Woman rides through Idaho for domestic violence awareness
Posted 3:01 a.m. Saturday
BURLEY, Idaho — More than seven months ago a woman and her horse rode out of Penn Valley, California, on a quest to give domestic violence a voice in 48 states.
Meredith Cherry, 34, who has a bachelor's degree in equine science, expects that it will take her and her palomino gelding four years to complete their journey. Each day they rely on strangers for a patch of grass to pitch a tent on for Meredith and a place for Apollo to graze and rest.
On Monday, they continued a two-day stay at Brent Tolman's home west of Burley before continuing the journey toward Pocatello.
Tolman heard about Cherry's ride on Facebook from friends who had offered her a place to stay in the Treasure Valley.
"We have a 4-acre pasture," he said, about opening his family home to the travelers.
Along the way Cherry is visiting domestic violence shelters and speaking to groups to bring awareness to the harsh realities of abuse.
"It tends to be a silent issue, but it's very common," said Cherry.
She said her ex-husband controlled her psychologically by isolating her from family and friends monitoring her phone activity. Over the 12-year relationship the abuse escalated to violence where he would restrain her and beat her on the back.
"The first four years were nice," she said. When the abuse first started it was easy to brush it off by saying he was just having a bad day.
Often she would give in just to avoid fights.
But, eventually the abuse became physical.
Once, when he caught her trying to leave, he repeatedly kicked her in the shins until it was too painful to even stand. He would also bite her ears until they bled.
"But, abuse doesn't have to be physical to be painful," Cherry said. "The emotional scars last way longer than the physical ones."
Domestic abuse takes many forms like financial, sexual, emotional and physical, and men can be victims too.
People who are abused often lack the confidence to leave the situation, and getting regular beatings can be less scary than trying to leave and risking death, according to domestic violence experts.
"It sounds dramatic but that's the way it is," Cherry said. "Most women are killed when they are trying to leave."
Often the abused person does not have the money or a car to escape.
Cherry developed an escape plan and waited for the perfect moment when she could take the car and have the best chance of getting away.
She left everything behind, including her clothing, photo albums and pets, and when she was far enough away, she made a call to her family half way across the country.
The best thing family members or friends can do for someone they suspect is in an abusive situation is continue to let the person know they are there for them, she said.
The worst thing they can do is remain silent.
"I figured since no one was talking about it, I would," Cherry said.