Survivor of domestic violence moves students with her story

Olivia Mihalic

Becky Slabaugh was the keynote speaker at Domestic Violence Awareness Night, hosted by Kappa Phi in the Kiva last night. Slabaugh spoke about the hardships she endured after being violently attacked by her husband last year.

Credit: Steve Schirra

She was covered from head to toe with nitric acid in the summer of 2004 by her husband of seven years. Now she is telling her story to students to increase awareness of domestic violence.

More than 150 people gathered last night in the Kiva for Domestic Violence Awareness Night, hosted by Kappa Phi, with help from United Christian Ministries, the Women’s Resource Center and Safer Futures. The keynote speaker was Becky Slabaugh, the woman featured in the Akron Beacon Journal series “Becky’s Series.”

“Kappa Phi is focusing on domestic violence this month,” Kappa Phi president Megan Odell-Scott said. “It kind of ties into our service project and spreads awareness.”

One in three women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, said Carole Beaty, a representative from Safer Futures.

“You may or may not know this, but you know someone who is a survivor of this,” Beaty said. “Violence does not discriminate.”

Studies show that it takes about seven attempts before people get out of a violent relationship. But for Slabaugh, it only happened once, and she never expected it.

On July 10, 2004, Slabaugh went to pack up and move out of her and her husband’s, Bill Slabaugh’s, house. While bent down packing, Bill sprayed her with nitric acid that he had ordered over the Internet, telling her he didn’t want anyone else to have her.

“I would describe our marriage as a quiet relationship,” Becky said. “We didn’t share anything. I never saw him lose his temper. Never saw him raise his voice. I had never seen him be violent.”

After months in the hospital and multiple skin-grafting surgeries, Becky was left to rebuild her life all by herself, according to the Beacon’s series.

“I felt like a freak,” she said. “Everywhere I went, people stared at me.”

But she was more concerned about how she was going to get her life back to normal. She said she longed to drive her 5-speed Jetta, ride her bike, do yoga and just walk up the stairs again. She also wanted to get back to her job as a nurse.

“Nothing was going to stop me from getting my life back- nothing,” she said. “And that included the selfish act of Bill Slabaugh.”

Becky said that prayers, her family and God helped her get through the toughest times of recovery.

When people asked how they could help, she told them to “please pray that I will be more and not less because of what happened to me.”

She is still recovering and is reminded of that day by the scars on her body and the mask she has to wear to prevent further scarring.

“I let go of what was and accepted what is,” Becky said. “I began to learn to live effortlessly. That is the biggest miracle of all.”

Despite all of the pain and emotions that followed her ongoing recovery, Becky said she has found her true self.

“I lost my comfort zone, but found my life,” she said. “Soon after the attack, I set my heart on forgiveness so I could be set free. I intended to know peace again.”

Her husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing, was sentenced to 12 years in jail for his attack. Since then, she has seen him three times. She said seeing him didn’t scare her.

“He glared,” Becky said. “But I’m scrappy. I glared back.

“He didn’t take my life. He changed my life. I still have my life.”

For other domestic violence victims, she has some advice.

“Find out who you are,” she said. “You’ve got what it takes to do whatever … You don’t know what you’re made of until you’re put to the test.”

She also suggests to the victims to surround themselves with strong people, such as family and friends.

Today Becky is back to work and was recently made assistant director of nursing at the center. She still has to wear her mask every day, but has remarkable enthusiasm about her life that touched the people at the speech.

“I just wanted to say thank you,” a man in the audience said. “You touched my life today.

To get help for you or someone you know who is affected by domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. The Women’s Resource Center can also be reached at (330) 672-9230.

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Olivia Mihalic at [email protected].