WKU senior returns after taking a year off and writes a book about her traumatic experiences.


Photo given by Shirkira Tunstill.

Shirkira Tunstill anchoring on News Channel 12

Makaio Smith, Staff Writer

After surviving a domestic violence situation at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, and later battling with mental health, senior Shikira Tunstill will be returning to the Hill to finish her degree after taking a year off to focus on her mental health. She is also writing her first book, titled ScapeGoat.

In 2014, while she was in high school in Bowling Green, Tunstill went through a traumatic event. Her boyfriend started abusing her during the last few months of their relationship, Tunsill said.

“The domestic disputes and violence didn’t start till almost six months into the relationship,” Tunstill said. 

The abuse started out from choking her if she said the wrong thing and escalated to stalking her after she started to distance herself as she planned to leave.

“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m in this situation. I always look down on women who stayed with abusive partners, this can’t be my life’,” Tunstill said. “I’ve learned domestic violence comes and starts in many different ways and it is not as easy to leave as most people think.” 

Tunstill came to realize that it’s hard to leave a difficult situation without support or if the person is too ashamed to tell the truth.

The book details the abuse she faced for a year. She shares stories of being stalked, being shot at, kidnapped as well as other stories of dealing with the dangerous situation for a year.

The shooting incident happened after Tunstill broke up with the person. The man was charged with attempted murder and went on the run, according to a story in the Bowling Green Daily News 

Tunstill asked that the former boyfriend’s name not be included in the story.

Her mother’s use of social media helped her get out of the abusive situation she was in, said Tunstill

Her mom had made a post on Facebook with a photo of her ex boyfriend’s car and his face. In the post, Tunstill’s mother explained how the former boyfriend had been abusing her daughter and had a warrant out for his arrest for attempted murder, verified with photo.

“Somebody happened to see him where he was hiding in Indianapolis at a tire shop trying to take his rims off of his truck so he wouldn’t be caught,” Tunstill said.

The domestic abuse ended in 2015 when this person went to jail, Tunstill said. From there Tunstill and her family started to heal from the situation.

“After going through what she went through, I just remember one day when I was at her mom’s house to visit her. She was on the couch, she couldn’t move, her face looked so different, and it was just a scary sight,” Jasmine Edmonds, a family friend of Tunstill, said. “Ever since then I’ve watched her be on the news, doing her podcast, and doing things up at Western for abuse and mental health.”

In 2015 Tunstill moved out of Bowling Green and to Texas to live with her father for three months and started going to therapy. 

“Seeing her go through that and the different things she does, has actually helped me leave my abusive relationship with my children’s father,” Edmonds said. “She was so motivating, seeing her go from that couch to where she is now is so unbelievable.”

Tunstill started WKU in 2019 to pursue her degree in broadcasting. During her first two years at WKU Tunstill had a podcast called Shikira Speaks on Facebook. While she was at WKU she was also in a few short films and ran for Miss Black Western 2020.

The cover image of Shirkira Tunstill’s podcast. (Image given by Shirkira Tunstill)

“I’ve always been a people’s person and into people sharing their stories, so I thought why not be a reporter,” Tunstill said. “I didn’t think reporting for me was going to take off, but I was naturally talented with people and reporting. My career at WKU took off out of nowhere, so I thought about starting my own podcast since people seemed so engaged with me.”

The podcast covered topics about mental health, overcoming hardships and other topics she has personally faced in her life. During Covid-19 the views on her podcast went up leaving them at more than 1,000 views on the podcasts. 

She is not currently posting any podcasts, but she plans to resume posting in the fall. She is thinking about moving her podcast to YouTube. 

Tunstill wants to show students and people in general they can face challenges and still chase their dreams while defeating the odds. 

“Reporting helped heal a lot of that along with having a great support system with my family,” Tunstill said. “I say reporting because I am able to meet different people and engage with different people to see that I’m not the only one that has a story to tell.”

Being able to share someone’s story and to get more of an understanding that other people have things that they battle with too is what made Tunstill fall in love with journalism and got her into mental health.

“I would get a lot of emails and inboxes with questions about how I overcame domestic violence and other trials and tribulations I faced before entering WKU,” Tunstill said. “Instead of replying back to so many emails, I decided why not write a book.”

The chapters in Tunstill’s book, ScapeGoat, will cover topics like domestic abuse in all forms and the mental health stigma, especially in Black homes. 

“This book is to encourage and inspire people, life is a journey, no matter your race or age,” Tunstill said. “You can fall and even take a break, but you can always pick up where you left off and beat the stigmas”.

Tunstill named the book ScapeGoat because that can be how people feel when they are struggling with mental health. They may feel like an outcast. 

“Mental health will mentally have people feeling like they are an outcast, especially in Black homes,” Tunstill said. “The topic of mental health in Black homes is ignored and swept under the rug for the most part”.

Tunstill hopes to beat the stigma of mental health, especially in Black homes so that people struggling with their mental health can get help and not feel like an outcast.

Tunstill had some struggles with mental health before the domestic violence situation.

“I had mental issues a little bit before the domestic violence simply because being raised by a single mother and having to put on the load of being the older sister,” Tunstill said. “For me, as far as being the oldest sibling, I had to take on a lot as far as being the second parent.”

When these mental issues started for Tunstill her mother was unaware of them until the domestic violence situation. When Tunstill was younger she wasn’t vocal about the mental issues she was struggling with.

“After the domestic violence situation, that’s when I started being bold and speaking up. That’s when she started becoming more supportive because it was like her waking up to saying ‘I didn’t know you were feeling that way. I didn’t know you were battling this’.,” Tunstil said. “To me it is crazy how certain, sometimes tragic, situations have to happen for family and friends to start to see what you are dealing with or even change their ways.”

Tunstill feels like if parents in black homes take the time to put their feelings first, especially their kids feeling and let their kids express themselves, then it won’t backfire and revisit the kids when their adults 

“I really feel like the stigma of not being able to express anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, ect. Is always swept under the rug in the black community and it does need to be spoken on,” Tunstill said. “That’s another reason why the book is being written.”

ScapeGoat will touch base with these topics with the purpose of helping people battling mental health behind closed doors. 

As she returns to WKU to finish her senior year she hopes to write a second book a year after. The second book will focus more on the good outcome of things. 

She is still trying to sort out minor details with her first book. 

“The goal is that ScapeGoat will be published and released this fall,” Tunstill said.

Makaio Smith can be reached at [email protected].