|DeKalb D.A. pilots domestic violence awareness program at Decatur High|
|Written by Joshua Smith|
DECATUR—"I don’t remember much. I put my stuff in the car for class and when I looked up, there he was in all black. We made eye contact and I was frozen in place. Then right when I was about to move, boom, and I blacked out,” said Johanna Orozco. “I just remember telling the nurse at the hospital ‘I don’t wanna’ die."
Orozco, 23, shared her story with students at Decatur High School recently.
A domestic violence survivor, she has appeared on television programs such as “The View,” “20/20” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” to educate young people about the signs of abuse.
DeKalb District Attorney Robert James invited Orozco to DeKalb as part of his “Love Doesn’t Hurt” program that he is piloting to educate teens about domestic violence.
Staff members from the D.A.’s office, along with the DeKalb County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit teamed up with Decatur High’s drama club to present a skit on domestic violence during Orozco’s visit in October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. James said he plans to present the “Love Doesn’t Hurt” program at another DeKalb County high school in February during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
“Far too often we see a history of domestic violence beginning during the high school years. Both, young men and women, learn abusive behaviors that they eventually consider an acceptable part of a normal and healthy relationship,” said James. “Our goal is to change that perception and shed light on the serious impact and sometimes fatal tragedies caused by domestic violence.”
One in every three teens nationwide experiences some degree of domestic violence, and 40 percent of girls ages 14 to 17 know someone who has been a victim, according to national statistics. Between 2004 and 2011, the Georgia Fatality Review reported that 54 percent of domestic violence killings in Georgia involved couples that began relationships as young adults.
Orozco said she was 18 years old when she was shot by her ex-boyfriend at point blank range with a sawed-off shot gun on March 5, 2007.
Juan Ruiz, whom Orozco had dated for three years, raped her at knife point after she tried to break up with him several times.
Ruiz was released from juvenile detention center on the rape charge because the center was overcrowded as he waited to go to court.
Seeking revenge, he went to Orozco’s home, and gunned her down in the driveway.
Ruiz was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Orozco spent two months in the hospital and underwent 13 surgeries to reconstruct the lower part of her face.
She turned the tragedy into triumph by helping to push for a bill in Ohio that allows juveniles who have been stalked, assaulted or sexually abused by another juvenile to ask for the protection order. Before the law was passed, juveniles did not have such protection.
Orozco says her relationship was filled with signs that things were turning for the worst, but she ignored them.
“He became extremely jealous and controlling. At first, I thought it was cute, his way of showing his love. But his actions, which I later learned was stalking, was constantly telling me something different,” said Orozco.
Victims of domestic violence are urged to call 911 for help.
The Decatur-based Women’s Resource Center offers support and shelter to women and children through its 24-hour hotline, 404-688-9436.