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Never again

October is domestic violence awareness month, and several organizations are helping educate against and prevent it.

Dawn Watson October 16th, 2013

After seven years of mental and physical abuse, Ann wasn’t the same person anymore. “It tore me down. It made me think that I wasn’t worthy. I could do nothing right in his eyes,” she said.

Photo by Mark Hancock

She endured physical and mental abuse from the person who was supposed to love her — until the day her husband hit their children. That was when she left and found a way to change her future.

“When they’re only 2 and 3, they can’t defend themselves. I felt bad because I wasn’t there to protect them,” she said. “I came home and saw the red marks on them that were turning to bruises.

“I’m never going to let another man put a hand on my children,” said the mother, who is not identified by her full name to protect her identity.

Raising awareness
During domestic violence awareness month through October, the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association has partnered with Verizon Wireless to help victims of abuse like Ann through a cell phone drive and showings of the documentary Telling Amy’s Story, the tale of a Verizon employee who was killed by her husband.

Verizon Wireless provides domestic abuse victims with refurbished phones as part of its HopeLine program, said Ginger Daril, a public relations manager for Verizon. Anyone can donate used cell phones and accessories at drop boxes at district attorneys’ offices across the state. The company will load phones with 3,000 free minutes so that victims of domestic violence can borrow them while they rebuild their lives.

“Victims of domestic abuse often share a phone account with the person who is abusing them,” Daril said.

“Those phones need to be completely out of their hands.”

Since 2001, the company has collected more than 10 million phones nationwide. If phones cannot be refurbished, the company can still use them to obtain money for the HopeLine grant program, which supports programs focused on anti-bullying and healthy relationships. The company has given $18 million in grants since it began.

Speaking up
Greg Mashburn, Cleveland County district attorney, said that the District Attorneys Association partnered with Verizon to raise awareness about domestic violence. One in four women in the nation is the victim of domestic violence, and Oklahoma ranks third in the nation for women murdered by men, according to a Violence Policy Center report.

Mashburn said he hopes statistics like those will raise awareness and encourage victims to work with prosecutors to end the abusers’ pattern of behavior. Prosecution doesn’t always mean jail time and instead can provide tools like counseling.

“Half of our battle is trying to convince the battered spouse to come to court,” he said. “They have to know that they have the capacity and power to do something about it once they make the decision.”

Many times, the abuser is still controlling the victim even if the abuser is in jail, Mashburn said, but he hopes programs like the partnership with Verizon can help victims make the decision to change.

Starting over
After Ann, who is now 35, made her decision three years ago, she found refuge at the YWCA shelter, where she has been for two years. She said that during her time there, she has learned that she did nothing to provoke her abuser and didn’t deserve the years of mental abuse, instances of choking, being dragged by her hair and controlling behavior like telling her when to take a shower. Not only did her confidence suffer, but her appearance did too, she said.

“He would say to me, ‘Nobody’s going to want you. Look at you,’ Toward the end of the relationship, he wouldn’t let me leave with both of the children because he knew if I left with both of them, I wasn’t coming back,” she said. “He used my children to get me to come back to him.”

Because she had the courage to leave, now Ann has been divorced nearly two years, is looking for a house of her own and wants to help others like her “because they are not alone.”

And she has changed the way she feels about herself. “I’m a lot stronger. I know what to look for now. I’ve come a long way. I am very proud of myself. He told me many times, ‘You couldn’t do it without me.’ I’ve been doing it for three years without him.”

Telling Amy’s Story
7 p.m. Oct. 21
Great Lawn of the Myriad Gardens
301 W. Reno Ave.

»1:30 p.m. Oct. 18 : Domestic Violence simulation at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church, 419 South University Blvd., Norman. Call 321-3484 for information.
» 8:30 a.m.-noon Oct. 29: Silent Witness at Norman Public Library 225 North Webster Avenue, Norman. Call 701-2600 for information.

» Family violence: 917-YWCA (9922)
» Rape crisis: 943-RAPE (7273)
» Counseling and groups: 948-1770
» VPO assistance: 297-1139
» To volunteer: 948-1770
» U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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