Helena Duke was told by her mother last year that she was no longer welcome in her home because the teen participated in a Black Lives Matter rally. Duke's mother, Therese, is a fervent Donald Trump supporter who warned her daughter she was exposing herself to violence at the BLM event. Instead, it was Therese who found herself roughed up after the older woman traveled to Washington last week to support Trump's efforts to overturn an election he lost. A gathering of Trump supporters culminated in an attempted insurrection that saw the U.S. Capitol breached, legislators hiding for their lives, and the deaths of at least five people.
Therese initially lied to her daughter about her whereabouts last week, reports Buzzfeed News, saying she was accompanying a relative to a medical procedure.
With help from her cousin, Helena identified her mother, along with her aunt and uncle, in videos showing a violent confrontation the day before Wednesday's attempted coup. Therese and the aunt, Annie Lenz, and uncle, Richard Lenz were apparently in a confrontation with a Black woman, who Therese allegedly grabbed. Therese was hit in the face and the footage showed her covered in blood.
"My initial reaction was more like, Oh my gosh, I was right. I was actually right about them being there," Helena, 18, told BuzzFeed News. "It was very surreal because it was an insane video, first of all, and then it was the revelation that, Oh, that's my mother. That's her."
Instead of stifling her hurt and anger, Helena posted the video and identified her mom, aunt, and uncle. The tweets quickly went viral, with thousands of people sharing stories of how they've lost friends and relatives to the Trump cult. Helena says her mother was previously a Democrat but had a hard switch to the right when Trump won the Electoral College in 2016.
Many contacted Helena with similar stories of family members lost to Trump and QAnon. "I think it kind of makes me feel better knowing other people have gone through the same thing," Helena said. "I obviously feel very sad that they have to go through it too, but that I'm not alone, and that they're not alone."
It's not clear whether Therese or the Lenzes stormed the Capitol, but they are now back home and begged Helena to remove her tweets; Helena refused.
"[My mother] told me she thought Black Lives Matter was a violent organization and they would be inciting violence," she says of her family's hypocrisy and racism. "I am honestly very disappointed to have to be part of this family that is so ... just, very not welcoming or supportive. I don't feel safe being part of this family."
Cut off financially from her family, Helena is now seeking donations so she can attend law school and participate in the Peace Corps.