Ending the Generational Cycle of  Abuse
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I dream of a day when no child watches her mother being beaten by her father, when no child needs to cover her ears to block out the screams...
  have justice will travel - end vermont domestic violenceClient Stories   Toll Free: 877-496-8100
Have Justice Will Travel - Story One Ending the Generational Cycle of  Abuse Have Justice Will Travel - Story Six
Have Justice Will Travel - Story Two Have Justice Will Travel - Story Seven
Have Justice Will Travel - Story Three Have Justice Will Travel - Story Eight
Have Justice Will Travel - Story Four Have Justice Will Travel - Story Nine
Have Justice Will Travel - Story Five Have Justice Will Travel - Story Ten


Short Stories by: Wynona Ward

The Stew
Momma Sang A Song
No More Me


domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

W ynona represented one 68 year-old woman for a relief from abuse hearing and divorce who had been abused by her husband during their entire 48 year marriage. She had given birth to six children, 3 girls and 3 boys, all who were adults with families of their own except for one son who had committed suicide several years ago.

At the relief from abuse hearing the plaintiff testified that a month ago her and her husband were shopping at a wholesale store and as they came out of the store together he purposely pushed a shopping cart containing 80 pounds of cat litter into the front of her knees causing her great pain. This injury aggravated the debilitating arthritis she already suffered and it was painful for her to walk for several weeks. Another incident occurred just before she filed her request for a relief from abuse when he grabbed her hair, twisted it around his hand, and pushed and dragged her into the house. When she began to scream for help, he punched her in the face.

Previous to the two above incidents, when they were moving from one house to another, he shoved her so hard into the kitchen counter she fell to the floor in pain and could not breathe. She was unable to get up by herself, but he left her there telling her she fell down on her own, so she could get up on her own. When preparing for the court hearing, Wynona asked for and received her medical records, which showed that one of the Plaintiff’s ribs had been cracked. A doctor from the Central Vermont Hospital agreed to testify about the injuries.

HJWT was able to have this woman’s final relief from abuse order granted and also filed a motion to amend her divorce petition so that she was filing a fault divorce on the grounds of intolerable severity. During the marriage the defendant had abused and assaulted the plaintiff in the following ways: punched her in the eye with a closed fist, punched her with a closed fist when she was learning to drive, punched her in the jaw with a closed fist, beat her when she was pregnant, tied her hands and feet together behind her, left her in the basement for a long period of time, begging to be released while the children were present, threw heavy items at her, hitting her in the face and lip, punched her in the arm leaving large black and blues, burned many of her items of clothing and other personal property, threatened to kill her, and he was convicted of sexually molesting one daughter when she was approximately ten years old,

For the most part, the defendant in this case had obeyed the relief from abuse order, but at 2:00 a.m. one morning, Wynona received a call at her home from her client. Before I could get to the telephone she left the following message: “He came here tonight, broke into the house and shot himself, and now he is dead.”

Wynona states that, “In the ten years I have been an attorney, I have never had this happen before. Needless to say it was a shock to me. I stayed on the telephone with this woman for over an hour. The police were already there when she called me, since she was able to call 911 before he shot himself in the head. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. I was glad to know that one of her sons who had been very supportive of her was already there.”

HJWT continued to help this client as she faced continuing legal issues surrounding the husband’s death and estate. After many months she was able to begin her life anew, seeing her grandchildren and enjoying new hobbies such as painting and crafts.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

A A tragic case took place where an 18 year-old girl was raped by a neighbor who lived in the same apartment building as her family. Although she was eighteen, under Vermont law she is considered a “vulnerable adult” and, therefore, a specific statute exists to protect her. These statutes cover abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly, handicapped, and mentally ill. In this specific case, the young woman functions at a 13-14 year old level and is under the guardianship of her adoptive parents. She was sexually and physically abused, as well as neglected (starved) by her biological parents until she was 4 years-old and then went from foster home to foster home until this family adopted her at 9 years-old.

Wynona was able to use specific rules that exist in the Vermont Rules of Evidence to allow this client to testify via closed circuit two-way television so she did not need to face her abuser in the courtroom. Although the Court could not provide the necessary equipment, Wynona was able to work with the victim advocacy organization that in-turn worked with a local computer technological small business that did an excellent job providing the necessary equipment.

