Victim tells story for first time
Woman ended long-term abusive relationship
October 29, 2008
Anna was first beaten by the man she would marry just three months after they began dating. The beatings continued during their 13-year marriage that produced three children.
Sure, she tried to leave, but he promised to change. He even moved the family from up north to Southern Indiana, where Anna's family lived — the same family that he had refused to let her see for years.
However, things didn't change, and although she had talked with Crisis Connection, an area advocacy agency, about the situation, she just couldn't pull herself away from the relationship. That is until her husband hit her while she had the youngest of their children, a baby at the time, in her arms.
In early 2005, Anna gathered up the children and tried to leave, but her husband, who had been so controlling during their marriage, had different plans.
"My husband held me hostage with my three kids," she said.
Anna and the children finally made it out of the house, but not before she physically paid the price for doing so. Having been gagged and bound by mechanical ties to a chair, those ended up being the slightest of her bruises. Photos from her examination a couple of days later showed a woman who had been all but broken. Yellow, black and blue bruises covered her back and bloodied face, and her hand had a nasty cut from where he bit her while she was trying to get out of the door.
Fortunately, Anna, whose name was changed for this article and who was sharing her message for the first time publicly at a domestic violence community outreach event at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School Thursday evening, Oct. 16, finally made it out of that door, while her now ex-husband is behind locked doors, serving a 20-year prison sentence (eligible for parole after 10) after being charged with 11 felonies, including four counts of attempted murder.
Despite being divorced and in prison, her ex-husband still tries to remain in contact with Anna, violating court-issued protective orders, by calling and writing her and her friends.
"So, he's always going to be there," she said. "He's going to try to be there."
But, so is Anna, she said, pledging to be at his parole hearing, arguing against his early release.
"Everybody wants to know why you didn't leave," Anna said. "You can't leave unless you're strong enough."
After the family moved to Southern Indiana, she began getting stronger, developing support from Crisis Connection officials and her family.
Today, Anna is a new woman, one who, although still physically and emotionally shaken from what she went through, is far stronger.
"I feel a whole lot better," she said. "I feel more secure about myself, and it took a long time."
Unfortunately, not everyone becomes strong enough to leave. From July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, 65 people in Indiana, mostly women, lost their lives due to domestic violence.
Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg, who led the program, entitled "Is Your Mother/Daughter/Sister/Grandchild a Victim of Domestic Violence?," shared several statistics, all pointing out that domestic violence, which can include verbal, economic, sexual and physical attacks, is everyone's issue, not just that of the victim.
"If you hear domestic violence occurring, call 911 and give your name, so if the person being victimized" doesn't feel like they can go forward with law enforcement officials, there is someone else who can support them, she said.
"We need to support each other and the (various advocacy) programs" by attending programs like the one on Oct. 15, held in recognition of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and making donations, so they can continue to offer much-needed services, Hillenburg said.
Besides Hillenburg and Anna, a panel of officials who deal with domestic violence described their experiences and answered questions from the 40-plus people in attendance. The panel included Teresa Faulkner, a therapist at Southern Hills Counseling Center; Beth Stein, executive director of Crisis Connection; Suetta Fischer of Hoosier Hills PACT; Lisa McSpadden of The Center for Women and Families; Dennis Talley, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officer; and Debbie Young, Leavenworth town marshal and a deputy at the Crawford County Sheriff's Department.
The panel talked about the importance of victims making that first phone call and if they don't get the response they need, to keep calling other agencies until they get the help they need. That help includes various shelters, counseling and guidance, including the development of a safety plan.
"It's not an event when you leave," Stein said. "Sometimes it's a process … because (the victim) has to detach herself from that lifestyle."
Young admitted it can be frustrating for police when a woman who is being beaten won't leave, but it's far from uncommon.
"We expect this to happen. At least seven times they go back before they go to a shelter," she said.
Stein encouraged the public to help in getting the phone numbers of the various agencies posted through the community, including at libraries and churches.
Talley added that while someone who knows of domestic violence against an adult doesn't have to report it, although they should, if a child is being abused, they legally must do so.
Following the panel discussion, Prevent Child Crawford County presented stuffed bears to law enforcement officers to be given to children in abusive situations.
Crawford County victims of domestic violence can get help by calling any of the following agencies:
•Crawford County Sheriff's Department (emergency and safety), 338-2082;
•Crawford County Child Protection (child abuse reporting/assistance), 338-2701;
•The Center for Women and Families domestic and sexual violence advocates), 365-2338;
•Crisis Connection (domestic and sexual assault services), 1-800-245-4580;
•Comfort House (child sexual abuse treatment), 1-812- 225-5437;
•Hoosier Hills PACT (criminal justice advocates), 338-2969; and
•Southern Hills Counseling Center (counseling services), 1-877-338-2756.
The program was sponsored by representatives from Southern Hills Counseling Center, Purdue Extension Agency, Crawford County High School Family Careers and Community Leaders of America, Crawford County Prosecutor's Office, The Center for Women and Families, Crisis Connection, Hoosier Hills PACT and the Crawford County Prevent Child Abuse Council.