You’re wondering … “Why would he start out a story like that?” and you’re saying, “Not only does it sound silly, but you didn’t even bother to capitalize.” It may seem ridiculous to you now, but by the time that I’m finished …They’ll be words that you’ll never forget.
Although I’ve always tried to be tender and remain a gentleman, from time to time, my rough edges come to the surface … And I’m just as good as any man is for bringing out the wrath in a woman. I remember one incident when a female threw a drink in my face. She was a little thing, but after she threw that second drink right into my eyes and then tried to block my escape … I slapped the hell out of her, shoved her out of my path and made my getaway. I’m not proud if it, but most males know that many females are quite capable of doing whatever it takes, to get their way. This narrative goes way beyond all of that. Here’s how it all started…
As I earlier wrote about my children and remembered their childhood, this story began developing and took on a life of its own … But it didn’t seem to fit in well anywhere except here. This is a tough story for me to tell because it involves something I’ve never had much exposure to. This is a story of domestic violence and spousal abuse … And time.
Until a very special Babysitter came into my life, I never really thought about it much. I just figured that if a female really wanted to get out of a bad relationship, all she had to do was just get up and leave. And there’s something else I never quite understood … “If they don’t thrive on it so much,” I thought, “why in the world do they keep going back?” In casual conversation, I’ve even heard others say … “It’s a two-way street. It’s not always the fellow’s fault and sometimes, maybe these women deserve what they get.” For a while I tolerated that line, but over the years my perspective has changed a lot. I came to realize that this is not just a female issue. Any way you cut it, males are the cause of this cruelty. So sit back, get comfortable … And pay attention! I’m going to tell you about this former Babysitter of mine.
She was not the normal Babysitter. No, she was far, far, from that. She was young when I first met her and compared to me she still is. I’d say she was fifteen or so back then, when she began helping out the neighbors some with them and their kids. In addition to that, she took care of our boys when my wife was having surgery and while I was working, she took up the slack. What makes her so special is not only how much she helped us, but also how well she has dealt with the later trials in her life. She came to our aid then, she’s helped many other people since then, and she’s far from finished yet. It’s really rather foggy to me, as to where she was and from whence she came, but just when I needed her the most … That’s when the Babysitter came.
Now, I’m going to tell you something … This girl loved kids! She watched over our boys as if they were her own. She loved them, and just because she was that way, she even took them with her on trips to see her friends … Hundreds of miles away. We could really trust her with them. Yes, in many ways, she was just like a little mother hen. She must’ve really liked it, because lord knows we didn’t pay her much. Time passed and my wife got a little better. She could get up on her own now, so the Babysitter moved on. Right before she left, I told her if she ever needed anything or I could help her out in any way, to please let me know. Shortly thereafter, the Babysitter left.
A few years passed and I still hadn’t heard from her. I didn’t even know exactly where she was. I did know that she was now married and had kids of her own. She lived in the next county over, which was not too far away. I was working the third shift and I was busy. It was in the wee hours of the morning when my Dispatcher called.
“H-551!” (that was my Highway Patrol call number) “A female subject who identified herself as Heather just called. She said that it is an emergency! She gave me her number and here it is … She abruptly hung up, but she wants you to call her right back.”
Well, here I was in the middle of nowhere. I was busy and I didn’t have a cell phone. I guess it was a good twenty minutes or so before I could call her back.
When I called, her husband answered and said she wasn’t there. He sounded like he was high on something. In the background, I could hear a commotion going on, but not one peep did I hear from her. “But something must be wrong,” I thought, and “with all this time that has passed, she’s never called me once … Damn, where is Heather and what’s going on?” I kept him on the phone as long as I could because in the background, I kept hearing thumps and unusual noises. But since I didn’t know exactly where he was and since there’s no law against getting drunk at home …Finally, as confused as I still felt, I got off the phone. The next day, I tried again to call her at the same number. Again he answered and said she wasn’t there, and he didn’t know where she was. I didn’t want to meddle but still I wondered … “What’s going on with Heather?” I guess the best way to continue with this story is to just lay out the sequence of events and then let you know where I fit in.
Her husband was brought up and exposed to violence towards, and suppression of, women. Although he was older than she was, he had insecurities of his own to deal with. He always had to know where she was and what she was doing. I guess the best way to say it, is that he was overly protective and jealous by nature. He had known her since she was twelve years old and by the time that they married, had come to think of her as his possession.
She was raised up right … With strong male role models who were secure in their manhood. She matured early, had a mind of her own and before most of us would even dream of doing it … She struck out on her own.
