Clai Lasher-Sommers


John Tully

Lasher-Sommers, 57, was shot in the back by her abusive stepfather in 1970, when she was 13 years old and living in rural New Hampshire.

My mother married this man. I didn't live with her at first, but the first night I went back, it was just a horrific domestic-violence situation. My mother would call for help, but there was no police in the town. And people didn't want to see what was right next to them, and if they do, they don't know what to do. Especially if there's children involved; they'll keep their own children away but they won't get involved with the family. We'd go to school with black eyes. I lived like that. After I got shot, they interviewed the school officials, and they said they never thought anything of [the signs of abuse].

He would always threaten to shoot me, meanwhile beating everyone up. And one night, I felt like he would shoot me. My mother said to me, "You better be careful, he's going to shoot you." I was in my bedroom and I went to close the door and he shot me. The bullet exploded in my back.

I was in the hospital for a long time in Dartmouth, but they never sent anyone in to talk to me about it. If you're shot today it's just as horrific, but people stand up and help you. In 1970, that certainly wasn't the case.

"My mother said to me, 'You better be careful, he's going to shoot you.'”

One way that survivors sometimes can keep moving on is to help other victims and break up social systems that don't work. When you go through a situation like that, you start working, doing political action or community organizing, and the issue is violence. You can't tell me something like Newtown can't happen. It happened, and it will happen again and again until the people of this country demand action on gun safety.

As told to Elisabeth Garber-Paul


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