National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

What is domestic violence?

Posted:  Friday, October 25, 2013 - 6:00pm
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Warning: Story contains descriptions of violence and abuse.

What is domestic violence?  

Over the past 10 years, reporters at the Boothbay Register have researched and written numerous articles to help inform its readers.

That research included interviews with former Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe, Tina Tucker of New Hope For Women, Boothbay Harbor Police Chief Bob Hasch, Dr. Steven Feder (local pediatrician), local licensed clinical social worker Tammy Blackman, and domestic violence investigators Bob McFetridge (Lincoln County) and Steve Edmondson (Sagadahoc County), and members of Boothbay's former Domestic Abuse Prevention Council.

Domestic violence is about power and control and is a learned behavior. It threatens the lives of women, the elderly, teens, children, pets and, yes, sometimes men.

Abusers often deny the physical and emotional abuse they cause or try to minimize it. They have a long list of reasons or excuses for the control and violence they exercise over their victims. In short, it is never the abuser’s fault.

Domestic violence can  be physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual and or financial in nature. It can also include stalking and the use of technology: cell phones (through the tracking, camera and video functions); GPS (global positioning system); computer spyware that enables an abuser or stalker to read all of a victim's email; and the use of Facebook and the Internet in general to keep tabs on and harass victims.

In observance of domestic violence awareness month, the Register is proud to print a fictional survivor's story, “Sometimes 'someone else' is you.”

Because New Hope For Women is the agency serving Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Knox and Waldo counties, we have used it as the resource for the woman in the piece.

A sidebar with local resources and services is offered in the hope that they can help someone, can save someone from the pain and suffering caused by domestic violence.

The fictional account has been published in its entirety solely on the paper's website, www.boothbayregister.com.

Please share this story and help raise awareness of domestic violence.

Sometimes 'someone else' is you

A fictional story of domestic violence

By LISA KRISTOFF

I still flinch at an unexpected sound. Sometimes, when the phone rings, my hand still trembles when I answer.

Is it Damon checking up on me? And, worse, has he somehow found me? Is he watching me right now?

When I first met Damon he was the most interesting, attentive, romantic man I'd ever known. He sent me flowers, emailed poetry, called me every day to say he missed me. He stopped by my apartment just to say hi while he was on his mail route.

He loved me. He couldn't wait to finish work (he was a mailman), so we could be together. Couldn't I see we were destined for one another?

Damon was always demanding more and more of my time. He kept pressing me to move in with him. But I wasn't ready to share my space with anyone.

Still, he was at my apartment all the time. I guess I was in denial of our actual living arrangement. We had only been dating two weeks.

Prior to his arrival in my life, three girlfriends and I would have dinner and drinks on Friday nights. After a month of not seeing them and listening to their usual jokes about being attached at the hip, too in love to keep in touch with the girls, that kind of thing, I decided I had to go. I missed them.

I hadn't even seen my next door neighbor Yvonne, a lovely, elderly woman whom I had befriended, just to chat.

So, on the pretext of going to the store, I decided I would meet the girls at a new restaurant. I went to Yvonne's and asked if I could use her phone. Yvonne asked what was wrong with my phone. I told her I had misplaced my battery charger.

You see, I was beginning to think Damon was checking my phone for calls, texts, website visits ....  I called Sherry and asked her to call the others and suggested a new restaurant. She was all for it and was sure the others would be, too. It had been a long time.

I knew I was taking a chance.

Damon had taken to timing me whenever I left the house. He often made comments about my wearing lipstick “just to go to the store.” When I would get home he'd question why it took me so long. It was an interrogation, and I couldn't help but hear the subtle nastiness in his tone.

I just needed to get out. Get away from him. My instincts were telling me this relationship was unhealthy, but how often does anyone ever pay attention to instinct?

Yet, information in articles I had read over the years about domestic violence floated in and out of my consciousness. But, I dismissed it; after all, domestic abuse happened to other people, not to me. And Damon had never touched me. And I was an intelligent woman, right?

Still, one article about using cell phones to track people kept popping up in my head.

I decided to check the privacy settings on my cell phone. My heart sank. Heat coursed through my body. The location service was on. I remembered deliberately making sure it was off. I never liked how invasive the bells and whistles on those things could be.

I decided to wait until I was in my car to turn the service off.

It was the first time I would be going out to meet the girls in jeans and a sweater; we usually used it as an occasion to dress up. But I couldn't risk arousing any suspicion. He was already suspicious for no real reason.

I casually walked into the living room, grabbed my purse and told him I had to go to the store, while reaching for my keys in its side pocket. No keys. I looked up to see Damon watching me with an odd expression on his face.

Then he reached in his pocket and dangled the keys in the air. He said I'd have to come and get them.

On the way over to him I explained that I had to go to the store. I wanted to make him a special dinner and I had forgotten to go to the store because I had been so busy writing (I was a freelancer).

I sat in his lap and tried to “woo” my keys from him. He acquiesced, but not before he grabbed me by the hair hard enough to jerk my head back, as he told me to hurry back.

He called out, “I'll be waiting,” as I closed the door.

