- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Some women had it worse.
That was Carol’s response to one nagging question: How could she survive a marriage where she said she was locked in her room for days at a time and assaulted when the money ran low?
“He hit me, kicked me, punched me,” she said calmly between bites of a grilled cheese sandwich at a cafe one afternoon this month.
But she said, “I’ve heard it as bad as spouses pour baby powder on the floor so they could see their wife’s footsteps.”
She’s spent a lot of time thinking of someone else — her children, women in her support group, even her abuser — hoping they don’t suffer too badly.
Now, she’s beginning to think more about herself.
Carol’s husband still lives in St. Mary’s County, she said, and she sees him when he comes to pick up their two boys for visits. So her real name is being withheld.
After several tries and so many calls to police that, she said, by now they “know me well,” Carol left the relationship. That was June last year and now, she’s ready to tell her story. “I hope it can help somebody,” she explained.
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital plans to announce Monday a state grant, about $40,000, to help people in abusive relationships find resources. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) is expected to make the presentation. The money will allow the hospital to have someone available a few hours each week to coordinate the program, said Darla Hardy, director of nursing resources.
But Kathy O’Brien, executive director at Walden Behavioral Health, doesn’t hesitate to say that supporting victims and changing the behaviors of offenders is a year-round effort. Police, counselors, Patuxent River Naval Air Station representatives, community activists, program directors and more meet monthly in St. Mary’s to discuss who is in dire need, what should be improved and how they can help. “A woman in the United States is beaten every nine seconds,” O’Brien said. “It’s the leading cause of injury to women.”
Earlier this month, Maryland State Police said James Daniel Dean shot his wife, Angela Dean in the arm and in the chest, then shot himself in the head. He died at their Hollywood home. Angela Dean was taken to Prince George’s Hospital Center and had been in critical care. A police spokesperson said this week that she continues to recover from her injuries
Kimberly Dawn Carter, 38, was killed last February after her estranged husband showed up at her Great Mills home and beat her to death with a chunk of concrete.
John Otha Dickens Jr. is accused of assaulting Tyneesha Johnson in her Lexington Park home twice in three days last October. He cut Johnson’s 5-year-old daughter on the nose with a knife, “spilling blood everywhere,” Johnson later testified. And he allegedly was beating Johnson when police shot him. Dickens was arrested three times before he was put in jail without bond. As of Wednesday night this week, he was still in the St. Mary’s County Adult Detention Center.
There are failures. But the system to protect the abused must work more than it doesn’t, or there would likely be far more deaths related to domestic violence, O’Brien said.
The isolation, the beatings and domination take place next door, or across the street, hurting church members and parents, co-workers and family.
Carol said her husband moved the family repeatedly. “He moved us to the farthest end of this county,” she said. And it was there where she said she and her sons were dead-bolted in separate rooms.
The hardest part was “not being able to get to my children. Hearing them screaming and not know why ... That’s why we really don’t know what happened to each other.”
Carol’s calls for help were among about 416 calls for domestic violence-related assault and about 633 related to verbal abuse that the sheriff’s department took last year. Detective Ashley Croyle, who works in the special victims unit and has served as the sheriff’s domestic violence prevention coordinator, said anything from an ex-husband breaking into the home of a wife who left him, or someone having an affair reporting a spouse destroyed their property, “those are all domestic violence related calls” as well.
Walden says the agency served 350 clients facing domestic violence last year. About 70 percent were adults and 30 percent were minors; 85 percent were women. There’s a hotline (301-863-6661), referrals and counseling.
Carol is among them, as a member of a 15-member group session called “Beautiful Women” at Walden. It is helping shape her future, despite a past that could have destroyed all hope.
There was a time, Carol said, when her father raped her, “every day” as a child growing up in another Maryland county. And he beat her too, she said. When she met her future husband about 13 years ago, Carol thought they could be there for each other.
“I saw somebody coming from a broken home, who deserved a chance,” she said. “I saw a lot of myself in him.” They both had difficult childhoods. “I didn’t realize it would spill over into his adulthood.”
Listening to her, looking at her sitting there in the restaurant, it’s all difficult to understand. She looks like an old friend. Or a classmate. She’s beautiful and thin. Her hair is perfectly knotted. She’s articulate, with confident eyes and a quick smile. She wants to be a lawyer.
How did this story happen to this woman?
“I was numb, honey. When you’re numb, you don’t allow yourself to feel,” she explained.
She knew what was going on, and what would trigger his rage. But, she never felt compelled to stop it from happening to herself. Her decision to leave for good, she said, came after he took the last $5,000 from her bank account — money she had set aside for her boys.
And she could defend herself. Carol said she even fought back before, and got the best of him. So much so that she didn’t want to talk about it earlier this month.
But, when asked if she loved herself, there was silence. She’s trying. Her future, she said, depends on finding out how to care for the person she is now and having compassion for the woman she was.
“When you don’t,” Carol said, “terrible things can happen.”