There is a myth that if you are of a certain social status or IQ level that you are too well-to-do or smart to become a victim of domestic violence. That is a LIE, as is epitomized in the stories of two beautiful souls, who tragically died at the hands of their abusers. As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I can say for certain that there needn’t be shame in admitting the truth.
The Events of October – The Story of Maggie Wardle
I met the beautiful couple Rick and Martha Omilian soon-after joining Moms Demand Action. We shared stories of our loved ones who died by firearms, and I will never forget Rick’s wry sense of humor while referring to the murderous Kalamazoo Uber driver as a POS. Immediately I recognized them as my kind of people – simultaneously kind and fierce.
Their charming daughter, Maggie (who incidentally shares my middle name and my eldest son’s birthday), was both studious and outgoing. Involved in golf and a lover of bugs, she maintained a wide social circle at Kalamazoo College. Unfortunately her time was ripped away from her when her jealous ex-boyfriend was able to legally purchase a shotgun, under the guise of hunting, who then used the gun to kill her and then himself.
Since Maggie’s death, Rick and Martha have been advocates for domestic violence laws. They convinced the MI government to pass legislation two years after Maggie’s death, to first give police the authority to arrest domestic abusers without a warrant and also to include dating and former relationships in their definition of domestic violence. Rick and Martha have been active in Moms Demand Action since its inception, as their daughter was taken from them long before gun violence found its way into the sanctity of Sandy Hook Elementary. Shouldn’t every educational institution (and bars, stadiums, churches, etc.) be free from guns?
Unfortunately as is addressed in the book, The Events of October: Murder-Suicide on a Small Campus by Gail Griffin, we know that it is too difficult to track individuals throughout an entire campus to ensure that they are not bringing banned items onto the premises. That is why it is important that we restrict their access in the first place, from people like Maggie’s killer who never should have been able to buy a firearm. The law restricted him from buying a handgun without a permit and a waiting period, but there is an exception for long guns, of which shotguns and AR-15-style weapons are both included. This needs to be fixed immediately. (In fact, read this disgusting statement from the National Association for Gun Rights if you need some motivation to call your legislators: “Despite firearms restrictions elsewhere, Michigan surprisingly does not have an ‘Assault Weapons’ ban. So feel free to enjoy your AR-15s, AK-47s, MP5s, and all the other really fun toys (that the 2nd Amendment was actually written for!)”
I plan to read the final appendix tonight in this poignant book, two days before the date that sweet Maggie was murdered 23 years ago. Today, Maggie would be 42, likely with children of her own and a law career. Perhaps her clients would be young girls like she once was, looking for justice and truth in this crazy world.
To read Maggie's story told by her mother Martha, go to https://momentsthatsurvive.org/tribute/martha-omilian/.
Rachel Duncan – A Young Girl with a Bright Future
This story was shared with me by one of our tenacious leaders in the Lansing area, and it was one of which I was already familiar. Unfortunately in our Moms Demand Action groups, we often share stories of the gun violence that plagues our country, and I remember reading some of the details of this particular story.
Rachel was a great big sister to her two younger sisters, according to her mom Gail. She had a beautiful smile and had just spent some quality time with her mother and sisters before going to work at Jo-Ann Fabrics on March 26, 2018, before her ex-boyfriend showed up with a firearm that he stole from a shooting range. Similar to Maggie’s story, this man shot Rachel more than once and then killed himself. Like Maggie, Rachel died. Like Maggie’s ex, Rachel’s ex couldn’t stand her not being with him.
Rachel had even filed a personal protection order against her ex. He was not allowed to have firearms. Yet he still managed to get his hands on one and use it to commit his heinous act, demonstrating the need for stricter policies around deadly weapons. Gail fought the case in court and won, represented by Brady and their experienced legal team.
In listening to the podcast, “Seeking Justice for Rachel: Guns in the Hands of Prohibited Purchasers,” Jonathan Lowy (former Chief Counsel of Brady) addresses the ripple effect that gun violence causes. He states that although over 100,000 Americans are shot each year, millions of Americans are scarred by gun violence. Families, friends, loved ones – we are forever left with unanswered questions and a tornado of emotions.
But it does not have to be this way. We must keep fighting for more gun safety laws. As our Moms Demand Action founder always says, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
We are not alone. If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, the lifeline is 800-799-7233. You can text START to 88788 or go to http://thehotline.org to chat with a live person. Don’t wait.
Edit on 11/7: I was contacted by The Boca Recovery Center today, and they offer some incredible resources to domestic violence survivors who are struggling with addiction. As a recovering alcoholic, I can relate all too well. Please check out their offerings and share with anyone who you know could use their help.
Edit on 2/24/23: Another resource for DV survivors is called Helping Survivors, where you can find information about signs of domestic abuse and resources for survivors.