The first time I met Gab Kreuz, we were sitting next to each other in the press section at a Cavs game. We started talking and immediately clicked.
After discussing our careers and aspirations, we exchanged contact information. I followed Kreuz, an in-park host for the Indians, on social media and I noticed she started a nonprofit organization called “Love Doesn’t Shove.”
Naturally, I asked the former collegiate runner at John Carroll University “what?” and “why?”
That’s when she told me her story about an abusive relationship with her high school sweetheart.
She said the abuse included being shoved, getting her hair pulled and him putting his hands around her neck. After she left the relationship, she decided to help make a difference in the lives of women with similar stories. Through Love Doesn’t Shove, Gab educates youth on dating violence.
I wanted to share her story, but Kreuz told me she was not ready.
Then Brock Turner, a former Stanford swimmer and Ohio native, was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated woman. The judge sentenced him to just six months in prison and he was out after serving just three months. Turner blamed alcohol for his choices.
Turner's father wrote a letter to the judge prior to sentencing that read: “(Brock’s) life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of 20-plus years of his life.”
According to the Office on Women’s Health, women who are victims of violence are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety as well as using drugs, alcohol, or disorderly eating to cope.
Turner made headlines across the country but the reality is most of us know a Brock Turner, except most of them don’t become publicly known. Instead, they may work with us at our jobs, attend classes with us at our schools or exchange daily greetings with us in our neighborhoods.
After Turner’s sentencing, I got a text from Gab, who was disturbed about the case, that read, “I am ready to share my story and I feel really comfortable with you being the one to share it.”
Gab didn’t make the choice to share her story for herself.
According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime and only three out of 100 rapists spend a single day in prison.
With a whole lot of Brock Turners out there, there are consequently a lot of victims trying to make sense of the insensible. And those are, in part, the people Gab wanted to reach with her story.
Through Gab’s story, she shows that even if you didn't choose to be a victim, by chasing your dreams and finding your happiness, you can decide to not be one.
“If you look at me on paper as a runner, I didn’t win a single race when I was with him, not a single race," she said. "And then I finished my career with seven school records, nine OAC championships and a trip to nationals.”
The farther she got away from an unhealthy relationship, the faster she ran.
In her career as a broadcaster, she confidently steps in front of thousands of people at Indians games, as her quirky and fun personality is on full display.
I am not all that surprised that Gab bounced back from her situation the way she did. After all, she is an athlete.
Young women who participate in sports tend to have higher self-confidence, which makes them more likely to walk — or in Gab's case run — away from an abusive relationship.
Gab is fast on her feet but her story proves her strength and endurance can’t be timed.
She’s turned trauma into triumph, as she is actively trying to prevent future situations similar to her own.
By sharing her story she is telling all who are affected by sexual and/or domestic violence, you are not alone. You don't have to hide. Life is not over. Greatness can still become of you.
I am so appreciative I am the reporter who got to share Gab’s story and help her let the world know that even if you didn’t make the choice to become a vulnerable victim, you have the power to transform into a fierce fighter.
It’s a message that’s important to me.
See, Gab came to me knowing that I have compassion for survivors of domestic and or sexual violence. What she didn’t know is I was sexually assaulted, making her an inspiration to me, too.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence help is available. Call the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center of Greater Cleveland's 24-hour helpline: 216-391-HELP(4357) or the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center: (216) 619-6192