An Anchor In The Storm

Most assume only a woman is victimized by an abuser. Perhaps a more astute reader would assume the children are abused by virtue of their mother being abused. This post is from the unique perspective of intimate partner homicide survivor’s mother, who thought she might lose both her daughter and her husband when they were attacked by Kate’s ex husband in the presence of their 4 year old son.

Kate writes “She was not present at my apartment the night my estranged husband appeared and shot my father (her husband) and me (her daughter) in front of my son (her grandson). But she has been the rock for our entire family. She received the call no mother and wife should ever receive: her husband yelling into the phone that her ex-son-in-law had done what we’d long feared. Here are her words. I love you, Mom. You’re the strongest woman I know.”

“I am Kate’s mother, Susan, and want to address how domestic violence affects the whole family beyond its victim(s). We, her parents, had a favorable first impression of TM, who became her abuser. He is tall, handsome, blonde and blue-eyed, an officer in the Air Force who turned out to be no gentleman after all. His demeanor is even charismatic. His manners are nice and he speaks well. His townhouse was beautiful. They seemed much in love with each other, so much that they began to live together in his townhouse several months after having met.

They married eight months later with a new baby on the way. Although rushed, things seemed fine initially. But questions evolved. His behavior seemed quirky at first but then became ever more controlling. There were constant texts that interfered with events, notoriously when my 90 year old father passed away. Astonishingly, there were almost 200 of them in one day. How we struggled to deal with this bewildering behavior at a heart-wrenching time! Conversations would routinely be interrupted to our increasing annoyance. Katie could do nothing in the kitchen or do any other household chores. It became increasingly evident that he felt only he could do it right. He’d always find a flaw so that he could maintain control.Even when we’d visit he never even allowed me to boil water!

Her social life became restricted, again we now know to gain more control and work toward isolation, making her ever more dependent on him. Such demands made us a bit uneasy. But her paycheck was most appreciated! He had no real interest in the children, H and W, always putting their books and toys well out of their reach. Again, we felt uneasy but were reluctant to upset the apple cart by asking questions. But we began to notice something seriously wrong when they moved to Florida and joined us.

TM had retired from the Air Force then, and was seriously agitated upon arrival. He paid lip service to finding a job but would disappear for hours without a sensible reason. He would create an upsetting situation to every family event and celebration causing untold drama, jangled nerves, tears, and unanswered questions. Even a trip to the pumpkin patch was not exempt much to our utter exasperation. We did not know what to do anymore. We had never encountered someone like this! Katie has described in previous accountings the steps leading up to a divorce, which were horrific and took two years and tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish.

The culmination was the night of the shooting on November 2012 at her brand new apartment. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think that anything of this magnitude could happen to us. In our case, three generations of my family were victimized that night: my husband and my daughter were both shot and my grandson William, age 4 at the time, was uninjured but witnessed it all. Imagine my hysteria when my husband managed to get a call to me on his cell phone!

Katie was helicoptered out and my husband taken by ambulance to a trauma hospital. On my way to the hospital with my son Matt, we did not know if they would live or not. We found out in transit that William was safe in police custody. Sheer relief with that news! My son’s wife then drove to the police station to get William, take him to their house, and embrace him with love and safety. The hospital staff was magnificent, calm and professional. The police had TM in custody at the police station, alleviating the real fear that he could still be on the loose! Matt and I put our hysteria aside when we were allowed in to see them, so grievously wounded and in great shock. Our hearts and minds were heavy trying to come to grips with the unimaginable!

They both underwent major surgery early the next morning. Their doctors performed miracles putting them back together again! And there is much to be applauded in their efforts to recover after surgery with great pain and much occupational therapy. William, uninjured, received child counseling the entire first weekend provided by the state of Florida. Katie and William still receive counseling regularly.

Our attitude is to prevail, not allowing TM to take away from us any more than he already has! I became the secondary victim, not at the scene and not injured, but the three of them would depend on me for their survival. Such shattering and so many pieces to pick up! Not only did I have their physical recovery at stake, but also their mental and emotional stability. I became the rock for them, their fountain of love and deep concern.

I did everything possible to keep William’s routine the same and keep him on an even keel so he would know how much we love him and so he would feel safe. His preschool deserves great credit for lovingly guiding him through this ordeal too. Katie and William lived with us for a good year until she could maintain some sense of independence on her own, especially with limited use of her right hand. My husband’s left arm and hand has extensive nerve damage and will never be the same. So, yes, domestic violence affects entire families, not just individual victims.

My three loved ones are well on the road to recovery now, though this trauma will never leave us. We did not know words like sociopath, hollow point bullets, and restraining order. TM’s volatile behavior left us bewildered. For future reference, note that these behaviors are red flags to be taken seriously and can lead to untold trauma. Talk to your family members about these behaviors and warning signs. Offer an exit plan and safe haven. Emotional, psychological and financial abuse are just as dangerous as the obvious physical abuse. We need to band together as families and organizations to make the USA a safer place to live. We love you, Katie, and your boys always and forever!”

About Lisette d. Johnson

Murder-Suicide Survivor, Mom, Writer, Speaker, Serial Volunteer in the Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault Arena, Entrepreneur, &amp Friend. I survived, my kids survived, and I am here to tell the story.
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3 Responses to An Anchor In The Storm

  1. All I can say is . . . Wow.

  2. Evan says:

    Domestic Violence Survivors and Advocates:

    Join us at the 11th Annual and First International Battered Mother’s Custody Conference taking place at the Empire Hotel Clarion Meadowlands (2 Harmon Plaza) in Secaucus New Jersey, May 15-17th.

    The BMCC is an annual conference that addresses the pattern of serious legal injustices encountered by battered women who approach the family/divorce court system seeking protection for themselves and their children from an abusive spouse or partner. This is the first time the BMCC will be in New Jersey! The conference is comprised of survivors, advocates and activist from all over the country and around the world. It is open to the public. For more information, please visit:


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