’It’s worth it’: Domestic violence survivor encourages others to escape abuse
Rack City CrossFit owner shares story of survival, healing
These days, St. Johns County gym owner Anna Rushing is doing so much more than heavy lifting.
Through her business, Rack City CrossFit, Rushing is helping others transform.
She's done a lot of that herself since escaping her abusive ex-boyfriend, Peter Conant.
"With him not around, controlling me and putting me down and keeping me within a certain parameter, I was able to actually be 100% myself,” Rushing said.
Conant, who was Rushing's business partner, is nearly two years into a three year and four month prison sentence for domestic battery by strangulation.
Rushing said the abuse didn't start the night she called police.
"There were incidents where he would punch me, hit me,” she said.
While the two ran their business together and things appeared fine on the outside, Rushing said Conant was abusive behind closed doors. She said control and verbal abuse escalated until the night he attacked her for hours.
Rushing said Conant strangled her, hit her multiple times in the face and locked her in a room.
"I had kind of barricaded myself in the bathroom, and I was looking at this indention in the wall that was the perfect shape of the back of my head, where he had taken my neck and shoved me into the wall,” Rushing said.
Rushing dialed 911 several times through the night and finally found the courage to confide what was happening. The police arrived within minutes.
Rushing credits the compassionate dispatcher.
"She didn't know me, but her love for humanity did. It saved my life,” Rushing said. “Just the tone in her voice, and 'No judgment. I'm just here to help you.'"
Since leaving her abuser and healing, Rushing's business has flourished. In many ways, her 90-plus clients feel like a family. She has a message for others currently in abusive relationships.
"To be able to be free and grow into the person you truly are, without somebody holding you down, it's worth it,” she said.
Court records show Conant had other charges against him before the one involving Rushing. She said she knew about one, but not the others. She has an injunction against him.
Rushing admitted the thought of Conant being released from prison scares her, but she said many of her clients are police officers, and she has a good community backing her up. Because of that, she feels safe.
Resources for domestic violence victims are available throughout Northeast Florida:
- Hubbard House (Baker and Duval counties): hubbardhouse.org or 904-354-3114
- Family Life Center (Flagler County): familylifecenterflagler.org or 386-437-3505
- Micah's Place (Nassau County): micahsplace.org or 904-225-9979
- Betty Griffin Center (St. Johns County): bettygriffincenter.org or 904-824-1555
- Quigley House (Clay County): quigleyhouse.org or 904-284-0061
- Lee Conlee House (Putnam County): leeconleehouse.org or 386-325-3141
- Peaceful Paths (Bradford, Alachua & Union counties): peacefulpaths.org or 352-377-8255
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