In the mid-1990s, while living in California, Laura Cowan became trapped in an abusive polygamist marriage, along with two other women and 19 children, three of them her own.
Her husband, beat and starved Cowan and her children, even raping her in front of them. For part of those four years, they were locked in a garage.
During those years, she secretly took notes about the abuse and kept them with her. When she accompanied her husband to the post office in 1999, she surreptitiously slipped the notes to a postal worker, who called the police.
After earning her freedom, Cowan and her children spent more than a year living in battered women’s shelters before returning to her hometown of Cleveland in 2001. “I promised God when I was in that garage, when it was cold and wet and we were hungry, I said, “If you can get us out of this, I will dedicate my life to help others,’” Cowan said. “And he did. And I’m keeping my promise.” Over the last 13 years, Cowan has worked on behalf of domestic violence prevention. She volunteers for the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, and can be found at nearly every walk, vigil or fundraiser for the cause. She’s developed specialized domestic violence training for CMHA’s police force and is working on a curriculum called “Love Doesn’t Hurt” for local schools, colleges, churches and sororities.
On Cowan’s side is her gift for attracting media attention to the cause. Every time a domestic violence case hits the news, she’s at the vigil with a sign, ready to speak before cameras. She told her story to cable news personality Anderson Cooper, appears frequently on local TV and radio, and keeps a steady stream of speaking engagements even while working full-time at CMHA. #domesticviolence #childadvocacy #lovedoesnthurt