Deborah Johnson, 1947-2016
Executive Director, Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Services
AAUW Member since 2009; Murfreesboro Program VP 2010 - 2014
Deb was serving her last year of four as branch program VP when I first met her back in the fall of 2013. Each program looked at a specific issue affecting women and girls. I distinctly remember Deb introducing a local police woman who talked about how the police department handled statements from victims of sexual assault and conducted proceedings related to the assault. It was a sobering moment.
Getting to know Deb over the last few years, I was struck by her easy-going, sanguine nature despite the gravity of her profession. In all that calmness, she was mirthful too. She always had a funny anecdote to share. When she first told me about her tattoo, she liked to joke that she was having it done to show the younger staff members in her office that she was hip too.
She continued to have the tattoo expanded, even after her first round of treatment a couple of years ago. Brightly colored and intricate, the tattoo on her right arm illustrated morning glories climbing up and being tended to by a dragonfly near her wrist and a humming bird half way up on the underside of her arm. When I visited her in hospice in December a few days before she died, she explained the different colors of the morning glories: red for AIDS; purple for domestic violence; and aqua for sexual assault. With each color, she talked about the friends she had lost to AIDS and the families and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault that she had worked with.
To honor Deb, her work and her great spirit, the branch will host “The Deb Talk” each April, for sexual assault awareness month, starting this year. This April’s topic is “Rape Culture: Let’s Talk about It.” We will aim to address this topic with sobering honesty and compassion.
Gathering together to do this important work will also bring out some mirth in all of us, for Deb’s sake.
President, AAUW Murfreesboro
To read more about Deb and her life, her obituary can be found here