By TIFFANY RONEY
A woman from Kansas City stopped through Abilene on her way to the west coast as part of her mission to Bike Across America for domestic violence awareness. Cyclist Gabbie Buri’s passion to fight domestic violence comes from personal experience.
Buri’s then-boyfriend, Blake*, beat her unconscious with the butt of a .45 caliber, and she was unable to lift her head from the pillowcase for three days.
“I thought that was okay, to be honest with you, because of how I was abused,” Buri said. “My parents did so much stuff like that that I thought, ‘I guess I’ve just got to fight it myself.’”
Buri’s neighbors called the police because they could hear the abuse, but these emergency phone calls only resulted in Blake treating her worse. She had to go to court seven times and each time, Buri said, she was terrified.
“His friends were there, and they were watching me, over and over, all seven times,” Buri said. “I didn’t want to have a confrontation or anything. I just wanted it to be smooth and go home. And, to be honest, I’m a little soft, too, so I had to keep my distance to do what’s right.”
After the seventh court hearing, Buri spoke to Blake directly.
“I actually went outside and talked to him, and people at the court thought that I was back with him and I wasn’t,” Buri said. “He pleaded guilty and I wanted to make sure what he was doing so he couldn’t come and kill me. Then I left and I haven’t been back in a long time. It’s not easy doing the right thing, that’s for sure.”
Compassion for her perpetrator
Buri said her court visits were not motivated by a desire for revenge or even justice. Rather, she was motivated by compassion toward the man who she said left her for dead.
“I didn’t do it to put him in jail or get him in trouble or do something to mess up his reputation,” Buri said. “I did it actually to save his life, because he was such a bad alcoholic that one of these days, I was afraid he was going to wind up in prison and not know why he was in jail for the rest of his life, from being drunk and killing somebody and not knowing what he did.”
While Buri accessed the court’s services to help Blake find the help he needed, she said she would like to see change in the way courts handle domestic violence.
“People think that all the courts are good, but the laws aren’t right,” Buri said.
Buri said it was difficult for her to provide Blake’s information to the court, as he did not live with her full-time.
“The only way I got his address was I had to walk to his house, get his address and run to the police station and say, ‘Please do it now because I’m scared he’s going to kill me, and he will.’”
Bringing change to courts
Buri survived the incidents and she now tells her story in hopes of bringing change on the legislative, judicial and cultural level. Buri said her primary desire is more protection for the victim.
“Women need to be protected and know what’s going on,” Buri said. “When you have to find somebody’s address, have somebody in the court that does it. I don’t know why that’s not already there. I would go do it for them. I mean, truly, to protect a woman or a mama and a little child.”
Andrea Quill, director of Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas, said she has found courts “very understanding.”
“We have a good collaboration with our court system, so we work to try to streamline services for victims and to ensure that they’re being represented correctly and that their rights are upheld,” Quill said. “I think the court system is very understanding of domestic violence in our communities, and we work hard.”
Quill said the primary thing victims need during and after abuse is validation.
“For them to know that they’re not alone and that there is hope,” Quill said. “We are here to help and make them feel empowered.”
For more information on the association or to report suspected domestic violence, call 1-800-874-1499.
Cycling out of the past
Buri said she rides at least 40 miles each day in her journey across the States. She said the most difficult part about the expedition is doing it alone.
“Sometimes, you get afraid you’re going to fall down and you’re out there all alone in the middle of nowhere; that’s hard,” Buri said.
She said she tries to set up her one-person tent far enough from motels to respect their regulations, but she finds it scary to camp too far from establishments. She said she puts up her tent before dark and packs it away before sunrise.
Though Buri is riding solo, she said people have been generous and helpful at her stops throughout Kansas. Mid-America Road Maintenance met her on Highway 15 and helped fix her bike. The company also gave her $10. Green Acres Restaurant gave her a free breakfast and coffee and the Food and Clothing Bank stocked her pack.
“I just want people to know that people are very kind across America,” Buri said.
After reaching the west coast, Buri said she plans to fly back to Kansas City and then head east until she reaches the Atlantic. All the way, she will be waving her banner of domestic violence awareness.
“People need to be more aware of it and not shove it underneath the carpet and that’s really hard to change,” Buri said.
Buri said she found her own inner change through forgiveness.
“I had to go to a lot of church and sit in the pew and pray over and over,” Buri said. “I’m not perfect, but I’ve tried not to antagonize anybody or pick on somebody. That’s not right, either.”
While Buri maintains the value of protection for women and the reality that domestic violence is not okay, she said she believes in second chances.
“Everybody deserves to be able to get a second chance and be forgiven and try to change,” Buri said.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.