On April 1, 2015, Crystal Turner received a phone call that dramatically changed her life. When her phone rang at noon that day, she learned that her daughter, Jenea Harvison, 29, and her son, Donell McDonald Jr., 23, had been murdered by Jenea’s estranged husband, in the parking lot of one of their daycare businesses.
“At that moment is when everything in my life changed,” Crystal said. “I kind of immediately went into not wanting another family to have to have the experience that my family and I had had.”
Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women compared to all other maternal mortality causes, and nearly 70 percent of these homicides involve a firearm.
Jenea struggled from postpartum depression following the birth of her two children, and her husband’s inability to acknowledge her emotional reality became part of his abuse towards her, which eventually resulted in him shooting and killing her, Crystal shared.
“After my daughter’s death, I was horrified to learn that intimate partner gun violence towards pregnant and postpartum women is a phenomenon that isn’t at all uncommon in the United States,” Crystal said.
She began sharing her story to drive change in her community, and after speaking at a city council meeting in Columbus, Ohio in 2017, she was first introduced to Moms Demand Action.
“Being introduced to Moms Demand Action gave me the opportunity to start advocacy work and figure out how I can use my story to not only just be a story that I tell, but to be an impactful story where we can begin to see change in our community,” Crystal shared.
These opportunities have opened doors for Crystal, giving her voice a new platform—in her local community and beyond. She’s met with local officials, federal officials, and even President Biden and shared her story with them.
“The challenge for me in sharing my story is that my story is not different than many other African American people who have lived with everyday gun violence, who are not a part of mass shooting, who are not a part of shootings that make worldwide news, or their stories are not being told on all of the media outlets and social media,” Crystal expressed. “Everytown has created those opportunities for me.”
Through the Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action, Crystal has connected with and supported other survivors all around the country.
“After a tragic shooting in Tampa, Florida late last year, the family of the victim reached out to Moms Demand Action for support,” Wendy Malloy, Co-Lead of the Florida Moms Demand Action chapter, remembered. “Crystal got in her car with just a few days notice and drove from Jacksonville to Tampa to speak at the community vigil and be there for the family as they mourned their daughter—again, shining a light on our work in the most meaningful way.”
Crystal does everything she can to support her local community and survivors around the country. After participating in SurvivorsConnect, a program of the Everytown Survivor Network that matches gun violence survivors with trained leaders who are also survivors of gun violence, Crystal quickly stepped up to be a leader in the program herself.
“The biggest thing that’s really great about SurvivorsConnect is it gives you an opportunity to meet other survivors who have similar stories or sometimes even very different stories, but it is that common bond that we are all survivors of gun violence,” Crystal said. “We build this new relationship of being able to share our experiences of what our lives now look like being impacted by gun violence, but also having that commonality and going through that grief process and being able to really just support each other.”
The community she’s found through shared grief has helped her feel less alone in this work. It’s given her a “sisterhood, a brotherhood” and the sense that “not only am I here for you, I’m right beside you in this fight.”
“I always say I’m grateful that I found it because I now know that I am simply not alone,” Crystal shared.
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