Every story of abuse is different.
After living in fear for years, Jane’s story ended tragically one warm night in Phoenix. As news helicopters flocked overhead, Jane’s ex-husband lashed out until two bodies lay dead.
Jane never could have predicted what would happen when she married her husband 15 years earlier. Domestic violence didn’t enter their marriage until 15 years in.
Jane, who asked that we not use her real name, grew up in a supportive home with no outward signs of abuse.
Abuse, she later realized, affects all classes of people regardless of the strength of their character, race, background or income level.
Of the 140 women and children who sought safety and guidance at the Time Out Shelter last year, each had a unique history. Most experienced physical (47 percent) and psychological (56 percent) abuse and nearly half (43 percent) had witnessed abuse as a child.
An increasing number, however, felt trapped, unable to leave their homes due to the economic times although the number of domestic violence arrests increased 8 percent over the last year.
“Women are reluctant to leave home due to the recession,” said Gerry Bailey, Time Out Inc. executive director.
Hoping to draw women out of their abusive situations, Time Out expanded its lay legal and community-based programs while continuing to operate a 28-bed shelter and four transitional housing units.
Jane now helps at Time Out, passing her story on with the hope that another woman, another child, doesn’t have to live through what her family did.
On Tuesday night, Jane shared her story at Time Out’s 18th annual board of directors meeting at the Payson Public Library.
Gripping the sides of a podium, Jane stood tall, her brown hair and makeup neatly styled, with a room full of staff, volunteers and community members looking on.
Jane explained that more than a decade into her marriage, her first introduction to abuse came suddenly and shockingly.
After growing apart from her husband, she had asked for a divorce.
The threat of losing the relationship triggered something in Jane’s husband that she had never seen. He became aggressive and violent, with threats escalating from mild to serious quickly.
“He threatened to kill our children, my mother and sister,” she said. “He said he was not afraid of the police and if I ran he would kill me.”
By his tone and the wild look in his eyes, Jane took her husband’s threats seriously.
Jane backed down from a divorce.
Jane’s husband reminded her every day of his threats, ripping stories of domestic violence from the newspaper and placing them on their bed.
When he saw a story of murder/suicide he said, “See it really happens.”
“I felt helpless and hopeless,” she said.
Afraid, Jane didn’t tell anyone about the abuse.
“I felt a deeper need to keep others safe,” she said.
For many women, it is a myth that if you call the police they will arrest the man and keep you safe.
“In many situations this may be true, but not in my experience,” she said. “I knew, my intuition told me, that they could not protect me.”
At the time, Jane lived in the Valley.
Payson Police Department’s Chief Don Engler has said that domestic violence calls are the most dangerous for officers. With a relationship, children and a home at stake, police never know what an abuser will do to protect what he has been destroying.
Jane’s intuition would prove correct.
For the next three years, she continued to live with her husband. One night, he grew angry after an argument and “thoroughly beat me,” eventually holding a knife to her throat.
“I will kill you,” he screamed.
He pulled the phone from the wall so she couldn’t call for help. Afterward, he followed her around like a shadow, asking her where she was going and who she was hanging out with.
Two months later, it happened again.
Afterward, a remarkable thing happened — he asked for a divorce.
“I was so happy he was letting me go,” she said.
Jane moved out and got her own home and for the next nine months, they had a civil relationship, co-parenting their children.
“Everything seemed to be going fine and then he found out I was dating,” she said.
He called her and asked why she was dating when she had promised that she would never date again.
“I had never promised him that,” she said. “For two hours he sobbed and I listened and then he said, ‘You better come get the kids because they are not safe with me now.’”
Jane jumped in her vehicle and drove as fast as she could.
“I didn’t know if I would find them all dead,” she said.
Luckily, everyone was safe.
Eventually, Jane finally did call the police and was given a temporarily respite at a hotel.
She got an order of protection and for three weeks, he stayed away.
However, the cycle of abuse was far from over.
On Christmas Eve, he called and said the family would make headlines if they were not all together again.
Abusers often use threats and violence to remain in control.
Increasingly fearful for her family’s safety, Jane pulled her two children from school and moved into a travel trailer at a campground.
More bad news was on the way. Jane lost her job, because co-workers worried they would be in the crosshairs of Jane’s ex-husband’s rage and her children lost friends.
“We were labeled as dysfunctional,” she said.
Fed up with being afraid, Jane moved back into her home, installed a security system, bought a gun then she learned her ex had moved out of the state.
“I felt I had some security,” she said.
Four weeks later, on May 9, 2008, everything changed for good.
As Jane was leaving her home with a male friend for a night out, a figure emerged from the darkness.
“I didn’t even recognize who it was at first,” she said.
Then she saw the whites of her ex-husband’s eyes, wide with anger and madness.
He pushed Jane and her friend back into the home and put a handgun up to Jane’s head, taunting her.
“He asked us to lay face down on the ground,” she said, “and my friend said, ‘No, you don’t have do it.’”
In a disorienting moment, Jane’s friend distracted her ex. She wiggled free from the floor and ran to get her gun out of the safe.
Her mind raced as she put the combination in, pulled the gun out, loaded the bullets and cocked the gun — bam bam!
Disoriented, Jane ran from the house to a neighbor’s home where she called for help.
Her ex ran after, asking her to come back. She ignored his pleas.
By the time police came, her ex barricaded himself in her home.
When officers finally got into the house, they found Jane’s friend dead, shot twice in the back.
Jane’s ex then turned the gun on himself while sitting on the sofa.
The nightmare was finally over, but the trauma would live on forever.
Jane’s children have gone through intensive grief counseling with Stepping Stones and Jane has found solace working with other victims of domestic violence.
“It takes a village to raise domestic violence victims out of that cycle,” she said. “I encourage everyone to volunteer — to reach out and help.”
Last year, Time Out’s 161 volunteers gave a record 18,000 hours working in either the shelter or thrift shop.
Without volunteers, the shelter could not operate, said Sandy Litkenhaus, chair of Time Out’s board.
For more information or to volunteer, call (928) 472-8007 or visit www.timeoutshelter.org.