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‘It started with jealousy’

Domestic violence survivors speak out as fatality rates soar

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

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Reporter’s note: Names have been changed to protect victims’ identities.

LaGRANGE — Lynn had lived in town less than a month and was hundreds of miles away from loved ones when the relationship with her new boyfriend suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“It started with jealousy … and because of Instagram — he didn’t want me to have it,” she said. “He broke two of my cellphones within a week … then someone called me. He didn’t like that. Then he didn’t like my boxers or the pajamas I had on.”

Lynn said the violence quickly followed.

“The first time he hit me was when I forgot my password to get on Instagram. … Another incident happened when I was texting my daughter,” she explained. “I said, ‘OK, wait a minute. My daughter comes first.’ He slapped me around and then threw me against the wall. … We lived with one of his friends at the time. … I was hollering for his friend. He wouldn’t move.

“Then my boyfriend spit on my face,” Lynn paused as tears ran down her face. “It was horrible. … I felt horrible. I felt so low … so disrespected. I felt bad about myself.”

Unfortunately, this was the second time Lynn had found herself in an abusive situation.

The first incident, just a year and a half ago, was more brutal, she said.

It started when an acquaintance continually asked her out, though Lynn politely declined his offers.

One night he pulled up beside Lynn in a car and asked her if she wanted a ride home, Lynn said.

She decided to take him up on the offer since there was another female inside the vehicle, she said. But as she slid into the front seat and asked to use the man’s cellphone, Lynn said things went very wrong.

“She (female in car) hit me in the head with a bottle,” she said. “So I jumped out of the moving vehicle. Then I heard him hit the brakes and jump out of the car. … She (female) started hitting me in the head with a tire iron. Then he grabbed it and told her, ‘You’re not doing it right.’”

After the beating, the couple then threw Lynn in a river, where she was found by a fisherman a few hours later, she stated.

Her skull shattered and filled with blood clots, Lynn underwent five and a half hours of brain surgery, she explained. She now has metal plates on one side of her head and suffers from PTSD.

Lynn had no idea that ordeal would help her escape an almost similar situation a year and a half later with another man in LaGrange.

“That’s what made me leave my boyfriend so quick,” she said. “I couldn’t let him do what another man already tried to do.”

Michele Bedingfield, executive director of Harmony House, said Lynn had good reason to be afraid and was right in attempting to leave her boyfriend right away.

According to the Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report, the state had a significant increase in domestic violence-related homicides in 2015. There were 139 domestic-related deaths, the highest number of deaths ever recorded by the group in the past 10 years.

Eighty percent of these deaths were caused by firearms, the fatality review reports.

Bedingfield said the number of deaths related to domestic violence was seven in Troup County during 2015, compared to 14 the year before.

But Lynn was determined not to become a statistic, which is why the next day while her boyfriend was at work she planned her escape, although she had nowhere to go.

Then the doorbell rang, and help came to her.

We will have more on Lynn’s story coming up in part 2 of this series in Wednesday’s edition of the LaGrange Daily News. We also will have information from a woman abused by her adult son and Harmony House’s work on domestic violence prevention in the community.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.