Three years ago my dear friend Jana Mackey was murdered by her ex-boyfriend that she’d broke up with a few weeks previous. She had said that he was beginning to seem controlling. She was just finishing her first year in law school and was accepted to an internship program in which first-years never get accepted. We worked together in 2004 on former Congresswoman Nancy Boyda’s campaign in Kansas and for another campaign in 2006.
It was Fourth of July weekend during the 2008 Election, and I’d just left a non-profit job to go on the road as a Rock the Vote Rock the Trail reporter covering the election from the youth perspective. I was staying the weekend with my old roommate when I got a text form the executive director of the state party telling me to look at the Lawrence Journal World. I popped open my laptop and my whole body just felt flush. Jana had been missing for a day, and that morning her car had been found parked down the street from the ex-boyfriend’s house where then her body was found.
The days that followed are still a blur. I found where people were meeting, a local hotel where her parents were staying while they put together funeral arrangements. They asked me to assemble some political people who could speak about Jana. She worked as a lobbyist at the capitol for the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women as well as the Kansas Equality Coalition and Pro-Kan-do the organization started by Dr. George Tiller in efforts to protect women’s health clinics in Kansas. We chose EMILY’s Political Opportunity Program alum state Senator Laura Kelley, who presented Jana’s parents with a flag that flew over the capitol the day she died.
Her funeral was just a few weeks before I had to be at the Democratic Convention in Denver, and all I had time to do was push away all of the anger and grief and move forward. The weekend before the election I went back through Kansas to cover the election in swing states on Missouri campuses. I wanted to stop in Lawrence at my favorite coffee shop on my way, but there was a lot of construction on I-70, so I got off at an earlier exit and drove through the neighborhoods to get downtown. Foolishly, I accidentally turned down the street where the house was that Jana died in.
I didn’t go back to Lawrence for two and a half years. The place I felt the safest, the town I loved so much is now something so different. And this week, I learned the Topeka, Kansas City Council is thinking of decriminalizing domestic violence for budget cuts.
I think of Jana so often, and my heart aches for the loss that so many of us feel in her absence. Just as heartbreaking is that Jana’s story is repeated multiple times a day. More than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in the US daily. One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, and almost 75% of all Americans personally knows someone who is or has been a victim. That’s three in four of us who knows someone.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship or might be in danger, please tell them to call the domestic violence hotline for help with a quick escape. Learn more about Jana’s story through the foundation her parents started in her name.