ROCKFORD (WREX) – For the past six weeks, 13 WREX has worked to shine a light on domestic violence with the series “Out of the Darkness”.
The station ran more than a dozen special reports which detailed many different aspects of this issue. While WREX’s reporting on this topic is far from over, we wanted to show you why we started this series in the first place. It all started with a survivor we met, who we’ll refer to as “Jane”.
Jane says her story of domestic violence started at just 10 years old when her dad was remarried to someone she describes as highly abusive and volatile.
“It was the whole gamut of abuse. I had my nose broken several times when I lived with her. I was very young at the time and small, it wasn’t just me it was the whole family and there were many kids.”
As Jane grew up, she made herself a promise.
“I would never put up with that when I became an adult.”
Years later, she met her ex-husband who she says swept her off her feet.
“He was my knight in shining armor, he was everything I wanted.”
But little by little, she says he manipulated her.
“It was very slow and meticulous and I never realized it was happening until I completely lost myself.”
Jane says her ex-husband was controlling, constantly calling or texting when she at work of with friends, and would berate her with nasty comments.
“It had reached the point where he had shoved me a few times and definitely done things like punch a wall beside me or slam a door right next to me. He broke furniture right beside me. He picked up a chair and smashed it to bits next to me. But my line was ‘No one is ever going to hit me’, and he didn’t. So did I realize I was abused? No I didn’t.”
Ultimately, Jane was able to get a divorce but says it wasn’t until after that when she was in group counseling that she realized it was domestic violence.
“I just remember breaking down sobbing uncontrollably at the realization that I was abused.”
And while she says the abuse never reached an intense physical level, the scars are there, and they’re deep.
“I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. I have high anxiety. I have triggers and I know that’s a part of PTSD. Somebody is swearing or slamming something or loud noise, it can set me off.”
Jane’s story and what she told our station is what lit the match, igniting “Out of the Darkness”.
“There needs to be more awareness,” said Jane. “For all of it.”
So to build that action, 13 WREX leapt into action. Producing dozens of stories to highlight of number of different aspects on domestic violence. We spoke with city advocates, survivors, community members, and city leaders. We teamed up with the city of Rockford for the Mayor’s March on Domestic Violence, and hosted a town hall where we sat down with domestic violence advocates in our community.
“The Mayor’s March, the WREX series on domestic violence, and town hall forums are just essential,” says Rockford’s Mayors Office on Domestic Violence Manager Jennifer Cacciapaglia. “They are the fundamentals on what to move forward from. The level of awareness these things raised, we can not overstate those.”
“I would say Jennifer and a whole team of people in our community have surpassed my thoughts on where we could be at such an early stage,” says Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. “I think this goes to all the community engagement we’ve been doing and you’ve all done a significant role.”