Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, 36, shared a photo on Facebook Monday, which she said shows injuries she suffered in a domestic assault a year ago.
Just as her her term as the New Jersey Assemblywoman for the 8th legislative district ended January 9, Republican politician Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, 36, opened up about her personal battle to the evil and perils of domestic abuse.
Her personal experience of this situation, Rodriguez-Gregg said, came to a head in a hospital emergency room on New Year’s Day of 2017.
Sharing a photograph of her battered and bruised face [left], the departing Assemblywoman said: “I remember having to go to an event shortly after everything happened and covering my face in makeup,” she said.
The mental and emotional toll was even greater, Rodriguez-Gregg said Wednesday. Even months after, she was having panic attacks and nightmares, wasn’t sleeping, and felt herself at times slipping into depression, she said.
“I was unraveling,” she said.
Reality finally hit, Rodriguez-Gregg said, as she ‘rang in New Years day of 2017 in the hospital’.
Speaking of her injuries she said: ‘Half of my face was bruised, had abrasions, and a deep cut in my chin and I had abrasions and bruises all over my body.’
She decided to write the post after a young woman reached out to her wanting to talk about her time in the legislature, which just so happened to be her last session as a legislator.
She ‘felt so ashamed and embarrassed’ of being victimized, that initially she said her injuries were a result of trying to stop a drunk person from driving.
‘I remember sitting in the hospital room feeling completely ashamed and embarrassed. I couldn’t stop thinking “how did I get here?”’ she wrote.
She realized she needed to get help, and said that help has made all the difference. That’s one of the reasons she decided to come out about her experience with domestic violence Monday through a thoughtful Facebook post that included a photograph of her injured face.
“I did the post so that those that are going through it can find maybe some courage or encouragement and support to get help, that it’s not their fault. Go see a therapist, talk about what has happened to you, just for their own health and safety,” she said. “And for others to understand that this is a very difficult thing for anyone to grapple with. To have empathy and to not support the culture of ‘they deserve it’ and ‘it’s their fault.'”
Rodriguez-Gregg said the “culmination” of her spiral was her arrest in April.
However, in an interview Wednesday, she said her intent in mentioning the arrest in her Facebook post was not to make excuses but to be honest about how the moment was her rock bottom.
In April 2017, Rodriguez-Gregg was arrested in Mount Laurel after her car was rear-ended and a responding officer thought he smelled marijuana in the car, though none was found. The case is ongoing, and her attorney said a blood test showed “some indication of alcohol” but no drugs.
The arrest didn’t make headlines until September, when the Trentonian first posted bodycam footage of her yelling at the cops, using expletives and reminding them she is an assemblywoman.
“That incident, prior to it becoming a big news thing, made me realize that I needed to get help,” she said. “I’m still not OK. I’m not 100 percent. I’m not the person I was before. But I feel better and better, I guess you would say, every day.”
‘I didn’t want to be that person.’ Rodriguez-Gregg said about her April arrest in Mount Laurel after her car was rear-ended and a responding officer thought he smelled marijuana in the car. She attributed her ‘self-destructive’ behavior to self-loathing as a result of abuse.
Rodriguez-Gregg made history in 2013 when she was elected the first Hispanic Republican woman elected to the New Jersey Legislature. The Rutgers University alum who, single Divorced shortly after gaining office, she lives in Medford with her daughter, 9, and son, 17.
The just disengaged legislator speaking from her home in Medford, NJ, recounted the abuse she allegedly endured, and how she struggled to explain the abuse and her own inertia to her children.
Her domestic partner she said, physically harmed her multiple times, and hit a crescendo on New Year’s Day of 2017.
In the emergency room with facial injuries, Rodriguez-Gregg said she felt embarrassed and alone, reluctant to file charges, though her closest friends encouraged her to do so. However, thoughts of her daughter changed her mind, she said.
“My little girl. I thought if this was my daughter, what would I tell her?” she said.
“Would I sit there and let her be silent? I would have dragged her butt to the police station.”
Maria Rodriguez-Gregg taking the Assembly Oath of Office on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014. She was joined by her family and former Assemblyman Jose Sosa.
Her ex was arrested and charged with simple assault, she said, and got a sentence she feels was a slap on the wrist.
And while her injuries healed, Rodriguez-Gregg said, the domestic violence was still affecting her in so many ways. While she could put on extra makeup and go to work at the Statehouse, she also had to keep being a mom. The pressure of bottling up the pressure manifested in the form of self-injurious behavior.
Her daughter, she said is still unaware of the situation, but she decided to share the horrors with her son.
“I needed my son to know that wasn’t OK. That’s not how you treat women,” she said. “That it’s not OK to put someone through that, and say it was their fault.”
The trauma she experienced was impacting her everyday, she said, from anxiety, depression and sleeplessness to the kind of “self-destructive” behavior she saw in herself the day she was arrested.
Incidenttally, about the time she decided she needed help, she learned about a woman who had committed suicide after being subjected to domestic abuse.
“I have two kids. I’m a single mom and I love my kids. Knowing that it could get that bad for someone,” she said as her eyes filled with tears. “I didn’t want to be that person.”
The effects of domestic abuse contributed to her decision in August not to seek a third term, she confirmed.
Former Assemblywoman Maria. Maria Rodriguez-Gregg [right], with Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien [left], and state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego [center]
For survivors she said, there are many options, even for people who might think they can’t afford them. They include support groups, therapists and counselors at various nonprofits.
In her Facebook post, she directed people to the nonprofits Women Against Abuse and domestic violence services through Providence House Domestic Violence Services.
The former dental hygienist said she plans to spend some much-needed time with her family for now, and hopes to find work in the field she worked in before being elected. She said she did marketing and sales for health companies.