Guest Blog: I’m on a mission
In 2002 my baby sister, Amy, was killed by her boyfriend, and I became an advocate for domestic violence victims. I wrote an essay for O, the Oprah magazine, then a bestselling memoir — If I Am Missing or Dead: a sister’s story of love, murder and liberation — I give a lot of speeches, I raise money for shelters and I try daily to stir up a national conversation about the spectrum of emotional and physical abuse.
I am on a mission.
Back in the 1980s people were dying of AIDS and their family members were lying about it. They said the deaths were from natural causes, from cancer. Then a man named Randy Shilts wrote a book called And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. It got a lot of media play and pretty soon parents were marching in the street, demanding that society do something about this thing that was killing their children.
I wrote Missing or Dead for the same reason. Unlike Shilts, though, I have social media.
On July 4th I posted this:
Ten years ago today my beloved sister Amy was killed by the man she loved. Please, in her honor, tell someone your truth and ask about theirs. People who are being abused keep it a secret when what they really need to do is talk. Reach out. It matters more than you can imagine.
More than 150 people liked the post. Sixty-one took the time to comment.
Kathleen wrote, “I can not tell you how many people I have given your book to that needed it, either for themselves or to understand something they or a loved one had been through.”
Victoria wrote, “What happened to Amy served to wake many who were in abusive situations to the reality that tomorrow would not be better. Her legacy will be thousands- maybe hundreds of thousands- of lives saved. This does not diminish your stunning loss, but it gives the way her life ended the significance of a beacon on a rocky shoreline. Those women Amy saved think about her every day, and strive to make every day they have- that Amy will not- count for something.”
Sue wrote, “Your sister lives on so others can grab her hand and your words and walk away from abuse one step at a time.”
I don’t know if my post made anyone think. I’ve read that Facebook uses a formula that serves up the feeds of friends whose posts you’ve clicked or liked. The ones you ignore quietly disappear. Thus I know I may be preaching to the choir. Still, it feels like progress every time I remind someone to reach out. I also looked at my book sales for the week via Amazon’s AuthorCentral, which shows results from BookScan, which measures about 75 percent of all book sales. There was a blip. Not a big blip, but a blip, and sales blips are always good.
Janine Latus is best known as the author of the international bestseller “If I Am Missing or Dead: a sister’s story of love, murder and liberation”, which has made both the New York Times and Sunday Times (of London) bestseller lists.
Her work has appeared in O, the Oprah magazine, More, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Parents, All You, American Baby and the inflight magazines for US Air, American Airlines, Continental and TWA. She has written for WomensWallStreet.com and MSN Money. Her commentaries have aired on Public Radio International’s Marketplace, and she routinely speaks at conferences, workshops and press events on things as far apart as domestic violence and the joy of selecting the perfect verb. She has taught at the Missouri School of Journalism and at East Carolina University, and and at writing workshops at universities in Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin.