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‘Fearless’ victim ‘survivor’ advocates for other teen victims at Turningpoint in River Falls

This is Hannah Dyke one day after her boyfriend, Ben Force, beat her. Force is in jail now awaiting sentencing. Hannah's outward injuries have healed but she has continuing problems from the head injuries she sustained and still deals with emotional trauma from her ordeal.1 / 2
Hannak Dyke shows off a new attitude on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. She was there to speak at a domestic abuse rally just about 4-weeks after the beating. Since March, she has spoken at other events and has participated in Turningpoint's new support group for teens and young adults.2 / 2

Hannah Dyke believed she was going to die.

“My vision changed,” 19-year-old Dyke remembers. “I could feel my heart slow down. My breathing was shallow and slow. I was really scared.”

Her boyfriend at the time, Ben Force, has pleaded guilty to strangling and suffocating Dyke during an hours long beating last March 1 and 2 at a motel on North Main Street.

“He was suffocating me,” Dyke recalled. “And he tried to break my neck and gouge out my eyes. He said he was going to kill me.”

According to the criminal complaint, Force punched, bit, gouged, choked, smothered with a pillow, scratched, pulled hair, head butted and slammed Dyke’s head to the floor.

Dyke passed in and out of consciousness that night but was somehow able to get outside the Valu-Stay Inn and Suites where the two were staying and get the attention of another motel guest.

Police were alerted. Dyke was taken to the hospital. Force was taken to jail.

And while the beating ended for that long night, the trauma for Dyke never will.

“I have a wall around my heart”

Most outward signs of the beating -- bruises, cuts, patches of hair that Force pulled out when he dragged her -- have healed.

But scars remain. Dyke says that reminds her of what she’s been through.

She still has short-term memory problems from the head injury she suffered when Force pounded her head on the floor.

“I can tell my mom something one day and forget it happened the next,” Dyke said. “At the hospital, they told me I had multiple concussions. I didn’t know you could have multiple concussions but I was bashed in the head so many times.”

Yet, it’s the emotional scars and the memories she battles everyday.

Dyke says that one night of beating changed her.

“I have nightmares every night and anxiety,” Dyke said. “I sleep with my mom a lot. I am more on guard. I won’t so easily trust. I have a wall around my heart. I’m not so naive.”

Dyke said she’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I had to get my wisdom teeth out and I freaked out in the chair,” Dyke said. “My mom had warned the dentist that might happen.

“But I think it was the combination of being strapped in the chair...that feeling of being trapped and helpless...and the dentist hovering so close to me...and the pain that brought me back to that beating and gave me flashbacks.”

Dyke has found that being with people who care about her has helped.

Just being with her mom and younger brothers and her step-dad got her through the first days after the ordeal.

Eventually, she turned to Turningpoint shelter in River Falls. It’s a nonprofit agency that helps women who have been, or are going through, domestic abuse in Pierce and St. Croix counties.

Workers from Turningpoint have accompanied Dyke to her court dates.

“They made me feel like I wasn’t alone, “ Dyke said.

She started going to a support group there but the group was mostly older women. Dyke felt a little out of place.

So Caitlyn Roskowinski, the child and youth services advocate at Turningpoint, got busy to create a support group for teens and young adults who’ve had experiences with dating violence.

“We’d actually been working on this for about a year,” Roskowinski said.  “And it got up and running in July. We have anywhere from a few to about 10 girls each week.”

Dyke feels she can help the other young women who come to that weekly group. That makes her feel like her experience wasn’t all bad.

“I used to be shy but now I want to help other girls find their voice,” Dyke said.

Dyke has also been doing some public speaking. She spoke at a domestic abuse rally on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol just weeks after the beating when she was still healing.

Since the violent beating last March, Dyke has gotten two tattoos on each side of her collar bone. On one side -- “survivor.” On the other -- “fearless.”

For the complete story, see the Oct. 8 print issue of the River Falls Journal.