She didn’t think about it much when he showed concern for her whereabouts, because she did like the attention. Yes, the signs of abuse were already showing, but she didn’t know what those signs were.
It was about a month before they got married that the abuse began. She was pregnant when he shoved her to the ground and she wondered … “Am I making a mistake going into this relationship?” She hoped it might just be drug related and things would get better. And she also felt this was her best option, so she went ahead and got married anyway. They were married and before long his insecurities surfaced more with his continuous drug use. Soon, the accusations started and the beatings began. After abusing her, he’d sober up some and apologize … She’d give him another chance and they’d reconcile.
She began to walk on eggshells and tried to be more tender with him, because as most any therapist will tell you … It was partially her fault. But her efforts to make it right didn’t help any … The beatings intensified. Slowly but surely, the abuse became more frequent and violent. He learned pretty quickly that if he gave her a black eye or busted her lip, people would start asking questions. So, he began beating her in areas that wouldn’t show. He was learning how to do it. He was becoming a professional wife-beater … He was running the show! Then the big day came.
One day, while their children were at his mother’s house and the two of them were home alone … A major beating occurred. He’d had just about all he could stand of her mouth and he was strung out on drugs. He was a lot larger than she was and he was certainly not afraid of his little wife. If he couldn’t get her attention with his fists, he certainly would with his pistol and assault rifle. He figured he was a real man and this time he would make it plain to her. Yes, this was the proper time. He would show her now … He was the boss!
He accused her of an infidelity that she was not guilty of, but he thought he knew better … So he just went ahead and began to beat the living hell out of her right then and there.
(Somewhere during her torture is when she called my Dispatcher and tried to locate me. But just as the rest of the system has done, when she needed me the most … I was nowhere around) He beat her some more. She fought back, but he was stronger … And he loved to see the terror in her eyes. He tortured her with pliers. He squeezed them onto her small fingers and toes, and even onto her delicate earlobes, before he blackened her sensitive eyes. He made her look up at the picture of their two children and say goodbye, and then he told her … This would be the last time she saw them! At gunpoint, he made her write notes to them and then her parents … Saying goodbye. Even then he wasn’t satisfied! With a broomstick, he beat her some more … And there was a lot more damage done than we’ll ever see. He wrapped a belt around her neck and began choking the life out of her. But it must not have been her time to die … The belt broke. His accusations continued and he demanded to know who her lover was. After three hours of beatings, telling the truth, that she wasn’t having an affair, wasn’t working. Her sense of survival finally kicked in and she tried the only other option she had … She began lying. She made up a story and gave him a name … And it was only then that the dreadful beatings came to an end. Although she had asked him numerous times to go ahead and pull the trigger of the assault rifle he threatened her with, he backed off. He was content at last … Because by now he had beaten her almost to death.
Maybe he began to feel a little guilty now, because he allowed her to call a friend to come and take her to the Hospital. But the friend had only one hour to get there, or he would kill her or whoever else came down their driveway. There he sat. This was the height of his manhood. He watched every move she made and he knew how to use the firearms he carried. He was in charge now! Never again would he take any crap from his half-dead, one hundred pound wife.
The friend came in the nick of time and took her to the Hospital, and even as they escaped down the driveway … He stood there with his assault rifle aimed at their backs. The Police Department came to the Hospital and listened to her story. They then took pictures of her now not-so-pretty face. Although she gave them all the details and pressed charges against him, the police never even went to his door. He stayed right where he was … He didn’t go anywhere. Warrants were drawn out for him, but never served … And not one police officer ever confronted him! Except for her statement and photo, not one piece of evidence was ever collected … And there’s more.
Only after his Father finally talked him into taking a ride, did he turn himself in. He was locked up until the court date, but because of no real police work … The District Attorney didn’t have much of a case. Although the charges were very serious … “Assault with a Deadly Weapon,” “First Degree Kidnapping” and “Assault with a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury with Intent to Kill,” and he was facing fifty-two years in prison … The DA offered him a plea bargain of three measly years. But he was confident, not only did his family have friends in high places, but he really didn’t think he’d done much of anything wrong. He declined the plea bargain and decided to gamble on a trial. Big mistake for him and a lucky break for her … The Jury found him guilty of all charges and sentenced him to 24 years in the NC Dept. of Corrections. But we all know how that goes … He ended up serving much less than half of that. And still, we wonder why these women keep going back … We’ve been so blind! It’s because that by allowing slaps on the wrists, we condone it! It’s because we let them right back out again and abusers don’t pay for their crimes, and they have no reason to expect to … That’s why!
