Ponder This: Closer look at domestic violence (Part I)

Editor’s Note: Dale Driscoll’s ‘Ponder This’ will run in a three part series this week exclusively on FingerLakes1.com. Each will look at a different part of the domestic violence fight. Part one of the feature looks at the frequency of domestic violence, as well as the way it impacts victims and survivors families. Check back this week for the second and third parts of Driscoll’s ‘Ponder This’ column.

Domestic Violence occurs every minute of every day. It has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.

October is only the month dedicated to domestic violence awareness. It is a cause which I am truly passionate about. It is because of domestic violence that I lost my daughter and granddaughter.

I won’t forget that tragic day, or the emotions I felt the days, weeks and maybe even months after I received the phone call informing me my girls had been brutally murdered. I will forever carry them with me in my heart. I would like to take the focus off myself to share the stories of two other victims in the area, stories that have made a huge impact in my life and touched my heart at the deepest level.

Tammy Parker is both a victim and survivor. Her story is one of the most horrific cases of domestic violence I have ever heard. Immediately upon hearing it, I knew I had to interview this courageous woman for this piece and get to know how she dealt with the atrocities, first hand. The director of a local Victim’s Resource Center, placed me in contact with Tammy and she graciously agreed to meet with me. Suffice to say, I liked her the instant we greeted each other. Surprisingly, Tammy was candid, weaving a graphic tale of assault and battery.

In the winter of 2005, Tammy was beaten mercilessly by the man who vowed to love, honor and cherish her. Married less than two years, however, wedded bliss faded. On a cold, February afternoon, Tammy’s husband became angered over a trivial ‘offense’. Anger quickly turned to rage. Tammy never knew what hit her. The man she loved threw her to the basement floor, then proceeded to smash her face repeatedly onto the concrete. Mercifully she blacked out. It wasn’t until seven months after her husband was arrested that the full details of the event came to light. Tammy was initially rushed to Clifton Springs Hospital by the very person who inflicted her life-threatening injuries. Due to the massive amount of trauma she sustained, Tammy was transferred to Strong Memorial Hospital, in Rochester. The injuries were extensive: broken jaw, cheekbone, crushed nose, broken teeth, several herniated discs in her cervical spine, and fractured socket of her right eye. Since that tragic day, Tammy Parker has undergone more than 22 reconstructive surgeries to her neck and face.

Despite her condition, Tammy’s husband was granted an incredibly low bail. It was set at five-thousand dollars, which he quickly posted using their joint credit card.

How does something this graphic and life-altering impact a victim?

Like many violent acts, it will depend on the one living it. I can honestly say Tammy is a fighter. She refuses to be viewed as a victim. In her words… “I am a survivor, and I will stand up and make it.” Does that mean every new day is better than the previous? That is unrealistic. She still has days where it is extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning. But, talking with this resilient, kindhearted woman, one would not believe anything was wrong. What I saw before me was a remarkably strong individual having tremendous courage and fortitude. Tammy chooses not to let what has happened define who she is but uses those negative experiences to educate others to not become victims like herself.

From 1983 until that tragic event, Tammy worked in a busy pediatrics office. In 2007 she went back to earn a degree as an RN. This was between the many, extensive surgeries. Today, she works closely with the local domestic violence agency; speaking at colleges, tech and rehabilitation centers, churches, jails, and anyone with a willing ear to listen. Truly she is a remarkable woman.

Shannon Pepper’s story is equally tragic. Over a two-day period, she was severely beaten. Her head swelled to twice the normal size. Shannon’s injuries included eight broken ribs, upper and lower jaws, both eye sockets, punctured lung, and severe trauma to her brain. To illustrate the sheer brutality, her attacker nearly ripped the lips off her face. She remained in a coma for three full weeks. The only recognizable feature by which her parents could identify her was the tattoo on her arm. Ironically, Shannon once told her mother she may need that someday to identify her. Miraculously, Shannon pulled through.

A short time after She was released from the hospital, still struggling with her injuries, she called Senator Cathy Young and was told about Brittany’s Law. Shannon wasted no time. She immediately petitioned, getting as many signatures as she could to get the bill passed.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck, again. In her ensuing depression, Shannon turned to alcohol. Like many victims, she could not cope with what had happened. The attack had left the beautiful, young woman disfigured. Shannon passed out with a lit cigarette in her hand and died in the ensuing apartment fire. Shannon wasn’t concerned with how she looked when canvassing neighborhoods for signatures. She was determined to see the bill become law, especially after hearing what had happened to my granddaughter. Her parents, Linda and Thomas Randolph are just as committed as Shannon was.

Although she didn’t die directly at the hands of Anthony Navone, the Randolph’s and I believe Shannon’s death was indirectly the result of the initial attack and injuries inflicted. Had “Brittany’s Law” been passed, we believe she would be alive, today. Shannon had recently gotten out of an abusive relationship and there is no doubt she would have checked into Navone’s background. Linda and Thomas Randolph have since picked up with the fight where Shannon left off in her memory. More of Shannon’s story can be found on the Brittany’s Law website.

These are just two of the ‘cases’ of many involving domestic violence. Thousands of women visit emergency rooms across America, each year at the hands of their abusive partners. Out of fear and shame, a great deal go undocumented.

Dale Cook Driscoll’s ‘Ponder This’ is a bi-weekly column featured exclusively on FingerLakes1.com. She is constantly evaluating the political and social landscape around the state, and has been a long-time advocate for Brittany’s Law — legislation aimed at creating a violent offenders registry in New York State. She can be contacted via email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter here.

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