Very few victims of domestic abuse will talk about their experience.
“It’s an emotional issue,” said Nancy Weasner, of Waupaca.
She experienced domestic abuse first-hand, and only now, years later, has she broken the silence.
Weasner’s sister was also a victim of domestic violence, but she did not live to talk about it.
Teresa Bender was 28 years old when her estranged husband killed her in Oshkosh in April 1993.
“They had a rocky relationship from the get-go,” Weasner said. “She was choked by him a week before she was killed.”
Virgil Bender was released the next day on a $500 cash bond. According to Weasner, he received the “soft” fine prior to any investigation into the case.
Barely a week later, Virgil used a sawed-off shotgun to kill Teresa, two of her co-workers and himself.
“We need stiffer fines,” Weasner said. “Domestic violence needs more than probation and fines. I don’t care if it’s just the first time – there will be another and another.”
She would like to see violent perpetrators spend a week in jail with no Huber privileges, and undergo a 72-hour psychological evaluation.
“They are taking away the rights of someone else by violating or offending someone else’s rights, so they have no right to refuse rehab or medication,” she said.
The psychological evaluation may not be enough.
“Sometimes the alleged perpetrator is able to ‘play the game’ and fool the psychologist, the judge, police officers and friends,” Weasner said. “The perpetrator shows a different personality while incarcerated to make people think he isn’t guilty, that he is the victim.”
Weasner believes both the perpetrator and the victim need counseling.
“I think both parties fear each other and that is what drives both of them to act and react,” she said.
Another accused perpetrator only received a week in jail, with Huber privileges, according to Colleen McCoy.
“It’s funny how the abuser plays the victim,” she said. “It’s always someone else’s fault.”
McCoy’s entire life changed in April 2014 when she was physically attacked.
“I could see the anger mounting and the situation escalated,” she recalled.
“I had the support of some very special people who got me through what I needed to get through,” McCoy said. “I’m a survivor.”
She said the biggest step is following through with the investigation and filing charges. The hardest part is watching the case go through the court system that handles it as a ‘he said, she said’ situation.
Mccoy has taken steps to keep safe by renewing a restraining order.
“I couldn’t get a restraining order because there was no physical evidence.” said Jenna Linskens, of Waupaca.
Weasner said these restraining orders are “just a piece of paper,” because a violent abuser will continue to stalk the victim.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” she said.
“In many cases where the survivor is not medically evaluated, the abuser was released and posted a $500 bail before the survivor could finish giving a statement,” said Linskens. “As a survivor, it is very scary knowing your abuser is back on the street, potentially more angry and more aggressive because the incident was reported.”
Mccoy agrees it is very frightening knowing your abuser is watching you, and to be controlled by that fear.
“The haunting never goes away,” she said. “You’re always looking over your shoulder.”
“Your nightmare will never go away,” said Linskens. “It will be less frequent, but it will never go away.”
“It’s our reminder of what we went through to become the strong person we are today,” Linskens added.
“I was a prisoner in my own home,” McCoy said. “Now I have gained so much and I am stronger.”
She is moving forward with her life and hopes others will follow.
“Now it’s time to step up to the plate and make things better for other victims,” McCoy said.
“The more that America recognizes that domestic violence occurs, the more the victims will talk about it,” Linskens said. “Eventually people will stand up and say abuse needs to stop.”
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.
Domestic violence includes mental, sexual and physical abuse.
There is assistance available for victims of domestic violence, but most do not accept help.
The victim often declines help because they are afraid it could make matters worse. they do not want to get others involved in their private problems or they are too embarrassed to ask for help.
Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In 2012, Waupaca County had 238 reported domestic violence incidents with 71.8 percent resulting in arrest of the abuser.
In Waupaca County, domestic violence victims needing a place to stay are currently sent to shelters in Stevens Point or Appleton.
The Jurnie’s Shelter Committee is raising funds to provide an emergency shelter in Waupaca County.
Ideally, about $500,000 is needed to open the shelter, according to Linskens, who serves on the committee.
“We have excellent services with CAP Services, but we don’t have a (local) shelter to house the victims for even one night,” she said. “They need a place to feel safe.”
“Jurnie’s shelter is a big part of getting help for victims of domestic violence,” McCoy said. “Not having a shelter allows for the victims to have to go back to their abusers.”
Currently, Jurnie’s Shelter has raised about $25,000. The dates for upcoming fundraisers include March 6 at the Waupaca Ale House, April 18 at Bear Lake Resort, May 30 at Foxfire, and Oct. 24 at Swan Park.
Linskens said CAP Services provides counseling services and assists the victim through the legal process. Domestic abuse shelters provide confidential, round-the-clock security.
Domestic violence is a vicious cycle, according to Linskens.
“The children grow up and become the abusers or the victims, and it keeps going,” she said. “”It’s out of control.”
“We need to make the public aware that domestic violence is a problem,” Weasner said. “The more people talk and the more others hear it, the more likely it will be that something is done about it.”
Victims can begin to get help by calling 211.
“Be realistic,” Weasner said. “Think of what is important – yourself and your children. Everything else is replaceable.”