battle between their parents who were both deemed by the court as unfit to care for their children. Consequently, the two were never granted the opportunity to grow up in a stable home environment. 

In their search for stability, they moved in with a man his brother met in a group home. From the day the brothers moved in up until the fateful night that would forever change their lives, David and his brother were molested and abused by the man that was entrusted to care for them. The brothers suffered in silence for years.

“My brother and I had been sexually and physically abused for eight years, and we felt the only way out of the situation was to take our abuser’s life,” Garlock said. “It was an irrational decision, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I am not remorseful about the action that we perpetrated that June night in 1999.”

On Oct. 29, 1999, at the age of 20, Garlock was arrested. At the age where most young adults were beginning their lives, Garlock was now facing a murder charge. Garlock and his brother both received 25-year sentences in Alabama following the altercation with their abuser.

“I was thinking I was facing the death penalty and that my life was over,” Garlock said.

Yet, in the darkness of his situation, he found light in the word of God. Through scripture he found a peace and joy within himself that he never knew existed.  

“I had asked for a bible in jail and turned to Revelations 3:20 where it stated ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with them, and they with me,” Garlock said. “It was then when I decided I was going to do the time and not let the time do me.” 

While serving his sentence, he went on to earn his GED and a drafting trade while also deepening his spirituality in preparation for his future. While incarcerated, Garlock did work such as hospice.

On Apr. 1, 2013, after 13 years of serving, Garlock was released on parole where he went to further his education and graduate with his bachelor’s degree from Eastern University.

After being released, Garlock and his brother each faced their trauma in a different manner. He compared his trauma to his brothers with the analogy of a scab versus a scar.

“What happens when you hit a scab? It starts to bleed. That’s what happens to someone who hasn’t dealt with their trauma, it hurts them,” Garlock said. “I have a scar where I can show somebody the pain, I went through, but it doesn’t bleed anymore so it doesn’t have the same power over me as it once did.”  

Now, Garlock has a wife which he married Aug. 15, 2015 and enjoys his life with his 10-month-old son. In Alabama, he received a pardon hearing and an eventual pardon for his previous conviction. He advocates for criminal justice reform and believes that correctional facilities should help inmates become better members of society rather that further their trauma. Garlock works with organizations such as the New Person Ministries and Straight Ahead. He also speaks at many universities to inform of how to produce an equitable and effective justice system.

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