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It’s not Rocket Science

They’re Survivors
 

The day that he was put into prison is the day that she blossomed into the flower that she has become.  In her case, she didn't need counseling, she didn't need therapy, and she didn't need to pray more ... All she needed was for the threat in her life to be gone.  Now is as good a time as any for me to tell you how she's handled her life and what she's become.

 

She did not sit still as many others have done ... She didn't hide it.  She went out into public without makeup on and she even allowed her battered picture to be displayed on a large billboard.  Besides being instrumental in sending her spouse/abuser to prison, she became very vocal and has even influenced some of our laws.  As soon as she could … She divorced him.  In addition to raising four kids, she donates much of her time to any who will hear her voice ... She wants to be heard!  So far, she has sacrificed much to help others and has been compensated very little for any of her work.  She has one of the most hectic schedules of anyone that I’ve ever known. 

 

At every turn, our Legal and Social Services systems have let her down.  And had she stood still for one minute and tolerated any of it, her ex-husband would’ve been out of prison long before now and would’ve made good on his promise to her ... That she and her children would be dead!  She had to fight her own way through this whole process.  Oh, she got some help from her friends, but she didn’t get the help we’d expect her to get from the taxes we pay … She had to scramble around the best that she could on her own.  Anyway, he went to prison and you’d think that would be the end the story ... No Sir, far from it. 

 

She received a written “Death Threat” from prison!  Even after she produced it to local authorities, still, no advice was given and no action was taken ... Can you believe it?  She had to really raise hell and pound on the counter before the Fed’s were called in, and it was only because of her persistence that he’s now serving time for the federal offense of “Communicating Threats through the Mail.” 

 

For obvious reasons, she gets no support at all from her abusive ex-husband ... Because he is still in prison.  But for him, if he gets an ache or pain, or needs a root canal ... Our tax dollars pay for that, while he works out, gets three square meals a day, lies on his bed in jail and plots his time away.   For her, it’s a different ballgame altogether.

For her … The system is set up to fail.  If she doesn’t work and can jump through all the hoops, the government support she would get for herself and her children is not quite enough.  But if she tries to supplement her income with a small job, then she won’t qualify for much of any government support at all.  And you know what’s even harder for me to understand … She’s even been advised by administrators to get married, so she would qualify for better benefits.  Any way she turns, she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.  If she were a large Corporation, we all know how she’d survive … Our government would jump right in there and spend billions to subsidize.  I don’t know about you, but this whole ball of wax that she’s had to deal with just pisses me off!

 

 

And we aren’t even touching on one of the saddest parts of this story.  There are no government programs, whatsoever ... For the assistance of children with a parent in prison.  What the hell are we thinking about!  And even worse ... Why have we allowed ourselves to forget them?  What about them … And on their own, how are these children supposed to make it?  That brings to surface yet another subject … The message on the birthday card. 

 

It came in the mail for his daughter’s eighth birthday.  Heather thought it rather odd that before now, he had not shown much interest in their children.  She opened it and looked at it.  I was a simple little card and obviously meant for a child’s birthday. “That’s such a nice gesture,” she thought.  “At last he’s showing some concern for his kids’ feelings.”  But as she inspected it further, in her throat, a lump began growing. 

 

The card had a picture of a piece of furniture with a clock sitting on top of it.  Right above the clock was his handwritten note…

 

“It’s just a matter of …”

 

“How could he!  Oh lord, how could he do that,” she screamed internally.  “Here I am, ready to give him another chance.  But it’s the same old thing as before … Every time I open myself up to him just a little, he beats me back down again.” 

 

The child was only eight then and would not have understood … But her Mother did!  Considering his previous Death Threat that “All three of you will die by my hands” and that she’d known him well for ten years … She could see that he was finally learning from his blunders.  Prison was helping Tommy Price, Jr.  He had learned that if he wanted to relay a meaning, this time he’d better make it subtle.  Yes, Heather understood … She knew him!  The court system might not, but she got the message loud and clear!  But as before in all of her other struggles, she would not give in to his cruelty.  She and her children would be much greater than just casualties … They would endure all of this!  How does she do it?  How does she live, and how does she provide for herself and her dear children?   Listen to me and I’ll tell you. 

