I have been asked to share the story of my mom. However, I don’t know how to tell her story without also telling my own story. My parents were divorced when I was eight years old. My brother, our Chihuahua, Buttons, and I went back and forth between my parents houses for several years. My mom had a 10th grade education and found it hard to support herself and two children while working at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. She eventually ended up marrying the person that would become our worst nightmare. We moved into a small trailer in Omega, GA with him and his 4 children.
I am pretty sure the beatings started immediately after we moved in with him. The first time he hit her was a slap across the face for “talking back” to him at the dinner table. The hitting continued to escalate into more serious “beatings” shortly after that. One afternoon, while we (his four children, my brother, and I) were all playing in the backyard, he locked the back door (locking us outside). A few minutes later I heard my mom begging him to “stop, Kenny” and “please don’t”. Her screams stopped and he walked outside and threw a lit match on the ground. Without ever looking at any of us he got in his truck and left. At that age (around 10), I did not understand what had just taken place. He had knocked my mom unconscious, poured gas around the bed and walked outside and dropped a lit match, and he just drove away. The match, thankfully, went out before it hit the ground and didn’t start a fire. My mom would have been burned while we were outside playing.
The first time I ever remember him directly attacking either my brother or myself, he busted our fish tank with an iron skillet. We were playing Monopoly at the table when he came in from work. He took one look at the clothes on the couch that needed to be folded and became angry with us. He started yelling about ungrateful children, and how he would show us not to play when there was work to be done. He grabbed that skillet off the stove and smashed the front of the fish tank with one swing. We were running around trying to save our pets from flopping all around the floor. We ended up hiding in a closet until the argument stopped, and all of our fish died. He never hit either my brother or me; sometimes I think I would have preferred that to him hitting my mom. Thinking about her bruises and her sad eyes still breaks my heart.
My dad heard about the situation with mom’s husband and gained full custody of us, even Buttons. My brother and I lived with our dad and would spend school breaks and most of the summer with our mom. She lived in many different trailers, in different trailer parks all around Tifton/Fitzgerald, GA. The addresses changed often, unfortunately her situation never changed.
Every time he would hurt her, he would soon be apologetic and try and make it up to her. He always told her how he would change, and how things would be different. Nothing ever changed, things only got worse. My mom loved animals, and someone gave her a Chihuahua for her birthday one year. Skippy was an entertaining little dog, and my mom’s protector. He would follow her everywhere she went, and I believe he kept her going on some of the darkest days she could have had.
One summer, while I was visiting and my brother stayed with my dad, my mom did actually leave him after the violence got to be more that I could take. He had hit/slapped/kicked her several nights in a row. The fourth night, he again came in and started pushing her around and yelling at her. He picked up Skippy and put him in the oven and closed the door. Luckily, the pilot light was out or he would have killed him. I remember shaking; all I could do was shake and cry. The neighbor called 911 and three officers arrived to help. One of the officers put me in his car and gave me his jacket and talked to me until I calmed down. The officers offered to take us to safety, knowing my mom had no transportation. The women’s shelter would not let my mom bring her Chihuahua, Skippy. She refused to go and leave Skippy with an angry abusive husband, and we ended up going to stay at a motel in the center of town. The officer, knowing the motel didn’t allow pets, let me sit in the car with him and Skippy while my mom got a room key. We snuck Skippy into the room, and no one at the motel ever knew he was there. However, we could only scrape enough money together for one night. We returned to the trailer and a calmer husband the next day. Skippy was the smart one, he never trusted him. After that day, Skippy stayed away from him, but stayed closer to my mom.
During my teenage years, I would go for months and not hear one word from my mom. It was much later, after I was married and had children of my own, that I realized those were the times that the violence was the worst. I do not think she wanted us to know what she was going through, and I do not think I could have bared knowing. My mom stayed married to him for 19 years. That was long enough for his children to grow up, her children to grow up and for Skippy to pass away from old age. He died in August of 1998, and in September of that year, my mom finally left her abuser. She no longer had to worry about what to do with Skippy if she left. He was her baby, and she felt she needed to protect him. She had asked for a divorce, and he told her he would kill her before he gave her a divorce. Over the next ten days, my mom moved out and his children helped sneak her things out of his house. Her husband went around their small town, Fitzgerald, GA, and told everyone that would listen how her was going to kill her if he caught her.
By this time, my brother and I were both married and had children of our own. I was living in Augusta, GA with my husband, Paul, and our son, Kyle (11), and daughter Lee (4). My brother was living in Macon with his wife, and their daughter, who was 3 at the time. I had always felt this connection to my mom, and never more than the last few years of her life. We talked on the phone almost every day, and sometimes it was multiple times a day. My mom was awesome, brave, funny, loving, caring, understanding, and she was my best friend.
On the night of September 28, 1998, she left work and arrived home around 11:00 p.m. She was living in a rented, tiny, one bedroom trailer on the edge of town. My mom walked in her trailer, went to the bedroom and put her purse down and her estranged husband broke the lock on the front door and came in after her. From the number of bruises, and the placement of the bruises, she truly fought for her life. Neighbors reported hearing her say, “Please don’t shoot me, Kenny” several times. She managed to somehow head for the front door, and had her arm stretched out to the doorknob, when he shot her in the back with a 12 gauge shot gun at almost point blank range. That was the worst day of my life.
