Many students sit through the presentations, watch the movies and hear the stories of abuse, but they rarely have the opportunity to meet a victim and hear their personal account like they did on Sept. 27.
Activities Council of Bradley University, Kappa Delta sorority and Residential Life brought Teri Jendusa-Nicolai, a 48-year-old mother of three, to Bradley last week to speak about her experiences with her abusive husband.
Jendusa-Nicolai, who said she was eager to have kids and begin her life, married David Larson at a young age, but the marriage wasn’t what she expected. The first warning signs of Larson’s abusive tendencies were on their honeymoon in Hawaii, when he hit her during what she said she believed was just a quarrel.
Like some abuse victims, Jendusa-Nicolai said she made excuses for her husband, blaming his allergies and stress. The warning signs progressed and affected the couple’s children.
It got to a point where Jendusa-Nicolai said, “[He] was getting home from work, [and I] would feel all twisted up inside.”
After three years of her silent struggle, Jendusa-Nicolai filed for divorce. She said Larson managed to drag out the legal question of custody of the children for four years, forcing Jendusa-Nicolai to stay in contact with him.
One day, while the case was still in litigation, Jendusa-Nicolai said Larson lured her into his home, saying that their two children were hiding and needed her to come find them. She said she knew there was something suspicious about his behavior, but went in search of the girls.
Larson then attacked her from behind, striking her multiple times with a baseball bat and leaving her only half-clothed. He wrapped duct tape around her and told her to “just stop breathing.”
Jendusa-Nicolai said she was then stuffed in a garbage can in the back of Larson’s truck when she realized she had her cell phone in her pocket. She managed to call 911, repeating his address to the operator.
Larson drove the car in near-freezing weather to a storage facility where the police found Jendusa-Nicolai 26 hours later. David Larson was arrested on the spot.
The police reported that Jendusa-Nicolai’s “eyes were swollen shut, [and] her face was all black and blue beyond recognition” when they found her. Jendusa-Nicolai, remarried and expecting, lost her baby due to the assault.
After going through the struggles, extensive surgery, an amputation of her frostbitten toes and the years of physical therapy, Jendusa-Nicolai is able to walk again. She said she has dedicated her life to giving talks about her experience and warning people about the signs of an abusive relationship and how to prevent the start of one.
Students, like sophomore elementary education major Andrea Barr, said they learned a lot from Jendusa-Nicolai’s speech.
“I thought the warning signs were useful to know about,” Barr said.
Other students said the speech put their lives in perspective.
“I think that as college students, we think about these things, but we kind of put it on the back burner, and always think ‘Oh, that’ll never happen to me,’” senior elementary education major Abi Vogel said.