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Abusive life can be escaped

Published 12:02am Sunday, October 7, 2012

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time set aside to focus the spotlight on what domestic abuse is and the resources available to help those who suffer at the hands of people who claim to love them.

Jane Smith is a Tri-State woman whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

To Jane Smith, every month is domestic violence awareness month. She was a victim of a man who often left her covered in bruises and once tried to kill her. But she got away from her abuser and Smith now calls herself a survivor.

 

How it started

Jane met John Smith shortly after he got out of the military.

Like many abusers, Smith said her ex-husband could be very charming in public and was charming to her at first.

“My family loved him. It was hard to tell them what was going on,” Smith said. “He was handsome, personality-plus.”

Domestic violence advocates will tell you abusers rarely start a relationship by beating their victims. First there are the put downs, the insults, the comments.

There was the verbal abuse to make her feel unworthy. He would often make derisive comments about her “college educated mind.” Smith will tell you the verbal and emotional abuse is often more crushing to the victim than the physical violence.

When the violence began, Smith at first thought it was a painful but normal part of the male-female relationship. After all, she grew up seeing men abuse women and children. Over time, though, she came to hate what was happening to her. She came to hate the controlling, angry person whose fists ruled their home and their marriage.

“There was once I was so disfigured you couldn’t recognize me other than my eyes,” Smith said.

When she called the police on him for abuse, the police would take him away, but he would come back, angrier than ever and the abuse would be worse.

The Smiths and their abusive relationship became well-known to the judge who heard and dealt with John Smith’s many trips to court.

Smith said she would frequently leave and hide from him but somehow John always found her, even when she moved.

“I left him five times,” Smith said. “I had D.P.O.s and C.P.O.s and I would drop them.”

In 1995 he started abusing her in front of the children, something that has affected their two daughters to this day, she said, even though the girls are now grown.

“At one point social services got involved and one social worker told Smith she had to choose her children or her abuser. Her daughters were taken away from her three times before she finally made her permanent break from John.

 

Help from those who care

“I’ve been in five spouse abuse centers — I didn’t even know they existed — since 1995,” Smith said.

Over time, the help she received at these domestic violence centers began to strengthen Smith’s understanding of what domestic abuse is, and that for the sake of her and her children, she had to get away from it.

At one center, a counselor asked her to write down what had been the most serious abuse she had encountered. Smith had trouble deciding which incident was worse than the others.

“Thank God for her (the counselor). She made me realize what I was going through,” Smith said.

She started divorce proceedings in 1999 but it took two years to finalize it because her husband frequently stalled the process.

Smith laments that laws to protect victims are weak and often ineffective.

“I’ve seen me and others brutally hurt and it’s just an assault charge,” Smith said.

 

A life worth living

Smith completed her bachelor’s degree after her divorce, which she considers tangible proof that she is stronger than she once thought she was.

She has a job and a life away from the man who professed his love for her and yet tormented her. She is firm in her belief that domestic violence counselors and advocates can help victims become survivors. She is, after all, living proof.

“Those agencies and programs are there to help you,” Smith said.

  • friendly5823

    Its sad that Lawrence County has come down to all this. I would feel safer in a gated community then standing beside any sheriff deputy from our local department. These courts are giving babies to mothers and fathers that have needles stuck out their arms and a beer in their hands. They want to take children away from parents that dont have financial or legal pull with in the court walls and give them to strangers or abusive ex-spouses. There is no such thing as Justice in Lawrence County, there is no such thing as being safe in Lawrence County. I pray for all the good people out their trying to make it. God Bless!

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  • Poor Richard

    Several weeks ago ‘Mayberry Days’ drew crowds from around the United States. The idyllic television town with Andy Taylor as sheriff and good-hearted Barney Fife as deputy once represented many American towns across the country.

    I could hardly picture Opie on drugs, or the town teenagers and adults running rampant vandalizing and terrorizing citizens but that is what our towns have now become. I could not imagine Andy beating his girlfriend or Aunt B. I cannot imagine walking down the streets of Mayberry seeing homes with trash and garbage everywhere and welfare recipients sipping their cold beers on their front porch while the rest of us work. I can’t imagine the noise and the cussing and domestic fighting so prevalent in southern Ohio occurring to any degree in Mayberry.

    I think of my friends that live in various locations around the area and the relentless and constant harassment and problems they have with drug heads, criminals, and just plain senseless, useless people that live around them. So many of them moving away and who really could blame them? This is not a place for women and I’m surprised southern Ohio was not on the PBS show about oppressed women.

    There comes a point when citizens must feel like soldiers coming back from a war. The constant fear of not knowing what the terrorists will do next. Not knowing if they will come back home from going to dinner and their home will be burnt to the ground. Along with that comes the trespassing, sneaking around neighborhoods at night, theft, bullies, vandalism, trash/garbage everywhere, loud cars, parties, ATVs, guns, violence against women and children, you name it, they do it at all hours of the night and day. What neighborhood terrorists do to good people is beyond comprehension and the fact that the state and local government does little to end this rampage is inexcusable.

    Today, the only place that might be similar to Mayberry would be a gated community. I think it will come to that, a gate and high fence to keep them all out. Security guards to shoot them off the walls.

    How sad that our criminal justice system has failed us – unbelievably failed us. How sad that our government funds these idiots to set on their porches, aggravate hard-working people day and night, and give them cell phones to call in their drug deals. Despicable. Each and everyone of them should be tried in a court of law for terrorism, because that is exactly what they are – neighborhood terrorists!

    (Report comment)

  • friendly5823

    My question is to Ms. Smith is was she able to get help from the Law County Court house. My ex has history of violence and they want to give him full custody of our children. I have no history not even a speeding ticket. How do you get help from all this when the man that follows you around works for the system?? Someome help me please!

    (Report comment)

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