Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Her name was Trisha Sadler. By all accounts, she was a bright, generous person, who was well liked by her co-workers. Her family certainly loved her – her adoptive father, Michael, speaks of her as the baby of the family and talks about how badly missed she will be. She didn’t have to die. There was no illness, no reason for her life to end at age 29. Trisha Sadler was murdered by her boyfriend, stabbed to death and dismembered in the home she had bought for herself. Just a few days before she died, Trisha told her co-workers, “If I don’t come to work, call the police. He’s said he’s going to kill me.”

Willie J. Ward, Trisha’s boyfriend, had a history of abusing her. Trisha would come to work with bruises, and said that Ward threw her around. So maybe you’re wondering why a bright, generous person like Trisha Sadler would stay with an abuser like Ward…

Frankly, so am I.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make sense. After all, I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I stayed, even after my former partner hit me and threatened me with a knife. So if anyone should understand the reasons behind Trisha Sadler’s decision to stay with Ward even though he abused her, I should. Right?

But I don’t. I find myself wondering why anyone would stay in that kind of relationship. I find myself wondering why I did. Oh, I know…at first, I loved him. At first, he didn’t hurt me; he was gentle, loving, and kind. And later on, when I began to see who he truly was, I convinced myself that if I could just hold on things would go back to the way they had been. After a while, I knew things would never get better, but by then I was sure he’d kill me if I left. He had threatened to, after all. And even when there came a time when I thought it would be better to risk death than to stay, I was afraid of what he might do to other people. And frankly, I was tired…I didn’t have the energy left to fight it anymore.

Maybe that’s the answer right there. Abusive relationships wear you down – by the time you know how bad they are, it’s either too dangerous to leave or you just don’t care what happens to you. Maybe that’s how Trisha Sadler felt – maybe, by the time she realized how much danger she was in, it was too late to get away. And even if she had left, it wouldn’t have ensured her safety. Intimate partner violence accounts for 30% of the murders of women in America, and women who leave their batterers are at 75% greater risk of severe injury or death than those who stay.

I wonder, too, about Trisha’s co-workers and family. Her friends at work knew what was happening – did they encourage her to leave? Did one of them call the police to report that Trisha was being battered? Did anyone try to intervene? Trisha said that if she didn’t turn up for work, they would probably find her dead – did they think she was being melodramatic, or did they believe her and try to help?

There are no easy answers to these questions or to the problem of domestic violence. In the end, it is the abuser who chooses what happens, regardless of what the victim decides. Where is the justice in that? Why does someone have to die before people intervene? Where is the boundary between live and let live and loving thy neighbor as thyself? Inertia affects us all – victims of violence and those who watch it happen but stand by and do nothing. May God give us the courage to act in his name, for peace, and for justice.


McGill, Andrew; Tyler Richardson. 2011. The Morning Call. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://articles.mcall.com/2011-06-19/news/mc-bethlehem-homicide-folo-20110619_1_multiple-arrests-affidavit-diamond-ring

Statistics courtesy of: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Domestic Violence Resource Center

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