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LANDOVER — Born after a horrible attack and paving the way for survivors to start over and gain support for a new and healthy life ever since, One Safe Night Ministry held its third Surviving Stars Domestic Violence Luncheon on Oct. 13 where the community came together to share their experiences and pledge to end domestic violence in Prince George’s County.
The luncheon, which took place at Little David Baptist Church with about 20 people in attendance, opened with a welcome by One Safe Night Ministry’s founder Shereen Cade Jackson and opening prayer by Senior Pastor Melvin Witcher followed by a dance performance, worship session and a few guest speakers who shared their stories of domestic violence; one of whom was Leslie Kelley.
Kelley is a survivor of two domestic violence relationships. The first was with the father of her two children who became especially violent when she made it known that she wanted to leave the relationship.
At the time, she had been going to night school to finish her high school education, and he allegedly assaulted her right before her graduation.
Nevertheless, she ended up walking across the stage to get her diploma with two black eyes.
After finally gaining the courage to leave her first relationship, soon after she ended up in another abusive relationship which she stayed in for four years.
“As women, as teenagers and young ladies, we don’t have the tools, we don’t know where to turn, we don’t know who to tell or where to go to get help from the abuse we endure at the hands of someone that we think loves us,” said Kelley who even grew up in an abusive household.
The relationship took a huge emotional toll on her to the point where she tried to cut her wrists open with scissors in an attempt to either get his attention, or let him know how much pain she was in or kill herself.
Finally, she got the courage to pack up her things with her and her children and move away to Atlanta in the middle of the night. She stayed there for five months, all the while he was looking for her, asking her friends and family where she was. She ended up moving again when her cousin told him of their whereabouts and never looked back.
“No matter how bad things seem, there is always a brighter light,” she said. “There is always someone to talk to, and there is always somewhere to turn. If you tell one person what you’re going through they can find somebody that can help you or get you the tools you need for help.”
Cade Jackson started One Safe Night Ministry after her sister Yvette was attacked by her husband. Shortly after the family moved to Prince George’s County from Ohio, Yvette met her husband Ray who seemed to be a good fit for her. All of that changed when she started to become successful in her job. The family liked him a lot, but what they did not know what was happening behind closed doors, Ray was physically and verbally abusive to Yvette.
On October 10, 2005, Ray approached Yvette at her job at T-Mobile, poured gasoline on her head, chased her out the door, said “I love you” and set her on fire from the waist up.
She survived the attack, and Cade Jackson made it her mission to ensure that not only her sister but other victims of domestic violence survived and had a place to turn to for help.
“We can’t roll back the hands of time to prevent a tragedy, but we can spark conversation,” Jackson said.
Cade Jackson founded One Safe Night Ministry shortly after the attack and after meeting Pastor Witcher and partnered with Little David Baptist Church.
Since then, they have worked with other organizations such as House of Ruth and The Maryland Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program and have held several luncheons and many other events where survivors can come together to share their stories and gain support.
Since its inception, One Safe Night Ministry has gained attention and Cade Jackson has appeared on CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America and has gained support from local leaders such as Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, City of Alexandria Deputy Fire Chief of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Corey Smedley, Prince George’s County Fire Chief Benjamin M. Barksdale and State’s Attorney Candidate Aisha Braveboy who attended this week’s luncheon.
Braveboy shared with those in attendance that she has her own personal tie to domestic violence. It affected her family when her cousin’s husband approached her while she was on duty as a security guard at a school and stabbed her 16 times. She later died of her injuries, and her tragic loss has fueled Braveboy’s career up to this point.
A former delegate and now candidate for State’s Attorney, eradicating domestic violence is the key objective of her campaign.
Prince George’s County leads the state in domestic violence with over half of all cases occurring here.
Braveboy wants to continue to prosecute abusers, empower survivors, provide housing and financial support and provide counseling for not only the victims but the abusers as well in the hope that they can be reformed and will not take the behavior into their next relationship.
“I am very blessed to enter a position where I can serve and protect the people in this community,” she said. “You don’t think things like this happen in your family but what I realized is that domestic violence and the tragedy it causes does not discriminate; race, religion, socioeconomic status, education status.”
Being in that position also means working with organizations like One Safe Night Ministry to help victims.
“They can get the word out more,” she said. “Because they are in the community, they can reach people that maybe my office can’t reach. They may be looked at as a safe space to go to tell their story because not everyone wants to come up Upper Marlboro, but that’s okay because we can send folks here to interview them and provide them with the support that they need.”
With Braveboy in attendance at the luncheon and the support of the community and local officials, Cade Jackson hopes that One Safe Night Ministry can spark a movement in Prince George’s County that will turn the page in the community for the betterment of its people. She and Little David Baptist Church are willing to work with any church or government official to help in any way they can.
“Love does not destroy, consume, and I just thank God that that day my sister literally got up, ran back in and ever since then she has been fighting domestic violence,” Cade Jackson said. “I’ve been reaching out fighting domestic violence since then, and I thank God for Little David Baptist Church opening their doors…I want to touch just one person or someone that is just out in the community, and show them that love does not hurt.”