Woman rebuilding after abuse

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2003

According to an old saying, inside every overweight person, is a thin person just trying to get out.

The same could be said of domestic violence victims -inside every women who has been oppressed and abused,

a victorious woman is waiting to emerge from her ordeal. She only needs to find the help to make it happen.

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Sally is one of those women. After five years of a violent marriage, she said she found help through the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force that changed her life.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

When Sally first met Fred, she did not know that inside of her mild-mannered suitor was an abusive man waiting for the opportunity to make her a victim. She described Fred as a quiet man. As it turned out, this quiet man had secrets - one of them was a taste for alcohol.

"We dated two years, but I worked and I only saw him once or twice a week," Sally said. "I worked in a professional environment and my job kept me busy. I didn't have a lot of time for him. I didn't know the signs of alcohol abuse and I didn't know that by the time I saw him, he had already downed a 12-pack."

Sally became pregnant and decided to marry Fred. She said she did not know about the cycle of domestic abuse until she became pregnant and Fred moved her to Lawrence County, away from her career, her family and friends - anyone who knew her and would help her out of what became a nightmare.

"Once I saw him more often,

I began to realize a new side of him," Sally said. "I was not aware until then how alcohol affected him. As my pregnancy progressed, I realized I was trapped and I had no way out."

The woman who used to know what it was like to be independent and confident soon learned something new -


Fred had a violent side and his drinking made it worse. With each episode of abuse, the confident, positive Sally began to pale.

"I was so afraid of him and his family," Sally said. "I had nowhere to go, that's why I put up with it so long."

Making her situation more complex was her children's health. Sally and Fred would have two children, both suffering from health problems. A mother with two small children who require special care had to think twice about any move she made and how it would affect the well-being of her children.

Without a job, Sally was also financially dependent on Fred, who doled out money sparingly. What he did not know was that once Sally made up her mind to get out of the relationship, she began secretly saving every penny she could - a source of funds when she finally got up the nerve to leave.

Making the break

Sally's fear of Fred was so deep that even after she got a

lawyer to draw up a temporary protective order against him, she did not have the courage to give it to him immediately. She asked a deputy at the sheriff's office to keep the TPO on file and she would use it the next time Fred became violent.

"He came home drunk,

got angry and left, and the deputies found him and served him the papers," Sally said.

The divorce became final in 1999, but Fred continued to harass Sally and the children. He would show up uninvited and unannounced at their house, demanding and violent. Afraid of what he would do if he got angrier than he already was, Sally let him in and did whatever he wanted to placate him, in hopes he would leave her alone.

One night in 2000, after experiencing another of Fred's intrusions, Sally dialed the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and asked for help. Sgt. Randy Goodall responded to her call, and Sally said her life changed forever.

"He spent an hour with me, explaining what domestic violence is and told me about the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force," Sally said. "He handed me Ruthanne's

(Delong) phone number and said 'your life will start over,' and it did."

Sally said before then, she didn't know she had options for dealing with an alcoholic, abusive ex-husband who showed up at will and terrorized not only her life but her children's as well. Working with Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force Director Ruthanne Delong changed all of that.

"This office helps educate people on how they get into this situation. It can help anyone who wants to restructure their life," Sally said.

Sally said that while the problems with Fred continue, the counseling she has receive through the domestic violence task force has given her the resources to deal with Fred and to start a new life.

"I thought I was a strong person before, but now I know I am," Sally said. "I've gained my life, my freedom, my self-esteem, my ability to control more than I did, and friends," Sally said. "That's what this place has done."