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Survivor's Circle

“And Now I See” by Carrie Swearingen

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March 23, 2004 I was able to take steps to start living again. I got up in the morning and went to work, I didn't have to take my kids to the daycare because my mom and dad were watching them today. They came to town to attend the court which was scheduled for the next day to decide who gets custody of the kids and get a permanent restraining order, instead of the ex parte restraining order I already had. An ex parte restraining order is temporary, one that my estranged husband didn’t get a chance to fight against. I was told early in this battle that a restraining order is only a piece of paper, not a shield.

At about 3:12pm my estranged husband came into where I worked carrying a camouflaged gun, pointing it towards me. I thought that I was in the back of the office, but my co-workers said that I was in the front of the office at my desk and I screamed a weird scream and he kept asking, "This is what you want? This is what you want?" I can remember thinking, what about my kids, who will watch them? I danced about trying not to get hit with a bullet. That sounds weird, trying not to get hit with a bullet! I later learned that it is more difficult to hit something with a bullet that stands still, so I should have been still. My co-worker ran out the back door, which I was glad, as he was a target, being a man. I was always being watched by my estranged husband, making sure that I was being a good wife, many times I wouldn't know that I was being watched, but I never did anything to even make him question anything. However, today, I was trying to get away. I remember pushing him and running toward the back of the office. My manager tried to get him to stop firing the gun. She asked several times to think about what he was doing, to stop firing the gun. I grabbed the back of my head, where a bullet grazed me and then I was hit again just beyond the hairline of my temple and I fell to the floor. She thought I was dead. She went to the phone to call, then thought about him. She looked outside of her office and saw him look at the gun, throw it down on the floor and walk out.

A couple of bullets went through the wall of my office into the next. Two employees at a doctor's office a couple doors down came in and tried to stop the bleeding. My manager called, along with many other calls from the area and I was immediately taken to the hospital. God was with me through all of this. We almost made a record to get into surgery, God and I. The neurosurgeon was at the hospital to operate on a scheduled surgery and took me instead. If I would have had to wait I would have died. God's got this. He had people already lined up to do his work!

I was a member of the Little River Baptist Church in Penrose, NC. It was a great place for me and the kids to escape to. They found out this had happened and had a prayer gathering for me, then many came to the hospital and filled the waiting room. Again, God's got this.

The police came to my house and my sister met them at the door and they told her what happened and my mom and dad left to go the hospital. My sister took the boys away and as they drove by the police all standing guard and watching throughout the road, they hid their guns from them. One of my boys said to the other, they are only 3 and 4 at this time, "We need to pray for mom." They are great kids. A couple years later my youngest and I were listening to the radio and they were reporting on a woman who was killed by her husband. My son said, "Well, she must not have been a mom." He thought that all moms are saved. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and so I decided to share my story to hopefully save someone from getting into a relationship like I did.

I fought to get back to where I am today. When I returned to the neurosurgeon for a checkup he said I look beautiful with a smile. He said that he left 33 pieces of the bullet still in my head. I had a confused look on my face and he said they learned from the Vietnam War, that by removing the pieces destroys the brain again. The brain can learn from other parts to do certain things. So while war is bad, we did learn some good from it.

My family surrounded me, friends jumped in and had benefits and visited us. While I was shot, this affected the people who were in my life as well. We each make a difference, God has created us beautifully! I went to rehab and they gave me work that a kindergartener would do. I worked on it, but I also read stories to my kids every night, so that actually helped me. Many times I couldn't think of the words that I needed when speaking, so I wasn't making much sense, so by reading the words it helped my brain to retrain. Today, if I am tired or stressed, I will substitute words, thus not making much sense, but the people around me know, sometimes they crack a joke or just do what I was trying to say. We have learned to laugh about this, which is something that they were not sure I would ever do again, as the brain that was damaged controlled when I laugh or cry. So I try to laugh. Life is short so today is a good day!

