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Qns. College shines light on domestic violence

Carmela Marrone (l.), founder and executive director of Queens College's Women and Work Program, presents an award to Assistant District Attorney Joyce Smith for her work in seeking justice for domestic violence victims. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
TimesLedger Newspapers

At the start of her relationship with her partner, Hope was emotionally abused and did not consider herself a victim until the abuse became physical.

Hope, who was given that first name through the Queens College program Women & Work because she is a domestic violence victim, said the physical abuse she suffered started the day her partner was released from prison when he whipped her while he had a smile on his face.

“At first, I thought he was joking because he was smiling,” she told a Queens College crowd last Thursday as the school held its “Shine the Light on Domestic Violence” event Friday. “But it wouldn’t stop.”

Hope, who gave birth to a daughter six months premature because of the abuse, said her partner would choke her and slam her and she was once on crutches because he gave her a sprained ankle.

When she caught her partner cheating on her with another woman, Hope was raped in front of her children, who she told to go to another room so they would not have to witness the abuse.

“I walked on pins and needles every day,” she said. “In the beginning, I stayed because I loved him. In the end, I stayed because I feared him.”

Hope said one day the abuse was so severe while she was pregnant that she stopped feeling her daughter kicking for two days.

“I begged God to get him out of my life and he did,” Hope said, referring to her partner being locked up in prison a second time, where he remains.

Hope said she has received abusive calls and letters from her partner, but Women & Work — a free, 15-week Queens College program that helps battered women repair their lives — has enabled her to heal.

“I lost my job, my self-respect and my voice,” Hope said of the consequences of the abuse. “But little by little, I got better.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) referenced the trial and acquittal of Howard Beach resident Barbara Sheehan while speaking at the Queens College event.

Sheehan, who admitted to killing her retired police sergeant husband, Raymond Sheehan, successfully argued that she suffered years of abuse by her husband and that he threatened to kill her before she pumped 16 bullets into him.

“Her trial really began 17 years ago,” Stavisky said, a reference to the start of Barbara Sheehan’s marriage.

Stavisky said more women should know about the resources available to them if they are victims of domestic violence, including hotlines and government services, such as how public hospitals are able to take photos of victims using digital cameras to document abuse.

“What made it more difficult [in Sheehan’s case], I think, was the fact that her husband was a retired police sergeant,” Stavisky said. “Unfortunately, violence isn’t the answer but she felt there was no other options to her, apparently.”

Stavisky said she and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) are trying to strengthen laws to protect women and witness tampering so victims are able to speak up.

“This is sort of like a legislative light because we got to shine the light that this is a crime, but the penalties need to be increased,” Stavisky said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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