Sunday, April 28, 2002

Dangerous men

Is anybody listening to victims?

        When will we start believing these women? When will we take them seriously?

        Suzie Thompson was 42 years old when she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. William Chapman threatened to kill Suzie — bragged about it, actually. Furloughed from a Warren County jail in 1999, he made good on his threat. They had dated. When she broke up with him, he said he would get even with her. Said he'd burn her house down. Instead, he shot her five times in the face.

        A terrible story. But not unusual.

        More than three women are murdered every day by their husbands or boyfriends, according to the Justice Department. Almost a third of American women murdered each year are killed by their present or former partners. Every year, 1 million women report being stalked.

        Tony Ringer was sentenced last month to 21 years in prison after killing Cassandra Betts of Fairfield. The beatings started about a year into their five-year relationship and increased in violence. Again, not unusual. And the most dangerous time is when a woman tries to leave.

        Or when she tries to fight back. Because no matter how physically fit we might be, most women can be overpowered by the other 50 percent of the population.

        Shannon Broe, a volleyball coach in Pleasant Ridge, was killed by her husband during a quarrel last September. Convicted of her murder last week, John Broe said he accidentally hit her in the head with a baseball bat.

        Five times.

        We sometimes try to level the playing field with alarms or mace. Or more-deadly weapons. Police told Debbie Hill to buy a gun when she was being threatened by an ex-boyfriend. When her stalker approached her car on a deserted country road one night in 1994, she fired five shots through the closed window, killing Omar Pierson.

        Debbie Hill spent five years in prison.

        The shooting occurred just two days before Omar Pierson was due in court to answer stalking charges.

        Another dangerous time.

        On March 22, Cheryl Dawson told a judge that her estranged husband had threatened to kill her. On March 25, the Hebron mother of three was stabbed to death. Police say Robin Dawson waited for his wife to leave work. He attacked her behind the parking ramp on Fourth Street, behind the entrance ramp to Tower Place Mall garage.

        It was in the afternoon, and first reports of the violence were faceless, nameless. A woman had been attacked. A man was seen running. We women who work downtown and the few of us who still shop and dine there waited anxiously for further word.

        We were relieved when we heard that police had arrested the woman's husband. It was not random violence. She knew him. It made us feel a little safer. Because most of us worry about violence from strangers.

        But if we would take them seriously, if we would believe them, a million women would tell us that we are worrying about the wrong thing.
       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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