When I began sharing my story and my experiences of abuse, attempted homicide, gun violence, trauma and recovery I never imagined six years later there would be more, not fewer intimate partner homicides. I had some notion that hearing my story would make a difference. Changes would happen. Women would make different choices. Women would seek professional help from domestic violence advocates to see the signs and prepare safety plans and laws would pass to provide them protection to rebuild lives free the threats of abuse and violence.
My voice has literally been around the world and yet today, each day, it keeps happening. Over and over and over. Can anyone hear me? Is anyone listening?
I have known all along we are treating the symptom, women trying to stay safe, while the disease, controlling and abusive men, goes unchecked. Courts reduce charges and allow pleas. Shared custody is granted with abusive exes. Anger management classes substitute for meaningful intensive treatment of ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior. And guns have remained firmly in place where they present the biggest threat.
This week someone was listening. There was a victory worth celebrating in this relentless fight. Legislation passed in Virginia requiring an abuser surrender their guns when a protective order is issued. It carries significant consequences for those who don’t.
Really though, shouldn’t this have been part of the protective order process all along? Why did we have to grovel for this very simple protection? It is a drop of rain after a drought, a crumb tossed to an audience starving for a solution, being heard after shouting to deaf ears. Is it fail safe? No. It is something where there was nothing. I choose to believe it will make a difference.
The BBC, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Richmond Times Dispatch, Finding Jenn’s Voice, Shameless Survivors, The United States House Steering & Policy Committee and Virginia General Assembly; colleges, universities, medical conferences. In all of these venues I have used my truth as precaution to others, as a wake up call, as a voice for others, as a catalyst to change. Yet today as I sit with the hole in my heart, an emptiness left from my experience of such profound and extraordinary and senseless loss, there is no satisfaction in the celebration of this hard fought victory.
This isn’t the end. It is one step on a thousand mile journey. I will continue to walk, putting one foot in front of the other because it is clear to me, after much initial resistance, that this is the path I am called to; to serve. I have to keep telling it until that of which I speak is little more than a memory, a shameful thing of the past in the United States and world.