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In honor of her mother, Inga Coffee: Ashley Jones

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In honor of her daughter, Dream Morse: Peggie Reyna

Why are you participating in the Unconventional Apology Project?

 

"I would love to be part of it and to be able to share a little bit of my story and the history of intergenerational violence and intergenerational healing."

 

Because when I saw it on the Internet and I read your story, I said I like this program and I would love to be part of it and to be able to share a little bit of my story and the history of intergenerational violence and intergenerational healing.

 

 

 

Had you ever had the opportunity to discuss the story you are sharing with us today?

 

"It’s about sharing and educating and helping create change. And so, truthfully, it’s a joy for me to share it now."

 

Yes, many times in many different ways. The very first time, it was extremely difficult. It was really hard. It made me nauseated and I had like tension up my neck—just horrible feelings. But, after that, it became easier. It’s about sharing and educating and helping create change. And so, truthfully, it’s a joy for me to share it now. 

 

 

 

What domestic abuse experience do you want to share?

 

"On the final day of violence…he jumped on my head and snapped my neck sideways. Left me with a broken jaw…my nose broken, all my teeth kicked out, blood running out of my ears and profoundly deaf." 

 

So I’d like to start with saying that I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I became profoundly deaf from that event. It was many years ago and of course it was the ending to many years of abuse. I married at the age of 16 and the person that I married was an abuser. We lived together for twelve and a half years. Finally, I divorced him. Later, I married a second person and that person was [leans back and shakes head in disgust] a terrible, much worse abuser. On the final day of violence, he threw me against the wall…he jumped on my head and snapped my neck sideways. Left me with a broken jaw…jaw broken in two places, my nose broken, all my teeth kicked out, blood running out of my ears and profoundly deaf. Through the next few years, I had several surgeries that repaired most of that.

 

I went to and got a degree in special education with a focus on deafness. Eventually, I moved to Los Angeles and also eventually, I went to a luncheon actually where a person was talking about domestic violence. It was the first time that I ever heard about that term “domestic violence” and “abuse” and what happens. I cried through the whole presentation and very soon after that, I left my job at the Long Beach Police Department and I joined the staff at a battered women’s shelter. It’s been a journey from there to here [Peggie is the Project Director of the Deaf, Disabled and Elder Services Program at Peace Over Violence, a domestic violence prevention and intervention agency in Los Angeles]. I’ve been here 25 years.

 

"She always, always went back, same as her momma always went back for so many times. And in 1995, he put a gun to her head and he killed her."

 

The important thing for me to talk about today is not that. But about the intergenerational cycle of violence and what happened to my family. In particular, my daughter Dream. And I really wanted to focus on that because when I saw your story, it made me think about that…about giving image to her life…to what was lost. Dream was already into teen age when I got free from domestic violence. She was already dating the person that she would eventually marry that was her abuser. Through the years, I talked to her a lot about domestic violence, about leaving him, about getting restraining orders. She always, always went back, same as her momma always went back for so many times. And in 1995, he put a gun to her head and he killed her.

 

"if you grow up in a home where you see your mother accept that someone beats her up, punches her in the face, kicks her in the stomach, throws her across the room… she gets up and cleans up the blood and cooks dinner and makes love to him. That what you learn is that that’s an acceptable way to do relationships…but it’s not."

 

I think it’s so important to know that domestic violence is intergenerational. That it comes not only from learned behavior, but from learned acceptance to how other people treat you. That if you grow up in a home where you see your mother accept that someone beats her up, punches her in the face, kicks her in the stomach, throws her across the room… she gets up and cleans up the blood and cooks dinner and makes love to him. That what you learn is that that’s an acceptable way to do relationships…but it’s not.

 

After I came to Los Angeles and I went to work at the shelter, eventually I came to work at this agency; it was then called Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. And I worked very hard to get employed here, so I’ve been here 25 years. And I often say that I learned from LACAAW, everything that I ever needed to know. But as I worked here, and as I grew more and more emotionally free, I began to feel physically more well as well as emotionally more well. And I began to see my life change and then slowly and unbelievably, I saw my children and my grandchildren’s lives begin to change. It was too late for my daughter, Dream. But I know that she would be so thrilled to look down and see my grandson and his wife and his two children live in a home absolutely free from violence, or threat of violence or even knowledge of violence for it’s not something they have any idea about. No one ever hits them, no one screams at them, no one does that and they get to see it; they live in a different kind of life. And through that, I learned that healing from domestic violence is also intergenerational. That’s really the message that I want to give to the world. That you can change and when you change, those that you love can change because you become the role model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What no longer lingers in your heart and mind about your experience? What has opened up for you as a result?

 

"I feel free to be able to say that what happened wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know how to change it. And when I did, that’s what I did."

 

I no longer feel guilty or responsible either for the violence that happened in my life or for the violence that happened in my children’s life. But I feel free to be able to say that what happened wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know how to change it. And when I did, that’s what I did. And the same thing happened for my children. So what it really opened up for me was freedom of guilt, or the “oh poor me” syndrome. Either one of those things went away.

 

 

 

What is the definition of love and how does that love feel?

 

"...love is an emotion that fills you from the top to the bottom...just fills you up inside. That it feels like joy." 

 

You know, I don’t know that there’s a true definition of love, but I think that love is an emotion that fills you from the top to the bottom...just fills you up inside. That it feels like joy. And it feels like happiness. It feels like the ability to deal with any kind of crisis or any kind of problem without that destroying your life because you’re so full of love. I really think that love comes in many ways. I have coworkers that I love dearly and I have friends that I love dearly and I have my grandson and my grandchildren and great grandchildren…I love them all differently and yet I love them all so deeply and so very much. So, that brings joy. That’s what…love is about feeling joy, even when you feel sad [big smile]. 

 

 

 

What does leaving a Trail of Existence mean to you?

 

"It means using the stories of the past to change the future."

 

It means that she didn’t die in vain. It means that death by domestic violence can be used as a tool to help those that come later on in life, that come behind her…not to have to go there. It means that she’s an example to say, “This isn’t how it has to be.” And that’s, that’s what; it just means change. It means using the stories of the past to change the future.

 

 

 

Do you have any parting thoughts?

 

"If this is something that has happened to you, go get some counseling. Go get help."

 

If this is something that has happened to you, go get some counseling. Go get help. If this is something that IS happening to you, please contact a crisis agency, get information, an advocate and end the cycle of violence in your life. And then support those agencies that support those who are being victimized and help them become survivors and thrivers and have a life filled with peace.

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WARNING: this website contains accounts of domestic and sexual violence that some may find graphic or triggering and not appropriate for all ages.

 

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Domestic Violence Stories