Pay attention, don't miss clues
We have known each other since we were little girls in Sunday School. In our small Southern town, folks would say she's "from a good family."
Marching band, church choir, and MYF trips; riding bikes to the County Club for the afternoon; boyfriends and broken hearts – all are a part of our shared history.
I was in her wedding. Her child, my godchild, was in mine.
I thought I knew almost everything about her, but last year, I was surprised, as was her family, friends, and most of a whole town.
Her husband nearly killed her. Twice.
What we learned from a horribly unbelievable incident was that this had been happening to her for years, and we didn't know. The first incident forced her to a hospital, a safer situation, and a divorce.
The second time, she believes, was "punishment" for the divorce. He dressed in black clothes, gloves and a ski mask, forced her vehicle off the road, and attacked her with a knife.
I've been thinking of my sweet, gentle friend often of late, especially after two women died at the hands of intimates in unrelated incidents within one week in Brewton. We don't like to think that this happens here – or at least not to people we know. But Renee Cain, victims advocate for the 21st Judicial Circuit's Domestic Violence Crime Unit, sees it every single day. Unfortunately, she knows that domestic violence happens to children, too.
Renee doesn't know if the two women who died recently had been abused before they met their untimely deaths. But she knows that there are many women in bad situations who need the courage, the confidence. to leave.
Worldwide, at least one in every three women has been beaten or otherwise abused -often sexually – during her lifetime. Every day, an average of three women in the United States are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
When I think really hard, I know I missed some clues. In retrospect, there were some bruises and limps that weren't explained well.
She's much, much better now. But she'll probably look over her shoulder for the rest of her life.
If you are like her, know that you can get help.
If you are like me, pay closer attention to your friends. Get them help if they need it.
Michele Gerlach is the publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 25.867.4876, or firstname.lastname@example.org.