Women share experiences of violence
By NELLIE WILLIAMS
Ten young women of Saint Mary's Theater stand on the red lighted stage wearing vibrant colors and speaking with strong, forceful voices and smiles on their faces.
"I have a lovely home and a beautiful family if you don't look too close," they read from interpretive poetry addressing domestic abuse.
In celebration of "Week Without Violence," Saint Mary's College invited local women to give testimonies of how they have survived verbal and physical abuse. Although the expected keynote speaker for the evening, Edwina Gately, was unable to attend, three other women spoke out against domestic violence, sharing their personal experiences.
Jane Marshall is a divorced mother of three and a survivor of domestic abuse. When her boyfriend at the time first raised his fist in anger, she had no idea why. After she had broken up with him, he entered her house and attacked her in her bedroom.
"One night he was strangling me. He had me on the floor banging my head on the ground. I remember screaming," she said.
She was so scared that she did not call the police. After going to his home to talk to him, she decided to file a restraining order but the judge denied it.
"I felt so ashamed for loving someone so out of control," Marshall said. "I felt lost. My best friend convinced me to call for help. I tried to continue on with my life."
Although Marshall moved into a new home, her ex-boyfriend found her again.
"I said I was seeing someone else — he said he'd kill him [her current boyfriend]. He followed me everywhere. I became suicidal and felt so alone and scared," she said.
Marshall started attending therapy and reading the Bible. She moved in with her best friend and reported everything.
"I still have the nightmares," Marshall says. "I know it is not my own fault. I am still very cautious. I will never give up."
Another woman, Marie Hayden, sympathized with the struggle for survival. Married at the age of 19, Hayden's husband was verbally and emotionally abusive.
"He would grab my shirt and press me against the wall," said Hayden.
She became suicidal and went into therapy, but the abuse continued.
"I was called slut, whore. [But] I was determined; I wanted the marriage to work out," said Hayden.
When Hayden realized she would not be able to leave this man, she became pregnant. However, even while pregnant, her husband would slap her. After her daughter was born, Hayden became depressed, was hospitalized and then returned to her husband. A year ago, she left him.
"It's a struggle to regain my self-esteem and my hope for the future," Hayden says.
Deborah Chapman never thought about domestic violence as a child.
"I always thought my life would be the dream of getting married and living happily ever after," said Chapman, another domestic violence survivor.
Instead, it was a "long, rough voyage filled with repulsive fear."
"My abuser instilled awful thoughts of what he'd do to me if I left," she said. "He used sex as a punishment when I didn't do what he wanted. He knew how long it took for me to drive home from work and accused me of seeing other men."
Finally, Chapman came to the point of lying awake in bed contemplating how to either kill him or herself. She decided to go to the support group at the YWCA. She realized he had no right to treat her the way he did.
"You don't deserve to be abused. I don't care what you've done — you don't deserve it," Chapman said, encouraging women who face domestic abuse.
"I am made of hand blown glass," she added. "Beautiful, delicate. You may look but do not touch," the theatre students read. "I am woman — I do not exist for anyone but myself. I am strong from this day forward, I'll be silent no more."
All News Stories for Thursday, October 14, 1999