On Oct. 13, 2009, my daughter Tyesha was following through on one of the hardest decisions anyone ever has to make. She was in an abusive relationship, decided to leave and, finally, she was ready to do it. Months before, Tyesha had obtained a protective order against the father of her children.
To protect herself and her children, she decided she needed to leave her home.
However, Tyesha would never get the chance to do so.
On that October day, as Tyesha got ready to leave, her ex-partner entered the home with a gun. Tyesha was shot and killed, as was a friend, who had been helping her pack up her belongings.
Her children, ages 2 years and 5 months, would grow up without their mom. I would never get to hug my daughter tight again. I was devastated ― I am still devastated. It is unbearably frustrating that my daughter had taken the right steps and was so very close to starting her life over, only to have it all taken by a domestic abuser with a gun.
As time went on, it became clear that I was not alone in my grief. Last week marked National Gun Violence Survivors Week, and sadly, there are far too many survivors in this country with stories similar to my own. National Gun Violence Survivors Week focuses on sharing and amplifying the stories of gun violence survivors who live with the impact of gun violence every day of the year.
Every month, at least 52 women in the U.S. are shot and killed by current or former intimate partners. Research shows that there are about 4.5 million women living in America who have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner. In Kansas, nearly 3 out of every 5 intimate partner homicides involve a firearm. Learning all this was a wakeup call. My pain may never lessen, but I have a choice in what I do with my heartbreak. I get to choose how to honor my daughter’s legacy, and I choose to take action.
Kansas is one of 29 states that prohibit dangerous abusers from possessing guns. However, the law does not require domestic abusers to turn in the guns they may already have. Adding a process for abusers to relinquish firearms they may already possess would give law enforcement officers the tools they need to ensure domestic abusers in Kansas don’t have easy access to guns. Adding this provision could help save more women like Tyesha, and lawmakers have the power — and obligation — to help protect women and children.
For more than a decade, I’ve had to live without my daughter and my grandchildren without their mother. They say time heals all wounds, but there will always be a hole in my heart that my daughter once filled. Some days, just the thought of getting out of bed is too much. But I know Tyesha would want me to live my life, love my granddaughters and work to make this world a better place.
The only thing to keep my grief at bay is to make sure others never have to feel the same, and each time I share my story in honor of Tyesha’s life and for her babies, I feel like I’m moving one step forward toward that reality.
LaTonya Boyd is a 2020 National Survivor Fellow and a volunteer with the Kansas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.