Christopher Rout*This story contains details that may be triggering for some readers.

Growing up, Chris Rout and his brother were raised by their mother, Joanne, in a single-parent household. Although she struggled to support her young family, sometimes relying on donations of food and clothing, Joanne always made sure her boys knew how much she loved them.

When the boys were old enough, she went back to school to train as a nurse. Then she met a man and got married. Not long after, Chris and his brother began to see signs of jealousy, anger, and violence from their stepfather. Each time, he would promise to change, but the violence persisted. 

One day when the boys were out of the house, Joanne told her husband she wanted a divorce. In response, he brutally beat her and then strangled her to death. Chris’ stepfather was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He served 15 years and has since been released on parole.

Speaking out against domestic violence

Today, Chris shares his mother’s story publicly in hopes that Joanne’s death—along with the deaths of so many other women—becomes more than just another statistic. He has also volunteered at Denise House, the women’s shelter where his mother sought help before she was murdered.

Chris now works as a firefighter/paramedic, a career he chose in part because his mother was a nurse. He is often one of the first responders on scene in cases of domestic violence, assault and death.

“Too often, especially in my line of work, I see things that happen and people say, ‘Oh, that’s gross,’ and it just becomes a statistic,” Chris says. “As we become more complacent, I feel we just stop caring about domestic violence, and there’s too many repercussions after it.”

“It’s not ending, and it should end.”