One afternoon a few years back, I strolled into GG Strut, my favorite shoe and accessory boutique on Broadway, looking for a new pair of heels. I was greeted by a beautiful girl; she was tall, slender, well-spoken and had a genuine vibe about her. She asked if I was looking for anything in particular and then escorted me around the store pointing out the new arrivals. I had just formed the Miss Jefferson County Scholarship Organization, so the first thing I thought was … this girl would be an excellent pageant contestant. I asked her if she had ever considered competing. She said no, but seemed interested, so we talked a little more. Her smile was beautiful and she was such a pleasure to be around. I thought to myself … I must tell Gina, the owner, how great this girl was! And then, the big sister in me thought … my brother needs to date this girl!
I can laugh today about our first encounter and how I immediately tried to recruit her for so many different opportunities, including future sister-in-law. But what I cannot laugh about is that this beautiful girl, Tilisha “Ty” Thomas was recently attacked and nearly killed in broad daylight in this city that we all love and adore. This is her story:
On Thursday, Aug. 28, 2015, around 2 p.m., Ty decided to take her lunch break at home. She wanted to eat and take a quick nap before returning to work. As she attempted to leave her apartment and head back to work, she was met by a man she had seen around her building on several occasions. He demanded her to go back into her apartment. She refused. He pointed a gun to her head and forced her back inside. Once inside, he demanded her to take off her clothes. Each time she refused, he struck her in the head with his gun.
Ty, a student at the University of Louisville, fought back and screamed for help while he attempted to rape and sodomize her. Angered by her refusal to give up, the man pulled out a knife and began cutting and stabbing her. In an attempt to kill her, he stabbed her over 14 times. Knowing that she could not overpower the attacker, Ty brilliantly ceased movement and played dead. This caused the attacker to flee the scene. Once she was sure that he was gone, Ty used what strength she had left to call 911, but due to the injuries to her neck and throat, she was unable to speak. A neighbor eventually came to her aid and grabbed the phone to speak with the dispatcher. Once the ambulance arrived, Ty was rushed to the hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.
Today, thankfully, Ty is alive and healing, taking steps daily to reclaim her life. The suspect is behind bars for attempted murder and attempted rape.
Now, I know this is the not the type of story that we want to hear about happening in Louisville, but the fact of the matter is that it did happen here. We must acknowledge this and take steps to ensure that things like this don’t continue to happen. This story touched me not only because I know this young woman, but because it could have easily been me. When I lived in Old Louisville and worked at a clinic in the area, I used to walk to and from work daily. Often, I would walk home for lunch to eat and take a quick power nap. There were several times that I left the house half asleep trying to get back to work on time and haven’t been totally aware of my surroundings. On any given day, this could have been me.
But there is a bigger lesson in this story. It’s been reported that several neighbors heard the altercation happening at Ty’s front door, but they didn’t respond or call for help. Why? They just thought that it was a couple arguing and the female was being smacked around a little?
The reality here is that when things are happening “over there” (that neighborhood, at that person’s house, to that girl or to that guy), we turn our heads. We don’t want to get involved or speak up. It’s scary … it could be dangerous … it’s none of my business. But what if you were that girl or that guy, wouldn’t you hope someone would help? It goes back to the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated.
We’ve grown so accustomed to violence and to people fighting that it has somehow been accepted as normal. It is not normal. It is not OK. And we can no longer stay silent in the midst of violence. It could save someone’s life. #SpeakUp