Remembrance gives voice to victims of domestic violence

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 30, 2018

 Purple ribbons aim to raise awareness and prevention of domestic violence.

Purple ribbons aim to raise awareness and prevention of domestic violence.

Photo by Edward Osinski

TROY — Pat has survived domestic violence spanning two generations.

She was the keynote speaker at the Silent Witness Commemoration Ceremony at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Oct. 15.

Pat, whose last name was not listed in the event program, met her husband in 1974, when they were both in their senior year of college. They became engaged in 1978, planned the wedding and began looking for a place to live.

“We had a strong religious faith in God. … We both wanted a family and three children.

“During the 15-year marriage, my evenings and weekends were filled with insults, threats and sexual demands,” she said. “I did not think my children were aware of this because they were so young.”

That was not the case.

Super Bowl Sunday 1994 was the last time she was beaten by her husband.

“I knew we needed to make our escape because just the day before, all three of my children expressed their fear for my safety,” she said.

So they made a plan. Pat planned to consult an attorney on Monday.

She said the beating started at 5:30 a.m.

“He flung me around the family room like a rag doll. I felt a snap in my back. He threw me to the floor and bounced my head off the carpeted concrete and kicked me. He threw me onto the couch, demanding, ‘Get a knife and stab me right here.’

“That made no sense to me,” she said. “I was not going to get a knife. It would be a weapon he could use on me.”

Angry that she did not do what he asked, he threw her on the floor, bouncing her head on the hard surface, and kicked her, she said.

When he stopped, she asked his permission to attend church with her children. “This was the only way my children and I could leave.”

Pat’s pastor had urged her to go to the church the next time something happened. He said they would help her. So she went, and the responding police officer wanted her to get medical attention. In the emergency room, X-rays revealed broken ribs, blunt-trauma damage to her neck and smashed fingers that needed splints.

“Based on the extent of my injuries and his demand for the knife, the charge was felonious assault with intent to inflict great bodily harm,” she said.

She was released from the hospital and taken to her brother’s home, where she said she expected to be met with support. She was the youngest of five children.

 

A chilling reception
Instead, Pat said they “refused to let me and my children rest our heads in any of their homes. My brother said, ‘You got what you deserved.’”

She said her father beat her mother, stopping after Pat, as an 8-year-old child, answered the phone and told the caller that her father couldn’t come to the phone because he was beating her mother.

Pat said that after leaving her home, she found that the Turning Point shelter was full. She and her children lived in a hotel until she could return home when her husband was at work and have the locks changed.

In the interim, she contacted a lawyer and filed for a restraining order.

Her husband faced the charges against him and was sentenced to probation and classes on alternatives to domestic aggression.

“He twisted the lessons to his advantage. He learned just how far he could go before his behavior was considered unacceptable. He threatened to commit suicide if I filed for divorce. He threatened to sue for defamation of character if I told anyone the reason for him not living with us. He expected to be allowed to return home … stating, ‘I’ve changed.’”

Three years later, in the courtroom after the protracted divorce was finalized, she said he turned to her and said, “You’ll be lucky if you make it home alive.”

“It was in counseling where I learned that I did not deserve his treatment of me. Although I married for better or worse, his rage was not a condition supported by worse.”

Pat said that now, over 20 years later, she suffers from flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I am grateful to Victim’s Rights Advocacy and Turning Point, whose goal is to empower survivors. More needs to be done, and I challenge you to be part of the change by not laughing when comedians tell jokes that insult or demean an individual.

“Respect those who have survived. Do not judge. If you see someone being mistreated, stop, stare and dial 911. Do not turn away so as not to get involved.”

Artists and writers in Minnesota began the Silent Witness Remembrance program in 1990 and depicted life-size outlines of the 26 people who had lost their lives to domestic violence in the state that year.

Beaumont Hospital, Troy, held its first such ceremony in 2011. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S.,” Brad Lukas, an administrator of clinical services for Beaumont Hospital, Troy, said during the ceremony.

“Every patient is asked in a safe and secure setting if they feel safe in their home. Information is available (for victims) throughout the hospital,” he said.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, Utica Mayor Thom Dionne and Troy Mayor Dane Slater read the names of the 18 confirmed victims of domestic violence who died in Michigan over the past year.

Dominica Tokarski, of Turning Point, which offers services to end domestic and sexual violence, said that although the shelter is “pretty much always full,” it’s fullest in the summer, when women feel it is easier to leave with their children.

She urged those who wish to help to consider making a donation of clothing, shoes, housewares, furniture or time to Second Hand Rose, “so victims have the opportunity to set up house.”

Operated by Turning Point, Second Hand Rose is a resale shop in Mount Clemens where those staying at the shelter may shop for free. All store profits support Turning Point.

For more information on Second Hand Rose, call (586) 468-3083. Reach Turning Point’s 24/7 crisis line at (586) 463-6990.