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.
Review: Private Violence 10/18/14