Deborah Joyce Williams McReynolds 1954-2004: National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I didn’t know it, either, so don’t feel bad. I just read that October—in addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month—is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What, Domestic Violence can’t get its own month? Give Domestic Violence Awareness January, so the NFL wears purple for the Superbowl.

That will get some interesting conversations flowing in male-dominated living rooms around the country.

Besides, I don’t adore sharing my birth month with domestic violence. Nor would my mother, who would consider October a most joyous month. A magical and life-changing month: I was her first baby.

Besides again, it was July when she was killed by her live-in boyfriend.

July 10, 2004.

Everyone likes statistics. Here are some:

1 in 8 women have a chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime, while 1 in 4 women (and 1 in 13 men) will experience domestic violence in their life.

According to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, an average of three women in America die as a result of domestic violence every day. (And these are just the cases that have been reported. )

And here are some more, from

  • Every 9 seconds, a woman in the United States is battered
  • Domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to women – more than muggings and car accidents combined
  • Domestic violence is the cause of 30% of permanent physical disabilities in women
  • A full 50% of murdered women in the U.S. are due to a spouse or boyfriend’s violence
  • 60% of American marriages are tainted by domestic violence

. . . .

Here are more statistics. These ones are mine.

Number of times my mother hit, threw things at, or threatened with bodily harm various men in my presence: A dozen or more

Number of times I was ever afraid for my mother’s life: 0

Odds I would have given that my mother would win a physical fight with any male or female: 20 to 1.

Number of times I saw my mother and her boyfriend (let’s call him Junior) together over their 3+ years of living together: about 25

Number of times I saw him hit her or touch her threateningly: 0

Number of times my mother—it would come out at the trial—had told a neighbor, coworker, night watchman, etc. that she was in danger: at least 6

Number of times she told me that she was afraid of Junior: 1

Number of times the upstairs neighbor heard my mother scream the night she was killed: 1

Number of times he heard her cry “It hurts” as he walked past her bedroom window: 2

Number of times Junior had stabbed her with a steak knife in the neck: Several, according to the only page of the Coroner’s Report I can hold steady.

Number of days she lay dead beneath a blanket in her room until I found her: 3

. . . .

Number of times I told people “He was very nice whenever I saw them together. He was a sweet enough guy.”: 20 or more, not including 12 jurors, judge, stenographer, 2 bailiffs, and several friends and family members.

Number of times he’d had a restraining order put out against him by his ex-wife for threatening her with a gun in the presence of their two young children: 1

Probability that my mother knew about this, even though no one else did: Unknown

Year the National Domestic Violence Registry (run by a non-profit) was set up: 2007

Cost to access it: $25

Chances that a woman in an abusive relationship would risk purchasing that access with her credit card: I’m going to go with 1 in 300.

. . . .

Number of times I have volunteered at a women’s shelter since 2004: 0

Number of reasons I have for that: 1

. . . .

Number of women you probably know right now who are in a violent relationship and you have no idea, even though you’re smart, suspicious of everyone, and have even asked outright: I wish I could tell you.


Keep your eyes and ears open. Know your neighbors, your friends. Watch how a fighter begins to slump as the year drags on. Watch how her shoulders begin to sag and her voice soften. Watch how she stares at her cuticles when you ask her if she is in any danger. And don’t listen when she says “It’s just for a little while longer. Besides, he’s being sweet right now. I’m just going to keep the peace until I get some money.”

That was the last thing I heard my mother say. A week later, she was dead. And I’m so goddamned sorry.

How many of you will know—or already know—what I mean?

2 thoughts on “Deborah Joyce Williams McReynolds 1954-2004: National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

  1. Oh, oh, Erin. I don’t know what to say that won’t sound trite, except thank you for taking this issue that can be so nebulous to those of us who are fortunate enough not to have been directly touched by domestic violence and personalizing it so movingly. Much love.

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