Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of domestic violence.
Teri Jendusa-Nicolai said she can remember the details of the baseball bat her ex-husband used to attack her.
It was a black, wooden Louisville Slugger. It’s strange how she can recall vivid images from that day in January 2004, she said.
Since her attack, Jendusa-Nicolai of Waterford has shared her story of domestic violence hundreds of times for various audiences nationwide. She shared it again Friday at the Pontiac Convention Center for the YWCA’s annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser.
Her talks are meant to educate and inspire, she said.
She wants to inform those in abusive relationships of the warning signs and encourage them to overcome their fear of leaving. She also wants to leave an impression on community advocates who are in a position to prevent domestic violence.
Jendusa-Nicolai’s own experience was a brutal one. It happened after she and her ex, David Larsen, had been separated for five years. She went to Larsen’s residence to pick up their two daughters after a joint custody visit.
Then she was beaten, bound and left for dead in an Illinois storage locker.
Their three-year marriage included physical, emotional and financial abuse. He convinced her to quit her job so she would have to rely on him for money. The first time he hit her was on their honeymoon in Hawaii, she said.
Larsen is now in federal prison for life for attempted homicide for what he did to Jendusa-Nicolai. She doesn’t know where he is imprisoned; all that matters is that he is gone, she said.
YWCA Rock County has hosted Walk a Mile in Her Shoes for 13 years. The night gives domestic violence survivors the chance to tell their stories while attendees raise money for the YWCA’s domestic violence shelter and its domestic violence transition program, YWCA Communications Director Jennifer Draz said.
The name of the event is not a metaphor: Men literally put on high heels and walk a full mile wearing them. Some wear red pairs provided by the fundraiser. Others bring their own.
Nick Purkapile is an event ambassador and has been walking for eight years. He wore his own pair of pink high heels all day at work Friday. It’s a good conversation starter, he said.
Walk a Mile veterans know that wearing your own pair is more comfortable.
Purkapile said he can sprint in them, though he didn’t demonstrate.
Judging by the fluidity of his gait—something that stood out in a sea of men moving like newborn fawns—sprinting didn’t seem out of the question.
The men managed to make it through their mile-long trek, though some had to be more careful around the cracks in the sidewalk.
This sight of men stumbling around in heels is humorous, but the cause is serious.
Jendusa-Nicolai said that juxtaposition is actually beneficial. Domestic violence awareness events are usually somber and struggle to attract people.
“You kind of have to play with it and make it a fun event, but you’re still raising awareness and helping people,” she said. “It’s not trivializing it. It’s just making it so that people want to be involved.”