From victim to ‘strong survivor’

Every time Gabriela Rowland tells her story, her voice catches at the same point.

The line is one she used in court, when she gave a victim-impact statement before her abuser was sentenced to six years in jail. It’s one that she used at a domestic violence rally in April, at a memorial service for Jennifer Martel in August and at a candlelight vigil for domestic violence victims earlier this month.

More than any part of her story, the part that gets her is the one that most precisely sums up her life since she endured a week of abuse at the hands of her then-boyfriend, Justin Mustafa.

“I was once a victim,” she says. “Now I’m a strong survivor.”  Read more.

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‘It’s my duty to speak up, to save the next person’

When Gabriela Rowland started dating him, he was full of grace and charm. He was the best man she’d ever meet, he told her, and he would always treat her right.

For nearly two years, despite some stormy times and a few short-term breakups, she believed that held true. He peppered her with rosy predictions for their future, which included children playing in a house with a big yard.

But at the end of June 2013, things went quickly, horribly downhill. Read more.