Finding her way out

by EMILY A. SHOWGREN

It seemed fun and exciting. Meeting someone online, chatting for some time, greeting him when he traveled from Utah to Australia for a visit. This woman had fallen in love.

Harmony, who asked that her full name not be used for safety and legal reasons, was 36 at the time. She had two daughters, ages 6 and 9. The small family moved from Australia to Utah where she and her fiancé were soon married.

But the fun and excitement quickly vanished. Harmony was about to find out what kind of man he really was.

“He was a master of manipulation,” she said. “He conditioned me and then reinforced it throughout the marriage.”

Harmony and her husband were married for just over two years. During that time, he belittled her and ignored her daughters.

“He never physically hit them but he played mind games and ignored them. When I wasn’t there, he wouldn’t feed them or pay any attention to them,” she said.

He mostly abused Harmony emotionally and psychologically but that all changed in February 2007.

“He grabbed her arm and threw her on the bed and then began to hit her on the left side of her head,” said Marlene Gonzalez, Harmony’s attorney from the Multi-Cultural Legal Center. “He continued to hit her until she saw a bright light and became dizzy.”

Harmony and her daughters were eventually able to escape the room where he was holding them and went to a trusted neighbor. She called police and they started investigating. Julie Johansen, a Murray City Crime Victim Advocate, was called to the scene shortly after and began speaking with Harmony.

“I spoke with her and gave her information on where she could go to get help for domestic violence,” Johansen said. “I also went through the signs with her and showed her that it was definitely abuse. I told her that he would come back and try to apologize and make things better.”

After the attack, Harmony’s husband overdosed on medications he used for his bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. He was admitted to the psychiatric ward after the overdose and was there for a couple days.

During that time, Harmony went to the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake (LAS) and obtained a protective order. He was served and told to stay away from Harmony and her daughters.

“After he received the protective order, he called me 17 to 20 times. I had to unplug all the phones in the house,” Harmony said.

He didn’t stop there. A couple days after the incident, Harmony was on the phone with the police when she heard someone at the door. She could see him through the window above the door; he was holding flowers and ready to apologize, just as Johansen had predicted.

“I told the police that he was at the door. They told me to not open the door and they were on the way. He went around the back but since he’s a bigger guy, he couldn’t get his arm through the gate,” she said.

He left but returned to remove the price tag from the flowers he left behind. By that time the police showed up and took him to jail. After a couple weeks, he violated the protection order yet again and was back in jail.

Harmony went to LAS to obtain a divorce. She obtained her protective order there but when she went for the divorce, she overestimated her income and was not able to receive help. Her friend helped her and took her down to the 3rd District courthouse in West Jordan, Utah, where Harmony was able to file for divorce online. She continued to help her estranged husband, though.

“Harmony had been going to counseling with her LDS bishop,” said Marlene Gonzalez, Harmony’s attorney. “Her bishop asked if she needed help finding a new home. All she wanted was for him to help her estranged husband find a place to stay after the divorce. She didn’t have any family here. She used the people who had become family to help him. She was very unselfish.”

Two weeks after the divorce, Harmony’s ex-husband was married for the third time. Harmony had been his second wife. The harassment didn’t stop after he remarried. Not only did he start sending harassing e-mails to Harmony, so did his wife. The police couldn’t do anything about her e-mails because there wasn’t proof he had told her to send those.

After 18 months Harmony had not heard from her ex-husband or his new wife. She says she is working as a business systems analyst and her daughters, now 13 and 10, are doing well.

“Harmony is an amazing woman. Statistics show that it usually takes eight or 10 times of being abused before someone gets out. She got out the first time,” Johansen said.