Case Study Physical Abuse

Abuse Case Studies

NOTE: The names of all participants have been changed to protect their privacy

Carolyn Grant

Carolyn is 21-years-old, and autistic with moderate intellectual disabilities.  She attends a special school program to assist with her disabilities.  On a recent field trip, Carolyn’s teacher left her and two male students unsupervised in the school van for a brief period of time.  While the teacher was gone, one of the young men took Carolyn’s shirt off, fondled her bare breasts, and took a picture of them.  When the students returned to school, he showed the pictures to other students.  Carolyn told her mother about what happened and her mother contacted APS for help.

APS assisted by:

  • Helping Carolyn and her mother apply for victim assistance counseling services to help her cope with the distress she was experiencing
  • Facilitating the process of transferring the young man to another school which could provide more adequate supervision
  • Working with Carolyn’s school to improve overall student supervision

Althea Johnson

Mrs. Althea Johnson is an 83-year-old widow.  She and her son, Ronald, live together.  A family member called APS on Mrs. Johnson’s behalf after receiving a call from her to report that Ronald had pulled her hair, yelled at her, and called her a “stupid bitch.”  Mrs. Johnson made the call from her locked bedroom and whispered throughout because she was frightened that her son would hear her voice on the telephone.  When APS met with Mrs. Johnson, she told the worker in detail about her son’s abusive behavior and reported that she was afraid of him.

APS assisted by:

  • Contacting police, verifying that a crime report had been filed, and confirming that the son was being charged with a crime
  • Transporting Mrs. Johnson to the courthouse and assisting her in the process of filing restraining orders
  • Accompanying Mrs. Johnson to the emergency restraining order hearing in the courtroom
  • One month later, transporting and accompanying Mrs. Johnson to the hearing for a permanent restraining order

In the end, Mrs. Johnson was thankful she was able to resume living peacefully in her house without threat of abuse by her son.

Evelyn Ewell

Ms. Ewell, an adult who suffered from mental and physical limitations, resided in a skilled nursing facility.  APS received a report that someone at the facility had shoved Ms. Ewell’s head through a wall in her room.

While the perpetrator was unknown, there was a hole in the wall and bruises on Ms. Ewell’s body consistent with the reported abuse. Facility staff denied the allegations, claiming that she had suffered the injuries from an undocumented fall.  The staff stated they laid her down, but did not seek medical attention or notify doctors of her injuries.  Much later, Ms. Ewell was found unresponsive and staff summoned help by calling 9-1-1.  After being transported to the hospital by ambulance, Ms. Ewell died a short time later.

APS assisted by:

  • Investigating the reported abuse and collecting evidence that substantiated Ms. Ewell had been abused by the skilled nursing staff
  • Notifying appropriate licensing authorities and collaborating to initiate correctiveactions against the facility
  • Ensuring that law enforcement and the Medical Examiner’s Office were included in the investigation to pursue possible criminal charges

Guido and Marina Rossini

Mr. Guido Rossini is a 74-year-old Italian American who suffers from multiple health problems and dementia.  He came to APS’s attention because he was in the hospital due to a fall and would soon be ready for discharge home.  However, his wife of 15 years, Marina, did not want him to come home because during the past year, Mr. Rossini’s dementia had manifested in very violent outbursts, almost all of which targeted injuring his wife.  For example, he threw her to the floor and broke her ankle and while she was on the ground, punched her in the head with his fists and bit her.  On another occasion he threatened to kill her and brandished a large kitchen knife to try to stab her.

Despite the physical and verbal abuse, Marina did not report it to the police or APS because Mr. Rossini had threatened to kick her out of the house if she said anything.  She was afraid for her life if Mr. Rossini returned home.

The doctor was aware of Mr. Rossini’s violent behavior, but thought new medications had resolved them. The MD described Mr. Rossini as “a different person” and because Mr. Rossini had recuperated from his fall, felt he no longer needed hospital care and intended to send Mr. Rossini back home.

APS collaborated with doctors to re-evaluate Mr. Rossini’s condition.  In reviewing all the information and tests, they concluded that controlling Mr. Rossini’s violent behavior and other care needs could not be adequately managed at home. Furthermore, his wife, Marina, was fearful for her safety because of his outburst and refusal to comply with prescribed medications.

