Recently, I had a chance to attend the largest blogging conference for women, BlogHer 12. Now, I'm no stranger to conferences but typically I'm speaking; this time I had a chance to just take it all in. (And there was a lot to take in.) Just as I was about to tuck into my luncheon salad and slip my brain into neutral, I met Lavon Morris Grant.
I had never heard of her before but will now never forget her. She is a soft-spoken, middle-aged woman; the kind who makes you smile because her heart is big and it shows. Lavon told the hundreds of women crammed into the ballroom that afternoon about the day her husband shot her.
Lavon told us about her life and marriage. While not perfect (what marriage is?) her husband had never hit her. But that day the violence erupted, it did so with deadly force. Lavon's husband shot her three times while their children were downstairs, the final bullet striking her in the ankle as she scrambled to escape. Running out of the house they heard one more gunshot as the man who promised to love and protect them shot and killed himself.
As much as we'd like to think Lavon is a rare case, the statistics show otherwise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
* 1 in 4 women will become a victim of domestic violence.
* Domestic violence cuts across all races and socio-economic lines.
* Most of the victims (85%) are women.
* Young women are most at risk for non-fatal, intimate partner violence.
When I hear numbers like that, I think of my daughter and her trusting nature; my son, too, as 15% of victims are men. I wonder which of my own neighbors might be victims and if I can do anything to help.
Verizon told us about a program they're launching called Hopeline, where people can donate their old, unused phones to help victims and survivors of domestic violence. To date, the company has collected more than eight million phones, donated millions in cash grants to agencies around the country and given out more than 100,000 phones and 319 million free minutes to people trying to escape the violence.
Lavon Morris Grant is safe now. She's happy, strong and healthy, despite the bullets still lodged in her body that surgeons could not remove. She speaks around the country and has even written a book about the experience. Lavon told me after her speech that all she wants to do is make a difference. I have no doubt she is.
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