Survivor of Domestic Violence Speaks Out

By Jayna Smith

October 22 is just another day for many.  For Marcia Hayward, however, it marks an anniversary of a horrific crime she will never forget.  On that day 21 years ago, her evening started with her and her husband—the step-father to her two children –having an argument in the Calais home they shared.  She left the house to allow him time to cool off.  Upon return, the man was passed out so she quietly climbed into bed to go to sleep. 

“I was awoken a while later with him sitting on top of me with his hands around my throat,” she stated.  “From there a struggle ensued which consisted of rape, confinement, and assault.”  She was choked to the point of unconsciousness. 

Severely beaten, Marcia fled to the Calais Police Department as soon as possible after regaining consciousness.  “As far as reporting, collection of evidence, protection orders, and all those legal issues that happen in the beginning of an investigation, everything was done almost perfectly,” she said.  “This case was the first gross sexual assault for the prosecutor and for the police officer on duty.  Still, law enforcement and prosecutors felt it was an exceptionally strong case.”

When the case was turned over to the jury, however, things shifted.  “(The jury) decided that he was not guilty of ‘gross sexual assault’ but the lesser crime of ‘simple assault.’”  The man was sentenced to only 11 days in jail with credit for time served. 

Looking back, Marcia recognizes the years of mental abuse and control the man had over her, an all-too-common theme within abusive relationships.  “While domestic violence is somewhat less of a secret today, the victim’s are still embarrassed to take action.  The thoughts of being alone or a feeling of failure are often an unbearable burden to the victim.  Law enforcement has become much more aware of the potential ramifications of domestic violence incidents, some on a local level and some mandated by state law.  Our local department revamped the domestic violence procedure after a serious incident a short time ago.  This will provide more oversight of the entire situation and parties involved.  It is a great policy and took a lot of time and adjustment to get it just right.” 

At the time of the crime involving Marcia, services available to those who were in such situations were not as prevalent as they are today.  “There was a part-time service which was most difficult to contact.  I don’t believe I ever spoke with them.  Instead, I relied on a then-new service, the Victim’s Advocate, within the office of the District Attorney.  She was amazing,” Marcia explained.”

Marcia sees many more resources available to victims today.  “I see much more consistent efforts from the agencies created to serve victims, like Next Step Domestic Violence Project.  The advocates are aggressive and victim’s draw strength from them.  They are reachable at all times and offer a wider variety of services.”

For anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence, Marcia says, “GET OUT!  GET OUT NOW!  Nothing, no one is worth your life.”  For those who may suspect a loved one is in a violent relationship, Marcia advises, “Be supportive.  Personally, I believe that people who tolerate this type of behavior (toward themselves), myself included, have issues with their sense of self and need help to bolster it.  Take the initiative, but do not be judgmental.  Let the person know you are available to listen, and to help if they need to leave.  Suggest that they seek advice/insight from folks who deal with the issue, professionally, Next Step Domestic Violence Program or local law enforcement agency.  But, if you see or hear an incident occurring, call 911.  No excuses.  ‘Not getting involved’ is a cop-out.  We need to look at these situations as potentially life or death and act accordingly.  No excuses.”  Next Step Domestic Violence Project can be reached free and confidentially 24 hours a day, seven days at week, at 1-800-315-5579.