We thought we’d won. We thought we’d raised the issue of domestic violence. We thought change was on the horizon.
We were wrong.
We stopped fighting too soon. Domestic violence continues to kill — and not just the victims.
On Feb. 22, 2018 a police officer died aiding a neighbor. The shooter had a long history of domestic violence, an active protective order against him, and three open warrants, including for assault.
A man barred from owning firearms shot two officers in Westerville OH with a gun purchased by a friend, officials say. Both officers died.
Most police officers hate responding to domestics. They’re always unpredictable. Largely because victims quickly learn that even if their abuser is removed from the home, in many if not most states he’s released again by morning or within hours. By then, many victims discover that their abuser has all the economic power – she has no money, no way to escape. She also knows that if he’s arrested after he’s released he’ll come home and things will get ugly. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she doesn’t have many choices – rip her home apart to throw herself and her kids on the kindness of strangers or stay. Most don’t know how to find a shelter. (Few are well-funded. In the US we give more to animal shelters than to domestic violence refuges.) All she wants is for it to stop.
The next officer(s) to respond deal with the result.
As these did. As do their families still and always.
The victims? They become invisible. Forced to live with the knowledge that calling for help got the officers killed.
I remember standing in the shower, getting clean for the first time in a week, and hearing a familiar voice shouting as I turned off the water. The familiar voice was that of the man I’d married. (I empathized with Rob Porter’s ex when she reported something similar.) My knees went weak, and I collapsed. He’d found me. No surprise, most domestic violence victims go to the one place they feel/felt safe. Home.
And he’d come armed for bear with a shotgun to either convince me to return or to kill me if I wouldn’t.
My sister tried to persuade him I wasn’t there. A neighbor, Mr. Blackburn, hearing the shouting, came to help. (This is the time when many who step in get killed.) Somehow, instead, Mr. Blackburn talked my husband into taking a drive around the block to cool off. Then Mr. Blackburn and my sister hurried into the house to sneak me out a side window so if my husband returned he wouldn’t see me.
All I had on was a towel, but Mr. Blackburn’s wife loaned me some clothes. What I’d been wearing – dictated by my husband – reeked.
Then Mr. Blackburn went back to be with my sister while my husband searched the house.
Why didn’t I call the police about my husband’s abuse? First, it was a rural area. Second, because his best friend was one of the local police officers, and my husband frequently went to their picnics. A lot of abusers are friendly with the local police. Like some who abuse, my husband could be personable, even charming. I was told frequently by coworkers and his friends how great a guy he was.
Even if I had, I dreaded the inevitable questions. Like ‘What did you do to make him mad?’ Nothing. I learned what many domestic violence victims learn – that he’s given the benefit of the doubt, while she’s just given the doubt.
For me, what made him angry once was looking up at the wrong time as we were driving we passed a hitchhiker walking along the road. (I never saw him.) My husband was shouting even as he U-turned the car. No sooner did we get inside the house than objects began flying – whatever he could get his hands on. It was his modus operandi, throwing things, and he had deadly aim. (As you can see from the graphic at the top of the page, that’s not unusual.)
Sometimes he just needed to assert his dominance. I woke up once fighting to breathe. He had covered my mouth and nose. He told me he could end me if he wanted. And that wasn’t the worst of it. As is fairly common with some abusers, he escalated. There were guns everywhere. When he lost his temper or needed to prove his dominance, he pointed them at me. Russian Roulette, with my head as the target. I knew I had to leave, but to my shock, I discovered my car was gone. (I didn’t know then that he’d sold it, as well as emptying my bank account.)
That same weekend he went out the back door with a bundle in his arms, things I recognized. My clothes. All of them. Pictures. My precious first story – handwritten and irreplaceable. He lit a match and set it all ablaze.
I wanted to stop him…but there were the guns.
When he left for work he locked me in the cellar, in the dark. He’d left me clothes, baggy stuff. When he wasn’t home, I was locked in the basement. I was allowed to shower only when he gave me permission.
If my sister hadn’t shown up, wondering where I was… I heard her calling my name and banging on the door. I knew if I stayed, he’d kill me eventually. It was something he’d threatened to do… He’d also told me one of his fantasies – to walk down the street shooting everyone. That wasn’t a side of him I’d ever seen before we married, and wouldn’t have until he felt safe. Or so doctors told me.
If I didn’t get out but damaged the door, he’d see… If I didn’t try, I’d never escape, and one day he would kill me. I knew that. So, I threw my shoulder at the door, shouting for my sister not to leave. And the door gave way.
That’s how I wound up going home. There was nowhere else to go.
