My name is Kate Ranta and I am a survivor of domestic and gun violence at the hands of my ex-husband. Almost 8 years ago (but it doesn’t seem that long ago, believe me), he ambushed my dad and me at my new apartment and shot us twice each – in front of our then 4-year-old son. I had “just left” and was in much more danger after I made that decision. I had not given him my new address and he stalked and found me anyway. My father and I lived and my son was physically unharmed, but the emotional and psychological scars remain a constant battle to this day.
As a result of my horrific experience, I decided not to stay silent about what happened to us. From my hospital bed, absolutely enraged that this preventable tragedy had happened at all, I made the decision to chronicle my journey on a public Facebook page to show the ripple effect of violence on me, my son, my family, friends, co-workers, and so on. By speaking out, I’ve had opportunities to spread awareness in documentaries and other media outlets, on expert panels, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and in Congressional press conferences, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on domestic violence in the military, and more. I also created a website – and even co-wrote a book, “Killing Kate: A Story of Turning Abuse and Tragedy into Transformation and Triumph.” I believe it’s so important for survivors to share their truths because the power in putting an end to violence against women is in the harsh reality of our experiences.
Charolotte Anne is one of the survivors in Finding Jenn’s Voice. Charolotte survived a brutal strangulation attack in 2009 while pregnant. She is a mother of two daughters and works as an advocate for change. Charolotte strives to strengthen relationships between the community and governm nt agencies to achieve the common goal of one day ending violence by awareness, intervention, guidance, and public service. She serves on the Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Board and the Survivor Advisory Group to the Governor’s Office. Charolotte believes the big picture is key to the smaller picture. ”It's not just my day job, these are people's lives!”
Lisette Johnson has been featured on NPR’s The Takeaway, and in Time, The Washington Post, Huffington Post and USA Today. She has testified before Congress and the Virginia General Assembly in her violence prevention advocacy work. Lisette was shot in 2009 by her husband, in front of their children, who then took his own life. Her blog can be found at ShamelessSurvivors.com.
I never thought of myself as a “victim of domestic violence.” I didn’t know that those words applied to me. I didn’t know that it was not okay for my boyfriend or my husband to hit me. I usually blamed myself - if I could just “be better,” then he wouldn’t get so angry. He wouldn’t have to slap me or kick me or shove me. I thought if I could just change, and be the perfect woman he wanted, then he wouldn’t do those things. I thought it was all my fault. These are the lies that domestic violence tells us. So I suffered in silence. For many years. Beginning with my first serious relationship in college, and in each subsequent relationship I had until I was in my thirties, I minimized and rationalized away the abuse I suffered at the hands of multiple partners. I went from one abusive situation to the next, carrying this sickness of domestic violence with me as it grew bigger and more toxic, until the final act of violence that nearly ended my life.
On August 22, 2010, Faatau Fale, the man I was in a relationship with at the time, beat me nearly to death with an aluminum baseball bat and strangled me until he thought I was dead. I was pregnant at the time, and my unborn child did not survive. During the attack, Faatau fractured my skull, causing a subdural hematoma; he broke my nose and my eye socket; he broke both of my arms; and crushed my hands, breaking all but three of my fingers. I’m a musician. I’ve played piano and taught lessons nearly all my life. Injuring my hands was the worst way possible to hurt me - and Faatau knew that. After beating me, with his fists and with the bat, he then sat on my chest, closed his hands around my throat, and squeezed as hard as he could. He strangled me over and over again until I passed out and he thought he had killed me. He left me there in a pool of my own blood.
That final incident of violence was by far the worst I’d ever experienced. However, it was also how I broke free. It finally broke the cycle I’d been living in for so many years. While recovering in the hospital, I got the number of Family Violence Prevention Services, the local domestic violence organization in San Antonio where I live, and found an amazing support group. It was there that I was first educated about domestic violence, and where I learned to accept that I was in fact, a victim of abuse. I learned that it was not okay, that I didn’t deserve it, and that I didn’t have to live that way. I learned valuable lessons and coping skills, and how to spot red flags in subsequent relationships. I began to heal, and rebuild my life. I became a victim’s advocate, and started telling my story, in the hopes that I could help others find their way out of their own dark places. I found my voice. I was able to face my batterer in court and see him brought to justice - something not every victim is able to do. I regained the use of my hands, resumed my career in music, and opened my own music school. I am still playing and teaching music. He didn’t get to take that from me. I am now married to an amazing man who would never dream of hurting me, and soon we will have our first child. I have lived my best life in spite of domestic violence. I feel like I was given a second chance at life, and I am careful not to waste that gift. The only way to stop the death, to stop the violence, and save lives - is with more awareness, with education, with counseling, and with resources for victims to safely leave their abusive situations and start to rebuild their lives. Everyone has the right to live with dignity, free from fear, free from violence, and free from harm. If we all stand together, we can make sure that victims live to be survivors, who not only survive, but thrive.
My 3 children and I fled California in 2014 because we were threatened with being killed and buried in the desert.
We took matters into our own hands and made the decision to leave our own country to stay alive.
My ex-husband was using a gun to discipline our 3 children and they lived in constant fear. When they told me it was time to leave, I did exactly that and we are alive today, ONLY because we protected ourselves.
Families that are being abused shouldn't have to leave their own country to be safe! When an American Family feels safer in the Middle East with rockets flying overhead than in their home in America living with 24 hours surveillance, moving homes and endless court hearings documenting abuse and stalking something is terribly wrong. I have criminal charges pending against me for protecting my own children when the courts failed them.
Cases like ours are not just "Custody Disputes”. We are human beings struggling to survive abuse and make a better safer future. Many mothers and their children are abused further by the justice system, when they are asked to "get along " with the abuser for the “sake of the children” It just doesn't work that way when abuse is involved. I am currently unable to leave Israel because of the charges pending against me. The charges should have been dropped when we won the Hague Convention Case (through the Israeli Supreme Court.) Our family was told by three courts over here that we did the RIGHT thing by running for our lives. The District Attorney has said that Amy would be placed with her abusive father or put into foster care if we returned to America, and I would go to jail and face a trial for protecting my children.
We protected ourselves when the system failed. I’m grateful that Israel protected Adam, Zachary, and Amy. It’s been very painful trying to understand why our own country failed them.
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