on the way home from the grocery store, and she was in a panic.
on the road up ahead had resulted in a significant detour from her typical route. Her husband would be watching the clock,
and checking the car’s odometer. Would he believe her about the detour? Or would he fly into a rage, accusing her of
seeing someone else? “I cried all the way home,” Paige (not her real
name) recalls today.
It had all
started out so wonderfully – at least for a teenage girl who was flattered by all the attention her boyfriend showered
on her. She got married at 19 – “I was just a baby,” she reflects today – and was soon living the
American Dream, as a stay-at-home-mom in a church-going family, with a little boy and a little girl and a beautiful house
in the suburbs.
started at “over-attentiveness” evolved into obsession and control. Her husband made rules, first that she couldn’t
contact family or friends when he wasn’t home, and then even when he was. He demanded to know her whereabouts at all
times, and berated her every decision no matter how small. And he began to threaten – vague threats at first, like “Something
bad will happen to you,” and then descriptions of physical abuse that awaited her if she made a mistake again. He began
breaking her personal belongings and locking her out of the house. And sex in her marital relationship was no longer consensual;
it was rape. Threats were escalating. Paige had had enough.
a white woman, a middle-class, a stay-at-home mom from a religious family, who had a good lawyer and did what people told
her to do – she “got out.” But in the process, her husband successfully painted her as “crazy”
and a drug addict. She left the marriage, but she also lost custody of her son and daughter. “I got railroaded by the
courts,” she says, “and it makes me wonder – what about those women who aren’t white, who aren’t
middle-class and who don’t have a good lawyer? What happens to them?”
spend the next 14 years as an advocate for victims of domestic violence, first as a volunteer and later as a staff member
of a Madison-area organization. The Madison area has a variety of resources to help those in violent relationships,
who can be man or women, straight or gay, married or single, rich or poor. Paige says victims all have one thing in common:
they are shattered and confused.
to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Wisconsin
averages about 40 homicides every year that are classified as “domestic.” These can be spouses, children, other
family members, or police who try to intervene. People often judge abuse victims by saying, “Why don’t they just
leave?” but statistics clearly show that a partner who is in the process of ending a relationship with an abuser is
even more vulnerable to violence – including homicide – at that time.
the children and youth program coordinator at WCADV, says the organization provides a network of all the domestic violence
programs in the state, “to help them speak with one voice.” It recognizes that while the most obvious abuse is
physical, there is also sexual, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as destruction of property and threats or acts of abuse
against children, family pets or other loved ones.
organization, Women Ending Abuse Via Empowerment (WEAVE), is a grassroots organization providing support to older battered
women because “she has often been in the relationship for many years … may have limited ways of providing for
herself as the couple’s resources are often … in the husband’s
Abuse Intervention Services, also located in Madison, provides
legal advocacy services (including accompanying a victim to court to lend moral support); a 25-bed emergency shelter, support
groups, children’s programming and more.