My sister’s experience taught me to speak up and reach out to end the cycle.
During the "Action Day" held by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, Sheila Leete of St. Paul, left to right, Katie Tesmar of Coon Rapids, Samantha Phillippi of Oakdale and Della Bro of Roseville took in speakers below at the Capitol rotunda during a rally to protest violence against women Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in St. Paul, MN. Leete's daughter Carolyn Leete was killed by her boyfriend on March 3, 2013, and Phillippi has a sister her was hospitalized as a result of physical abuse.
I’m writing this article for Mother’s Day, to honor my sister — a single mom who doesn’t get enough acknowledgment. My sister is a God-given best friend: Through thick and thin, you can always count on your sister to have your back.
I have hers, too — in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when we were little.
I am three years older than my sister. I have always looked out for her and have tried to make sure she is safe. When we were little girls, we would play Barbies, choreograph dances to the Spice Girls, and giggle late at night in each other’s beds until we were told “lights out.” My sister has always had a strong-willed and courageous personality that I admire.
Brute reality crashed in on those nostalgic memories her first year of college. She came home on break, and her once-unshakable stature crumbled as she confided in me that her boyfriend had recently abused her. A few months later, she revealed that she was pregnant. The following March, my adorable niece was born, and the birth was a catalyst for positive change for my sister; she got a good job and was embracing being a single parent.
But even as my sister works hard as a single mom trying to make ends meet, she is also a survivor of domestic abuse. As a result of the violence, she was hospitalized with a severe concussion and contusions on her legs, arms and face.
I was stunned. This time, it hadn’t happened to someone on the news; it had happened to my baby sister. My family’s world was about to change. I slept next to her every night, because she didn’t feel safe. The hurt and despair took my sister, who is the strongest person I know, and broke her down. Our family watched over her physical injuries until they healed, but that was only the beginning of the emotional trauma my sister has to recover from.
This experience has been one of the hardest things my family has ever had to work though. I guess I had underestimated how something like this could affect an entire family in different ways. I was also unaware of how common domestic violence is. My eyes were not opened until it affected me personally through my sister.
Women ages 16 to 24 are at the greatest risk of being in an abusive relationship. Every nine seconds, a woman is being beaten or assaulted in the United States. This isn’t just a number; it is women in our community — our mothers, aunts, sisters, coworkers and friends.
Today, I honor and support my sister and all women who are survivors by working to break the negative stigmas our community places on domestic-abuse survivors and victims.
Today, I am recognizing the courage each survivor has to possess to continue the fight for a safe life. Long after the physical signs of abuse disappear, the survivor is still affected emotionally.
Together we can make a difference in lives of survivors. I have joined forces with the NO MORE campaign, which describes itself as a simple idea with the power to ignite attention to the fact that there are people all around us who are hurt, directly or indirectly, by domestic violence. We all know someone who has been touched by this violence but still, domestic violence remains hidden and misunderstood.
We must bring this issue into the light of day and put an end to the violence. No one deserves to go through what my sister has. NO MORE!
Samantha Phillippi is the current Miss Minneapolis.
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