Lynn Strange talks on the phone with a victim and provides necessary assistance by answering questions. Photo Courtesy Lynn Strange
FEATURED IN TRAINING
October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s a time for reflection, thought-provoking conversation and serious discussion about the critical issues related to the pervasive problem of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a social problem of monumental significance. It’s an unrelenting and disturbing phenomenon that invades the lives of many and shows no bias in terms of gender, ethnicity, social class, occupation or educational level. The impact of the victimization can leave permanent emotional and physical scars and, in some instances, can even be deadly.
Lynn Strange, a former victim of domestic violence who consented to be interviewed for this article, knows how devastating the cycle of violence can be. She knows this because she’s been the victim of domestic violence. Lynn grew up in an abusive home. Her mother favored her other siblings and detested the strong relationship that Lynn had with her father, who was a police officer. As a result, Lynn was subjected to continual emotional, verbal and physical abuse by her mother. At the age of 12, she ran away from her house to live with relatives. She left home for good when she was 20 years old.
Lynn met her future husband when she was 18, and the couple dated for five years. The first three to four months of their relationship were good but, shortly thereafter, physical and verbal abuse ensued. Lynn was pushed and slapped on various occasions. Following these episodes, her abuser showed remorse and demonstrated affection and kindness. This led Lynn to believe that he loved her, but she failed to realize that this was only the “honeymoon stage” of the cycle of violence.
At the time, Lynn had no factual information about domestic violence. “My lack of knowledge about the dynamics of a domestic violence cycle persuaded me to accept his apologies, therefore leading me back to a severe, on-going domestic violence relationship. I bought into this relationship because I thought it was a form of love and because I became more conducive to this kind of behavior. It’s an addictive lifestyle because you believe that things will get better so you tend to rationalize that,” she says.
Following the death of her father in 1995, she married her boyfriend a month later. She had three daughters with him. Her husband was allegedly an alcoholic. When she was pregnant with her first daughter, Lynn’s husband pulled her out of the sunroof of the car and punched her in the face and stomach. Upon hearing Lynn screaming, her neighbor called the police and assault charges were filed.
On another occasion, Lynn’s husband came to her job begging her to give him money, but she refused. Later that evening, after she arrived home, he broke down the door, grabbed her, punched her in the face and stomach, and kicked her on her thighs. “He always went for the eyes, lips and outer part of thighs,” Lynn explains. Following this attack, Lynn suffered two black eyes, a busted lip and bruises on her thighs.
She estimates that the abuse occurred four to five times per week over a seven-to-eight-year period. Her husband was a big man—6'3" and 280 pounds—in addition to being an alcoholic. On his death bed, Lynn’s father expressed a fear that her husband would eventually kill her.
Following her father's death, Lynn didn’t want her husband to go to the funeral and told him to leave. He grabbed a kitchen knife and told her that if he couldn’t attend, he would kill her. Out of fear, Lynn told her husband that she loved him but, as she went to leave, she felt the knife in her back. Though she was bleeding, Lynn tried to calm him down. Instead, he forced her to have sex with him.
Lynn’s husband was murdered on January 31, 1999, and she became a widow at the age of 26. Just two weeks prior to his death, she was again badly beaten by him. After her husband’s death, Lynn went through a lot of counseling. “It helped tremendously,” she says.
A Passion to Help Others
Throughout the years, Lynn has come a long way. She’s now working in a prosecutor’s office in the Washington, D. C., region, specifically as an administrative aide in a domestic violence unit. She has a passion to talk to victims because she understands where they’ve been and what they’re going through. “It helps me to have them identify and relate to the effects of domestic violence and the misconceptions that victims choose to stay in these types of relationships and refuse to take help to get out. My desire to enter into the domestic violence field was to ensure that other victims of such abuse wouldn’t be impacted by such a vicious and debilitating cycle,” she says.
Working in the unit has provided her with additional insight. “It has made me more aware of how the domestic violence laws have changed since my former years of dealing with this abuse. It has made me more aware of the increased prevalence [of domestic violence] in the community. It’s still an epidemic. It has propelled my desire to continue with advocacy, lobbying for change of laws, and education and training,” Lynn says.
Lynn recognizes the important role of law enforcement in this arena. “It was the third call before the last incident that the officer told me I deserve better. It was those words that propelled me to say, ‘I don’t need to take this anymore.’ Victims need to define why they’re in an abusive relationship and what the effects are doing to their lives and those around them. It’s not that we choose to stay. It’s the fear factor of believing that victimization will occur again,” says Lynn.
Consequently, it’s important for law enforcement officers to have knowledge of the dynamics involved in the cycle of violence so they are better able to interact with victims on the scene. Lynn believes that police officers need to be able to discern between the execution of the law, empowering a victim to leave that situation and the ability to be empathetic.
Raising her three daughters as a single parent, Lynn has been empowering them since they were young and continually strives to encourage them and build their self esteem. She teaches them to believe in themselves, points out the warning signs of violence and constantly encourages communication between them.
Lynn continues to be a real-life version of the Virginia Slims slogan, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” As a survivor of domestic violence, she’s proactive and interested in helping others who may be in similar situations to know what she went through. She illustrates the awareness that should be brought to the issue through National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Because the effects of domestic violence can be very debilitating, I wanted to be an example to domestic violence victims that you can come out of those kinds of relationships. You can rebuild your life again. It is what you do with the power of survival. Once you come out, you no longer have to take that connotation that you’re an abused victim for life,” she says.
Further Reading & Resources
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
National District Attorneys Association