The day that he was put into prison is the day that she blossomed into the flower that she has become. In her case, she didn’t need counseling, she didn’t need therapy, and she didn’t need to pray more … All she needed was for the threat in her life to be gone. Now is as good a time as any for me to tell you how she’s handled her life and what she’s become.
She did not sit still as many others have done … She didn’t hide it. She went out into public without makeup on and she even allowed her battered picture to be displayed on a large billboard. Besides being instrumental in sending her spouse/abuser to prison, she became very vocal and has even influenced some of our laws. As soon as she could … She divorced him. In addition to raising four kids, she donates much of her time to any who will hear her voice … She wants to be heard! So far, she has sacrificed much to help others and has been compensated very little for any of her work. She has one of the most hectic schedules of anyone that I’ve ever known.
At every turn, our Legal and Social Services systems have let her down. And had she stood still for one minute and tolerated any of it, her ex-husband would’ve been out of prison long before now and would’ve made good on his promise to her … That she and her children would be dead! She had to fight her own way through this whole process. Oh, she got some help from her friends, but she didn’t get the help we’d expect her to get from the taxes we pay … She had to scramble around the best that she could on her own. Anyway, he went to prison and you’d think that would be the end the story … No Sir, far from it.
She received a written “Death Threat” from prison! Even after she produced it to local authorities, still, no advice was given and no action was taken … Can you believe it? She had to really raise hell and pound on the counter before the Fed’s were called in, and it was only because of her persistence that he’s now serving time for the federal offense of “Communicating Threats through the Mail.”
For obvious reasons, she gets no support at all from her abusive ex-husband … Because he is still in prison. But for him, if he gets an ache or pain, or needs a root canal … Our tax dollars pay for that, while he works out, gets three square meals a day, lies on his bed in jail and plots his time away. For her, it’s a different ballgame altogether.
For her … The system is set up to fail. If she doesn’t work and can jump through all the hoops, the government support she would get for herself and her children is not quite enough. But if she tries to supplement her income with a small job, then she won’t qualify for much of any government support at all. And you know what’s even harder for me to understand … She’s even been advised by administrators to get married, so she would qualify for better benefits. Any way she turns, she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. If she were a large Corporation, we all know how she’d survive … Our government would jump right in there and spend billions to subsidize. I don’t know about you, but this whole ball of wax that she’s had to deal with just pisses me off!
And we aren’t even touching on one of the saddest parts of this story. There are no government programs, whatsoever … For the assistance of children with a parent in prison. What the hell are we thinking about! And even worse … Why have we allowed ourselves to forget them? What about them … And on their own, how are these children supposed to make it? That brings to surface yet another subject … The message on the birthday card.
It came in the mail for his daughter’s eighth birthday. Heather thought it rather odd that before now, he had not shown much interest in their children. She opened it and looked at it. I was a simple little card and obviously meant for a child’s birthday. “That’s such a nice gesture,” she thought. “At last he’s showing some concern for his kids’ feelings.” But as she inspected it further, in her throat, a lump began growing.
The card had a picture of a piece of furniture with a clock sitting on top of it. Right above the clock was his handwritten note…
“It’s just a matter of …”
“How could he! Oh lord, how could he do that,” she screamed internally. “Here I am, ready to give him another chance. But it’s the same old thing as before … Every time I open myself up to him just a little, he beats me back down again.”
The child was only eight then and would not have understood … But her Mother did! Considering his previous Death Threat that “All three of you will die by my hands” and that she’d known him well for ten years … She could see that he was finally learning from his blunders. Prison was helping Tommy Price, Jr. He had learned that if he wanted to relay a meaning, this time he’d better make it subtle. Yes, Heather understood … She knew him! The court system might not, but she got the message loud and clear! But as before in all of her other struggles, she would not give in to his cruelty. She and her children would be much greater than just casualties … They would endure all of this! How does she do it? How does she live, and how does she provide for herself and her dear children? Listen to me and I’ll tell you.
She has very little money and for them all to survive, she must make every minute and every penny count. She must keep a beehive schedule for her kids and herself to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Around her children’s timetable, she works at several jobs. She rides around on slick tires, can hardly pay her utilities and rent, and has never had her own home.
Most of us are raised and programmed to “make it on our own,” but for some of us, it’s tougher than others. Although society would frown on her for doing so, it amazes me that she hasn’t resorted to prostitution … What would we do if we had no more options?
Throughout all of this, she endures constant spinal pain. Yet, at the drop of a hat, whenever someone needs her help or comfort, she’ll drop whatever she’s doing and before you know it, she’s right there … Finding refuge for a victim, mourning at a funeral, raising hell at a meeting, pounding on the desks of Politicians, District Attorneys, Lawyers or Judges. Surely, many folks who question their own status in these matters … Hate to see her coming!
