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CJ Williams was in Columbus Regional Hospital one year ago this month recovering from fractured ribs and a lacerated liver caused by an abuser.
In an outburst after an evening of drinking, the man hit her so hard that she could barely breathe. She passed out on the floor, regaining consciousness occasionally while she begged him to let her get help.
“It was pure rage,” recalled Williams, who feared for her life even though she considered the physical attack out of character for her abuser.
Williams said she had endured many years of the troubled relationship where the abuse was emotional rather than physical.
He put her down for wanting to go to college to better herself. He spent his time after work playing video games while she cooked, cleaned and took care of her two young children after she came home from her daytime job.
On the evening of the attack, her abuser told her to quit crying and whining, the 27-year-old Columbus woman said.
Despite the intense pain, Williams found a moment when she was alone to call 911 on her cellphone. She quickly gave only her address and hung up.
Williams scrambled to her car to hide until she saw a police car arrive. Officers arrested her abuser and summoned an ambulance to take Williams to the hospital.
“Thankfully my kids weren’t home at the time,” said Williams, who spent five days recovering at the hospital.
It would be more than a month before doctors would release her to return to work.
Williams was one of 470 Bartholomew County residents who got help last year from Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, which serves abuse victims by offering assistance ranging from crisis intervention and danger assessment to skills-building activities and educational support groups.
The number of people utilizing Turning Point’s services — which include help with legal issues, finding transitional housing, safety planning and programs for children — increased 27.7 percent last year.
Williams did not need to utilize Turning Point’s 25-bed emergency shelter, but 75 other Bartholomew County adults and 90 children did find refuge there in 2012.
Williams’ abuser, who was convicted of criminal confinement and domestic battery was sentenced this month in Bartholomew Circuit Court. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the criminal confinement count and one year for domestic battery, to be served at the same time.
However, both sentences were suspended, and the abuser was ordered to serve 16 months of probation, which would end in February 2015. He had spent about three weeks in Bartholomew County Jail after the attack on Oct. 28, 2012.
Williams voluntarily came forward to tell her story in hopes of giving other women the strength to move forward after being involved in cases of domestic violence.
“I didn’t want to put the spotlight on myself but to create the awareness,” Williams said. “I know it can be a very difficult situation to be in and to get out of.”
The No. 1 issue for women in cases of domestic violence is first being in a safe place, Williams said.
Even with her serious injuries, Williams understands that she is lucky in some regards. She had a job, a house and family members who provided a support system that allowed her to leave her abuser. Other women are not as fortunate.
Turning Point, which never reveals the names of its clients, said some women feel they cannot step out on their own because of various barriers.
These can include not having a job, a vehicle, another place to live, money of their own, any other family or living in a geographically isolated area, said Darla McKeeman, Turning Point’s director of client services and training.
That is one reason women might seek emergency shelter through Turning Point, which is offered in Bartholomew County.
Local women who find temporary housing at the shelter can receive assistance to help them through a crisis and work with case managers to find ways to move to self-sufficiency.
McKeeman said that on average, victims will try to leave their abusers five times before they are successful.
Williams said once was all it took for her, given the severity of her injuries. She also was in fear of her life that evening and never wanted to feel like that again.
Today, Williams, who works as a Columbus insurance agent, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is feeling good about her life.
She even, to some degree, has forgiven her abuser and believes he has true remorse for the attack. She believes he would never do anything so horrible again.
Physical effects of the attack still linger, including some pain in her liver on occasion.
She also has a new understanding of how domestic violence affects more than just the woman. Often children and other family members become involved.
Williams said her mother had to take care of her children for almost a month while her injuries healed.
Williams said she is not embarrassed to share her story. Many already know it. She wants to encourage others to not be afraid to ask for help and to not wait until it’s too late.
Turning to Turning Point, she said, is a valuable first step.
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