|October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
I’d like you to meet our Marketing Coordinator, Jenn Doe. Her design and marketing work is amazing, but that’s not why I’m introducing you to her today. She and I have a lot in common. We both lost a dear friend to senseless violence in our early 20s. We both find peace and healing in working to prevent violence against women and girls. We both believe that anti-violence and self-defense education can make this world a safer place.
In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Jenn has bravely decided to share her personal story in an incredibly public way. I hope you’re able to learn something from her experience. Please print out this fact sheet Jenn designed about recognizing signs of domestic violence, and what to do about it. Feel free to print and share it with women you care about, because love shouldn’t hurt! We need to tell this to our girls, early and often.
Strong. Resilient. Spirited. Unified.
Two years ago, I sat anxiously waiting for 11 strangers to make a decision that would determine the fate of a young man’s life and substantiate the facts that I knew to be true. The charges against him included assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and murder in the first degree. I had met him in junior high and by high school we were in love. We felt like we could take on the world and were sure we would be together forever. After high school, we got married and eventually moved to the big city where I could further my education and there was more opportunity for us both. For the first time in the relationship, I wasn’t working and my husband was the sole provider. This began to create tension in the relationship which proved too much for me to handle. I needed some time away to focus on school, and made the difficult decision to leave.
He didn’t take this very well and became enraged and violent, damaging my property and using physical force against me. He was arrested that day and I moved out. I was visited by victim advocates who explained my rights to me, a protection order was served, and he was charged with harassment. It didn’t stop there, though. We maintained contact over the next few months, but I wasn’t willing to go back to him. I moved in with my best friend, Pam, and tried to work on myself and starting over.
Things were going pretty well for me. Finals were around the corner and my friendship with Pam was becoming stronger every day. We had been friends for 10 years, since grade school, and we adored each other. From the day that we met, we had an instant and unbreakable bond. There were rough patches along the way, and we didn’t always agree, but we always found our way back. We loved and accepted each other unconditionally and planned to be friends for the rest of our lives.
On a cold December night, after a day of job hunting and public service, Pam and I stopped by my old apartment, where my husband was now living with his brother. He had called me earlier in the week saying that I had a package to pick up, and I thought nothing of it. After about an hour of casual conversation between the three of us, I realized I was sadly mistaken. Pam left the room to use the bathroom, and before I knew what was happening, he attacked us both.
He pepper sprayed me before stabbing me twice; once in the face, knocking me to the floor and breaking my tooth, and once in the side. I later found out I had a broken rib and a punctured lung. Pam suffered multiple wounds to the neck, one of which proved to be fatal. The ambulance arrived and we were taken separately to the hospital, where I would spend the next 8 days. At 22 years old, my best friend and I became victims of violence at the hands of a man we both loved and trusted. On October 2nd, 2007, he was found guilty on all counts and would serve a life sentence for his selfish actions.
Over time, my wounds have healed and I have come to see myself as a survivor, not a victim, but it took a long time. It was hard for me to see this as domestic violence, because I imagined that as something that happened to other women, not me. The truth is that some seemingly good men behave very differently when their egos are bruised, and things like this happen ALL THE TIME. Every nurse in the hospital had a story to share with me when they heard mine and thier stories made me realize I wasn’t alone.
I kept going to school and got my BFA in Graphic Design, using art as an outlet for my pain. I did research about the patterns of violence and how these things come to happen, and I began to realize that I had missed the red flags because NO ONE HAD EVER TOLD ME what they were. The more I learned, the more I knew that I had to find way to make sure that other women get this information before it’s too late.
That’s when I found Girls Fight Back and applied for an internship, then to be a speaker, and then I just begged for any opportunity to carry on the work that Erin Weed had started. Lucky for me, she was pregnant and in need of help and I was local and available. I’ve been helping with marketing and design since May of this year, and it has been and continues to be an amazing and healing experience. I’ve had the opportunity to train with some of the best self-defense experts around and have fallen in love with kicking ass and learning to live a safer life. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of this company and how it can change the world.
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, I have created a fact sheet containing critical information about the patterns and warning signs of domestic violence. Please pass this on to the people you love, your sisters, daughters, nieces, and friends, because this kind of information just might save a few lives. Thank you for letting me share my story and the memory of a kind, beautiful, talented, and loving young woman named Pam.
For life saving tips, download our DV Fact Sheet
and read Erin Weed’s book. Don’t forget to check us out on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter!