October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read and share stories to honor survivors whose lives have been changed by domestic violence.

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Her sister, Francesca

In memory of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen

In October 1997, my sister, Anastasia, was murdered. She was 18 years old. She was shot by someone she had known for years, someone whom she had been a friend to despite their propensity for mischief and mayhem. Her killer is behind bars. Her on again/off again boyfriend at the time committed suicide by gun, just days after his involvement with her death. Too many lives were destroyed and impacted, too many tears have been shed. Our families all grieve; we all struggle to move our lives forward while trying to hang on to the good memories we have.

My sister’s death is so raw to me that tears stream down my cheeks when I talk about her, even after so many years. I wish I could explain the tragic events to my 8-year-old daughter. She knows her Aunt Anastasia died but doesn’t know any details. I want to explain to her why I despise guns but worry about instilling the fear and hatred I have for them in her. I worry that Anastasia’s story will show her that friends might betray her friendship and that those whom she loves might not share that love in return. I know I can’t keep this story from her much longer. I want to protect her innocence. I want to shield her from the pain of this world. I know that I can’t. But, I know I must find a way to tell Anastasia’s story so that it empowers her and doesn’t weigh her down with the same fears that I have.

I hate knowing that more and more Americans are experiencing this pain. We must do better. We must do something to end gun violence. We must protect our children from this pain.

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