In the end, before our final hearing where the victim would have testified, the abuser admitted to the Newport City Police that he had assaulted the girl and agreed to a protective order. This saved our young client from experiencing the trauma of testifying. Agreeing to a protective order generally happens if the perpetrator is being charged criminally because he knows that anything he says in family court can be used against him in criminal court. This was a challenging case in that the defendant did not want to move from the apartment where he lived with his wife and two children. We insisted that he move as part of the protective order. HJWT provided social services for this young woman including transportation and donations of clothing, books, and school supplies. The defendant was later found guilty of his crime and was incarcerated.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

HJWT represented the daughter of an elderly woman in Probate Court to help her obtain guardianship of her elderly mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The mother had been physically abused by her son and taken to a local hospital for medical care.

After being in a nursing home for a few months, with help from HJWT and other family members, the daughter was able to bring her mother back to her home where her family has lived for three generations. The daughter is now living with her mother and caring for her in the home. The mother’s wish is to live out her life in the home where she was born and lived her entire life.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

A mother of three daughters, age 15, 11, and 7 came to HJWT for a relief from abuse order against her ex-husband who she had divorced five years previously. She survived on disability payments that she received for herself and her oldest daughter, plus help from the Vermont Department of Economic Services Division. He had convinced her to move back to Vermont after living in New Hampshire for several years by finding her a three-bedroom apartment. She paid the security deposit and the rent, but he signed the lease with the landlord and did not include her name on the lease. He then began harassing and badgering her everyday to call the Vermont Office of Child Support, because he did not want to continue paying any support for the three children. Eventually these arguments lead to threats and violence in front of the children.

HJWT was able to obtain a final relief from abuse order for this mother where the father was allowed supervised visitation. We also advised our client, who could show that all rent payments had been made out of her checking account, to sign a new lease with the landlord. Once HJWT called the landlord, he was happy to change the lease.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

A young mother came to HJWT because the father of her infant daughter carelessly bounced the baby on the bed and she fell off the bed and was bruised. The mother took the baby to the hospital to be sure it was okay and then moved out of the home. The father was angry and was insisting that she give the baby to him.

HJWT helped this mother write an affidavit requesting a relief from abuse on behalf of the child, which was granted. The father is now allowed only supervised visits with the baby.

In addition, HJWT was able to assist this teenage woman with filing a parentage petition where she received full custody of the child.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

HJWT established the Legal Empowerment Assistance Program (LEAP) after realizing that clients who represent themselves in Vermont Family Court call many times seeking assistance with their case, sometimes for years. A young mom, who received legal services through LEAP in late 2010 and mid 2011 called back again in 2012. It is especially important for HJWT to help LEAP clients on a continuing basis especially when some abusers continuously use the legal system to abuse victims.

In 2010, LEAP helped this mom with a relief from abuse and a parentage order. The father of her child violated the relief by threatening her and the child’s life and went to jail. While in jail he continued to contact her under the pretense of writing to his son, six months old at the time, had an inmate who got out of jail before him contact the mom with a threat on her life, and sent third party messages through his family members.

In 2011, LEAP helped her get a five-year extension on her final relief from abuse. Now in 2012, he was out of jail and living just down the street from her. She was terrified to have him in her neighborhood even though she had the relief from abuse order, and further scared because he had filed for unsupervised contact with their child. At the same time that he filed for parent child contact he filed for a paternity test even though he initiated and argued that he was the father when he filed the parentage order.

The court responded by granting the opportunity for this young woman to file a memorandum in opposition to the father’s request. The young woman promptly called HJWT and asked for help through LEAP. LEAP helped the mom gather important evidence to show that there had not been a real, substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances that would warrant a modification of the current order denying any contact with the child. Dad had not completed any of the court ordered programming and was not displaying behavior that indicated he was a changed person. LEAP also helped her prepare her own motion to modify so she could relocate closer to family where she could feel safe and get a better job.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

AAttorney Lamson received a referral for a case of a 63-year-old woman who had filed a petition to protect her as a vulnerable adult. Lillian is living with a progressive debilitating disease that severely limits her mobility and she is in a nursing home full-time.

Attorney Lamson met with Lillian and discussed her concerns about her husband. Bob is religiously devout and did not want a divorce. He was not capable of caring for Lillian as her disease progressed and he took out his frustration with the situation on her. It had been a long time desire of Lillian to separate from her husband, and Lillian did not want him exerting influence over her that she deemed abusive.

