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Publish Date: 10/9/2005

Groups focus on abuse awareness
Statistics show 1 in 4 women will be victim

LONGMONT — When she was 19, “Meghan” met a charming, handsome man in a restaurant where they both worked.

Everything in their budding relationship was all about her. He wowed her with his sense of humor and helped her with car insurance issues.

He was also charismatic, and everyone seemed to like him, the 22-year-old Boulder County woman said.

Three years and more than 20 protection-order violations later, Meghan now recognizes the early signs that pointed to a future of mental and physical abuse, abuse that continues even after a breakup.

Meghan, who asked that her identity be protected for her safety, has received help from Boulder County law enforcement and nonprofits but still struggles to keep herself and her toddler son safe.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the local community is hosting a number of educational events to highlight situations such as Meghan’s and what society can do to prevent them or intervene.

According to Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, and about one in every four women will be abused by her partner in her lifetime.

The statistics also show that half of female homicide and manslaughter victims were killed by their male partners.

Longmont police made 358 domestic violence-related arrests in 2004, 448 arrest in 2003 and 431 arrests in 2002.

And women aren’t the only victims. Safe Shelter statistics also indicate that about a half-million gay men are victims of domestic violence each year.

Meghan said her story shows that anyone can become a victim of domestic violence. She said she was valedictorian and student body president of her private Denver high school.

Robin Ericson, project coordinator for the Longmont Ending Violence Initiative, said domestic violence in Boulder County is most prevalent among women between the ages of 18 and 24.

That could be because many young women grow up with the notion that they will meet their Prince Charming and live happily ever after, Ericson said.

Meghan believed she was on that track.

She said she and her boyfriend had a whirlwind courtship, and she moved in with him within three weeks. He had suggested that she be his roommate, but the involvement quickly became romantic. She slept with him, something that made her uncomfortable at the time.

Now, she sees her decision as a rebellion against her parents and a strict Christian upbringing.

“I just wanted to do my own thing for a while,” she said. “I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, and (he) knew that and he really plagued on that.”

As their relationship budded, Meghan’s boyfriend was arrested on suspicion of robbery and later on suspicion of drug violations. He told her that his ex-girlfriend was crazy and that he had many dreams that could come true with her support.

She said he started throwing jealous fits if she even spoke to other men. He also convinced her to bring another woman into their relationship.

Meghan even said her boyfriend’s friends warned her of his tendencies.

“I almost didn’t believe them,” she said. “What he had placed in me was that everybody else had wronged him his whole life and all he needed was somebody to be there for him.”

The couple moved from town to town, ditching leases to run from debt. She said he convinced her to get credit cards in her name, which they maxed out and didn’t pay. He nursed a drug habit, and they depended on his family for occasional financial help. Money she earned, she said, was never her own.

Then she became pregnant, and she said he didn’t believe her. For six months, she received no prenatal care and was unsure how far along she was.

The physical abuse intensified. During one fight, she said, he dragged her by her hair and sat on her. Still, she didn’t call police. She said she never knew where to turn.

“When girls get pregnant, the likelihood for violence goes up,” said Kelley Kyle, women’s peer counselor at Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley.

In fact, Meghan’s story has nearly a dozen telltale signs that she was with a man who fits the profile of an abuser.

Ericson, Kyle and Elise Flesher, who does research and development for the Longmont Police Department, listened to Meghan’s story earlier this week and said the relationship and the boyfriend’s tactics carry hallmarks of an abusive relationship, including quick intimacy, isolation from family and friends, unprovoked jealousy, vilification of previous mates, shirked responsibility, blaming others for problems, co-dependency, financial control, entitlement issues and manipulation.

Meghan said she left her boyfriend the first time he hit her while she was holding their baby. She said last week that she will never get back together with her ex-boyfriend, despite his continued efforts — twice she has lost jobs because of his persistent calls.

“I am convinced he is never going to change and I am completely better off without him,” she said.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.

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