2009-10-01 / Local & State

Over Decade, PA Girl Learns Spouse Abuse Not Rare

By Alex J. Hayes GETTYSBURG TIMES

FAIRFIELD, Pa. (AP) – Makenzie Moser often wears a white T-shirt with a small purple ribbon on it. Around the ribbon are the words: “There’s no excuse for abuse.’’

It is not a cause the Fairfield Area High School senior supports but knows nothing about. In fact, the 16-year-old is a firsthand expert on the effects domestic violence has on children.

“When I was five years old, my father abused my mom. He strangled her, threw her against the wall and hit her repeatedly. He told me I should go upstairs and be his little girl,’’ Moser said.

Moser’s father was sentenced to four years in prison as a result of that night, a night that is forever burned in the teenager’s mind.

“I was so scared. I was really shocked because I have never seen that side of him before. He was a good fatherly figure. I never saw that side of him until that night,’’ she said.

For several years, Moser did not know how to react to the incident. She thought her father was the only one in the world who ever hit his wife and that made her very uncomfortable.

“I used to think that it was just me. When I got to middle school, I started to realize that it is not just me,’’ she said.

Counseling sessions through Survivors Inc., a Gettysburg organization for victims of domestic violence, helped her realize that her mother, Dayna Johnson, was not the only woman who was ever hit by her husband.

On Oct. 18, 2006, during the organization’s annual domestic violence awareness night at Gettysburg College, Moser stood in front of the crowd and started reading an essay she wrote titled: “What is a father?’’ This was her first time discussing her experiences in public.

After reading only a few words, her eyes swelled up with tears and she could not continue. Her mother read the essay for her and then spoke about the effect violence had on her family.

“That was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. Within the first line, I was crying. I was so nervous but actually getting out there and speaking your story gives people the strength,’’ Moser said.

That night, the young girl decided she wanted to speak out against domestic violence. “People do not know how much abuse is occurring and I wanted to do my senior project on something that is personal to me,’’ she said.

She started selling T-shirts for $15, with all proceeds benefiting Survivors Inc. To date, she has raised about $500.

“She is doing such a wonderful job at raising awareness,’’ said Terri Hamrick, executive director of Survivors Inc. “She has done a really good job at bringing the message home that it is a family issue.’’

She may have once thought domestic violence was something that was unique about her family, but now she is aware of exactly how prevalent it is. She reads five newspapers a day and collects articles that deal with domestic violence.

“There are at least two every day,’’ Moser said.

And as Hamrick has said numerous times at awareness events, there are a lot more cases that will never be reported.

Moser said she also tries to convince her peers who live amongst domestic violence that they should report it to police, but they rarely do.

She may not speak to her father anymore, but Moser’s relationship with her mother is much stronger than that of most teens.

“I am not proud that it happened to me and my family, but I would not be the same person I am today. Ever since that happened, my mom and I have grown. She is my best friend and I do not know what I would do without her,’’ Moser said. “The way she pulled through it and the way she handled it was amazing.’’

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