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Amy Ballon: “It’s always darkest before the dawn”

The largest impact my advocacy has led to is opening up the doors for an investigation into the FCADV by the state of Florida. If I had not shared my story with The Miami Herald, the investigative reporters would not have taken a deep-dive into this organization. While I was told by many that I […]

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The largest impact my advocacy has led to is opening up the doors for an investigation into the FCADV by the state of Florida. If I had not shared my story with The Miami Herald, the investigative reporters would not have taken a deep-dive into this organization.

While I was told by many that I would not make a change, I felt otherwise. I never imagined that domestic violence victims in Florida would have more resources and financial aid once the organization was taken out of statute.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Ballon, founder of Raising Awareness For The Innocent, an initiative to help wrongfully accused victims of the criminal justice system, as well as to promote women’s empowerment. Ballon ― a successful South Florida real estate sales and marketing professional ― is a wrongfully accused victim of the criminal justice system and domestic violence survivor. One night, one call caused her life, and a career that she had built over 23 years, to take a huge turn.

Raising Awareness for the Innocent, which now has over 100,000 followers, brings awareness to those unable to find their voice to share their truths and innocence.

Ballon is the recipient of the 2018 People of Distinction Humanitarian Award by Al Cole from CBS Radio and the Meljourne Woman Award. She has been nominated for a Department of Justice Victim Advocate Award. In addition, she is on the host committee and has raised funds for the Innocence Project of Florida.

Ballon, a California native who splits her time between South Florida and Brentwood, California, is also a frequent speaker, has appeared in the media, and is a published author. Her book, “Fabulous to Framed,” details her wrongful accusation and unjust prosecution for a crime she didn’t commit, following a domestic violence incident, and how she is helping other innocent people from becoming victims of the criminal justice system.

In 2014, Ballon’s then-husband, a former police officer, reached the police first after Amy escaped his grasp and called 911 to tell them she had been beaten. He appeared with a knife wound in his arm and said Amy had stabbed him. The police officers responding to Amy’s 911 call believed her then-husband, and she went to jail. She then embarked on 16-month journey to reclaim her innocence, and another journey, just as long, to have her name cleared.

The success of Ballon’s company and project coincided with her fighting for her justice and truth to be heard. She refused to let her wrongful accusation define or destroy her, despite the reality of the odds being against her.

For more information about Ballon or Raising Awareness For The Innocent, visit www.RaisingAwarenessFortheInnocent.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While successful real estate sales and marketing professional in South Florida, I experienced an incident that would forever change my life. As a result of this incident, my path changed and now my greatest role has been that of a passionate advocate for wrongfully accused victims of the criminal justice system, as well as women’s empowerment in South Florida and beyond.

In 2014, I was brutally attacked by my then-husband, a former police officer, who then famously framed me as the attacker. That night, I called the police in fear of my life, yet I was the one arrested. I was wrongfully charged with a second-degree felony and was facing a 15-year prison sentence if convicted. I refused to take a plea for something I did not do and could never have done. So, I voluntarily took a polygraph test. Sixteen months later, the state of Florida dropped the case, and my wrongful charge was expunged. However, a mugshot tells a different story.

I sought help from the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), Florida’s lead agency on domestic violence, and was introduced to one of its technical trainers. While vowing to help me reclaim my justice, the trainer took advantage of my vulnerable state and cyber-hacked into my devices to cover up his wrongdoings. I refused to remain silent, and a lawsuit was placed against this agency. As a result of my relentless efforts against the agency, Attorney General Ashley Moody recently ordered the dissolution of the organization, which is currently in receivership.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

As a passionate advocate for wrongfully accused victims of the criminal justice system, as well as a women’s empowerment advocate, the most interesting story that came out of my incident was the opportunity to speak in front of the House of Representatives — not once but twice. I was finally provided a platform where my voice was heard. Following this, The Miami Herald published a story about my experience with the FCADV, resulting in an investigation into the organization and uncovering more than initially thought, such as the misuse of public and private funds. Due to the findings from the investigation, the organization was dismantled earlier this year. I wanted to seek change after being victimized a second time, but I never expected such a drastic ending.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When you are accused of a crime you did not commit, and it is a he-said-she-said situation, all you have is your word. I, on the other hand, thought I should play detective for my lawyer. When I was allowed back into my home I shared with my then-husband, I grabbed the shirt I was wearing the night of my attack. It was in my laundry basket and, given there was no blood on it, I felt it was evidence. I also found out my computer had spyware installed into it by my ex-husband, as well as finding glass shards in the area of our home where he destroyed my phone.

