Victim of domestic violence speaks out

October 12, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Lori, a well-dressed college graduate and mental health worker, said she never thought she would be sitting in the Franklin County Courthouse seeking protection for her life.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the Franklin County woman nervously awaited a hearing before Judge Douglas W. Herman because her ex-boyfriend faced a criminal contempt charge for violating a protection-from-abuse order.

"I feel anxious. I'm pretty upset right now," Lori said, knowing she had to face her ex-boyfriend in the courtroom.

In light of October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Lori agreed to talk about her experience under the condition that her last name, and that of her ex-boyfriend, would not be printed.


Lori's ex-boyfriend, Mark, was brought into court from Franklin County Prison, where he had been incarcerated in lieu of $10,000 bond since police arrested him Sept. 29.

Mark violated the terms and conditions of a protection-from-abuse order, filed by Lori and issued Sept. 20, by placing flowers on the doorstep of her home and in her car, and by trying to contact her by telephone and through her friends, according to court records.

To an outsider, those actions may seem like an honest attempt, even a sweet gesture, in trying to apologize and make up, said Lisa Johnson, a legal advocate with Women In Need Victim Services in Chambersburg.

"People cannot even begin to understand unless they're in it themselves," Johnson said, who stayed with Lori at the courthouse.

To Lori, seeing the flowers when she came home from a weekend out of town was a frightening and serious threat after she had specified her desire for no contact in the court order.

On Sept. 4, Lori alleges that Mark assaulted her in the apartment the couple shared. She alleges he became violent when she tried to leave for work early, holding her down on the bed, unplugging the telephone, spitting in her face and threatening to beat her up. He tried to strangle her twice, she alleges.

Lori also alleges that Mark poured bleach in the fish tank, killing her fish, and threatened to break her cat's neck.

Lori was finally freed after she told Mark she had to call her employer to let them know she wouldn't be in. As he plugged the telephone back into the wall, Lori said she ran out the door and called police. She stayed with friends that night.

The next day, Lori said she found her apartment trashed. She alleges Mark took down photos and her school awards and burned them and she found a dart stuck through the forehead of a picture of herself.

Lori also alleges Mark called her twice that day threatening suicide. It was then that she decided to obtain an emergency protection-from-abuse order.

"I felt I had no other choice," Lori said, adding that she was worried Mark would show up at her home and shoot her, then himself.

Every year in the domestic violence program Women In Need, an average of 1,158 women like Lori and children from Franklin and Fulton counties receive support services.

"It's a problem. Between 250 and 300 PFAs are filed a year through Women In Need," Johnson said.

That doesn't include the abuse orders filed through private attorneys or the cases reported to police, she added.

But abuse orders aren't instant protection from domestic violence.

"First of all, a PFA is only a piece of paper until it's violated ... Then that's where the teeth come in," said Angela Krom, assistant Franklin County district attorney, who specializes in domestic violence and indirect criminal contempt cases.

Violations of abuse orders are not taken lightly by judges, who consider it a willful disregard of a court order, Krom said.

"The judges do take it very seriously. They are strict," she said.

The penalty for violating an abuse order depends on the seriousness of the violation, Krom said. But the statute permits a fine of no less than $100 and not more than $1,000 or up to six months in jail, Krom said.

In Lori's case, Judge Herman reluctantly upheld her request to place Mark under the supervision of the Franklin County Probation Department and ordered him to obtain a psychological evaluation within six months, a stipulation on the previous abuse order.

"We're going to make sure that gets done this time," Herman told Mark.

Herman also reminded Mark that he is to have no direct or third-party contact with Lori.

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