“Nobody falls in love with an abuser”

No one ever expects to become a victim of domestic violence, said Mary Travers Murphy, executive director of the Family Justice Center, who spoke at a community gathering at the Buffalo Launch Club in Grand Island on Wednesday, May 24th. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss the possibility of building a new Family Justice Center satellite in Grand Island,which has the highest reported number of cases of domestic violence in Erie County. The Family Justice Center provides services and support for victims of domestic violence.

The statistics are shocking. An abusive relationship will touch the lives of:

  • one of three adolescent girls
  • one of four women
  • one of seven men and boys
Only one of seven domestic violence cases will be reported, Mary Travers Murphy said. “I see it (domestic violence) in every segment of society.”

Domestic violence victims may not even realize that they are victims.  Abusers prefer to scare their victims to beating them up. Their weapons are emotional and financial abuse, as well as violence and the threat of violence. “He had anger issues.” Abuse victims are “so worn down emotionally and physically that they couldn’t remember the moment of the first physical attack.”

Mary Travers Murphy said that she was told by a doctor, “I love this family justice center. I’m a survivor. I got out in 2003, when my husband put a loaded gun to my face.”

“Domestic violence leaves victims without any sense of why they are.”

Dr. Karen Panzarella, a physical therapist, shared her story. “He showered me with gifts… he gave me an amazing engagement ring. I was stunned and I said yes. He and his family planned a fairy tale wedding on Long Island Sound.”

Mary Travers Murphy described abusers as very dramatic when they meet a potential mate. “They go from zero to 1,000 miles per hour in a second. They say, ‘I love you’ and ‘We need to be exclusive'” early in the relationship.

Abusers are controlling and isolating. They have huge sets of rules that apply only to their victims, Mary Travers Murphy said. “They transform from angels to monsters and back again.”

“My prince had become selfish and controlling. We had a daughter but he wanted a son, a namesake. He had a narcissistic personality disorder. I was losing myself,” Karen Panzarella said. She had a son but soon found out that her husband was having an affair with a nurse.

“Nobody falls in love with an abuser,” said Mary Travers Murphy.

“He told me that he would get full custody of the children and that he would have a nanny. The process of divorce escalated the abuse. He attempted to prove me an unfit mother.”

Mary Travers Murphy related the threats that abusive spouses made against victims and their children. “Those babies are your life. If you leave, I will take them out. You will be homeless and living in a cardboard box. Your life is over.”

Other people, even without realizing it, add to the shame that abuse victims feel by saying:
  • Why did she go back?
  • She married him.
  • Was it all about his money?
Better comments, said Mary Travers Murphy, would be:
  • Why did he abuse?
  • Hold the abuser accountable.
Karen Panzarella survived her abuse. “I was able to piece my life together,” she said. Others did not survive. Aasiya Hassan was one of those who were lost. She was killed by her husband in 2009. Angela Moss was shot, execution style, by her fiance, who had previously coerced her into signing over her life insurance policy to him. 

Mary Travers Murphy said that both
Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray
and Town Board member Beverly
Kinney were among Islanders who had
requested a satellite office in
Grand Island. Nathan McMurray,
who spoke at the gathering, said
that we need to “invest in the things
that we believe in.”
Grand Island is still at the early stages of planning for a satellite office of the Family Justice Center. A space will need to be found for the center, and a fundraising effort will be needed to get the center open and operational.  

Speaking of fundraising, the Family Justice Center will hold its annual Voices Ending Violence breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m., on Friday, June 9th, at the Buffalo Convention Center,153 Franklin Street. It is free to the public. Go to Family Justice Center website to register.

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