284: Donna Hylton on Healing and Hope


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Donna Hylton is a women’s rights activist and criminal justice reform advocate. Donna speaks publicly about the issues facing incarcerated women and girls and the significant impact the significant increase in the female prison population is having on families, children and our communities. Her book, “A Little Piece of Light: A Memoir of Hope, Prison, and a Life Unbound” tells the story of the childhood abuse she endured, the spiral of events that lead to her incarceration and how she learned to live, love and trust all over again. In this episode, Donna shares some deeply personal stories of her traumatic past and how she found her voice to help other victims of violence and abuse.

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In This Interview, Donna Hylton and I Discuss…

  • Her book, “A Little Piece of Light: A Memoir of Hope, Prison, and a Life Unbound
  • Navigating the good times and bad times of her early childhood.
  • Finding the courage to ask for help.
  • How she ran track in high school as a way to “run away”
  • How we must talk about these painful stories to get to the root causes.
  • How dealing with trauma does something to our psyche.
  • Believing we don’t have value can be reinforced by those around you.
  • Dealing with the difficult relationship with her daughter, who was the result of rape
  • Years of therapy and healing helped find that place of light inside herself.
  • How talking about the trauma releases the pain instead of holding on to it.
  • How we need to face the trauma, try to understand it and then try to stop it.
  • When you’re young, you believe that what happens around you is your fault and therefore often make the same mistakes because you don’t know how to rationalize what is happening.
  • How she became a wounded healer.
  • How she started healing and forgiving herself when she went to prison.
  • How she became an advocate for the sick women in prison after losing a close friend.
  • Realizing she could no longer stand by or stay silent when something bad happened to others.
  • How she helped bring counseling, educational and other care programs into the prison system.
  • Saying goodbye to the little girl inside who was silent
  • Embracing the little girl inside who found her voice
  • We are not the worst moment in our lives, we’re not our mistakes
  • We are human beings who have been through something
  • Being part of the newly passed Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) which considers alternative sentencing or intervention for those convicted who have been victims of severe abuse.
  • When a body is put under pressure, it’s going to react and do whatever it takes to survive
  • Her source of unconditional love and truth, Sister Mary, who helped her to become the activist she is today.
  • How “we can connect deeply with humanity if we look through the eyes of love and compassion”
  • We were created in love and beauty is all around us if we can just recognize it.

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