A gentleman whose wife was a nurse suggested that I go back to school to become a nurse. I thought, that is crazy as I just had to learn to write my name correctly, my words get jumbled, I am tired often, yeah, that's crazy. Remember, God's got this. I moved to my sister's house, continuing to work. While I was still in the hospital, my boss's boss visited me, I had a half a head of hair, black eyes and I told her I would be back to work in a couple of weeks. She said OK. About two months later, I returned. I actually went to the office the night before to look around; there were bullet holes in the doors and through the divider between 2 desks. My kid’s pictures were moved up on my desk and posted above so they were easier to see. It would be OK. I came in for a couple of hours to start and gradually worked my way to all day. My estranged husband tried to take me down, but I was surrounded by so many people to get back up! I lived with my sister for a while, and then I moved back to my mom and dad's and went back to school. Yes, school, I studied, studied and studied some more. My kids would get me to go do things with them if I could bring my books. Today, I am a Registered Nurse. Shortly after graduation, I began seeing a man whom I have known my whole life. Sam and I got married and he has adopted my boys. They have made great strides to overcome adversity. While staying with my sister, my boys were praying each night for a man for me. I boldly spoke that I didn't need a man. Again, God's got this. I see what God was saying when he talks about a Godly marriage, where the husband is the leader and the wife supports him. There is no violence, yelling or cursing, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." I am so thankful for God to get me through this, as I started dating again, I was falling back into the same situation and I listened to my gut and made changes. It is difficult to make changes. I have taught my boys that life is not fair, and we all get choices. Some people have to work harder, get less, get sick, and a million other reasons why or why not, but we need to keep a positive attitude and do what is right, not always what is easiest. That is very difficult to do some days!! Our choices matter to us and to those around us many times too. Listen to your gut, pay attention to what those closest to you say. They do love you.

I am blessed with a wonderful family today!

Caroline

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VICTIM: Caroline
Date of Domestic Violence episode: 08/04/2011
Case Reference: Canyon County Sheriff’s Office C#11-15713
 
Caroline and her husband had been married for less than a year. There had been tense and violent episodes before, but Caroline chalked them up as a result of a normal marital relationship, working through them to survive. On the night in question, Caroline had no idea how close she came to death by the man who she trusted to love and protect her. His Jekyll and Hyde transformation, induced by alcohol, would be a revelation to Caroline. She soon learned of her husband’s true sinister nature.
 
Caroline and her husband were enjoying themselves at a local concert. They both had been drinking beer and having a good time. However, Caroline noticed her husband was becoming increasingly agitated and aggressive with other concert goers. The couple made it home and eventually went to bed. Caroline later awoke to her husband urinating in their bedroom closet. She attempted to stop him and wake him up. The two proceeded to argue, and Caroline felt that it was beginning to escalate. She decided to find a motel for the night.  Though she left the home in search of a hotel she could not seem to make up her mind and returned home.
 
Upon her return, Caroline’s husband accused her of cheating, she said that he “lost it” and proceeded to strike her with his fists. Caroline told officers later that she was not sure how long the beating continued, but believed it was over an hour. During this time, Caroline was grabbed around the neck by her husband who proceeded to strangle her to the point Caroline believed she lost consciousness. She was lucid though when her husband said he was going to go get his gun and kill her, then himself. Caroline was then able to run out of the house, to the neighbor's to gain safety and contact police.
 
When law enforcement officers arrived on scene, they saw Caroline, blood covered, her face unrecognizable—eyes blackened, with multiple cuts and bruises to her neck and chest. Caroline had lacerations on both shoulders, bruising to all limbs and a distinct bite mark on her right elbow. The crime scene was no less gruesome. The officers noted a twenty-five foot path of blood from the second story rooms, down the stairs and into the living room. Caroline's first words to the officers were, “My husband beat me up.” When officers made contact with Caroline's husband, he had quite a different account of what had transpired.
 
He claimed that after returning from the concert, it was Caroline who started picking fight with him, not the other way around. He claimed to only having two beers that night. He said that the first thing he remembered after returning home was getting up to use the restroom and seeing his wife returning in his car. She had returned home battered and bleeding. The officer's remarked on the urine in the bedroom closet to which Caroline’s husband said that it was Caroline’s and not his own. . He later altered his story, claiming that he did in fact know what happened.  He was subsequently arrested for felony domestic battery and felony attempted strangulation.
 
