She was young and thought she was in love.
The truth was, Monika Gauthier’s relationship was anything but a loving one.
“It was traumatic from 13 to 16. I didn't even tell anybody, I wasn't supposed to be dating anyway,” she said.
Gauthier says she hid her abusive relationship from her family for years.
She secretly suffered abuse from ages 13 to 20 until she opened up to her family.
“They came, they packed my stuff up and we left,” she said.
Gauthier packed her bags, but she didn’t pack away the memories.
She made sure to use her negative experience for something positive.
She built a career working for organizations that helped victims of abuse.
Gauthier had no idea that one day her background would be needed to help a loved one.
Her cousin Keya opened up about the physical abuse she was experiencing in her marriage.
They came up with a strategy for her to leave, but tragedy would stop plans for a new beginning.
“He shot and killed her. He shot her four times and then just left,” Gauthier said.
In her honor, Gauthier started The KEYA Foundation, which stands for “Keep Empowering Yourself Abundantly.”
Through the foundation, Gauthier is using her more than 20 years of experience helping abuse victims to focus on teenagers.
The KEYA Foundation is a teen dating violence and abuse prevention program.
“Let them know what a healthy relationship is, what an unhealthy relationship is, and where can they get help,” she said.
Gauthier focuses her outreach in places where there are youth, including church groups, schools and camps.
“My healing process is The KEYA Foundation. Me being able to know that if I get this information out to somebody and start early with this information, then hopefully Keya's voice was heard, and we made a difference.”