Wichita, Kan. -- Last month was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In Wichita alone, the police department recorded over 400 cases of domestic violence.
One woman is sharing what many are afraid to share, pictures and the story of the last time she was nearly beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend. Wichitan Jo Ann Matley says she feels it is time for everyone to see what happened in thousands of homes across Kansas every year, why it is so difficult to get out and how attitudes me perpetuate the violence.
Jo Ann Matley works in a nursing home, takes care of her aging father, and socialized with friends. She says she never dreamed she would end up with a knife at her throat and hospitalized from a beating.
"I had stitches under my chin, stitches right here on my lip, bruising from my ear all the way to the other ear. My whole face was puffed, my forehead was out. I had two black eyes..."
But Jo Ann says she does not want sympathy. She just wants to graphically show what happens in abusive relationship and how difficult it is to get out. Jo Ann didn't know it, but her ex-boyfriend had already spent time in prisons in Arizona and California for domestic violence. Then, after Peter Cabrera abused Joann the first time, he spent 9 months in prison.
He was out just three weeks when blood was spilled again, putting Jo Ann in the hospital for 4 days.
How to stop the violence is the forever frustrating question. Victim advocates say some batterers should be charged with attempted murder, which brings a much longer prison sentence. But in Kansas, that only gives the jury one choice.
"It's either all or nothing ...and so in a general sense, if we charge it and the jury doesn't agree with it, he walks."
Sedgwick County District Attorney Mark Bennett headed the Domestic Violence department at the DA's office for over a decade. He says it gets frustrating for prosecutors, who are often forced to charge abusers with aggravated battery or assault, which carries smaller sentences. He says that's because juries have been very reluctant to convict them of attempted murder.
"We have to have enough objective facts that there was intent to kill and when we do, we absolutely charge it all the time."
In this case, like most, Cabrera was convicted of aggravated battery and assault. He will be released from prison in 4 and a half years.
"I was like this is not right. The prosecutor said, I know Jo Ann. It should have been longer. Even the judge made a comment that he wishes he could have done it longer."
Jo Ann testified against her abuser in court, but some women back out, in part because they are afraid he will be released before he cools off.
"What does happen all the time, they come in, take the stand and say it never happened. I fell down, I ran into something, another man did this to me..." says Bennett.
At the YWCA Women's Shelter, over 300 people a month are turned away. That's why advocates find it a bit shocking when people consistently tell domestic violence victims that the solution is easy, just leave.
Debby Zelli with the YWCA Women's Shelter says "Seventy to eighty percent of domestic homicides occur after she leaves the relationship. Which is stunning because we says as a society, get out. leave him, get out."
Until the laws change or until judges and juries are more willing to convict abusers of more serious crimes, Zelli says the answer may lie in communities putting more resources into overflowing shelters and mandatory batterer intervention programs. Most importantly, stop asking the question, "Why doesn't she just leave?"
Experts offer these ten early warning signs that you may be dating a future abuser.
1. He is so "crazy" about you that he wants to get serious as soon as he meets you:
This kind of person wants a commitment right off. He will claim to have fallen "head over heels in love" with you....and may believe you are soul mates. He wants this commitment even before he has gotten to know you well. Initially, their professions of love are flattering , are intensely romantic, and seemingly mirror a childhood "fairy tale love story." In reality, these sentiments MAY be used to cloud your judgement , gain undo trust, and aides in his ability to control you in the future.
2. He is weirdly jealous:
Possessiveness can masquerades as love. A man with insecurities may naturally feel anxious about your associations with other men. But if he indicates that he expects you to give up your freedom to accommodate his jealousy, control is creeping up. Possessiveness (ex; he becomes angry when you talk to the waiter) shows that he doesn't love you as an independent human being but rather as a something he can "own."
3. He does favors that you don't want or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable.:
This can be signs of a man who is attempting to create a sense of indebtedness.
4. Nothing is ever his fault.:
He blames something or someone for anything that goes wrong. As time goes by, his target of blame may increasingly become you. He makes promises he can't keep....coming up with a stream of excuses. He may take economic advantage of you in the process.
5. He treats you differently around other people:
Adult abusers tend to put on a show of treating their partners like gold when everyone is watching, reserving most of their abuse for times when no one else will see. In teenage abusers, the opposite may be true. He may be rude and cold with her in front of others to impress his friends, but may be somewhat nicer when they are alone together.
6. He has double standards:
Beware of a man who has a different set of rules for his behavior than for yours.
7. He is disrespectful towards you:
Disrespect is the soil in which abuse grows. If a man puts you down or sneers at your opinions, if he is rude to you in front of others, if he is cutting or sarcastic, he is communicating a lack of respect.
8. Pettiness or Hypersensitivity:
He tends to make a big deal out of nothing, focus on insignificant details or comments, and assume that any difference of opinion is an attack on him. He often claims that you have "hurt" him; even your smallest infractions cause him emotional pain.
9. He intimidates you when he is angry:
Intimidation includes: 1) Getting too close to you when he is angry, putting a finger in your face, poking you, or blocking your way. 2) he tells you that he is just trying to "make you listen." 3) He makes vaguely threatening comments, such as, "you don't want to see me mad " or "you don't know who you are messing with." 4) He drives recklessly or speeds up when he is angry.
10. Doesn't think your friends or family value you enough...or wants to keep you somewhat isolated.:
At first, it might appear that he really enjoys spending time alone with you , or that he values solitary. But an abuser's insistence to hang out alone may be serving one purpose...to isolate you from the outside world because he is vested in keeping you all to himself.
Also watch out if;
1.He texts so much, it creeps you out.
2. You are always explaining to people "I can't go."
3. Your anxiety soars if you are just a few minutes late because you know how upset he'll be.
4.You find you don't do anything without him , or without him approving of it.
5. You get a lot of apology emails or make-up gifts
If you or a loved one are in an abusive situation and need help, please contact one of these agencies in your area:
Harbor House: 316-263-6000
In Dodge City:
Crisis Center of Dodge City 620-225-6510
In El Dorado:
Family Life Center of Butler County: 316-321-7104
In Garden City:
Family Crisis Services: 620-275-5911
In Great Bend:
Family Crisis Center: 620-792-1885
NW Kansas Domestic Violence Services: 785-625-3055
Domestic Violence Center: 620-663-2522
Liberal Area DV Services: 620-624-8818
Harvey County DV Task Force: 316-283-0350
Domestic Violence Assoc. of Central Kansas: 785-827-5862
Safe Homes Inc: 620-221-4357