Caroline later met with a victim/witness coordinator and reviewed a standard lethality assessment. A score of three indicators or more in the assessment indicate "high risk". Caroline’s assessment indicated over sixteen. She had no idea how close she came to being killed. Caroline withstood follow up photos and continued scrutiny by authorities and was later seen by a detective to review her case. Understandably, she was trying to make sense of what had happened, struggling with the feelings she had for her husband in the wake of his attempt to kill her that night.  
 
The detective encouraged Caroline to have a follow up medical exam to access the damage caused by the attempted strangulation. She hadn’t made an appointment. The detective then went through a list of symptoms with Caroline: she bright red petechial hemorrhaging in the whites of her eyes, there was obvious bruising around her neck, the outline of her husband's hands were clearly distinguishable, her throat was sore and she was having difficulty swallowing. Yet, she was still having difficulty grasping how seriously close her life had almost been to ending. The detective then asked Caroline to stick out her tongue. She did so mockingly, until finally she could see first-hand that her tongue was swollen and black from her blood supply having been cut off and her airway closed.
 
Her swollen face, blackened eyes, bruised and battered body was not enough evidence. It took a small act of defiance, the sticking out of her tongue for her to see the truth.
 
Caroline's husband served relatively little time in prison, returning to living at home following his release. Still, Caroline lives with the fear that she may run into him somewhere or that he may try to find her.  She feels one of the only saving graces is that she survived his brutal attack.  She now hopes to be a voice to help in the crusade to stop domestic violence.

Lynae

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The police report reads:  Multiple bruises to head, face, neck, shoulder, arms, legs, back.  Complaining of pain in all of above areas.  Laceration to scalp.  Minor cuts on hands and fingers.  Officer reports victim has suffered fractures to her facial bones.
 
Charge:  Felony Domestic Battery
Victim:  Lynae (Wilkins) Leplat
Suspect:  Daniel Leplat
 
January 22, 2005, at approximately 9 p. m., Lynae Leplat’s neighbors came home and found Lynae lying on the floor in their house.  She had been beaten and was very bloody.  When the neighbor asked Lynae what happened, Lynae stated that her husband Dan had beaten her.  The neighbor drove Lynae to the hospital and called 911.  
 
When officers arrived at the hospital Lynae told them that her husband had arrived home at around 3:30 p.m. and that they had started arguing.  He was upset because she was drinking beer and then accused her of seeing another man.  He started slapping her in the head with his open hands, continuously hitting her ears.  He threw her to the floor and kicked her numerous times.  Her husband told her that he would kill her.  
 
The officers observed Lynae’s condition: her face was red, bruised and swollen, her left eye was almost shut due to the swelling, there were red marks and swelling on both sides of her neck, a laceration on her head, blood in both nostrils, blood in her right ear and her chest was red.  The officers observed bruises on her arms and legs and what appeared to be shoe tread impressions on her back.  Lynae was having difficulty breathing and gasped for breath whenever the nurse would move her.  The officers noted Lynae’s clothing on a chair in the emergency room which had large amounts of blood on them.
 
(Note: Lynae would later tell detectives that the beating went on for hours.  Her husband would beat her unconscious and when she woke up he would drag her into another room and beat her again.  She finally escaped when her husband passed out and she crawled out a window and crawled to her neighbor’s house where she laid in the dark until her neighbors came home and found her).
 
Officers went to Lynae’s home to speak to Daniel.  When the officers made contact with him Dan asked them what was going on.  They told him that his wife was in the hospital and he told the officers that he had not seen her since the previous day.  Daniel had blood on the palms of his hands and on his pant legs.  When the officers asked him about the blood he told them that he had been BUTCHERING RABBITS.  Daniel was placed under arrest for felony Domestic Battery and transported to the county jail.
 