I walked to the car; I was trembling now. I remember being thankful it was almost dark so that he couldn't see it. I slid into the driver's seat and put the key in the ignition.

Just as I was about to turn the key, he suddenly appeared at the passenger window. I jumped and there was no way he missed it. He asked me to bring him a pack of cigarettes; he was out. Stepping slowly away from the car he blew me a kiss ... again, there was that odd expression on his face.

I took off as though everything was completely normal, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

My hands were shaking. I felt hot. I felt afraid.

Once I got onto the highway I tried to take out my phone, but my hands were still shaking so badly I dropped it on the floor. I pulled over and turned off the location service. I put the phone on vibrate.

I got back on the road and started speeding. I had no idea how often he checked, but I knew I had to put as much distance between us as I could. As quickly as I could.

I could see the restaurant just up ahead and thought about driving by. But I saw Sherry getting out of her car and she turned, saw me and waved. I smiled and waved back. No need alarming anyone. Everything was fine.

Everything was fine.

I pulled in to the parking lot.

The phone was vibrating.

Sherry was waiting, but I motioned for her to go on ahead.

I pulled down the visor and looked at my reflection in the mirror there. The woman reflected there had a clenched jaw, sad eyes and wore a general expression of fear. She shook her head while reaching for her purse, pulled out a lipstick and applied it. Forced a smile. 

More vibrating.

As I walked toward the restaurant door I decided I would not mention what was going on at my apt. If they commented on my appearance, I would just tell the I hadn't been sleeping well (true enough), because I was working on a particularly detailed article.

I just wanted to unwind. To be me. The real me. I was beginning to realize how unlike the real me I was becoming.

When I saw the girls my eyes just started welling up. I couldn't help it. The relief. It was then that I knew I was scared. I was overwhelmed.

Lynne thought a group hug was in order — and then we all ordered a drink. After a bit I started to relax, thanks to the scotch and listening to my friends' tales. As we ordered another drink, I caught Sherry studying me over the top of her glass.

Back in my car, I looked down at my vibrating purse. As I reached for it I saw a pamphlet for New Hope For Women. Who put it there? Sherry? The vibrating continued. I switched on the phone.

Each message was more frantic than the last. It was 7 p.m., where was I? It was 7:30 p.m., where's my cigs?, 8 p.m., where are you? 8:30 p.m., I hope you're having a good time 'cos you'll be paying for it; 9 p.m., 9:15 p.m. Then … I will find you. You think you're so smart shutting off the locator. I don't need it. I will find you ...

I don't remember anymore. My mind was racing. I was sweating, shaking, crying ... scared out of my mind. These were warning signs. If I didn't get out of this relationship, I could become a victim of domestic violence. I needed help. Where could I go? I didn't want to involve my friends.

I drove off.

I decided to get off the main highway and took a back road so I could think. And not have to be aware of traffic.

I pulled over. I leaned my head against the steering wheel. I became aware of a truck driving fast, its high beams coming on my car fast. The truck pulled off the road and hit my car.

I knew it was Damon.

The next thing I remember I was being dragged out of the car by my hair. I broke free and tried to run away. But he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me back to my car. I was screaming for him to stop. He threw me on the hood of my car, hitting me in the face so hard my head moved side to side like a doll.

“You think you're so smart ... I'm so sick of your shit .... Where have you been .... Who have you been with ....”

He yanked me back up by the hair, reached in my car and grabbed my keys.

He threw them in the woods — and threw me on the ground.

I could hear him speaking, but his voice faded in and out. He kept saying, “I'm the only man you will ever know again. You belong to me. Say it. Say it!’

I couldn't speak.

He grabbed me by the throat, brought his face to an ear and yelled “Say it!”

I whimpered.

I saw him raise his hand, and then everything went black.

When I came to I was lying in a closet.

Pain seared through my right arm. I remember thinking, “He broke my arm.”

Barely breathing, I listened for sounds, any sounds.

My head was throbbing, I lifted my left arm and waved it in front of me. I touched the door.

With all the strength I had I kicked the door with both my legs.

I didn't know where I was. There was knocking somewhere. I slowly followed the sound.

I stood at a door. The knocking stopped. I opened it and collapsed.

Ironically, it was a FedEx man delivering a package. I was taken to the hospital. I had a broken arm, broken nose and a concussion.

My friend, Sherry, God love her, became my protector. She called New Hope For Women and they sent someone to see me right away, right there in the hospital.

I couldn't go back to my apartment. Not while he was still out there.

New Hope brought me to a safe house when I was discharged. They helped me obtain a protection from abuse order, and found me a safe place to stay until he was caught.

Damon was finally arrested three days later. They found him at a campground in the next county.

I attended group meetings with other “DV” survivors.

They appointed a court advocate to work with me. I went to counseling to help me deal with what had happened to me.

If it were not for the women at New Hope, Sherry, and the FedEx man, I don't know what would have happened to me.

I might even be dead.

I have been asked to speak at a survivor's support group tonight.

To share this story, my story, and to remind women that domestic violence doesn't always happen to “someone else.”

Sometimes, it happens to you.

Related:

Click here for domestic violence community resources.

Letter to the Editor: Powerful article on domestic violence