Attorney Lamson helped Lillian to obtain a reduced fee attorney for her divorce and consulted with that attorney to include terms in the divorce that prevented Bob from having any contact with her. This satisfied Lillian so that she withdrew her Abuse Prevention Petition and Bob became more resigned to the divorce in turn.

Lillian was very pleased with the advice and counsel of Attorney Lamson. Lillian believes that her wishes and desires were finally given credence and she was able to achieve an important goal that improved her quality of life before she died.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

HJWT received a call from a single mother with a three-year old child who had fled to Vermont for safety from another New England state. The batterer had been charged with domestic assault against her and even though she had an order of protection against her abuser in that state, he was threatening that he would kill her and the child if she testified against him. The young woman was extremely frightened of her child’s father because he had put her in a bear hug, cutting off her air supply, before he threw her to the floor and started kicking her with his steel toed work boots. Another time he had thrown her to the floor in front of the child and tied her hands behind her back so she could not get away. Not only was the defendant a physical abuser, he also was an alcoholic and distributed cocaine to others.

When this mother called HJWT she had lived in Vermont for two years. With the help of a victim advocacy shelter, she had been able to find housing, a part-time job, and day care for the child. After being in Vermont for fifteen months, however, she discovered that the criminal charges had been dropped against the defendant because she was unavailable to testify. When this happened he was free to leave the state, therefore, he followed her to Vermont. In Vermont, he had broken into her home violating the relief from abuse, was put on probation, and was not allowed to leave this state. The mother made plans to move back to her home state with her parents. A few days before she was going to leave Vermont, the abuser heard of her intentions, and went to the Vermont Family Court and filed a motion to prevent her from leaving Vermont, saying he was the father of the child.

After the woman faxed both the out-of-state and Vermont paperwork to HJWT, we were able to help her with LEAP services by giving her legal advise over the telephone, helping her respond to the defendant’s motion, and helping her prepare for the emergency hearing the court scheduled. HJWT advised her to let the court know that the abuser had never been a father to the child, had never asked to visit with the child, had never paid child support, and how frightening it was for the child to see violence in the home. She explained to the court that she had an entire support system set up in her home state, including a home with her parents, a job, head start for the child, and medical coverage for her and the child. In addition, she had given notice to her Vermont landlord, who had already rented her apartment to another tenant. If she were forced to stay in Vermont, she would once again be homeless.

Both the client and HJWT were happy to hear that that the court approved her returning to her home state. The grandmother arrived the day before the court hearing and the family left for home the next day. LEAP will keep in touch with this woman and assist her when the next hearing is held in Vermont.

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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

A father was referred by a local agency because his partner of several years had filed an emergency motion for custody of their three children and then had left the State of Vermont for three weeks claiming that they were on vacation. The father was extremely upset because he questioned if the mother would return with the children since she had told the father several times that he would never see the children again.

HJWT was instrumental in helping this father answer the mother’s emergency motion, in that a parentage had never been filed in the past. HJWT advised this father to concentrate on what was best for the children rather than on what the mother had done wrong. We assisted with a response to the parentage request by assisting with the completion of forms including a pro se appearance, an answer to the complaint, counterclaim, affidavit of child custody, father’s affidavit of parentage, and a suggested parental rights and responsibilities stipulation and order including a parent contact schedule.

This father also included a response to some of the mother’s specific claims, which HJWT was able to review and make suggested modifications. Eventually the mother did return, a court hearing was held, the parents agreed to share parental rights and responsibilities of the children, and most importantly to communicate in a civil and positive manner in front of the children.


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domestic abuse success story - have justice will travel

A woman called HJWT seeking legal assistance with her effort to keep her young twin sons, one of whom is autistic, safe. Mom and the children had been living in Vermont for 2 years and the father of the twins lived out of-state. Dad had parent-child contact with his children every other weekend. After increasingly unusual and anxious behavior upon return from dad’s home, one of the boys began reporting dad inappropriately touching his twin brother to their Early Essential Education teacher. He also reported inappropriate sleeping arrangements at dad’s house.

The Department of Children and Families started an investigation and mom sought assistance preventing any unsupervised contact between dad and the boys until the investigation was completed. Dad fought the accusations and many organizations became involved as mom sought protection for her children.

LEAP gave this mother assistance with motions, responses, and evidence as well as education about the procedural development of her case. Shortly before the final hearing, an agency LEAP had connected this woman with for support in managing her sons’ emotional response to the sexual abuse, found an attorney to represent her case in the courtroom. Currently there is no contact between the children and their father.

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