When officers entered the house they observed blood stains on the rug in the living room.  The cabinet under the fish aquarium had what appeared to be blood splatter.  There was also blood on the wall and the stereo.  Officers found Lyneae’s bra, which had been torn in two, with blood stains on it.  It took several hours to work the crime scene.
 
After spending a week in the hospital and nearly losing her left eye, Lynae returned home and tried to put the pieces of her life back together.  Daniel stayed in jail during the adjudication process, but did not leave his victim alone.  Even though a No Contact Order was in place, Daniel repeatedly reached out to Lynae via third party contacts.  On multiple occasions complete strangers to Lynae would walk into her place of employment and pass her notes or verbal messages from Daniel warning her not to testify against him.  The detectives working her case repeatedly sought the people involved with carrying out Daniel’s orders to intimidate Lynae.

Stephanie

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Domestic violence and abusive behavior is not a loss of control over ones behavior. It is a conscious choice made by the abuser to control.
In an effort to aid in the fight against Domestic Violence, victim Stephanie Young has granted the Man Up Crusade permission to tell her story.  Stephanie Young hopes it will move you, educate you and possibly save you and those you know from domestic violence.  
 
"He wouldn't stop, I was bleeding, I was scared, I knew I was going to die".
Her every movement was being controlled by her abuser.  She had be beaten, stabbed, burned, tortured, kidnapped, tied up and held against her will.  She was too petrified with fear, from repeated violent abuse, to attempt escape.
Following is a factual summarized account of domestic violence victim Stephanie Young, who suffered long term abuse at the hands of her domestic partner.  Abuse so callused and calculated that it shocked seasoned law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victim witness coordinators who heard Stephanie's story firsthand as her case was revealed and brought before the courts.
 
Stephanie's story began 10 years ago when she was going to school with her abusers sister and working in his parent's store.  When she turned 18, she started to date the man who was to become her abuser.  Stephanie became pregnant with her daughter, but her boyfriend was incarcerated on drug charges for most of her pregnancy.  When he was released, he was more emotionally and mentally controlling, keeping track of everywhere Stephanie went and who she saw.  The violence started sometime in 2008.  The first incident sending her to the hospital.
 
Around December 1, 2010, her abuser started hitting her on a daily basis without reason. Just before Christmas she was punched with a closed fist causing a large bruise on her face and a black eye.  Prior to that he had only hit her in areas of her body where no one could see the bruises.  He also started pointing his father's loaded handguns at her.  He would pull the trigger enough to make the laser light activate, and then move the laser dot over her body.  Stephanie said, "He thought that was just great".
 
One evening, during this same time frame in 2010, Stephanie's abuser punched her in the face again knocking her off the bed.  Her young daughter, on the bed with her parents, witnessed this violent act against her mother.  The abuser then forced her (Stephanie) to apologize to their daughter.  He made her look her daughter in the eyes and tell her "It's my fault, I did something wrong. That's why daddy did it".
 
Late in December 2010, Stephanie decided that she could no longer take more abuse and tried to run.  At the time, the three were staying at her abusers parents' house.  Stephanie ran down the stairs, grabbed her daughter and tried to run out the front door passed her abusers father was shoveling snow on the walk.  She was caught just as she opened the door; he blocked her exit and slammed the door shut.  Stephanie was screaming hysterically, but her boyfriend’s father ignored her screams, never entering the house. Stephanie ran to the living room, still screaming and clutching her daughter.  She was caught and dragged up the stairs by the back of her hair.  He tied her up using her daughter's jump rope and a scarf that she had received as a Christmas gift. After tying her feet, he connected the rope around her neck so that she could not stretch her feet out.  Her abuser left her tied up in the closet.

She was eventually untied but the situation continued to escalate.  Her abuser was wanted on a felony probation violation and knew authorities were looking for him.  Knowing that the officers were attempting to find him and serve him with felony warrants, he forced Stephanie to hide with him in the crawl space of his parents' home.  The abuser's father screwed the crawl space door shut so that nobody could get out and no one could get in (Probation Officers or Police).

