Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Leaving abusers easier said than done - Shooting survivor pleads with women to not suffer in silence

Published:Friday | January 17, 2020 | 12:16 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer

It has been nine years since Joan Brown was shot and left for dead by her estranged husband. Though she is grateful, having survived the ordeal, she relives that morning every time she hears that a woman has died as a result of domestic violence.

“I am a victim and survivor of domestic abuse, and my heart aches about all these unnecessary killings of our moms, daughters, sisters, and friends by these weak, selfish coward men,” said Brown.

“My daughter was just 17 when she, as well as my mother, father, and brother were murdered by someone who claimed to love me.”

Pointing out that her daughter did not get to live and fulfil her dreams, Brown added that “because a coward chose to take away the privilege from me”, she did not get to take care of her parents in their old age, and her brother’s children didn’t get to take care of him either.

On April 7, 2011, Police Corporal Wayne Llewellyn sent shock waves through the country after he shot Brown in the neck before killing her daughter, mother, father, and brother in the rural community of Three Hills, St Mary. He eventually turned the gun on himself after failing to get inside the Brown’s other family members’ house.

On Sunday, Jamaica Defence Force Corporal Doran McKenzie killed his girlfriend before committing suicide in Portmore, St Catherine. Hours later, over in St Elizabeth, Nevia Sinclair was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend. The alleged killer is currently in custody.

Calls have come from different sections of society encouraging women to leave relationships when they get abusive.

Easier said than done

Speaking with The Gleaner from her home in the United States this week, Brown said it was easier said than done because even after leaving, women are still stalked by these men before they end up dead.

“I left. We had an argument one day – it was January of 2011 – and I can remember he got up that morning and he argued before burning the marriage certificate, wedding pictures, everything pertaining to the marriage. He told me that it was over and there was nothing in the marriage for him and I should just call my family and go back home, and I did. I went back home to my mom,” said Brown, who was left paralysed after being shot.

Working as a paralegal before the incident, Brown said she was never physically abused, but she was abused verbally, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. She said she was controlled by her husband and couldn’t have friends, couldn’t visit family or have them visit her. She had never reported her husband to law enforcement because he had made it known to her that if she ever reported his actions to a police officer, ‘police cover police’ so her reporting would be in vain.

Brown advises women struggling to cope in abusive relationships to seek help and not suffer in silence – to find someone to talk to. She also pleaded with men to do the same – talk.

“Men, not because you are a man you feel that you can’t cry. You are human, and it is not just police and soldier alone killing woman, and I know their job being stressful is no excuse, so I encourage them to get counselling,” said Brown.

She recalled how after her husband killed her family, he stood over her, lifted her body and said, “Joan, I did this because I love you”.

“If you don’t know love, you can’t show love. These men in these situations grow up in a broken home and grow up seeing their father beat their mother, and they think it is the norm. They are in a relationship, and they think it is the norm to treat women badly,” she said.

“Love doesn’t hurt, and nobody runs from good. Please, my sisters and friends, seek help before it’s too late. There are signs in a relationship that it’s not OK. Sometimes we should follow our gut feelings. At times, it’s never wrong.”