Since being shot by my ex-husband in 2012, I have turned my experience into truth to power. From my hospital bed, I vowed to tell my story publicly and out loud, to anyone who would listen. I wanted people to know what happened to me because it wasn’t my fault and it shouldn’t have happened. I started a public Facebook page to serve as a platform for me to journal my healing process, talk about what happened, share information about domestic violence, and raise awareness about this public health crisis.
In 2014, I got pulled into the gun violence prevention movement and have been working with many organizations to share my story and advocate for stricter gun laws, especially around domestic abusers. I’ve appeared on local and national news, in many publications, and in two documentary films. I also helped co-found an organization called Women Against the Violence Epidemic (WAVE) with a close friend whose husband also tried to shoot her. We are hoping to gain our 501(c)3 status in 2018.
Most importantly, however, I’m here and alive to raise my two sons. There is no more important accomplishment than living through a shooting and getting to be here to see them grow up.
After being married for almost 3 years to an emotionally, psychologically, financially, sexually abusive man- and after one incident where he raised his fist and threatened to punch me – I left him.
This started a nearly 2-year painful and scary journey to escape him. He owned many firearms, and when police served him with a temporary restraining order, his weapons were seized. However, they told us he could go out the next day and buy a new one.
In November 2012, he stalked me to my new apartment and shot through the front door behind which my father and I- and our son- were standing. I was shot twice; once through my right hand and once through my left breast, just missing my heart. My father was also shot twice; once through his left arm and once in his left side, missing his heart and lung. My son witnessed the entire incident. Thankfully he was unharmed physically, but like my dad and me, suffers from PTSD.
My Healing Journey
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.
“We are precious and rare. And we’ve got this now.”
I absolutely love and admire you so much! Your courage and perseverance in face of what seems like insurmountable obstacles has been an inspiration for me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward from my own abusive past. You are a survivor, sister!
I am sorry for the pain you have endured. I can relate to much of this and your strength is evident. Thank you for sharing your story. It gives me courage to continue on, to listen to myself and not give up on myself that I can heal. I can live with the echo of PTSD and my children will see their mom rise from the ashes of what once was our life. Thank you.