She has spoken before Legislative Committees and influenced the making of better laws. She has appeared on television shows. She speaks frequently to students in High Schools and from the pulpits of Churches that allow women to speak … Her voice can also be heard. She will not sit still. She boldly fights the never-ending battle against bureaucracy. She is one of the bravest people I’ve ever known. Her health is less precious to her than achieving her goal and speaking out. How many of us feel so strongly about what we do with our lives? How many of us would expose ourselves, knowing that at any moment, a self-described killer might be released from prison and we could receive a shotgun blast to the back of our heads? The life that she leads is filled with potholes, but she carries on with optimism … “Yes, I will make a difference. Yes, I will be heard!” I’m sure Heather isn’t perfect, but surely, she deserves much better than that … As do all the other women like her. “How in the world,” I wonder, “does she keep her chin up and that smile on her face?”
She has contempt for the government supported system that is so filled with flaws that it’s rotten … And it’s not just one person’s fault, we’re all guilty. Although our hearts may be in the right place, we think to ourselves … “Hey, it’s not my fault, it’s that person down the hall.” Nobody takes responsibility and the situations get worse. Too many times, there’s no one there to even empathize.
We don’t even think about what it’s like for women like her … To go through the unending maze of locked doors, only to be turned away because one single criterion was not met or one form was not signed right. We can’t even imagine the horror of coming to a Shelter in the middle of the night with a murderer hot on our trail … Only to find a locked door. And if we are lucky enough to get in, to then be forced to use our own food stamps, because the benefits that were meant for us have already been taken by somebody else, probably staff. A feeling of tremendous despair must be felt, for those forced out of a Shelter early, while their abuser anxiously awaits their return. And these women must certainly wonder, “Is my life important at all, and if so … Who cares?”
When we serve on Juries, we constantly hear statements from the abuser like “The devil made me do it,” or “I was out of my mind and didn’t know what I was doing.” Where is our outrage? Will we continue to empathize with him and forget about her? Will we keep right on giving him a light sentence or sending him to a mental institution? Will we ever learn to see past the cool composure of the sorry bastard who has so obviously beaten up or killed his prey? Will we ever learn to listen to her soft voice or the silence of her grave? Are males really all that much better than females?
I can’t even imagine what it must feel like for an abused woman … To be victimized by a maniac and then again by the system set up to support her, over, and over, and over again … And to be beaten almost to death and then have no one to turn to, and on top of that, to be treated as a whore.
Many of these women are not just trailer park trash, as we might think. Many are wives of Doctors, Lawyers, Ministers, Police Officers and all other professionals … And if you saw them in the Mall, you’d never know! They go through their lives with fake smiles on their faces. They hide it. They disguise the terror. Their bruises are hidden by makeup … Their pain doesn’t show. In many cases, even their best friends don’t know! They’re embarrassed. They protect the ones who abuse them because they keep hoping and praying … “Maybe he’ll change if I just give him another chance and after all … He just apologized and sent me flowers today.” Surely, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions … Of women out there like that. These women who manage to live through this horror are so much more that just victims … They’re Survivors.
It’s not Rocket Science! Pouring more money into a system like this won’t help much, unless the Battered Women themselves are leading the way. Any Politician worth his salt should be able to figure it out … Take some of those billions of dollars that we’re wasting on personal agendas and ridiculous wars, and take up the cause of abused women and their children. You’ll get a helluva lot more votes! I guess it’s time to focus on her abuser now. We’d better, he’s still there! He still has an existence and he’s just waiting. He knows his time will come.
I wonder about him and his life, and has he made good use of his time in prison? When that day comes and he gets out, will his attitude be better or will he have wasted his time and become sicker in the head? And once that choice is given to him, what will he do? Will he try to do something productive with his life or will he be consumed with taking his frustrations out on her, and make her just another statistic … Dead? And if he decides to come back and pay her back for a wrong he feels done, who’s going to have a camera on him wherever he goes? Will the next time I see her be at her funeral, as I view her in her casket … Right before she’s lowered into the ground? I pray to God that’s not so. Maybe I’m dreaming, but can’t help it … I hope for the best. I see a much better option for him than retaliation.
Although it will take a lot of determination on his part, he will now have the chance to show us his best. He will now have the opportunity to do something very constructive with his life. What will he do with this chance of a lifetime? Will he amount to something or will he just blow it again and kill her, then another … Then another? Will he try to control her life again or has he matured enough to take control of his own?
