Domestic violence not acceptable

By Carol O’Brien - County Prosecutor

It was a love story. They were high school sweethearts who broke up, only to reunite 19 years later. Five years after they were married, and one year ago today, he killed her and then killed himself right here in Delaware County.

Few people knew it, but Terri Lee Rings was a victim of domestic violence. Smart, beautiful, and impressive, Terri always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. She was valued as a great employee. She wasn’t the “typical victim” of domestic violence, and that’s the point. There is no typical victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence cuts across all socio-economic lines, all genders, races, sexual orientations and all educational levels. Domestic violence is an epidemic that kills thousands of people annually, and it’s not going away. One in seven men and one in four women will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner. Tragically, Terri was one of those women. From the outside looking in, no one could really know what Terri’s home life was like.

Of course, it was evident that something wasn’t working. Terri’s family knew about the mistreatment, at least to some extent. They encouraged her to leave. Terri, however, didn’t want to abandon him. He needed her. He told her that “he had waited 36 years and I will fly high with you.” She couldn’t leave.

The reasons why people stay in abusive relations are as varied as the people themselves. Shortly after the Ray Rice incident (the Baltimore Ravens football player who knocked out his fiancée with one punch and dragged her out of the elevator by her hair), Beverly Gordon started the twitter campaigns #whyistayed and #whyileft. Children, finances, religion, love, and fear top the list of why people stayed.

Fear is very real. A woman stating her intent to leave is at the highest risk for intimate partner homicide. A woman is 70 times more likely to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving her abusive partner. Violence may re-escalate at any time (up to a year after leaving) if the perpetrator experiences a “life event.”

Turns out, Terri was leaving. She asked her sister Nancy if she could live with her. Terri obviously recognized the danger, and was working toward change. Terri had told a friend, “When I turn up dead, know my husband did it.” Tragically her words rang true. She was in fact, murdered by her husband.

Terri’s family does not want this to happen to anyone ever again. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We must work together to break the cycle. It might be uncomfortable, but we must talk about it. Educate our children about what they deserve in a relationship. Model what a healthy relationship is.

Statistics tell us that 10,000,000 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. Most experts believe that children raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts. They may replicate the violence in their teen and adult relationships, even continuing the cycle as they parent.

Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships.

Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.

We cannot and will not accept domestic violence in our community. Terri’s family is working toward raising awareness. They, along with the Delaware County Coalition of Victim’s Services, are organizing the fifth annual Dash at Dusk, a 5K to raise awareness about domestic violence in our community. Mark your calendars and register today. The event will be on Sunday, Oct. 9 at Liberty Park in Powell.

This years run (or walk) will be held in honor of Terri Lee Rings, a Delaware County resident gone too soon. I am passing on the invitation from Terri’s family to all of you to “dash” with them and remember Terri at this very special event.

Proceeds raised will go to Turning Point as they work to open a domestic violence shelter in Delaware. Turning Point has been serving domestic violence victims and their families for more than 30 years.

If you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, the best thing you can do is listen. Let the person know you support them, and they deserve better. Let that person know that you’re worried about their safety, and ask them if they are willing to speak with someone.

The number for Turning Point is 1-800-232-6505. The number for HelpLine, the local 24-hour crisis hotline is 1-800-684-2324. The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

As for the Dash at Dusk, register today at:

By Carol O’Brien

County Prosecutor