Countless stories by men and women who have been or continue to be victims of domestic abuse could be told. But only a few are willing to publicly discuss their personal situations. Shannon Trow of Coventry is one of them.
Trow not only escaped from an abusive situation, but is speaking out to tell people of her experiences to help others in similar straits. Now an insurance claims adjuster, she is proud of surviving her ordeal and wants to let abusers and victims know there are resources to get support for them and their families.
“It was mostly verbal, mental and emotional abuse,” she said of a marriage that lasted nine years until she got a divorce and was granted custody of her three young children.
In her seventh year of marriage, she knew something had to be done. “I was depressed, had a lot of anxiety and lost a ton of weight,” she said. “I was on anti-depressants for a while. It took a lot for me to get to that point. I was afraid that no one was going to believe me.”
“He was charming, had a good sense of humor and was a good father until alcoholism took over. He also had some problems after serving in the first Gulf War. It was really bad and we had to call the police several times,” she recounted. “He usually said the next day he could not remember saying or doing the things he did."
"I went through a denial phase,” she admitted. “I thought it was my responsibility to fix this. It was really bad so we went to Al-Anon, but he stopped going after a few times. I began to learn how prevalent substance abuse is.”
Once her husband left, Trow explained that things went downhill at first, but she was determined to restore some consistency and normalcy for her children.
Unfortunately, her oldest child is still dealing with the consequences, she explained. “We’re constantly working with her. She has some anger and resentment and was forced to grow up faster than she should have.”
According to Audrey Scott, a domestic violence and law enforcement advocate who works with police departments and social service agencies in Coventry, East Greenwich and West Greenwich, there are innumerous cases of domestic violence that either directly or indirectly involve children like Trow's.
"Most of the time there are kids involved in domestic violence cases," said Scott. "They are usually witnesses but that can do as much damage as being physically involved."
“The key factors are genetics and environment and I could only eliminate one thing,” Trow explained. “I wasn’t raised in this kind of environment. But I learned that alcohol and domestic violence is usually a product of someone’s family environment.”
She credits the support of her mother, brother, friends and boyfriend; therapy, Al-Anon, and the knowledge she gained when researching domestic abuse to cope with the situation, as well as immediate support from Scott at the Coventry Police Department.
“The quick response by the Coventry Police Department was great and working with Audrey was fantastic,” she said. “Audrey came to me and reached out to me.”
Trow has even spoken before classes and audiences at New England Tech and Rhode Island College and, soon, at the Coventry Housing Authority. “I hope that by talking about my incident I can help others to get help to deal with this and move forward in their lives.”
Asked how someone can escape a pattern of abuse, she said: "Get self-awareness of the situation you are in. Looking at yourself is not easy. But you are not alone and you don’t have to go through it alone. You have to realize you are vulnerable and do work to love yourself.”
Scott encourages anyone in a similar situation to reach out to local law enforcement, especially domestic violence advocates like herself, even if it is to simply ask for help or guidance about what steps to take to escape abusive conditions.
“There is a lot of support and help out there, more than people think,” Trow continued. The state provides food stamps, medical insurance, housing and for other needs. But it is much better to get out than to stay in any abusive relationship.”
If she had to change one thing about addressing the problem, she said “I wouldn’t have waited so long. But I was determined that my life with the kids was going to be a success.”