All around us
This past weekend, I watched a two-hour special on Investigation Discovery called Drew Peterson: An American Murder Mystery. That name surely rings a bell for many of us. Peterson’s case drew national attention after his wife Stacy disappeared on 2007, three years after his ex-wife Kathleen Savio was found dead in a waterless bathtub. Her cause of death was initially ruled as a drowning.
The facts behind Savio’s death were shady from the very beginning. She had finalized her divorce from Peterson only six months earlier, and it was contentious. Peterson left Savio for Stacy, whom he married one week after finalizing the divorce. Savio reported Peterson had broken into her home and threatened her at least 18 times between 2002 and 2004, but the police couldn’t do much about it.
The reason for that? Peterson was the police. He was a well-known police sergeant and used charisma and power to avoid retribution for his actions. Unfortunately for him, people started to catch on when Stacy disappeared in 2007. Peterson lapped up the attention, making several media appearances in 2008 despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
That’s straight out of the narcissist’s playbook. Peterson had fooled people for years and believed he could continue to do so. He wanted to control the narrative, so he kept using his natural charisma to defend himself. In December 2008, a little more than a year after Stacy disappeared, Peterson became engaged to Christina Raines. Raines left Peterson in January 2009, saying the engagement was a publicity stunt to keep Peterson in the spotlight.
Perhaps he should have avoided the spotlight a bit, because law enforcement was finally watching him. Later in 2009, he was indicted for Savio’s murder. He was found guilty in 2012 and sentenced to serve 38 years in prison. Sadly, there was no justice for Stacy. Her body has never been found. She is still considered a missing person.
I’m sharing this with all of you to point out how monsters wear masks. Evil doesn’t introduce itself as evil. It’s a welcoming smile –– a compliment that makes you feel right at home. Monsters like Peterson make you feel comfortable until you aren’t, and then it feels like there’s no way out. In many cases, that’s true. Abusers who are not physically violent flip that switch when their partner tries to leave. Many victims of domestic violence are murdered when they voice desire to leave. That’s why it’s encouraged to have a plan and keep the abuser out of the loop until you are completely removed from the situation.
Regular readers of this column know I have my own experience with abusive relationships. My ex-boyfriend was emotionally abusive. He wrecked my self-esteem and I still fear him. My story shares similarities with Savio’s. My ex-boyfriend was a security guard at my college and used what little power he had against me. If we got into a fight, I couldn’t escape to my room. He’d just unlock the door and let himself in. I had nowhere to run. I could hide, but for how long?
When I became brave enough to share my story, very few people believed me. One of his close friends sent me a message saying it was OK for me to write about my experience “but sharing it on Facebook is too much.” That was my first real experience with victim blaming, and it made me feel like shutting down and shutting up.
I fight against the urge to do that every day. Why does anyone care about what I went through anyway? Well, hearing the details behind Savio’s murder and Stacy’s disappearance made me feel brave again. Today, I share my story for those who cannot speak. I hope this column reaches someone who needs it. I hope it makes other people feel brave enough to share their story, too.
Domestic violence is all around us. If you need support, call The Purple Flower at 479-981-1676. If you would like to speak with an advocate, call 1-844-247-3223.
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com