Stephanie was shocked that his parents were not concerned about her obvious injuries.  She was held captive in the cold, moldy, dusty, crawl space for approximately seven days, sleeping in blankets on the floor.  They were allowed out for short periods, every two or three days.  They were fed energy shakes, but there was nowhere to go to the bathroom, so Stephanie held her bowels and urine to the point of being seriously ill. Cameras were placed throughout the house so her abuser could see what was going on while they were hiding in the crawl space.

During this time Stephanie also suffered a severe beating. Her boyfriend first made her take her clothes off, so that she would be cold.  He then used a metal pipe to beat her over the head, hitting her so many times that the blood was “gushing” from her head and she lost consciousness.  She woke to him yelling, “Get up”.

Stephanie said, “He wouldn’t stop, I was bleeding, I was scared, I knew I was going to die”.  After he had beaten Stephanie, her abuser wanted to sleep, but before he did he tied her by the neck to some PVC pipe and made her stand on her tip toes so if she started to fall asleep, she would choke and wake up.  Stephanie was not certain how long she stood that way, but she recalls the ordeal as extremely painful. Thinking she would not make it out alive, Stephanie decided to leave evidence of what had happened to her.  She took blood from her forehead and wiped it up underneath the air conditioning unit.  She hoped that if her abuser or his parents cleaned up the blood in the crawl space, they would miss the blood she had wiped behind the unit and that someday it would lead investigators to the truth about her death.

On 03/02/11, the Nampa Police Department was called to St. Alphonsus Hospital in Nampa, ID. When they arrived they found Stephanie Young in a hospital bed, with deep bruising on her face, multiple puncture wounds and a fractured arm.  Stephanie told the officer she and her boyfriend of seven years, had an argument.  During the argument her boyfriend told her to turn around so he could break her nose, then he struck her in the face several times.  He also struck her repeatedly on the right side of her head with an aerosol can.

She was also stabbed repeatedly with a chisel.  The strikes landed on her right thigh, but she does not know how many times.  She later told police that the last strike went deep into the muscle and she thought that it had struck the bone.  Her boyfriend's said, "It just felt like butter".

Stephanie also revealed to police that her boyfriend (abuser) had lit the fumes of the aerosol can and pointed the flames at her.  Though she was semi­ conscious she thought that she had caught fire at least twice.  Stephanie is afraid of fire from experiencing two house fires as a child, making the experience all the more terrifying.

When police subsequently interviewed Stephanie’s abuser he stated that he had never hit Stephanie and he had done, "Absolutely" nothing to hurt her.
This summary is only a snapshot of the horrific torment endured by Stephanie Young.  She is a survivor of the terrible cycle of Domestic Violence.
 
Stephanie endured horrific pain, crippling emotional trauma and debilitating humiliation.  There were many moments she thought she would be killed. She had made peace with the idea of dying, but her only regret was the thought of not seeing her baby girl again.  Today she is strong and grateful to have survived.  She has custody of her daughter and says that life has never been better.  Stephanie has her life back and wants to help others by telling her story – to reach out to those victims, or potential victims, abused by a domestic partner.

Stephanie’s abuser, Max Gorringe was charged with: Kidnapping, Mayhem, Aggravated Domestic Battery, and Aggravated Assault with a Firearm enhancement and Battery. In an effort to save Stephanie Young from further pain and suffering in a long drawn out trial, a plea agreement of attempted strangulation was reached with Gorringe's legal counsel. Gorringe was sentenced to 15 years which he is currently serving at the Idaho Department of Corrections.

Stephanie Young not only endured terrible physical pain, but constant mental anguish in fearing for her life.  She endured hearing her abusers parents praise their son for his courage, saying "How hard it must have been for him to tell them how he physically abused Stephanie". The abuser’s parents witnessed her injuries, her bleeding wounds, and did nothing to help her.  They could have saved her, ended her suffering, but instead they turned a blind eye. Their active involvement led to charges of felony Harboring.  

This story like so many others is a testament to why we must stop the cycle of Domestic Violence in all its forms.
 
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