Deadly silence: Abuse Awareness Rally aims to end stigma
October 14, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Dale Wells remembers clearly the chorus of the gospel song, "No Weapon," by artist Fred Hammond. The song, his cell phone ringtone, signaled an incoming call.
"No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won't work ...," were the last words he heard before his estranged girlfriend, Denise, unloaded the first of five rounds from a .357 Magnum only inches from his heart.
"I was shocked when I saw the fire explode from the gun and felt the initial impact of the bullet hitting my chest," Wells said. "The second bullet shattered my arm in two places. She shot me twice in the back before placing the barrel of the gun on the nape of my neck and pulling the trigger."
Fully conscious, Wells said that moments later he heard a neighbor screaming at Denise to stop shooting before she killed him.
"I will never forget how he comforted me," Wells said of the neighbor. "Even though we didn't know each other that well, he held my hand and wiped my face."
Nearly four years later, Wells said that he has forgiven Denise - who shot and killed herself - but said he wishes he had recognized the patterns of abuse sooner.
"There were always signs, but I ignored them," he said. "She would destroy my things and threaten to kill my dog. And, she would get mad about the simplest things. She would explode if the (traffic) light stayed red a little too long ... or if we went to a restaurant and her food wasn't prepared exactly the way she wanted."
He advises people to love themselves enough to end an abusive relationship immediately and tells men not to be ashamed to come forward if they are the victim of domestic violence.
"Statistics say that way more women than men are abused by their partners, but I don't think that's correct. Men are just too embarrassed to come forward," he said.
Kamala Henley, lead victim advocate and coordinator of the Family Advocacy Program, said Wells' compelling story and unique male perspective is why he was chosen to be the guest speaker at Fort Jackson's 7th Annual Domestic Abuse Awareness Rally this Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at Pierce Terrace Elementary School.
"I heard him speak at last year's Silent Witness Ceremony held at the State House and was touched by the fact that he was brave enough to speak publicly about his ordeal," she said. "Men are victims, too, maybe not on a large scale like women, but it does happen. But most men do not want to come forward to get help. Hopefully his story will inspire others to come forward."
Shenitha Shiver, a victim advocate at Fort Jackson, agreed that Wells' story illustrates that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence.
"Wells' story shows that being abused doesn't make you weak, and that women can be abusers, too. Domestic violence is about having control, and not just physical but emotional, verbal and financial control," she said.
Annette McLeod, Family Advocacy Program manager, said she hopes members of the Fort Jackson community, men and women, who are involved in unhealthy relationships use available resources to get help.
"The rally is one of many initiatives at Fort Jackson to raise awareness and reduce levels of violence within Army families and within the military community," she said. "We provide victim advocates who can be the voice of the victim during a crisis. They can talk to commanders, go downtown and help the victim get an order of protection and accompany (the victim) to court proceedings."
Army Community Services also offers domestic violence briefings, a women's empowerment group every second Thursday of the month and a variety of classes, seminars, workshops and activities to help families adapt successfully to the challenges of Army life.
For more information or help, contact the Family Advocacy Program at 751-6325.
In the know
-- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
-- More than 36,000 victims annually report a domestic violence incident to law enforcement agencies around the state.
-- Throughout the past 12 years, 33 women have been killed on average each year by their intimate partner, according to the South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster.
-- Last year in South Carolina, there were approximately 4,400 domestic violence victims who received shelter and more than 28,500 victims who were treated.