Inspired and saddened by news headlines, Kathy Crandall made a decision. It was time to share her story in an effort to warn others in abusive relationships.
Danielle Bartl, health and family and consumer science teacher at Wheatland-Chili Middle School/High School, heard about Crandall’s interest in presenting to high school students through the school resource officer, Lauren Udicious.
“I like to bring in community partners to share information and resources,” Bartl said. “The students just wrapped up a unit on violence prevention. I want to empower my students to advocate for themselves. I was eager to have Kathy Crandall present to the class, because it’s the personal stories that they will remember.”
Crandall entered the high school classroom to present her story for the first time in 2018. Bartl’s 10-12 health class listened as she described the night, 30 years ago, when she survived.
In 1988, Crandall was a high school senior, 17 years old, and in her first major relationship. Her boyfriend, Sean, beat her, but she concealed it from everyone.
“I lied to my father and friends about the bruises,” she said. “Sean was my boyfriend. I loved him and I didn’t want him to get in trouble.”
Crandall lived with her father, who worked nights, and was alone when her boyfriend showed up at 3 a.m. with a hunting knife, threatened her over a rumor involving their mutual friend George and left in a rage, returning 45 minutes later with a .22-caliber rifle.
“He explained his plan,” she said. “We were going to George’s house. He was going to make me watch him shoot George. Then, he was going to shoot me. Then, he would shoot himself.”
In the 45-minute interval before Sean’s return, Crandall spoke on the phone with Russell, who lived with George, warning him of Sean’s first visit. Russell correctly interpreted the situation and approached a police officer parked on the street near his house. The officer mobilized police cars to both residences.
Despite her physical resistance and attempts to flee, Sean forced Crandall, at gunpoint, to drive to George and Russell’s house. Upon arrival, police surrounded the car, officers disarmed and arrested Sean, and brought Crandall to safety.
Crandall stood in jeans and a sweater in front of a room of high school students, and laid her pain and fear out for them to feel. The next day, Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Crandall returned, in full police dress, to empower the same students to recognize warning signs, and advocate for themselves, their friends or family members.
Using print resources provided by the Willow Domestic Violence Center, Crandall presented the 22 types of relationship abuse to the class. These examples fall within five categories: verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and economic abuse. She also provided them with resources on who to contact if they are scared or need help.
Crandall also discussed resources for abusers seeking help.
“I hope the kids can walk away with a feeling of empowerment if they ever find themselves in an abusive situation,” Crandall said. “There is plenty of help, and asking for the help is the bravest act you can do to save yourself and possibly others.”
Thirty years ago, Crandall stayed in an abusive relationship because she was embarrassed, she was afraid her boyfriend might hurt himself and she didn’t know what else to do. Now, she is visiting students the same age she was and handing them the tools that might save their lives.
Crandall works in the Jail Bureau. She teaches mental health, social media and sexual harassment at the Police Academy.