If anyone lives in fear, it should be him! Heather shouldn’t have to hide … She’s done nothing wrong. Your guess is as good as mine as to where it all could end.
As I’m sure you can tell by now, I’ve felt somewhat guilty over the years. I was a part of the system that was supposed to protect her. Heather was right there when I needed her and the only time that she called for me … I was nowhere around. Yes, I’ve got a conscience! Does he? Do you? Does our system?
This story was mostly written before I ever laid eyes on her again, and it was only a month or so beforehand that I had even spoken to her on the phone. I guess things like this have a purpose, because here I am at last, writing this story about her.
I’d like to leave a message for Heather’s abusive ex-husband, Thomas Price, Jr….As he sits in prison until April 24, 2009 at the Bennettsville, South Carolina Federal Correctional Institution…
“It wasn’t Heather! It’s the bad choices you’ve made that prompted me to write this chronicle. Had it not been for your abusive actions, this wouldn’t be much of a story. But don’t expect royalties here for mistakes that you’ve made.
Soon, you’ll be out again and we’re all wondering…What will you do? Surely, you’re more educated now, but at the moment, even you may not have a clue. But this is my promise to you…
Someday, I may offer my hand to you in friendship once you’ve proved honorable intentions. But if you decide to try manipulating Heather or your children, or harming her, them or anyone else in any way…Now, everyone who reads this story will know about you. At the least, I’m going to do my damnedest to make sure that’s quite a few.
There are many like me who love women out here. Also, there are many in there with you. Will you join us, or will we chase you…It’s your choice. It’s all up to you.”
And for the government systems that were set up to help and protect her, I also have a few words…
“You’re just as I was, years ago with my children. You need help now! You need a Babysitter … A good one! I did it before and I can do it again. I’m going to keep searching until I find one I can trust to look after you and the ones that I love … Like that little mother hen who watched over our sons!”
It’s just a matter of time.
Having been in law enforcement for so long, I tend to be skeptical. I tend not to go with all of the bullshit that I read, hear or even see … But more from my own personal experiences, and even more importantly than that … From what my gut tells me! Based upon that, these are the conclusions I’ve drawn. Both Tommy and the system have become smarter and better … At covering up.
Education, we need more of it … From the top down and not from the bottom up. Those who represent us in government first, then Judges, then Lawyers, then Law Enforcement, and right on down the line. It’s like a rope. It’s got to come down … We damn sure can’t push it up! Our best training will not come from Politicians, College Professors or Administrators. Our greatest learning will come from those in the trenches, the experts who’ve been there … The Survivors. But we’d better start now, because we can’t expect that these few Survivors who do speak out will live but so long.
There are many questions left unanswered…
- What will we do about the protection and care of all of our children?
- Will Heather and the multitude of others like her, ever be able to live normal lives without having to fight every step of the way?
- Are we willing to take the necessary steps to help them get beyond just surviving … to thriving?
- As a result of our ignoring their basic needs for survival, will women eventually lose their nature of compassion and nurturing?
- Isn’t the core of our society worth a little more effort and a few more dollars?
- Is her abuser better now and if so, how will he prove it?
- What will he do to restore our trust?
- How can we help him to help us?
- What if he’s worse?
- Will we ignore all the others like him?
- How many like him are actually in prison?
- Which is closer to the root of the problem … sex offenders or abusers?
- Will there ever be a way to track them? (Efforts are showing with sex-offenders … But what about abusers?)
And what’s all this crap about “Family Values” and other sound-bites like that? (Because so little actions are taken, these well-placed words for the media have now lost their meaning)
And if we’re really so concerned about 4why has a female’s right to leave, live and continue to exist been so largely ignored.
Hey! It’s an Emergency! Help me out here! I can’t handle all of this by myself. I’m just an ole man on the porch.
For those of us males who love women and making love with them, we’d better turn the sound back on and get off of our asses. We’ve got to help and protect them … If we do, in fact, love them.
What’s your relationship like? Is it about love and caring or is about power and control? Pay attention to your gut! If you’re a female and you just feel, that it’s the latter and you want to be a Survivor, don’t think twice … You’d better get the hell out of there! If you’re a male and it’s the latter, the same may also be true … Because if you’re an abuser, we’ll soon be coming after you!
That message on the card that Tommy sent to his child was revealing. But who was his note meant for? Was it for his child or his ex-wife again, or was it for all of us? I’m going for the largest picture. When I visualize that little clock with the message that he scrawled … I take it as a wake-up call. We’d better hit the floor and start running!
It’s just a matter of …