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|Thursday, 16 October, 2014|
Jessica Matsaw (center) and Bingham Crisis Center workers. (Alexandria Alvarez photo)
By ALEXANDRIA ALVAREZ
BLACKFOOT — The evening of October 7, a Domestic Violence Vigil took place at Jensen’s Grove under the shelter.
Susan Nalley Victim Witness Coordinator for the Blackfoot Police Department opened the event with facts about domestic violence.
“One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and one out of three women who are murdered in the United States are murdered by their current or former partner; domestic violence reaches every socio-economic status from the very rich to the very poor. This is a global problem, and it’s important to remember that domestic violence isn’t just a phase, it will re-occur if it isn’t stopped right away,” began Nalley.
“Domestic Violence thrives when we are silent. We can end the violence, and throughout this month of October, the Bingham Crisis Center is committed to raising awareness about it,” Nalley continued.
As of August 14, there have been eight domestic violence related fatalities in the state of Idaho. To show their support to end Domestic Violence in the Blackfoot community, Blackfoot Police Chief and the Bingham County Sheriff presented a proclamation that was presented to the Victim Witness Coordinator Susan Nalley. After the proclamation was read, the attention was turned to two guest speakers who would share their experience.
Jessica Matsaw, 27 years old, and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes was asked to share her experience. During the summer of 2010, Matsaw fought for her life when her former partner purchased a gun and was either going to force her back into a relationship or kill her.
“I still remember his final words, if I can’t have you, no one can. I remember that day as if it were yesterday; I remember seeing my son’s terror, blood, and bullets. The strongest memory that still haunts me to this day was the thought that I was going to die, and never see my son again,” said Matsaw.
It was the final incident in a long line of abusive altercations and Matsaw said it all began with hurtful words in private to slapping, punching and choking in public, looking back Matsaw said she knew there were times she should of left but at the time all the things that seemed wrong were right, crazy was sane and Matsaw had been left feeling worthless and ashamed of the situation that was her life.
“It’s been four years since that happened and each day I try and work on myself a little bit more. I still have nightmares, panic attacks, and constant anxiety, but they subside less and less with time, but there are still overwhelming incidents. I don’t know why I am still here — maybe it’s to share my story with someone here today. I have used this experience to better understand myself, and that it’s a part of my life. I am a survivor, and a warrior, and this experience has shaped me, but it does not define me. I feel that sharing my story is the last part for my closure, and I feel like I am in a strong enough place to say that there is life after abuse, and that I can help other women with my experience,” Matsaw said.
She encouraged audience members that if they find themselves in this type of situation to get out and to seek forgiveness for yourself.
“I’ve been beaten and damaged, but like the clay from mother earth, I have taken a new shape and become stronger. I am still here,” Matsaw continued. “To the women who have been to hell and back, I have felt the weight of your mistakes and it’s time to forgive yourself — forgive the person you used to be and show yourself love.”
She added there would always be a struggle, but you are deserving of forgiveness and love. “Do not beat yourself up over those who have wronged you, let them take ownership. You can only be accountable for your actions and mistakes, and taking responsibility for your imperfections and mistakes has been crucial in my journey of self discovery,” concluded Matsaw.
She ended her presentation by thanking Nalley, the Blackfoot Crisis Center and friends and family who have supported her.
A balloon release was done at the very end as tribute to those who have died from domestic violence encounter.