A couple weeks ago I gave a speech before....oh, about 5 hundred people.  Yeah, imagine that!  It was the international event of "Take Back The Night" (TBTN).  If you aren't familiar with TBTN, it is a rally held at most college campuses to bring awareness of abuse to women.    The first TBTN was in Belgium in March 1976.  Women marched while holding candles to protest against violence against women worldwide.  The first TBTN event held in the United States was in San Francisco in 1978.  They are now held not only in big cities, but also at smaller college campuses as well.  I was asked to share an experience I had some years back, and I'll admit, I was very nervous.

I decided to share my experience because I felt it was important to let people know how easily you could be targeted for violence. This happened to me before Armando and I even met, so of course, this was before I had children.

My experience was very terrifying and I wouldn't want anyone to ever have to experience this. That is the reason I decided to speak at the TBTN, after I was asked to share my story. I need women to understand that this can happen to anyone. Anywhere.

It all began Mother's Day 1995, at Wal-Mart. A man was walking out as I was walking in and he said "Hello." I said "Hello" to him and continued walking in to the store. I was in the store for about 90 minutes and found him waiting at the door as I was walking out.
He said "Hello" to me again, but this time, I ignored him and walked to my Jeep pretty fast and locked my doors.
He followed me to my friend's house (who was not home) and actually tried getting me out of my car after I parked in my friend's driveway! I pleaded with him to leave me alone and was able to bluff him into thinking we were outside my parents' home and that my dad was coming out of the house with a gun. He ran to his car and drove away.
As I drove away, I noticed him following me again, but he sped away when he saw me drive into the police department parking lot.

The next day, I hadn't noticed, but he again followed me to a breakfast meeting and again, I struggled with him because he tried getting me to forcefully get me to his car again!  I was able to get away from his grip and run inside the restaurant.  He wasn't arrested because he took off.

A few months later, he killed his wife.

The police weren't able to collect enough evidence for a conviction, so he wasn't charged with her murder. Until 2009. He was arrested at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada and brought to Colorado to face a murder charge. The jury convicted him for his wife's murder and he was sentenced to life in prison.  He will never have the opportunity to hurt anyone ever again.
Justice was a long time coming for his wife and her family, but they finally got the justice they deserve.

You know, I'll never know what triggered him stalking me, but one thing I do know: I am well aware of the fact that had he suceeded in getting me to his car one of those two terrifying days, I might have also disappeared.

He stalked many women. One of the women he stalked actually found him hiding in her bedroom closet! Of the women he stalked, I was one of the lucky ones.

Again, I urge all women to always be aware of your surroundings.  And you must report anything like this  to the police if it happens to you!

I never thought something like this would happen to me. But it did.  And I thank God that I was able to get away from him.

After the event, I got lots of comments from different students at school. Mostly, they told me how grateful they were that I spoke at the event because they never thought something like that could happen with just a simple "Hello." They now realize that it can and it is my hope that they will be just a little more cautious.

And if you get the chance to attend a TBTN events, do it. They really are powerful.
Oh, and it meant a lot to me to have my hubby, my BFF Lori, my oldest step-daughter Laura and some of my Stryker sisters there. You all are awesome!
Here are some pictures taken at the event:

  This is me and the hubs right after we arrived..
Again, I was very nervous because there were so many people there!  When it was my turn to go before the crowd, I looked out and realized that without my glasses, the only people I could see were the people in the front row!  HA!  I wasn't nervous anymore!

After I gave my speech, I was given roses and a t-shirt.
My handsome hubs:

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