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Gun Violence Awareness Month

This gun and domestic violence survivor finally gets justice and releases new book

Justice is finally being served for Diona Clark after an incident that nearly killed her

In February 2018, author and gun violence survivor Diona Clark let out a sigh of relief.

“I was at work,” she recalled. “My domestic violence advocate called me and she shared the news that they were going to arrest him. I was ecstatic. My heart was blown away. Finally. Justice has been served.”

Clark’s ex-boyfriend shot her in the chest and hand and left her in a pool of blood to die 13 years ago. The tragic moment nearly ended her life. He also shot himself but survived.

“My emotions were all over the place,” Clark said. “There was a state of being happy, and relieved that the day had finally come, that my assailant was going to be charged.”

The two met through a friend shortly after Clark moved from her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to Columbus for a new job. They were in a yearlong relationship with a brief stint of cohabitation. Growing tired of issues they faced, Clark moved out of their home and ended the relationship. One month after the breakup, he shot her.

“He’s not even charged with shooting me,” Clark said. “He’s charged with kidnapping, which is crazy to me. Even, still in that, I was happy. I felt like my voice had finally been heard and people had started to listen to what I experienced and what I had went through and they saw that as a serious situation. Two, I was kind of upset because it took so long for the date to come for justice to be served. For the state to say, ‘OK, we’re now charging your assailant with kidnapping.’ ”

Although ecstatic, Clark said she still harbors feelings of resentment for her assailant and deals with the feeling of being ignored and forgotten by law enforcement.

“After the incident, I had spoken with the detective that was on my case and he stated to me that the state would pick up the charges. And so with that being said, this is my first time ever being shot, this is my first time ever having any dealings with the law, period,” Clark said. “So I thought that was all to it, that I didn’t have to do anything. So time just went on and nothing ever happened.”

Clark decided to contact a couple of Ohio’s state representatives, who then worked tirelessly to help Clark with the case. She shared her story with Ohio state Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, and her case started getting traction.

She [Rep. Kent] got on the Columbus Police Department about them just dropping the ball on my case, and letting my case collect dust, and pushing it off to the side when we have a serious matter of someone being shot,” Clark said. “Basically shot to kill, not shot just to injure. He shot me twice at point-blank range. He shot me with intent to kill me.”

Kent alleges detectives allowed the statute of limitations to expire, prompting kidnapping charges.

In April, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the new House Bill 1, which gives civil protection to unmarried victims of domestic violence. Ohio was one of only two remaining states that did not offer civil protection to unmarried victims of domestic violence. Clark attended the signing and was recognized for her advocacy work over the past 13 years petitioning lawmakers to reform both domestic violence laws and gun laws.

“If I’d wanted to get a protection order against him, I would not have been able to do that because him and I weren’t married and we didn’t have children,” Clark said. “Thank God for some of the policymakers here in Ohio who know the importance of that, and even our governor. They signed the deal, and now it’s a law.”

Clark’s physical recovery process was nearly six months. But emotionally and mentally, it’s never-ending. To help in her healing process, she became a Zumba instructor and started meeting women attending her classes who found themselves in domestically violent relationships. It was then that Clark launched her organization Liv Out Loud, which helps gun violence and domestic violence victims rebuild their self-esteem and provides them with resources to help them return to their normal lives.

“I made the foundation for me to encourage and inspire the women that came to my class just living out loud, period, and I tied it to my experience of the guns and violence, and it grew from there,” Clark said.

As America addresses its ongoing and escalating gun violence issue, June has been dedicated as Gun Violence Awareness Month.

Clark, just releasing her book Survival Is Victory, is hopeful that black communities and the statistics surrounding gun violence will be taken into consideration.

According to a report by the FBI, in 2016 out of 15,070 murders committed that year, more than half of the victims were black (7,881), while 11,004 of the total murders were by way of firearms (suicide and homicide).

In 2000, five years before Clark was attacked, the Violence Policy Center released homicide data that stated that firearms, especially handguns, were the most common weapons used by males to murder black females.

“In the 567 homicides for which the murder weapon could be identified, 53 percent of black female victims (302 victims) were shot and killed with guns. And when these women were killed with a gun, it was almost always a handgun (242 victims or 80 percent). The number of black females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance (150 victims) was more than three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined (48 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2000,” the study revealed.

“That [book release] makes me feel accomplished,” Clark said. “Truthfully, now that it’s out, I feel closure. I feel a part of me that wasn’t healed, I feel that a part of me has been healed. … I see victory as being able to get up each morning, put your pants on and face each day regardless of the trials and tribulations that you’re going to be faced with.”

She continues to see a counselor just for her “own mental checks and balances.”

“I also go out and do speaking engagements about domestic violence, which to me, it’s healing. I’m a social worker, so a lot of times I run into families that also deal with domestic violence and I can do stuff for them.”

Clark uses her experience as an alum of a historically black university to stay grounded in the obstacles of being a black woman and a domestic and gun violence survivor.

“My experience at Howard definitely has been the vehicle to who I am today as an African-American woman,” Clark said. “They say Howard is ‘The Mecca.’ I was culturally shocked when I was at Howard because I’d never just been around so many different black people, from different nationalities, all over the world. I’m definitely grounded as an African-American woman because of Howard University, and I owe a lot to my colleagues for just instilling black pride and not being ashamed of being a black person.”

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.