Trish Jackson is a survivor.
The keynote speaker at the annual Candlelight Vigil hosted by the Culpeper Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence shared her harrowing tale of domestic violence Tuesday night.
Jackson was young when she married her husband and recounted that emotional and verbal abuse began at the beginning of their marriage. A Marine, he was seen in the community as a nice person but he was controlling and emotionally abusive from the start.
After being married for 15 years, the physical violence began and Jackson barely survived the marriage.
Her husband was incarcerated for abduction and malicious wounding and now lives several states away, but she still fears for her life.
“I walk outside and he could shoot me in my driveway, that’s one of my nightmares,” Jackson said.
She shared her story with a packed room in the Culpeper County Administration Building, walking the public and first responders through the day she almost died.
She was embroiled in a divorce with her now ex-husband and was selling the house. On a Sunday afternoon, she was to meet her husband and a realtor at their home in an effort to put it up for sale. When she pulled in, the realtor was not around and her ex-husband explained that they had to run back to the office and they would return. He held the door open motioned for Jackson to enter. She didn’t think anything of it as he seemed calm and it was a perfectly normal reason for the realtor to not be there on time.
That began an afternoon from hell.
Her ex locked the door behind her and began to verbally assault her, which turned physical.
The assault was brutal and culminated with her being thrown down the basement steps.
She hit each step on the way down, ending in a lump at the bottom of the stairs. Somehow, she was able to recover and eventually coerced her husband into letting her outside.
Trying to find ways to escape, she finally came up with the idea that her friend she was staying with was expecting her, and that she would leave and come back. He finally relented and let her leave, allowing her to immediately make her way to an emergency room.
She was covered in blood, her head was full of bumps from the steps and she was admitted to the hospital with multiple injuries.
That led her to be able to get a protection from abuse, but it still took years to finalize a divorce and get away from her husband – who spent eight years in jail for his crimes.
Now, Jackson is trying to make it easier on other victims. Every two years she needs to return to the courts to ask to extend her protection from abuse, despite her ex-husband’s conviction.
“I’m working with the Commonwealth Attorney in Stafford,” Jackson said. “Nick (Freitas) wants to hook up with anybody else and I want to get this going because my next protective order is up in a year. I want the first one.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, Jackson spoke with District 18 Delegate Nick Freitas about helping ease the burden on victims.
It was the first Freitas was made aware of the issue, and he says he intends to investigate the legislation further.
“It’s something I’m very interested in,” Freitas said. “It sounds a lot like why we have truth in sentencing laws in Virginia. It’s absolutely reprehensible to force victims to continually go back to the state to justify what a jury has already decided. I’m very interested in looking into the legislation.”
Jackson said it’s important to share her story and to let the public know that there is no stereotype when it comes being a victim.
“If we don’t talk about it, nobody knows,” Jackson said. “I think one of the reasons people respond to me is because I’m so average. I’m not rich, I’m not poor. I’m a mom, I’m a grandma. People ask me all the time, ‘you went through this?’”
She said one in four women are abused and that the three top abusers are military, police and clergy.
Mark Nowacki, Director of Culpeper’s Victim/Witness Program, said it’s important to hear stories from victims like Jackson.
“She’s one of the most courageous women I’ve ever met,” he said.