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  • Dawn Carbone-McDonald

Gina DeJesus helps raise awareness of domestic violence

By Shirley MacFarland, special to

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio -- Cleveland abduction survivor Gina DeJesus helped officially kick off the first ever Women & Girls Empowerment Resource Fair & Free Self-Defense Clinic at the Inspire Martial Arts Studio.

DeJesus was just 14 when she was kidnapped while walking home from school. She was imprisoned with two other young women, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry, by former school bus driver Ariel Castro. After a nearly 10-year period of captivity, which included beatings and starvation, DeJesus and her fellow captors were rescued by neighbors in 2013

DeJesus is nationally known for her work in helping help finding missing children and adults through her nonprofit Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children & Adults.

Over 50 women and girls attended the empowerment event, which was organized by sponsors Inspire Martial Arts, Dawn Carbone-McDonald and Dan Langshaw to coincide with the month of October being nationally known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

There have been an increasing number of deaths of women in North Royalton involving domestic violence, like the murder of Cari Smith this summer.

In order to raise awareness of these important issues, the Women & Girls Empowerment Resource Fair & Free Self-Defense Clinic’s goal was to empower women, teenage girls and young girls in the North Royalton and surrounding communities to seek their full potential in school, sports, activities and business.

The fair connected them with resources from various community partners, including Gina DeJesus and Sylvia Colon with the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children & Adults, Infinity Counseling & Consulting Services LLC, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the Ohio Army National Guard, Krazy Fit, the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and the North Royalton Girl Scouts.

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