Post-shooting has been a long and on-going process. At first I was in “survivor mode.” The first year was spent in grueling occupational therapy to get my right hand working again. It was like a swollen claw. I went three times a week to my wonderful occupational therapist, and we worked hard together to get my hand to full range of motion. I can make a fist, but the hand itself is still numb from nerve damage.Â
Fortunately for me, I come from a very close knit, supportive and endlessly loving and strong family. My mother nursed my dad and me- as well as caring for my young son- during the first few months after the shooting. It’s cliche, but she truly is our rock. She wasn’t going to let us fall apart. I quite literally couldn’t have survived without my family. I also have close friends from childhood and college, and made many domestic and gun violence survivor friends along the way. These are lifelong friendships that I cherish.
As far as professional help, I was in therapy on and off in the first 2 years, but in late 2015 I hit a wall. The trauma crushed me. I took FMLA from work and entered an outpatient program to get the therapy and proper medications to address my PTSD that I desperately needed. I also entered an intensive program for those suffering from PTSD. I worked 1:1 with a counselor to learn the tools I need to navigate PTSD triggers and other symptoms. I can’t stress enough how important it is for survivors to get that professional help.
I’d also like to add commentary about the long and treacherous journey we endured with my ex’s criminal trial. He was arrested at the scene and put in jail. He got a high-priced lawyer and was pleading not guilty. So we not only had to heal ourselves from attempted murder, but we had a trial looming over us. We were told in our first meeting with our prosecutor that it could take 4-5 years to go to trial. We didn’t believe her. But yes, she was right. It took 4.5 years to finally have our trial. After countless continuances, cancellations, and a mistrial (the jury didn’t follow directions and the judge had to call a mistrial), we faced my ex in court in Feb. 2017. The level of trauma that victims feel when being in the same space as the person who tried to kill them is something for which I don’t have words. He was smug, emotionless. No remorse. Yet still pleading not guilty. It’s unthinkable that someone could unload multiple bullets into a home and try to claim anti-anxiety medication made him do it. Thankfully the jury didn’t buy the defense, and he was found guilty on all 5 counts, including 2 counts of premeditated, attempted first degree murder. The judge sentenced him to 60 years in prison, no parole. He will die there. I’m very fortunate for this outcome. So many survivor friends of mine are not so lucky.
Of course my children, family, and friends keep me going, as does my advocacy. I’ve found such empowerment in speaking out. The shame is on abusers, not their victims. My goal is to leverage my story to help change laws around domestic violence offenses, holding abusive men to harsher consequences and putting the onus on them to be accountable for their behavior.
I have learned more about myself in the 5 years since my shooting than I ever thought possible. I always viewed myself as an empathetic, compassionate, strong, resilient person, but those traits are magnified now. I want to help people. I want to change the system (law enforcement, child services, judicial) that let us down so very badly. I want to disarm abusers so other women, children, families, communities don’t have to know this trauma and pain. I want to lobby politicians and get them to listen. I want to publish a book, and have it be made into a movie for all to see. All of it is for awareness. For opening people’s eyes to the suffering women and children face every day at the hands of violent men who professed to love and protect them.