Guest column by Kit Gruelle
Today is Deanna’s Big Day! She’s graduating from Appalachian State with her BSW, and I (we!!) could not be more proud of and happy for her.
When I first met Deanna, it was not long after she had survived a harrowing cross-country nightmare with her little girl and her ESTRANGED husband Robbie.
Robbie beat the hell out of Deanna for days. Their daughter witnessed it all. The 18-wheeler they were in (Robbie’s cousin drove) was finally stopped in Oklahoma.
Deanna and her daughter were taken to the hospital where a spectacular ER nurse did an incredible job documenting Deanna’s injuries.
When Deanna was released from the hospital and returned to NC, despite the seriousness of her injuries, the local prosecutor (essentially) told Deanna that, because she did not run, he was only going to charge Robbie with one count of Misdemeanor Assault on a Female. The most time he could/would receive was 150 days in the county jail.
In stepped Stacy Cox, the advocate extraordinaire who saw this for what it was, was outraged, and made up her mind to make the system take seriously what had happened to Deanna.
She started calling the FBI. She kept calling the FBI. Finally, they took the case and Robbie was prosecuted in federal court.
By the time the case went to trial, Deanna had started to understand that she was NOT who Robbie told her she was. She started to know that she was bright, capable, strong, and beautiful.
Deanna testified in court. She told the whole story and drilled holes in the bullshit story the defense tried to offer up. As she spoke, she laid claim to herself in front of the man who tried to kill her. Robbie was sentenced to over 20 years in federal prison. What a victory it was and still is!
Now Deanna has reached a huge milestone. She has worked her ass off for this.
People often recoil when I talk about doing this work. It’s because they assume it is all dark and depressing. Much of the time, it is. Women die every day across the U.S. at the hands of murderous, entitled, male-supremacists hell-bent on killing women they regard as their personal property. The majority of these homicides are completely preventable, but we do not live in a country that values women’s lives.
Deanna is a shining example of the power and beauty of survival. Now, thanks to the FACT that she is free, she wants to take her experience, wisdom, and courage and help other women and children. This is the beauty of the (old-fashioned) battered women’s movement.
Bless you, Deanna, as you move forward! You are a joy to know and a joy to watch! You go girl!!
Deanna’s story was featured in the award-winning documentary Private Violence. North Carolina has amazing domestic violence advocates, and every survivor deserves the support, faith, commitment, professionalism, and dedication of Stacy Cox, who Kit portrayed in the documentary. When I saw the film, I cried because so many of us aren’t blessed with a Stacy in our lives. We fall through the proverbial cracks and struggle to barely survive the rest of our lives.
The good news, folks, is that Deanna and Stacy are both available as advocates. They both richly deserve a job where their talents and commitment are honored, rewarded, and respected.
Bravo: Kit Gruelle! Survivor, Graduate, and Director of Private Violence 8/9/12
Bravo: Private Violence Wins a Sundance Grant! 7/11/13
Bravo: Private Violence Wins a Fledgling Fund Grant 7/15/13
October 20: Private Violence Premieres on HBO!!! 10/18/14
Review: Private Violence 10/18/14
Bravo: Private Violence and Bully Win Emmy Nominations 7/22/15
Kudos ! Congratulations !
So good to hear from you, Vernetta. You are the reason I have so many amazing friends in North Carolina. My hope is that you will be blessed abundantly.
Sending hugs and best wishes,
Bless you, Anne Caroline! It’s not a matter of whether or not they can – Nobody should have to fight this battle alone-it’s too much. Survivors need someone to be their voice – only for a brief moment -until they can find their own again. I know, I’m a survivor. There was not an agency in my County when I needed it and I understand the struggles, the intimidation, the uncertainty and confusion. I had no idea what domestic violence was until I got out of my first marriage and realized how bad it had been. I declared that I would find a job empowering others as soon as I was able. That’s just what I’ve done for the past 16.5 years as domestic violence case manager and court advocate, until my health Forced me out of my job recently. I’m not done with advocacy-it’s My passion-stay tuned.
I’m so proud of Deanna and how far she’s come. Her strength is amazing, she has come so far since the first time we met in 2008..nobody would recognize the person I met so many years ago. She’s a miracle; her life, an inspiration. She’s a butterfly, completely free of the cocoon that held her for so long.
Always in awe to read about women I know, respect and love unconditionally.
Stacy and Temple,
Thank you so much for your comments and support. I can’t tell y’all how long I have wanted to tell the world about these amazing women in NC. We are all butterflies, and I think I should add that image to this post.
Sending hugs and best wishes,
Just watched Private Violence. I cried, recoiled, cursed and yelled at the screen whenever an abuser appeared or his voice (the abusive doctor) was played. I’ve been trying to find out what happened with Deanna, & now I know. I am SO proud of her, and wish her every great thing on this earth.
Thank you, Ms. Dutton. Yes, Deanna is amazing. I will pass your kind words and good wishes on to Kit Gruelle, who was the moving force behind the documentary. She remains in touch with Deanna.
Wishing you all the best,
I guess im kinda late to the party but i just saw the documentary and wanted to say how amazing and brave Deanna was and i hope she is doing SO WELL. Thank you for the work you do for the women.
Actually, you are right on time for this party. When I saw the screening of the documentary, I wanted to take a copy of it to every DV agency in the world and compel executive directors to watch it so that they could see what phenomenal DV advocacy looks like.
Sadly, the devoted advocates in the documentary were terminated from their employment by executive directors who are more interested in their own paychecks and raising money than doing the work.
You have fired me up. Survivors deserve better from the system.
Thank you and bless you,