After my ex didn’t find me, he left, but he was suspicious. He kept driving around the block. So they snuck me out, crouched on the back seat floor of Mr. Blackburn’s car.
Mr. Blackburn paid for me to stay at a hotel out of his own pocket, but even that wasn’t safe.
When the phone rang I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting a call. It was the minister at my church. The minister had heard I had left. He said he’d talked to my husband, who told him he’d frightened me and thought I needed to talk with someone. I asked if my ex was there, and the minister said no. I told him that my husband was dangerous. He assured me I’d be safe – he just wanted to talk to me. So I went. When I got there I could hear the choir practicing upstairs. It was reassuring.
Shortly after I arrived, though, the door to the minister’s office opened, and my husband walked in. He smiled and patted his pocket, which hung heavy. He commented on how good the choir sounded. The threat was clear. At least to me.
I didn’t dare tell the truth with him there, and at the end, we went ‘home.’ He took the handgun out of his pocket and put it on the car seat between us.
The first time I tried to call for help, my husband came home within minutes. There were no cell phones in the house, he beat me with the handset of the phone. Then he left for work, promising he’d be calling to check on me. I waited for the phone to ring. It did, and I answered. As soon as he hung up, knowing I couldn’t call the local police, I called the minister. I told him he’d gotten me into this, he could get me out. Then I quickly hung up.
And waited for the phone to ring again, or for my ex to come home. Nothing. I quickly called the minister back and gave him my address. He wouldn’t come to the house. Instead, he told me to meet him at a car dealership over a mile away. I went out a back window since all the doors were locked. I ran along the backyards, fearing that any moment I’d hear a car, a shout. I was terrified.
Not taking any chances, the minister had two other men with him. The only support I had? My puppy.
It wasn’t as if my ex gave up, but when he showed up at the house, Mr. Blackburn had his wife ready to call the state police and said so. Mr. Blackburn gave my ex a choice: the cops or the mental health ward at the hospital. My ex chose the hospital. There they diagnosed him as potentially schizophrenic with violent fantasies.
Even knowing the situation, the hospital didn’t give me a heads-up that he was out. It wasn’t required, then or now. The only blessing was that when he found me, he hadn’t gone home for a gun first.
Many of those who commit domestic violence stalk their exes. It’s not uncommon.
As we saw here in Central Ohio. The two officers had no idea what they were walking into. All they knew was that there was a 911 hang-up call. It wasn’t the first time they’d responded to a call from that home. She’d called when she tried to file for a protection order and again when he showed up at the house anyway. After she refused to let him in, she called again when he seemed to be messing with her car. Despite those incidents and others, and despite the fact he was a convicted felon, he wasn’t arrested.
What many don’t realize is that not only does this put the officers at risk, but it can be a sign of worse things to come. Bad behavior becomes worse. In some cases, the abuser turns on the victim’s entire family. In others, he turns on strangers who try to help. Or the responding officers.
Here it resulted in the deaths of two officers while the victim crouched in the bushes outside her home in fear for her baby still inside. She listened to the gunshots and called 911. Since then, she’s virtually disappeared. I feel for her; she called for help and the responding officers died.
And I feel for the officers’ families.
It’s time and past time for people to start taking domestic violence and its victims seriously and to actually do something about the rampant gun violence besides offering prayers and sympathy.
Personally, I support second amendment rights for those who like to hunt deer or rabbits, but a military-style weapon is meant to kill people, and concealed carry was supposed to be limited to those who needed protection, not everyone.
Let’s have sensible gun laws – bans on military-style weapons, licenses for firearms like you have to drive a car, with training and background checks for those who want to own one, and to keep guns out of the hands of those with a history of violence or mental illness. Rather than parades, have buy-backs of the military-style weapons out there.
Make America Safe Again for everyone. If anything good is to come out of the horrific shootings in Parkland FL it should be that.
Survivors of Parkland, keep protesting. Keep raising your voices. You inspire the rest of the world.
#MeToo? Support them, but don’t stop protesting how women are still harassed and abused. It won’t stop unless we make changes.
The first step has been taken – https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/oregon-legislature-passes-bill-banning-people-with-domestic-violence-convictions-from-owning-guns/ar-BBJtgeI
However, the Republican-led Congress has no desire or incentive to do anything about any of this – not with their history towards women and gun violence.
#TimesUp #metoo #EnoughisEnough #NeverAgain #GunControl
(P. S. This is the only time I will talk about this. I don’t need sympathy. I’ve learned to live without it. I’m not a ‘survivor;’ this is just something that happened to me. I did want to say that I know what it’s like to have to hide from someone who wants to kill – and no one should have to live with that fear.)