To the staff of the Chick-fil-A on St. Augustine Road in Valdosta, Georgia, the two women and the little boy were a down-on-their luck trio who would come into the restaurant for free Internet access and some cheap food.
When it became clear they had little cash to spare, managers would give them a free meal. Sometimes, staff members put their own money toward buying the food, said Michelle Weaver, a manager at the restaurant. After several weeks, the women started asking probing questions of the young staff — What’s your name? Where do you live? What’s your email address? — and the staff’s generosity waned. The Valdosta Police Department was called to investigate.
“It was just some suspicious activity,” Weaver said. Read more.
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.
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.