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Experts speak out on abuse, honor those killed

Raindrops were temporarily replaced with teardrops Thursday during a ceremony to honor survivors and victims of domestic violence.
Rain had fallen most of the day, but it temporarily stopped just before the Tri-County Domestic Violence Observance for Harrison, Crawford and Orange counties, which was held at the RAPE Treatment Center in Milltown. The rain resumed after the program.
Several persons shed tears as they listened to the speakers, including women who had been abused, watched a video about child abuse and heard the names of 41 Hoosiers who were killed in 2001 as a result of domestic violence.
One of those speakers told about the abuse she suffered both as a child and adult.
Susan, not her real name, said she was pleased to see that the RAPE Treatment Center had a room for children.
“There weren’t places to go in the ’60s and ’70s” to report child sexual abuse, she said. “There were no women’s shelters and no arrest laws.
“What happened behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors,” she said.
As she became older, Susan read a definition for incest.
“I was relieved to know there was a word for it and that others also experienced it,” she said.
Susan later married and her husband became physically abuse while she was pregnant with their second child.
Finally the woman pushed aside her embarrassment and didn’t care about what others thought.
“I finally told someone,” she said.
Her husband spent a night in jail; then entered a plea bargain.
Susan said after that the abuse escalated, which, according to experts who have studied domestic violence, is typical. Her husband also purchased a 9mm handgun.
“If he didn’t kill me, I thought I might kill myself,” Susan said. “I couldn’t take it.”
She became depressed, was lonely and had suicidal thoughts.
During her ordeal, Susan said she thought she had “protected” her children from the effects of being reared in a home filled with violence, but she realized she had failed when her son, then 3, kicked her and called her a “bitch.”
The turning point for her, she said, came on Feb. 14, 1996.
“It was the first time I ever hit him back,” Susan said. “I broke my hand, but it didn’t phase him.”
Susan was treated at an immediate care facility, where a physician gave her a business card for the Center for Women & Families.
“I decided to get out and started putting my life back together,” she said.

Another victim of abuse, Michelle Korty, of the Center for Women & Families’ Scottsburg office, said that effects of domestic violence can be felt at an early age.
Infants have been born with bruises they sustained while their mother was abused, she said.
And young children “grow up believing” the violence is their fault, Korty said.
“It’s never a child’s fault,” she said. “A child does not have the power to stop the violence. And violence doesn’t happen in everyone’s houses.”
“Homes should be places of safety and comfort,” said Beth Stein, executive director of Crisis Connection, who began the evening program by reading a proclamation by President George W. Bush, declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Following Susan’s testimony, Stein said, “I never get used to the stories; they always tear at your heart.”
As part of the program, the Paoli Children’s Choir sang “Give a Little Love” for the 40-plus who attended the vigil.
A video of Colin Raye’s song “The Eleventh Commandment” depicted domestic violence. The words include the phrase “Honor thy children.”
Brother Toney McCutcheon of the Marengo Christian’s Missionary Church gave the benediction and asked God to “stand in the gap” for the families who suffer from domestic violence. He also thanked God for giving a vision to assist victims.
To conclude the program, Margie Drake of the Center for Women and Families’ Corydon office, read the names of the 41 victims who died last year. They ranged in age from two years to 59 years and included both women and men. A bell was rung after each name was read.