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Victim wanted to believe

March 06, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Editor's note: The name of the victim in this story has been changed for her protection.




A Hagerstown woman knows there is more to domestic abuse than bruises.

Karen, 30, said her husband of 10 years abused her emotionally and sometimes physically throughout their relationship, which produced three children- ages 4, 7 and 10.

In November, she was granted a protection order against her husband.

Why did she wait a decade to act?

"He said he loved me," Karen said.

Clinging to those words and the hope that things would change, Karen stayed with her husband despite his drug use and inability to hold a job, she said.

She stayed with him though he called her "stupid" when she laughed or cried, she said.

She stayed with him after he wrecked two of her cars, badgered her at work, pushed her around, and pinned her down to keep her from going for help, she said.

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"He got rid of all my friends. He was even jealous of the kids," Karen said.

She wanted to blame it on the drugs he was taking, to believe one of his drug counselors when he told her there was a wonderful person under the addiction.

But things didn't change.

The couple took their children roller-skating in October. Karen said she wanted to go to bed when the family returned home, but her husband demanded dinner despite having already eaten.

She refused.

He flipped the mattress against the wall and knocked Karen into the bed frame, she said.

When he locked her and their two oldest children in an upstairs bedroom, she called the Hagerstown Police Department.

The responding officer told Karen that there was "no use for you to have him arrested tonight because he'd just be out before the morning," she said.

He also shared with her a story of two friends who worked out their domestic problems through counseling, and said Karen could visit District Court if she still wanted to take action in the morning, she said.

Karen said she was not given any information about help available to her from Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, a Hagerstown agency that provides counseling, crisis intervention and shelter to women like her.

At work the next day, Karen's husband kept calling, harassing her by phone. She finally asked a co-worker to drive her to the courthouse so she could petition for an ex parte order that would keep her husband out of her house, she said.

She was nervous and debated changing her mind as she filled out the paperwork and stood before Judge Ralph France, who noted that she didn't have any bruises and that no threats had been made, she said.

The judge did not issue the order, Karen said.

The law does not allow an ex parte order to be granted for emotional abuse, France said in an interview.

"We have to rule in accordance with what the law says," he said.

Karen left the courthouse in tears, went back to work and back to her husband.

In early November, Karen refused to co-sign for a loan her husband wanted to pay a fine for a drug conviction, she said.

Her restrained her and threatened to beat her up, Karen said.

She turned for help to CASA, where she had attended several sessions two years before, she said.

With the support of a CASA legal advocate, Karen returned to District Court to petition for an ex parte order.

Judge Noel Spence granted it.

Her husband called her at work three times the next day after deputies from the Washington County Sheriff's Department served the order. He was at the house when Karen returned from work, she said.

"He was yelling, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you playing games with me? You're going to lose the kids and the house and everything,'" she said.

He broke the phone when she tried to call police, and jumped into the car when she tried to escape, she said.

As Karen drove toward the Hagerstown Police Department, her husband jerked the steering wheel, forcing the car into a downtown parking lot, she said.

He snatched the keys from the ignition, got out of the car, threw the keys on the ground, and stood in the middle of the street, said Karen.

She grabbed the keys and drove to the police station, she said.

Police said they would meet her at the house, where her husband had already been and locked her out, she said.

Police arrested him, Karen said.

She dreaded telling her children that their father was in jail, but the older kids told her, "It's best for him," she said.

"Daddy needs help," she whispered to the 4-year-old, who played on the floor beside her at CASA's shelter.

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