In 1996, Australia made a smart decision. They put very strict laws in place about who can possess firearms. It’s impossible to know just how great of an impact this law has made, but just one look at the gun violence horror that is occurring in other countries, where gun laws are not so strict, we can just imagine.
One country where gun violence continues day in and day out is America. One woman who has lived with the emotional and physical trauma of gun violence is La’Shea Cretain. She is a Moms Demand Action volunteer and a Senior Survivor Fellow with the Everytown Survivor Network.
This is her story.
Warning: Graphic content
La’Shea grew up in Louisiana, in a small, tight-knit community. She met her then-boyfriend when she was in 10th grade and gave birth to her first child, a son, shortly after. One week after graduating high school, in May 1996, she had her second child, a daughter.
She was 18 years old, with two under two. She loved her children dearly, but, her relationship with her then-boyfriend was anything but perfect.
“My relationship with my children’s father had grown more and more physically and emotionally abusive since we’d met sophomore year. And I didn’t tell anyone,” La’Shea bravely shares with Scary Mommy.
“Instead, I made every possible effort to separate from him the summer after graduation. I didn’t live with him or accept money from him to support the children.”
LaShea got a job at Mcdonald’s and lived with her family. She spent as much time as she could with her babies all the while trying to remain away from her ex-partner.
He started stalking me at work, hovering outside the restaurant and staring me down. I once saw him pull a gun on someone, so I suspected he was armed, and I already knew he was not above physical violence towards me. At 18, I was living in silent fear, every day, alone, with a two-year-old and a newborn.”
In August, La’Shea went to the police. She told them the truth – that her ex was terrorising her, that he’d been abusive. That she didn’t know what to do.
They told me they’d talk to him, but that was that. It was the only time I ever asked for help and they reacted exactly the way I predicted they would: by shrugging it off and forgetting. So I tried to forget too.”
Shot 5 times in front of our children
On October 3rd 1996, La’Shea’s world changed forever. She and her children were at her aunt’s house when her ex showed up.
He asked me to leave with him, and I refused multiple times.
He came back a few hours later with a gun, demanding I go with him again. And at 2:48pm, he shot me five times in front of our children before shooting and killing himself.”
La’Shea was in a coma for several weeks.
However, even when in a coma, she recalls the relief she felt. Knowing that her children, her aunt, her family had been spared. Knowing that he would never hurt anyone again.
Any one of them could have been in the hospital like me or killed because my ex had access to a firearm.”
La’Shea eventually left the hospital and returned home to her babies. She moved away and started a new life. She got a bachelor’s degree in business and made a loving home for her children.
‘I still live with five bullets inside me’
For several years, she never spoke about the incident but she did visit Louisiana every year and brought her children to their father’s grave. But she never told her story.
It wasn’t until her daughter was 18, the same age that La’Shea was when she was shot, that she spoke up.
[My daughter] asked me about her father, and I didn’t lie. With her support, I began sharing my story publicly for the first time.
I still live with the five bullets inside me, but they don’t have power over me. Instead, I named them after the five elements that help me as I continue to heal — FIGHT, FAMILY, FAITH, FORGIVE and FORGET.
By sharing my story, I hope other survivors or victims of domestic violence understand that they’re not alone. Trust the strength of your voice, and know that there are people out there who are fighting for you and are here to help you when you’re ready. It’s what I wish I knew.”
This October will mark 26 years since La’Shea’s shooting. She now uses her voice to empower survivors of domestic violence across the country. She advocates for commonsense policies that support and protect all survivors of domestic violence, including non-married partners, by preventing abusers from possessing firearms.
I know that my story is one of far too many in a country where gun-related violence towards women continues to devastate lives.
This can and does happen to anyone, at any time, at any age. Abusers with access to a gun are five times more likely to kill their female victims, and nearly one million women in the U.S. alive today have reported being shot or shot at by an intimate partner.
I also know first hand that guns can be used as tools of fear and intimidation to terrorize, coerce or control people.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to elevate survivor stories and ensure that victims have access to resources to discuss domestic violence and to seek help.
1 in 6
While Australia may have stricter gun laws in place, domestic violence is disturbingly common. According to Mission Australia:
- 1 in 6 women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner, while for men it is 1 in 16.
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced sexual violence.
- On average, 1 woman a week and 1 man a month are killed by a current or former partner.
Know someone affected by domestic and family violence?
If you are experiencing abuse or violence it is not your fault. There are support services that can help you. If your life is in danger, call 000. For 24/7 domestic violence counselling call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).