• Kristin Johnston

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I will never forget sitting in my apartment at college and getting the news. I was taking a break from my studies, scrolling facebook, laughing at funny memes, commenting on friends' fun photos, when I saw several of my former teammates posts: she was missing.

Missing? What? How? She was fun, feisty, and one of those people who was always smiling - who would hurt her? Who COULD hurt her? My first thoughts were denial. Maybe she just left her phone and was at a friend's house, or maybe she ran out of gas somewhere. As the hours passed and those thoughts became more unrealistic, we all began messaging each other. What was going on? We had all began to grow apart after high school, attending colleges in different parts of the state, taking jobs elsewhere, starting families, or just choosing different paths for our lives. How had her path taken her here - a beautiful woman, a smiling and friendly picture posted on the 5 o'clock news with MISSING underneath.

Details emerged, a story was told by her husband, disproven when her body was discovered in a shallow pond a few miles away from their home, and then the truth came out. There had been an arguement. Without getting into the gruesome and horrific details, their argument ended with him senselessly taking her life - not just her life, but the life of her unborn child as well. It was a shock to the entire community and an even bigger shock to those who knew her.

Another detail came out shortly after he was arrested. He had been arrested for spousal abuse nearly 6 months prior, but she had the charges dropped. This is where I paused. How did this strong woman go back after this hit - or was it not the first time? Or was it and he assured her it wouldn't happen again? Only two people know the truth behind those questions and one of them is not here to answer those questions - the many questions her friends and family battled with in the time after her untimely passing.

My cousin dealt with this in her first marriage, a marriage we all assumed was a strong and loving one, yet behind closed doors was a very dark and painful life. She is who asked me to share this post and I am so so happy to do so, and even happier she tells her story, so happy she is here TO tell her story. Getting awareness for domestic violence can help end the stigma and get help to the people who need it. Jennifer shares her story below:

"Pictures I post on social media or hang in my home show a small snippet of my life in that particular moment, and each of these memories are special to me. But, as most people know, pictures are just that: snapshots of that particular moment and scene. It isn’t a complete view of everything else surrounding it or the actions that may be taking place. The complete story may be impossible to see.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this particular cause is near and dear to my heart.

Let me ask you this: What does domestic violence look like to you?

To you, it is seeing sunny, smile filled pictures from a Hawaiian vacation.

To me, it is a hammer whizzing past my head and smashing into the tool shed, leaving a good size dent. Why you might ask? Because I said I was capable of taking care of the garden while he was gone for a week.

To you, it is hearing about a fun date night out on the town.

To me, it is bracing for potential impact while he charges at me. Why? Because I said anything at all, because it doesn’t even matter what was said.

To you, it is seeing pictures of a happy, in love couple being reunited after a year-long deployment. To me, it is being called a whore, bitch, and other awful names. Why the name calling? Because I asked if he was okay after I came home from work to see he had hit a neighbor's car after he "accidentally" took an Ambien and had "one drink."

To you, it is reading a sweet anniversary post that often retells the story of how our love began and grew. To me, it is sleeping with the door locked and with a loaded gun next

to the bed. Why the added security? Because even while I was sleeping, I could still piss him off.

I want to share some statistics from The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). On their website they post the following:

- On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

- On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

- Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

- Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

While numbers like 20,000 phone calls a day might seem large, it is still very small compared to the amount of people actually being abused. Most cases of domestic violence, just like rape, are severely underreported. What is more sobering is the fact that only about a third of victims seek medical care for their injuries. Remember, injuries are not always seen on the outside. Guilt, shame, and fear are also things victims have to overcome along with the physical and psychological abuse. There is shame that they could let this happen to themselves; guilt from feeling as if it is all their fault, that somehow, they caused this to happen; fear that if they try to leave nobody would ever love them again or just plain fear for their lives if they try to escape.

The above examples are not my whole story. I have never shared my whole story with anyone and never let on to the abuse in a public forum while it was happening or after

we split. It wasn’t even shared in private, to anyone. I let “snippets” out here and there since I got out of my situation. I think about when I met my ex-husband and how charming and charismatic he was. There was no way I could have imagined that my life would turn into dealing with a majority of what is in that chart above. I am sure most

people who are victims/survivors of domestic abuse share that same experience: a quick and fast drop from Heaven into Hell. During the last two years of my marriage, I lived

in a constant state of fear, panic, shame, and loneliness. It is a type of existence I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. While I won’t tell my whole story here, I wanted to publicly state that I survived in hopes that other survivors and current victims know that they are not alone. This epidemic is NOT talked about enough; victims are often NOT believed. Nobody knew what was happening to me, and maybe I would have left earlier if I had let someone in on the hell I was living in. People do not deserve to suffer through something as traumatic as domestic violence, especially not alone.

Domestic violence is not so easily seen. It isn’t just sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts that cover our shame and abuse. It hides behind those happy pictures and posts you see on social media. It hides behind that smile that victims come to perfect. We, as a society, need to be more open to hearing these brave souls’ stories and to help them get out and heal. See around those "snippets." Be that safe space for someone. Show them that hope. Let’s work to end the circle of violence.

I am not here to demonize my ex-husband. He can do that well enough on his own. I do this to make myself a safe place for those who need one, to show that there is hope. There can still be a happy ending. I found mine and am thankful for it every day. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel can and does exist. There is a safe place in me, and there is a safe place in The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Thanks to all of those who have helped me heal, especially my husband Aaron who makes me feel safe every single day."

Again, I am so glad she shared her story. If you need help please reach out to someone or the number listed above, and if you suspect someone you know and love needs help, don't be afraid to reach out to them and start that conversation.

As always, feel free to comment or message me with anything!

Much love to you all,


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