BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Lajuana Bradford has seen domestic violence first-hand. She is now praying for Gabby Petito’s family – as she knows all too well the pain that comes with losing a loved one.
Alethia Tucker-Cochran was shot and killed by her husband on June 1, 2002. Bradford shares her story at the YWCA of Central Alabama and to others in the community who may be in a similar situation. Tucker-Cochran died a few days before she turned 38-years-old.
“To bury a loved one, that loss stays with you every day,” Bradford said. “The night before she was supposed to move was the night she was killed.”
Tucker-Cochran had filed for divorce and had plans to live on her own, but it was still too late.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that,” Bradford said.
It’s a pain that comes back every time she hears of another case of domestic violence – this time Gabby Petito.
“That’s a pain that [the family is] going to have to live with from this day on. How they move forward with that will be important,” Bradford said. “Nineteen years later I still miss my sister.”
But help might be closer than you think.
“Often times it can get very difficult and hard to acknowledge that you are in an abusive relationship, so it takes a lot of courage to take that first step and reach out for help,” YWCA Director of Domestic Violence Services Lauren Thompson said. “When you are ready, we are here for you.”
Thompson said the YWCA has attorneys, counselors, a safe place for you and your children – and so much more. The hardest part is getting them in the door.
“If you know of anyone that is experiencing domestic violence, encourage them to reach out to our services,” Thompson said. “They may not be ready and that’s okay, but we are here whenever they are ready.”
Bradford said it’s important to do so before it is too late.
“We’ve gotta do a better job of just saying it’s not okay for people to be hurt,” Bradford said. “It’s not okay for us to turn and look the other way.”
About six years after Bradford lost her sister, she started volunteering at the YWCA – sharing her sister’s story to help others. Today she is a board member.
Help is always at your fingertips 24-7 by calling 205-322-HURT to be connected with a crisis hotline at the YWCA of Central Alabama.
Thompson said it’s important to help their clients break the cycle of violence. She said to look out when someone exhibits excessive jealousy, is constantly monitoring whereabouts, not allowing a loved one to check in with friends and family.
They YWCA of Central Alabama is constantly working with law enforcement to help train officers on best practices during domestic violence calls.
The YWCA will be hosting a domestic violence awareness webinar on October 29 at noon for you to learn more information on how to keep you family and friends safe.