As survivors of domestic violence, we all know the almost insurmountable fear that grips us when we leave the person who is abusing us. What we know that others do not is that at this point in time, even though we have left, we are never really completely safe or free from the possibility that they will retaliate against our ripping away their control over us. What we know that others do not is that we must believe any threat they have made, because you never know which one they will follow through on.
In nine days, on January 10, 2013, my stay away order in place against Kevin will expire. Due to the laws in the state of New York, I am ineligible for an extension, because the orders from family court are only active for one year. To have a family order past one year, not only do you have to have documented violations, and pretty much blatant ones at that, but you have to file for a new one. As the woman at the court told me, I “can wait for him to do something the day after and then file for a new order.” She went on to tell me that even if I chose to file new paperwork, they wouldn’t do anything about it at the court until the original one expired. Not that the preceding didn’t irritate me, but it is the part of the conversation that followed left me stunned. She told me that “it has to be like this because otherwise everyone could file for orders simply because they don’t like someone.” I resisted the urge to say what I so wanted to so at that moment and instead opted to laugh at her loud enough for everyone in my office suite to hear me. She stumbled for an answer and tried to back-peddle.
As veterans to working our way through the system when we leave, we as survivors know that tone of voice being taken with us when we are being judged. Even though someone listening in on the conversation may have missed it, the translation of what she really said was that I was a hysterical female just trying to inconvenience someone out of dislike for them. He was not the one inconvenienced. This I can guarantee. And in my hind-sight, I wish that I had not succumbed to the fear of knowing he had friends in the right places that would help him out had I went ahead and head him arrested. The agencies he worked with received miles of good press, and a few of them were promoted. The police agencies and the county DA were ever so grateful to him that every time he got into trouble in our county, their fingers would sneak across county lines, manipulate things before sneaking back, fixing things for him in the process. Even in the instance where a family member called 911 after an argument with him and filed charges for assault.
The agencies are like this with their best informants. During my internment with him, I saw this over and over again, several times with direct impact to my own safety. There is one in particular who, at request of the agency, had an order of protection against her because she tried to back over me with her car after an argument with Kevin over money he owed her. An order which the court extended on my behalf twice, and I never had to show up to so much as sign one piece of paper. They let her out of jail every time, because she was one of their best informants. She was allowed to violate the order repeatedly, and they knew she and Kevin intermixed frequently in that crowd.
Because I had no reasonable trust that the same wouldn’t happen to me in this case, I instead left behind everything and filed for my order quietly. However, a word of caution to any of you who may be living in New York State. If you do not file charges and have the abuser arrested, you will get a family order instead of a criminal one. Criminal orders can be extended while orders secured in a family court cannot. If you file for financial assistance on the Crime Victim Report Application through the Office of Victim Services and you do not have the police reports on file, your application will be denied, just like mine was. Consider the implications of your actions before your making your decisions, because one decision you make out of fear can have far-reaching effects months down the road.
It wasn’t something that happened to me that prompted this post; I have been rehashing my initial steps over and again in my head since I saw a story on the news in my region of the state Friday morning. Wishing that I had re-considered my decision not to arrest him. Wishing that I could have seen the way that decision would play out versus the one I made. And I wondered about her story, this stranger whom I never met, what she endured, and how her story hit a little too close to home. How it made me think about the threat Kevin made about what he would do if I were to leave, and how what happened to her could happen to me.
As survivors, any time we hear news of a domestic violence fatality, especially in our area, it hits close to home. We don’t need have known them to feel the sadness. Neither do our circumstances have to be the same, because we all shared this struggle against our fears when we left our abuser. We feel hurt in our heart for them, because they paid the ultimate price. They are why we share our story, baring even the most intimate parts of our experiences, because we never want another of us to suffer or lose their life.
Friday morning, Lucinda Knoll and her ex-boyfriend began arguing in her driveway. Due to repeated blows to the head, she was taken the hospital where she was listed in critical condition. Lucinda passed away Saturday as a result of her injuries sustained during the attack. He ex, William Danielson, was arrested for the assault, initially for attempted murder and burglary. The charges were finally updated Monday to murder in second degree.
Her family has started a memorial fund to help provide for the three boys Lucinda has left behind.
Here is the link to the news article: http://www.cnycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=988336#.UsQfaiAo7IU