It has been a little over 15 years now and there are still time that I can hardly believe this whole thing is not some nightmare. My children were in preschool and 6th grade when my mom died. My daughter graduated from high school last year and my son was married this fall. They have missed out on knowing one of the most loving, caring, wonderful people to ever live. My brother committed suicide three years after my mom died, he had some other problems, but my mom’s death really broke him. My niece was three when my mom died, she does not remember my mom at all.
I think about my mom every day, and miss her more, the older I get. I know she loved me, and I know she knew that I loved her. There is really nothing that could ever take away the pain and sense of loss that has become a constant part of our lives. Everyone that that I talk to, that knew my mom tells me how very sweet she was. I believe them, she was the sweetest person I have ever met. I hope I have made her proud of me, and I hope that, by sharing our story (or at least part of it), others will know they are not alone.
It was just another normal night for “Frances;” she had finished reading her book and taken a shower before lying down in her bed to sleep. Her boyfriend was out with his friends drinking and she didn’t expect him to return home until early the next morning. Frances knew that he had always had a bad attitude and temper, and he had shoved her in the past. She is legally blind from glaucoma, but when she saw a light on near the front of the house, she knew something was wrong. When she got up to check, her boyfriend grabbed her by the neck and struck her in the chest. She was confused and did not register what was happening until she saw the blade of the knife come down again into her stomach this time. He pinned her down to the ground and beat her repeatedly over the head with a bat. No one seemed to hear her screams and pleas for help as he forced his hands down her throat and tried to crush her windpipe. Next, he bit her face, leaving teeth marks all along her left jaw, busted her mouth open with the back of his hand, and nearly ripped the tongue out of her mouth. At this point, Frances could feel her life leaving her body and only got enough energy to push her attacker away when she heard her mother’s voice telling her to get up. She managed to get ahold of the bat and hit him in the head before running out the front door. Frances crawled through the woods and across barbed wire to get to the street. When she saw a car coming, our client stood in the middle of the street until the car came to a stop inches from her broken body. She made it to the hospital and survived her attack despite sustaining permanent injuries and her heart stopping multiple times that night.
Ahimsa House foster volunteers lovingly cared for Frances’ pets while her body healed and she got established in a safe new location. She even needed to move many counties away to be safe from her abuser, and we brought her pets to her (along with all the pet supplies needed to start her new life) once she was ready now she is doing well.
The Ahimsa House community works around the clock to make sure that victims like Frances are reunited with their pets after they escape their abusers. Frances has had her dog since she was a puppy and she is not only like a child to her, but also acts as a second set of eyes. She also has a rescued cat that she brought in one cold winter night. When we reunited Frances with her pets, she was extremely thankful and so happy to have her babies back.
In the fall of 2013 we received a call from a woman who was escaping her abuser. She had an 18 week old puppy, Diego, that she did not want to leave behind both out of love for him and fear of what her abuser would do to him. After receiving her call we immediately placed him into a boarding facility that we had worked with previously. After 3 days he became completely unresponsive and was rushed to the emergency vet. His owner was told that the outlook was not good for him. She was heartbroken. Our advocates talked with her about what options she had and offered her support as she dealt with the trauma of her abuse and the possibility of losing her precious puppy. We transported Diego to another emergency veterinarian where they ran tests, gave him a blood transfusion, and placed him in ICU. The doctor concluded that he had been poisoned with rat poison by his owner’s abuser and it had been running through his system and killing him slowly for seven days. After a long recovery, Diego’s fragile body fully recovered and he and his owner have been reunited and they could not be happier!
This illustrates how the animals in households where domestic violence occurs are equally at risk as the human victims and why it is just as important for them to reach safety with their owners. Diego’s total bill was close to two thousand dollars, something his owner could not afford on her own. Without our help sweet Diego would not have been able to receive the care he needed and his owner, already devastated by her abuse and having to rebuild her life, did not have to suffer the trauma of losing a family member.
He viciously beat Mary and her three cats—again. Mary packed a bag, got into her car alone, and drove to a shelter for battered women. One big problem: pets weren’t allowed. After she left, her batterer picked up Toby, the tabby, and threw him from the balcony to the ground three stories below. That’s where he was when a neighbor found him. As gently as possible, she cradled his small body, taking him to her apartment and then gathered the other cats.
Meanwhile, Mary, who couldn’t bear to give her cats away or take them to an animal shelter, was helped by her counselor to call the Ahimsa House crisis line. Ahimsa House took the cats in and gave them medical care along with a big dose of love and attention. Toby, as a result of his fall, needed two surgeries. We expected the worst, but by some miracle, he survived.
After Mary left the shelter and found a safe living situation, we reunited her with Toby and the other two cats. They were a family again…this time without the horror of abuse.
When you donate to Ahimsa House, you help us help these defenseless animals, and you show them that there are good people who love them. From these families and so many others like them, thank you for caring and for making it possible through your donations to help those who need help so desperately.