APS advocated for Mr. Rossini to be placed in a long-term care facility where he would receive more care and supervision since discharging him home would not be safe for either Mr. or Mrs. Rossini. The doctors agreed to collaborate with Mrs. Rossini and APS to assist in locating an appropriate placement. Mr. Rossini was ultimately discharged to a dementia-care facility where he receives around-the-clock care and supervision.

APS assisted by:

  • Assessing the safety and medical condition of both Mr. and Mrs. Rossini
  • Working with each spouse individually to evaluate their needs and wishes
  • Coordinating care with medical providers and the long-term care facility to ensure appropriate care and safety for both Mr. and Mrs. Rossini

The beginning I used to be a girl about town. I was working in accounts, bought my first home at 22 and had my little sports car. I had my life planned out.

If he had punched me in the face on our first date, I wouldn’t have gone back. I couldn’t see what was really happening.

I got pregnant shortly after we started going out, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer the same year. I was 24. He left when all that happened, so I had my daughter by myself. I moved to Dublin for cancer treatment.

I bumped into him when I came back to Limerick. I think I was vulnerable because of my illness. I went from being confident to thinking I was going to die.

We got married less than nine months after that. The abuse started from there. It was all emotional or psychological. And it was the worst. I can’t even explain it.

Little signs

There were little signs of jealousy at first, but I thought: Isn’t that lovely? He’s mad about me. But really, it was about control.

It started with things like my clothes. At first he’d say, “I don’t know about those shoes.” It progressed to, “Everyone’s looking at you, and you can’t go out like that.” Eventually, it was, “You look like a slut.”

As soon as we got married, my house wasn’t right because it was mine. So I had to sell it and buy another property with the money I made. He had debts, and I paid them off. I bought another home, and everything about that was wrong as well. It was all my money, and it’s all gone now.

Our daughter would finish school, and he knew how long it took me to drive home. I’d have to be at home to answer the phone when he rang.

He cut me off from my friends. He encouraged me to work from home and then to stop working completely. Sometimes he rang me 30 times a day.

When he came home from work, I’d have his shirts ironed, but he wanted the only one left in the laundry basket. It was always the wrong shirt, the wrong food.

The last straws

I can only assume that he was jealous of our daughter because she took my attention away from him. He wanted to know why she had to go everywhere with us. She was three.

Then I wasn’t able to go to the doctor because he said the cancer was all in my head. He said all I wanted was for the doctor to see me naked. I didn’t have a check-up for many years, and my health deteriorated.

I finally went to the doctor and found out I had to have my ovaries removed. I had the surgery, and afterwards my husband said I did it to spite him.

I was in and out of hospital during that time. He never came to see me and wouldn’t look after our daughter. My parents, who were in their 70s, looked after her.

Getting out

We were together for seven years. I got married at 26, and I’m 35 now. If I had stayed longer, I probably would have ended up dead. He spoke about killing me often enough.

Towards the end, he started threatening to kill me in front of our daughter. When we got home from school, she would cross her fingers that he wouldn’t be at home. “Can we run away, Mammy?” she used to ask me every night.

One day he went ballistic, and we ran outside and drove to my parents’ house. He tried to block me and then ram my parents’ house with the jeep. I rang the police. The police told me to stay with my parents for a few days. They left the perpetrator in the house.

I actually thought it would be easier to stay with him.

I was dealing with one good garda who told me not to back down. He was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Gardaí told me to contact a domestic violence refuge. I said: “Are you crazy? I’m not one of those people. I’m not poor.”

But when I went there, I realised I totally am one of those people. I’ve met doctors and judges hiding from their abusers at the refuge. Abuse is straight across the board.

I got a barring order to remove him from the home, and I’m back in my house now. There is help out there. You can get through it, and your kids will thank you.

A lot of people think they should stay for their kids, but my daughter is a different person now. She’s a happy child. She’s in the top 2 per cent in the country in standardised testing. She’s the most mannerly and well-adjusted kid.

I left three years ago, and I still go to a support group to get him out of my head. He told me I was worthless so [many times that] I believed it.

I had a lovely childhood. We weren’t poor by any means. I was the most confident person you could ever meet, and I just vanished. I’m trying to find myself again now.

Emotional abuse is so much worse than physical abuse. A bruise heals. The inside takes longer.

This story is from a member of United & Strong, a group of domestic violence survivors advocating to strengthen the rights of victims of domestic abuse. For more information, see United & Strong on Facebook and @strong_united on Twitter.

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