Gabriella Lock remembers the last time that she was abused by her ex-boyfriend. She had woken up to find him in a rage, and when she tried to leave, he pushed her so hard that she hit her head on the floor, momentarily blacking out.
Gabriella, or “Rella,” as her friends call her, was able to call 911, but not before her ex-boyfriend pushed her down the stairs as she was fleeing. The paramedics who arrived at Rella’s apartment that day may have saved her life, but she still suffered physical and psychological effects of the abuse.
“I felt ashamed, embarrassed and heart-broken. I didn’t want anyone to know, not even my parents,” Rella says. “I had to spend 3 days in the hospital before I was released.”
Rella, 23, who was recently crowned Miss Illinois United Continents, is part of an age group with shocking statistics around dating violence: girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 are three times as likely to be involved in a violent relationship. Rella’s platform as Miss Illinois is to raise awareness about domestic violence and “to show victims that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I felt ashamed, embarrassed and heart-broken. I didn’t want anyone to know, not even my parents” – Gabriella Lock
Luckily, Rella is not alone. A new city-wide initiative in Rella’s hometown, Chicago Says NO MORE, also seeks to change the statistics around domestic violence and sexual assault. The initiative, launched earlier this year by a coalition of business and non-profit leaders in the Chicago area, seeks to leverage funds and resources to combat domestic violence and sexual assault in the communities they serve.
Visitors to the campaign’s website will see a quote from Kristie Paskvan, CFO of Mesirow Financial and Founder of Chicago Says NO MORE:
Everybody gets a wake-up call. Mine was the shooting tragedy at Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue in Chicago last November when 22-year-old University of Chicago student Nadia Ezaldein was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Not just a murder, but the tragic end to an abusive relationship—I was shocked to recognize that this, too, was domestic violence.
The result of Paskvan’s wake-up call, Chicago Says NO MORE works to raise awareness and funds in an effort to prevent more stories like Nadia Ezaldein’s and Rella Lock’s.
Rella says, “Too many men and women don’t get out of situations like mine […] If I knew more about domestic violence, I might have been able to catch the warning signs before the abuse began.”
Join Kristie Paskvan, Gabriella Lock, and other Chicagoans in saying ‘No More’ to the silence and misinformation surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault by signing the pledge at chicagosaysnomore.org and watching the new Chicago Says NO MORE Public Service Announcements: