Woman forges ahead with new life, but scars remain

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 5, 2003

(Editor's note:

The names of the people in this story have been changed to protect their identity. This is the second of a five-part series on domestic violence.)

She is a small woman with long dark hair and a pleasant smile.

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Friendly and warm, she could be anybody's next-door neighbor.

It is hard to believe looking at her now that six years ago, Jane nearly died at the hands of man who swore he loved her. Jane is a survivor of domestic violence.

Trouble from the beginning

Jane and Bill were married for five years, and she remembers that the cycle of abuse began almost immediately.

"He was very controlling," Jane said.

Shortly after the birth of her son, the physical violence began. It was almost as though Bill was angry at having to share her with anyone else, even their own child. After each beating, Jane said Bill would try to smooth things over.

"It was like a honeymoon period, and he would try to be nice," Jane said.

But the honeymoons were always short-lived.

The incident that led to her leaving her abusive marriage happened in June 1997. One day, Bill became angry over Jane's decision to allow one of the children to visit a family member. In his rage, he began a tirade against Jane that would last 14 hours and leave her so bloody and battered that she was literally unrecognizable.

As their four-year-old son watched, Bill beat Jane with a baseball bat and stomped repeatedly on her legs. When she reached out to comfort her traumatized son, Bill smashed her fingers with drumsticks. The police officer who responded to Bill's eventual call for help noted in his report that he thought he was looking at a corpse of two weeks. Jane was still alive - barely.

In spite of his efforts to cover up his crime, police arrested Bill on kidnapping and assault charges. He is now serving a 16-year prison sentence.

The road to recovery

Concerned about how her children would react to seeing their mommy's battered face and body, Jane asked that her children be kept away from her while she was in the hospital.

"I didn't want them to see me like that. I knew they knew what had happened, but they didn't know to what extent," she said.

The separation was the last straw for children whose home life had been difficult already.

"The children had a double trauma in that they lost their father, who was in jail, and their mother was in the hospital and they couldn't see her. Being very young, they couldn't understand," Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force Director Ruthanne Delong said.

After several weeks in the hospital - two weeks in intensive care - Jane spent more than a year in physical therapy because of the damage done to muscle tissue in her battered legs.

Scar tissue from the beating has left her with a multitude of health problems, some of which she will never fully recover from. She still suffers from recurring hip and knee problems. Her fractured cheek bones will never heal, and the slightest infection will cause intense headaches. Facial pain is frequent. The trauma of the beating caused a tumor to form in her leg. Jane still sometimes wears leg braces to counteract the damage done by the beating. Standing for any length of time will cause her feet and knees to swell rapidly.

At times the fluid that collects around her knees causes the skin to fold over her knees. One arm still slips out of socket from time to time. Teeth that were cracked from the repeated blows have had to be coated in porcelain.

The financial repercussions of the incident were a burden as well.

"We had a house with a mortgage on it. Bills stacked up while I was in the hospital, and then the medical bills piled up, too," Jane said.

Her step-mother contacted the Ohio Victims Compensation Program, which paid hospital bills and provided money for rehabilitation.

Recovery, both physically and mentally, has been a slow process, not only for her but for her children.

"My son had nightmares," Jane said. "There are times when he still wakes up just screaming these blood-curdling screams. For a long time, my kids couldn't sleep through the night. My son would wake up three or four times a night."

The trouble at home turned into trouble at school.

"We were spinning around so much that I didn't understand a lot of things about why my kids were not doing do well," Jane said. "They (counselors) detected some ADHD (Attention Deficit/ Hyperactive Disorder) in the kids. They've gone from failing grades to B's and C's."

Through years of counseling, her son's behavior is improving as well. The child who witnessed his mother's abuse acted out with aggression and temper tantrums. Jane said that because of counseling, he is showing improvement in getting along with groups of people, and is starting to come out of his shell.

One of the most difficult battles Jane has had to fight is with her former in-laws who still support their son and brother, regardless of what he had done.

Bill's parents requested visitation with the children. Jane agreed until the grandparents began trying to usurp her authority over the children, and against her specific objections, took her son to see his father in prison.

"The grandfather also offered me $10,000 to get me to sign papers saying she was not afraid (of Bill), and to let them continue with visitation," Jane said.

She was forced to go to court and have grandparents' visitation discontinued.

"Had we not intervened and got the visitation stopped, I think the problems with the children would be worse today," Delong said. "I think her son would have been a very mixed-up young man."

Jane sought the support of the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force after moving to the county in 1998.

"When I got ahold of this organization, things got better," Jane said.

The task force helped her prepare for and fight her ex-husband's request for an early release from prison in 2000.


The violence of her marriage and the recovery from the severe beating has left her with a different outlook on life.

"It's changed me a lot," Jane said. "I'm more aware now of people's actions. When I go to a ball game with my daughter, I look around and see certain things now."

Jane now has a new relationship with a man she calls her "pillar of strength,"

Tom, someone she had known previously and with whom she has rekindled a friendship.

What advice would she give to others in such a situation?

"The best way you can, leave. Women who think they have to have money to leave, well, money isn't everything. You just need to make a few phone calls,"Jane said.

Of her own experience, Jane said simply: "I know the kids have come a long way, I feel like I have."

Delong said family members who know that domestic violence is occurring with loved ones can not be complacent, and hope the violence will go away.

"Until we realize that this is a community problem, a family problem, it won't go away. Until we make it our business, women will continue to suffer."