Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
I wrote a poem and read it in court to a packed court room and to the Judge as part of a victim impact statement. The title of my blog above is one line from that poem, but as a survivor of a teen dating violence relationship, I have learned that the tale of my life is far from over. It has begun a new and exciting chapter in my life that has had great impact on others.
I was in an abusive relationship for two years with someone who said he loved me, cared about me and wanted to be with me forever. While the relationship felt like a fairytale, things changed over time. He became extremely jealous, controlling, and tore my self-esteem. Then eventually he began to physically abuse me. I broke up with him many times but he always manipulated me into taking him back. Finally, the last time I broke up with him, he didn’t want it to end. He broke into my room, sexually assaulted me and threatened my life. I did the right thing and told a teacher and through a series of events, he was arrested and placed on house arrest. While on house arrest, he got a shotgun, came to my home and shot me in the face.
This event, although tragic, was a new beginning for me. I had to heal internally and externally and then I was not going to let this tragedy stop me. I became involved in advocating for change for those teens who are still in abusive relationships. I testified in front of the Ohio State Senate and Congress to help pass two laws in the State of Ohio, House Bill 10 and House Bill 19. HB 10 now allows teens to obtain protection orders against an offender who is under the age of 18, a layer of protection I never had when I was being harmed and HB 19 which now mandates schools in the State of Ohio to educate grades 7-12 on the issue of teen dating violence. Passing these bills was so important to me because I know that there are many others out there like me that need education and protection.
I was just saying the other day that one of my life’s goals is to receive a Presidential Award and being here at the White House and being recognized as a Champion of Change is amazing. To sit with 13 other Champions (Heroes) today is not only an honor, but also a blessing. I am honored to be recognized for the work that I do everyday in the hopes of not having another teen go through what I went through.
I now am a Teen Educator at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center in Cleveland, OH. I travel around Ohio and across the country telling my story, getting teens the help they need, and letting them know that you can change the world through individual acts of kindness, love, and being passionate about something.
Johanna Orozco is a Teen Educator for the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center of Greater Cleveland.