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It Took Me Years to Tell My Story

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Editor’s Note: This Gun Violence Prevention Month, we’re sharing the stories of people personally impacted by gun violence. You can read more here.

In 2002, I was shot five times at point-blank range by my children’s father.

I’d been with my ex the six years leading up to the shooting. He started getting territorial, and one day made a vague threat that he was going to hurt me. He said he could easily get a gun on the street. I got a restraining order the next morning.

On December 23, 2002, I picked up my daughters after work, who were then two and four years old. When I pulled up to my grandfather’s house, my ex was there with a gun, saying we needed to talk. He said hi to our daughters before picking me up and trying to put me into a nearby white van.Dani3

When I started screaming, he shot me twice. I fell to the ground and he stood over me and shot me three more times. He went on the run for three days before finally turning himself in. He’s still in prison today, but someday he’s going to get out.

Almost 16 years later, the shooting still affects me. I have shrapnel in my lower back which causes much pain, and in my right thigh, which is numb to the touch. I suffer from severe PTSD. Loud sounds terrify me.

My PTSD is also triggered by my sense of smell—I remember the burning of the bullets in my abdomen and the scent of any fire or smoke triggers me.

At first I chose to keep my story private, because I was embarrassed and ashamed of my situation. I was raising two young girls on my own and wanted to keep their childhood as normal as possible. We were extremely lucky to have an amazing community—school, basketball, family, and friends—to support us.

Today my girls are both in college, a 19-year-old sophomore and a 21-year-old junior. Both of them have excelled in school, playing basketball on local teams since they were five years old and playing for the varsity team in high school. My girls are very well adapted considering the heinous crime committed by their father.

Dani2I talk a lot with my daughters about relationships, specifically the types of relationships they’re looking for. When my girls first reached an age where they were interested in boys, I felt it was time to share my story publicly and educate people on my experience with domestic violence.

I wanted people to hear how domestic violence begins and know the red flags. Every time I share my story, there are always a few girls and women that come up to me and share their own experiences with violence.

Anyone experiencing domestic violence should know the red flags and listen to their gut. My gut told me that my ex was going to get a gun and kill me without him verbalizing it. I obtained a restraining order and he was served and still managed to stalk and hunt me down. Listen to your gut and let EVERYONE around you know.

Domestic violence is still a secret in too many families and communities. We must talk about it and not just use the words “domestic violence”—we need to discuss what domestic and gun violence actually are, and talk about the emotional threats and mental scars that go with them.

You are not alone: If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline​: ​1-800-799-7233