2019-01-09 / Front Page

Delaware County Resident Talks Surviving Domestic Violence

By Rosie Cunningham

Evelyn Augusto Evelyn Augusto DELAWARE COUNTY - Evelyn Augusto was young and in love and had been married for less than two years. One day, she took a shotgun blast to the chest. It was her husband who pulled the trigger.

Her story reads like a nightmare, and she’s not alone - she carries the wounds both inside and out, as many domestic violence survivors do. Augusto looks into the mirror and views her scars - evidence of the wound that nearly ended her life.

Domestic crimes are usually committed privately, out of view, until things get out of hand with serious - sometimes deadly - consequences. This past fall there were two local domesticrelated murder-suicides: one in Hobart and the other in Summit.

Augusto said it was the death of her new friend, Lisa German, who was murdered in Hobart - that made her decide to come forward to share her story and be part of a solution. She said she is disturbed by talk that Lisa simply “died.”

“Lisa did not lose her life - she had her life stolen - she was murdered by her husband. Of course, those are not pretty words, but they are, nonetheless, true, and I believe that everyone, especially the young, should understand what that means. I think we must face the horrible reality that a woman is dead because a man decided he had the right to take her life.”

Augusto added that her belief is that women need to protect and guard themselves from what happened to herself and Lisa.

“No one can do that for them, but we can be honest and speak the truth about domestic violence.”

And she indeed does, as she described what happened to her when she was 27 years old.

“My first husband shot me in the chest with a shotgun after practicing in our basement,” she said. “He borrowed the gun from a close family friend.”

The hole through her chest missed her heart by only centimeters. Her shoulder and bicep were severely damaged, leaving her without use of her left arm.

“I have bird shot peppering my entire body,” she said.

There were signs leading up to the incident, which occurred 14 months after they were married, but it was in the weeks before the shooting that his behavior changed significantly.

“My husband became highly agitated and started to withdraw from family and friends,” she said.

Physical abuse had occurred prior to her being shot.

“I am embarrassed to share these details,” she said. “He had pulled my hair - I found myself lying to family and friends.”

To explain away her bruises, she said she fell on a post in the garden.

“No matter how insignificant the abuse seems, we would rather nobody knew,” said Augusto. “Perhaps the secret is kept because if there are ‘no witnesses’ then it’s easier to pretend it didn’t happen. Or maybe I just didn’t want my family to say ‘I told you so.’”

She added that attention should be paid to the “littlest signs.”

Augusto said life had to go on after the incident, as she was raising a 19-month-old child at the time. She said in the aftermath, she felt “nervousness, rage, poor judgment, victim’s syndrome - the inability to respond reasonably to stressors.” She added, “I rarely feel safe and am always ‘running’ to avoid violence directed towards me.”

Augusto said she learned everything and nothing at all from the painful incident.

“I continued to make errors in judgment,” she admitted. “The suggestions I would offer are: don’t rush into marriage or a relationship until you fully understand your partner; know who you are and why you are drawn to a particular individual - is it love or something else? Domestic violence is preventable with honesty on both person’s parts.”

Now, decades later, she doesn’t remember all of the details of that night.

“I have extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” she said. “It became unbear- able when Lisa was killed - she was murdered by her husband and I survived. I often wonder why I survived. PTSD rears its ugly head every time I learn of another incident with gun violence. I don’t watch local news because it breaks my heart.”

“Today, I cope with the assault by focusing my efforts to stop gun violence,” she said, and emphasized her use of poetry as a medium. “I am trying to do a TED Talk involving students who will read my poems, which will prompt open discussion about people’s relationships to their guns. My poems have been read at anti-gun rallies and at poetry conferences and will be used in a poetry class in Manchester, Conn. this spring.”

Augusto said she believes people should approach potential victims with love if they suspect he or she is being abused.

“Open up all lines of communication,” she said. “Don’t judge, and be trustworthy - offer strength and options. Don’t criticize the spouse, and just let the victim know he or she is valued and not in it alone.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 619 gun-related domestic violence incidents took place in 2018, 10 million people a year are physically abused by an intimate partner, and 20,000 calls are placed a day to domestic violence hotlines.

A knife or other cutting instrument was used in 24 of 58 intimate partner homicides, or 41 percent. Firearms were used in 15 of the 58 homicides, or 26 percent.

The New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline received 8,730 calls last year, a two percent increase from 2016.

Statewide, 2,851 hospital inpatient discharges and emergency department visits were identified as domestic violence related events, a 16 percent increase when compared to the same time period for 2015-2016.

Augusto said victims can call domestic violence hotlines or visit Catholic Charities for assistance from a woman’s center.

“Love doesn’t equal pain,” Augusto emphasized.

Editors Note: If you feel unsafe, need help or someone to talk to, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-00-799-SAFE. In addition, Delaware Opportunities Inc. SAFE AGAINST VIOLENCE is willing to help at 607-746-6278 or toll free at 866- 457-7233.

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