 

She has very little money and for them all to survive, she must make every minute and every penny count.  She must keep a beehive schedule for her kids and herself to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  Around her children’s timetable, she works at several jobs.  She rides around on slick tires, can hardly pay her utilities and rent, and has never had her own home. 

 

Most of us are raised and programmed to “make it on our own,” but for some of us, it’s tougher than others.  Although society would frown on her for doing so, it amazes me that she hasn’t resorted to prostitution … What would we do if we had no more options?

 

Throughout all of this, she endures constant spinal pain.  Yet, at the drop of a hat, whenever someone needs her help or comfort, she’ll drop whatever she’s doing and before you know it, she’s right there ... Finding refuge for a victim, mourning at a funeral, raising hell at a meeting, pounding on the desks of Politicians, District Attorneys, Lawyers or Judges.  Surely, many folks who question their own status in these matters ... Hate to see her coming! 

 

She has spoken before Legislative Committees and influenced the making of better laws.  She has appeared on television shows.  She speaks frequently to students in High Schools and from the pulpits of Churches that allow women to speak … Her voice can also be heard.  She will not sit still.  She boldly fights the never-ending battle against bureaucracy.  She is one of the bravest people I’ve ever known.  Her health is less precious to her than achieving her goal and speaking out.  How many of us feel so strongly about what we do with our lives?  How many of us would expose ourselves, knowing that at any moment, a self-described killer might be released from prison and we could receive a shotgun blast to the back of our heads?  The life that she leads is filled with potholes, but she carries on with optimism ... “Yes, I will make a difference.  Yes, I will be heard!”  I’m sure Heather isn’t perfect, but surely, she deserves much better than that ... As do all the other women like her.  “How in the world,” I wonder, “does she keep her chin up and that smile on her face?” 

 

She has contempt for the government supported system that is so filled with flaws that it’s rotten … And it’s not just one person’s fault, we’re all guilty.  Although our hearts may be in the right place, we think to ourselves … “Hey, it’s not my fault, it’s that person down the hall.”  Nobody takes responsibility and the situations get worse.  Too many times, there’s no one there to even empathize. 

 

We don’t even think about what it’s like for women like her … To go through the unending maze of locked doors, only to be turned away because one single criterion was not met or one form was not signed right.  We can’t even imagine the horror of coming to a Shelter in the middle of the night with a murderer hot on our trail … Only to find a locked door.  And if we are lucky enough to get in, to then be forced to use our own food stamps, because the benefits that were meant for us have already been taken by somebody else, probably staff.  A feeling of tremendous despair must be felt, for those forced out of a Shelter early, while their abuser anxiously awaits their return.  And these women must certainly wonder, “Is my life important at all, and if so … Who cares?” 

 

When we serve on Juries, we constantly hear statements from the abuser like “The devil made me do it,” or “I was out of my mind and didn’t know what I was doing.”  Where is our outrage?  Will we continue to empathize with him and forget about her?  Will we keep right on giving him a light sentence or sending him to a mental institution?  Will we ever learn to see past the cool composure of the sorry bastard who has so obviously beaten up or killed his prey?  Will we ever learn to listen to her soft voice or the silence of her grave?  Are males really all that much better than females? 

 

I can’t even imagine what it must feel like for an abused woman … To be victimized by a maniac and then again by the system set up to support her, over, and over, and over again … And to be beaten almost to death and then have no one to turn to, and on top of that, to be treated as a whore. 

 

Many of these women are not just trailer park trash, as we might think.  Many are wives of Doctors, Lawyers, Ministers, Police Officers and all other professionals … And if you saw them in the Mall, you’d never know!  They go through their lives with fake smiles on their faces.  They hide it.  They disguise the terror.  Their bruises are hidden by makeup … Their pain doesn’t show.  In many cases, even their best friends don’t know!  They’re embarrassed.  They protect the ones who abuse them because they keep hoping and praying ... “Maybe he’ll change if I just give him another chance and after all ... He just apologized and sent me flowers today.”  Surely, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions … Of women out there like that.  These women who manage to live through this horror are so much more that just victims ... They’re Survivors.

 

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