State Representative Regina Bunch (R-Williamsburg) spoke about her own experiences with domestic violence during Saturday’s Power-Up Conference, held at Corbin High School.
The Corbin/Whitley County Domestic Violence Council’s Power-Up Conference Saturday was designed to help women ages 14 and up learn how to better empower themselves.
Empowering women is something that the conference’s keynote speaker, 82nd District Representative Regina Bunch, knows a little something about.
"Ladies, we are an amazing and complex gender," Bunch said. "We possess many capable attributes. We are loving, nurturing, strong, hard working and adaptable. It amazes me how easily women can change roles and add new responsibilities without ever missing a beat. We are diverse and talented. The problem is getting us to believe in ourselves.
"One thing I have found to be true of all women is we all have a story. Unfortunately, as you have heard today, domestic violence is something that so many people endure daily. It knows no socioeconomic status, background, race or value of person."
During her address, Bunch told the crowd of about 100 people, who were gathered at Corbin High School, of one woman’s story about surviving domestic violence.
It started when the woman was a girl, who no one suspected of being abused.
"She was abused the entire time she dated this young man, but she felt sorry for him and she was going to fix him," Bunch noted.
The first time he abused her, they were at a gathering where a bunch of men started getting drunk and fighting. They went into the restroom and she asked him to take her home.
"He was wearing cowboy boots that day and he kicked her in the leg. Immediately, her leg was a mess from the point on the boot. It was cut, swollen and looked terrible," Bunch said.
"She finally got home that night with her friends. The next day he called and said he didn’t mean to kick her. He was just trying to get her out from in front of door. This was the first sign of abuse. I can almost guarantee you that if you see the first sign, it won’t be the last. They will always have a story and a way of turning it back on you."
It should have been their last date, but it wasn’t. The couple dated for four more years, and the abuse continued.
"Every time she thought she had the courage to get away from him, he would tell her no one had ever loved him. His father had died. His mother had moved on with her life and she didn’t care anything about him," Bunch noted.
"Once again, he sucked her back in with the hopes that somehow she could make him happy. When he asked her to marry him, she said yes."
About two months into the marriage, the man got a large dog, which he kept in the house without potty training it.
"She told him that unless he trained that dog, it was going to have to go outside," Bunch said. "It was snowy and cold. She still had on her gown from the night before. He told her, ‘that dog is not going outside but someone is.’"
The man then pushed her outside and locked the door. She knocked on the door and then looked through the window to see the man sitting on the couch laughing with his dog.
Although she didn’t have any keys, she finally decided to get inside the car, which was slightly warmer, and a place where no one could see her. She stayed there for four hours until he left for work.
The abuse continued. Years later when she was pregnant with their first child, they had gotten home from a ballgame and he started to go back out. At that time, they lived out in the country. She asked him not to go but he said he was going anyway.
The woman got a little brave and told him that if he was going somewhere, she was going to go out herself. The man told her the only place she was going was to sit down before he knocked her down. By then she knew this would happen.
She sat down, and the man went through the entire house taking every phone, and then disabled her car. He left her out in the county without any way of communicating with anyone.
"He didn’t come home until really late and acted as if he had done nothing wrong," Bunch said.
The couple was married for 12 years and had two daughters. During that time, the woman endured whatever abuse he dished out.
"He was smart enough to abuse her where it couldn’t be seen," Bunch said. "She finally began to get angry. Eventually you have to love yourself enough to take care of yourself. She also realized that her girls were big enough to know what was happening.
"She didn’t want them to think this was what love was supposed to be. Eventually, she had enough and told him she was leaving. He told her that she hadn’t finished college. She couldn’t support her daughters. She was ugly. No one else would want her."
"Normally she would have thought he was probably right, but this time, she realized he couldn’t hurt her any more. She finally made the decision and wasn’t turning back."
The woman left with her daughters. She went back to school, completed her teaching degree, master’s degree and rank one. She found a man, who treated her and her daughters with love and respect, until the day he died.
"You see we all have a story, that just happens to be mine," Bunch told the crowd. "I thought I would share my story with you because it is so common. Also, it would be hypocritical of me to stand here and withhold my story while asking you to reclaim your life and write your own."
During the conference, organizers presented Bunch with the Bluegrass Woman of the Year Award and a donation to the Dewayne Bunch Scholarship Fund, which is named in honor of Bunch’s second husband who passed away this summer.
The Corbin/Whitley County Domestic Violence Council organized the Power Up Conference in recognition of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The conference included various seminars, including a self-defense demonstration conducted by London Police Officer Kenny Jones and Williamsburg Police Department Domestic Violence Advocate Angelika Lewis-Bowling.
The conference concluded with a fashion show sponsored by Maurice’s, which included examples of outfits that might be good to wear for a job interview.
Family Life Abuse Center Domestic Violence Outreach Advocate Dana Brown, one of the organizers for the conference, said she hopes to make this an annual event.
The Corbin/Whitley County Domestic Violence Council raises money to assist battered women.
Brown noted that there are many things battered women leaving their abusers sometimes need ranging from clothing and diapers for babies to bus tickets so that they can go to a relative’s home out of state.
"Any fundraising that we do, any money that we raise will stay in Whitley County," Brown added.