DES MOINES, Iowa — Worse than a nightmare, it was reality for Donna Williams. “A life and death situation. I looked at my hand and my hand was full of blood,” she said.
In a Des Moines apartment complex on East 22nd Street in the early morning hours of May 17, 2018, Donna looked up from her computer screen to her boyfriend at the time, Cortez West, stabbing her.
“He stabbed me four times in my neck, once in my face, once in my chest. He stabbed me four times in front of my stomach. He stabbed me once in the side where my colon erupted and then the rest of the wounds are in my right arm trying to stop him,” recalled Donna.
Realizing she couldn’t overpower him, Donna crashed through her second story apartment screen door. She said, “I jumped from the balcony to the roof and I fell from the roof to the concrete ground.” A neighbor below called 911. Donna was rushed to the UnityPoint hospital in critical condition. “I woke up to like 20 or so missed calls at like six in the morning, saying you need to get to the hospital now,” said Toni Williams, Donna’s daughter.
When Donna awoke from her medically induced coma, her daughter Toni was there and taken aback by her mother’s demeanor. “This lady is in the bed suffering from multiple stab wounds, going through the most and she’s still smiling,” said Toni. The smile gave her mother a purpose. “I just felt happy. I didn’t think, ‘you know what Donna, you are still not out of the woods yet.’ I was not claiming that in my mind. I was just grateful that I woke up,” said Donna.
Despite Cortez West being arrested days later and initially charged with attempted murder, Donna is physically reminded of that dark day. “I have numbness from here to here where it is terrible pain,” Donna said. She also has constant stomach pain from the stabbing but hopes her experience in an abusive relationship can heal others. She said, “Even if I don`t get that back, I’m here and I feel like God has me here to give my testimony.”
Her recovery with the Children and Families of Iowa along with the Iowa Victim Compensation Program was monumental in turning tragedy into triumph. It began with moving out. Donna said, “That apartment, it was so drenched in blood. The thought of having to go back there and live, they made it possible. They said ‘Donna you don’t have to go back there. We are here for you.'”
With a new place to call home and a fresh start, Donna gained divine strength, transforming the upcoming one year anniversary of the stabbing on May 17th into a celebration. “I hope that somebody wakes up before it happens to them because it can happen. If it happens to me it can happen to anybody,” Donna said.
Donna and Toni, along with Children and Families of Iowa, are hosting a benefit show with live music at Lefty`s in Des Moines. “To inspire other men and women both. Children also because anyone can be abused, that there are resources and you don’t have to do it alone,” Toni said.
With a community that has not made her feel alone and faith, Donna has forgiven West, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of willful injury, serving up to ten years in prison. “I’ll let God deal with him. I’ve cleaned my side of the street. I’ve forgiven him. Will I get back with him? No way, I’ve moved on,” said Donna.
A loving heart, Donna understands many currently being abused will be reluctant to join her army. She said, “Women love hard and we always think we can change somebody.” She hopes her survival story and celebration event will point others towards true love before it is too late. Donna said, “My momma always said if somebody has to put their hands on you, that ain’t love.”
The fundraising event is from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday May 17th at Lefty’s. A $7 cover charge will help benefit the Children and Families of Iowa Family Violence Center.