Armed with what I thought was evidence to use in a court of law, I immediately phoned my lawyer requesting a meeting. I walked confidently into his office, but he looked at me funny and asked what I would like him to do with all the “evidence” I was presenting him. My former lawyer, who is also a former police officer, shook his head and said to me, “Amy, if the police did not take it, than it is no longer evidence.” I learned very quickly I was not meant to lead an investigation and should stick to my career in real estate.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

The largest impact my advocacy has led to is opening up the doors for an investigation into the FCADV by the state of Florida. If I had not shared my story with The Miami Herald, the investigative reporters would not have taken a deep-dive into this organization.

While I was told by many that I would not make a change, I felt otherwise. I never imagined that domestic violence victims in Florida would have more resources and financial aid once the organization was taken out of statute.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The Innocence Project of Florida is a non-profit organization that really impacted me and pushed me to use my voice. As a wrongfully accused victim of the criminal justice system, yet having the resources to defend myself while facing a mandatory 15-year prison sentence, I felt moved by the men and women who find themselves convicted of crimes they did not commit but do not have the resources to fight for themselves. In May 2016, I sponsored a black-tie event for The Innocence Project of Florida, where there were 15 individuals in attendance, who, when combined, spent more than 300 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. It was a wake-up call on how important it is to be touched by situations we never think about on a day-to-day basis. The Innocence Project of Florida was my partner for the launch of my book, “Fabulous To Framed,” with all proceeds from my book sales donated to defend the men and women who sit innocently in prison.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Absolutely! I became very aware of police officer-involved domestic violence cases — plus, it helped I was married to a man who was an officer. Knowing the laws, my ex-husband was well-aware one of us would go to jail when I ran out of our home that night. Victims will often find themselves revictimized in this type of scenario. I have proposed a bill in regard to the handling of such cases of domestic violence. There are many women who find there is nowhere to turn when their abuser is also a man-of-the-law, and how these incidents are handled need to change drastically. I have proposed my bill to a few state representatives and am hopeful it will be presented next time the House is in session.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I am known to be an effective leader, and you need to lead by example. My experience in management has taught me that, in order to have people follow you, you must first ensure they know how vital they are to the success of a collective team. When I introduce people that report to me, I am always clear to say we are on the same team on a project. It is never about me being their leader, rather us as a team.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s always darkest before the dawn.
  2. Just when you want to give up is when you need to press ahead harder.
  3. All you have is your word so you must speak your truth.
  4. To be a great leader, you must lead by example.
  5. Never give up — fight relentlessly for what you believe in.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire a movement, it would be one of accountability to victims of domestic violence. We have various coalitions in place that offer training and such, but they are not direct-service providers. If we could change that and ensure every dollar given toward domestic violence is given to the victims, we would save a lot more lives. Granting a woman, a permanent restraining order instead of mandating she return to court to ask for one. There are far too many stories of women denied these orders, only to end up murdered by their predators. I think it is all about educating not only those who run the system but also young adults.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite “life lesson quote” is, that which does not kill you, makes you stronger. Life can be tough, and sometimes we are tested to the point of feeling like we are about to break. When I was arrested and found out my mugshot was disseminated to everyone on my LinkedIn by my husband while I was still in jail, I thought I would break. But, in that moment, I had a choice. Was I going to reach out to my 2,200 LinkedIn contacts to defend myself, or was I going to rise above it and let me define my own story? Human nature is to defend oneself, while also learning that, through your actions, what happened to you will not define you. Ultimately, you will be defined by how you handle that which happens to you.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have breakfast or lunch with Erin Brockovich. When I saw the movie about her life, I was inspired by her tenacity and will to keep on going against all odds. When she started on her journey investigating the soil and water in the town she was in, no one took her seriously. However, once she was able to prove she was on to something much bigger than anyone ever thought, people paid attention to her cause and she made a difference. I admire that about her.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://raisingawarenessfortheinnocent.com/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-ballon-24ab3813/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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