Gina Waegele stood over her older sister’s casket.
A scarf covered her sister’s neck to her chin. The scarf hid broken bones — the bones her husband had crushed when he strangled her to death.
“This man who promised my sister everything took his bare hands and strangled her to death with her children in the home,” Waegele said.
Waegele, 28, spoke to approximately 50 students and community members
Wednesday in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom. The student organization Alpha Center sponsored Waegele in hopes of drawing attention to domestic violence.
“Gina has gone through a dating violence situation, and coming from someone with a personal story is a strong message and will provide awareness that ‘hey-this is going on,'” said Deena Faucett, a junior business major and employee of the Alpha Center.
Waegele, a 1997 CSU graduate, speaks across the country about domestic violence, healthy relationships, the “Ultimate Love Experience” and her one-of-a-kind experience as Miss Colorado.
In dealing with the issue of domestic violence, Waegele not only has her sister’s tragic death to reference, but also her own experience in a violent relationship.
“Everything seemed to be going well, except when we argued, but everyone argues,” Waegele said of her serious college boyfriend.
Then Waegele began to notice the signs.
Her boyfriend demanded to know where and with whom she was spending her time. He checked the mileage on her car. He made her spend all of her free time with him, and he isolated her from her family and friends.
“If I just did everything perfect and everything right, everything would be fine because I didn’t want to make him mad,” Waegele said.
But he did get mad.
“He beat me up so bad I had to go to the hospital,” Waegele said. “I remember laying on a hospital bed, a freshman in college, wondering why this was happening to me.”
Although Waegele never had that question answered, she received a chance to speak out against domestic violence, thus possibly preventing others from ending up in the same situation.
After placing as first runner-up in the Miss Colorado competition, Waegele was given a chance to speak publicly about her personal experiences with domestic violence when, through the removal of the then-current Miss Colorado, she served as Miss Colorado in 1998.
“I knew I had a message about domestic violence and healthy relationships and I’d never know if I’d ever have the chance to do it again,” Waegele said.
Waegele, who had to turn the title back over to the previous Miss Colorado after she sued to get her position back, enjoyed her time as Miss Colorado, especially the opportunity to speak about the risks of domestic violence.
“As a woman you are safer to walk in a dark alley at three in the morning than to get married or have a boyfriend,” Waegele said. “I found domestic violence was very prevalent. I wasn’t the only one.”
One out of 10 college women will experience physical abuse in a dating relationship, Waegele said.
The prevalence of domestic violence was also felt throughout the audience.
“I think it’s something that’s prevalent in society whether it’s talked about or shown and anything they can do to get more stuff out about it is important,” said Dylan Metzgar, junior open option major.
Waegele believes everyone needs to find his or her own identity and relationship with God to have the “Ultimate Love Experience.”
“Your identity is in yourself,” Waegele said. “You need to be complete within yourself and set your standards high.”
Waegele has continually set her standards high and has found strength through her relationship with God and Jesus. This relationship is the “Ultimate Love Experience” and has lead Waegele to forgive her sister’s murderer.
“If you have trials and hard times in your life, you can overcome them,” Waegele said.
For more information contact: 1-800-909-WAIT, www.ginaspeaks.com or firstname.lastname@example.org