Two women who left abusive relationships found hope at local Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center

By Kathy Hanks / Staff writer /

Posted Apr 12, 2017 at 12:01 AM

Updated Apr 12, 2017 at 5:30 AM

Years of teaching anger management for those affected by domestic violence couldn’t prepare Jessica for being choked and beaten by the man she loved.

She considered herself a strong, independent woman. She never imagined fighting for her life as the person she trusted tried to kill her. That’s what happened four years ago.

“I had a plethora of knowledge, but that didn’t stop me from being a victim,” said Jessica, 37, who asked that we use only her first name, for her safety.

She knew everything about the man she had been involved with for two years. At least that’s what she thought as she got ready for work that July morning. At that moment, he wanted to have sex and she didn’t. That set him off - like a bomb.

It was 7 a.m.

He threw Jessica down the stairs and held her hostage in their home. He beat her and then continued to choke her until about 1 p.m.

“He kept saying ‘You’re just going to sleep’ as he choked me. He kept telling me to stop trying to get away. I was screaming bloody murder.

“All I could think, when his hands were around my neck, was I would never see my kids again,” Jessica said.

She went unconscious. When she awoke, he was in the bathroom. She noticed the keys to her car and her cellphone on the kitchen table. She grabbed them and ran out the door. She drove away, calling her son’s father, who met her at a gas station and took her to the hospital.

Her neck was bruised in the shape of her abductor’s hands. Her jaw and ribs were fractured. Her body was covered in bruises. It was while she was at the hospital that a woman from the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center came to be with her and stayed by her side for six hours.

Jessica admits her abductor had destroyed any self-worth she had. Two days later, after he told her that it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time in the military that had caused him to attack, she forgave him and returned home.

Two months later, he attempted to assault her again. This time, she fled for good.

Jessica filed a PFA, a protection-from-abuse order, and he was charged with aggravated battery, grave bodily harm and kidnapping, with inflicting bodily harm. She learned that he had never served in the military, much less suffered from PTSD.

“It was all lies to get me to come back,” she said.

Authorities told Jessica that her abuser would get anywhere from nine to 12 years, but he entered a plea bargain and got 12 months and two years’ probation.

“That validated how worthless I felt,” she said. “This man got 225 days for almost killing me. I wish there were harsher penalties. A database where you could look him up.”

For two years she couldn’t leave her home. She lost her job because of it.

“I was imprisoned longer than he was,” Jessica said, unconsciously touching her hand to her neck.

What happened to her began to affect her son, then a freshman in high school. He began failing classes and making bad choices, but she couldn’t muster the strength to do anything about it.

Jessica recalled asking her advocate, who became her “private angel,” when she would stop feeling like a victim and would be able to leave her house without being consumed with so much anxiety.

“She told me I was right where I was supposed to be and to bloom where I was planted, even if it was in a big pile of steamy hot horse crap,” Jessica said.

People might wonder how this could happen to someone like Jessica, who remembers doing assessments on others and hearing them say, “But I love him,” and she would try to be unbiased, but in her head she couldn’t understand those kind of emotions. She has since learned that abusers have a way of breaking a person down.

“It can happen to anybody,” Jessica said. “It’s humbling.”

Repeating the pain

Two women with extremely different experiences agreed to speak to The Hutchinson News for this article. One fact, however, was the same: They both felt lucky to be alive, and they both credit the SADVC for getting them through. The center serves Reno, Rice, Kingman and Harper counties.

Out the window of the apartment where Evelin Hurt moved a week ago, she can see the Hutchinson Correctional Facility, where one of her abusers currently lives.

“I didn’t realize how close it was,” she said, giving a quick glance in the direction of the limestone building rising in the distance a few short blocks away.

At 38, Evelin uses a walker because of the injuries sustained when she was beaten by her second husband into a concrete floor. But even after that horrible relationship ended in an emergency divorce, weeks later she fell in love again.

“It was love at first sight,” she said. “He was going to protect me and never let anything bad happen to me again.”

A year later that lover kicked her in the mouth, knocking out most of her front teeth. She was so mentally beaten down by that relationship that she overdosed on antidepressants.

“It was a call for help,” Evelin said.

Again she made the break, thanks to help she received from the SADVC. But it wasn’t long before she discovered another “Prince Charming.”

This one sent flowers and said the right things. A year later he was cheating on her with her best friend, and when she tried to leave, he threatened her with a gun.

Evelin has been a client with Hutchinson’s SADVC since 2012.

“I love this place. My advocate is wonderful,” Evelin said. “She has gone to every court hearing.”

She has had six different protection-from-abuse orders on three different men. She is married once again, “to an amazing man.” He is serving a six-year prison term for using synthetic marijuana.

“Why do the men who try to kill me get one year or no time? But this man who has an addiction gets six years?” she asked.

Meeting a need

In the last three months alone, SADVC provided services to 156 people from the community, said Donna Davis, director of SADVC.

“Services include safety planning, legal advocacy, court advocacy, crisis intervention, housing at our safe shelter house or motel, transportation, referrals to other agencies, and 24-hour hotline assistance,” Davis said.

“In the past three months alone, we have served 17 clients in our community who have been victims of sexual assault, as well. Again, this number seems high, but it tells a story about the need in our community,” Davis said.

Both Jessica and Evelin are moving ahead with their lives.

Jessica is no longer imprisoned by what happened to her. She is very excited about her son, who was struggling along with her during that dark time.

“We are both survivors,” she said. “He is set to graduate high school in May with 26 college credits under his belt.”

On March 31, Jessica remarried. She said the move to Hutchinson has been a fresh start. Her husband has been supportive of her healing and has encouraged her to get involved with the local SADVC.

“It would be horrible if this place wasn’t here,” Jessica said. “They even bought me a cute little tazer.

“Thanks to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center I always have a place to turn to,” Jessica said. “An ear to listen to me and hope freely given.”

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