For Shirley Hockenberry

Normally, I’m competitive, but someone else has knocked me out as top fundraiser for the Race Against Violence, and I don’t care. She’s racing in memory of a friend, Shirley Hockenberry.

Shirley was killed by her husband. They were divorcing. She was only 41.

Statistically, the point at which an abuse victim faces the greatest risk from the abuser is when the victim leaves. She was leaving, so he exercised the ultimate control over her, killing her, then setting their house on fire and killing himself.

It is only human to think to yourself, when you imagine someone abusing someone else, that the person being abused should just leave. Consider what that really means.

  • Could you walk out your front door right now, with just your purse and the clothes you have on, and never return?
  • Could you leave children, or pets, or the security of a bed to sleep in and kitchen to cook in behind and never look back?
  • Could you access your money without worrying that your abuser could close the accounts or cancel the cards?
  • Drive away knowing your abuser would report “your” car, which is registered in your abuser’s name, stolen?
  • Go to work the next day at an office without a security guard to keep an angry abuser from storming through the door, or calling you 40, 50, 100 times a day until your actual customers can’t reach you by phone?
  • Stay on a friend’s couch even though your abuser spends the whole night circling the block, pounding on the door, and threatening your friend’s family until someone calls the cops?
  • Afford a hotel when no friend will let you stay, or when you cannot impose the danger upon your friends any longer?

And what if you never even got the chance to leave? What if you filed for divorce and suddenly, the first escalation point from mental cruelty and mean words was a bullet to the head while you sat quietly watching television?

I don’t know (and I doubt anyone does) what had happened between Shirley Hockenberry and her husband/murderer. I do know that she is far from the first woman to die this way, and sadly, won’t be the last.

And I do know the incredible pain her friends must be in, which is why I’m in such awe at their strength to have put together a team for her in the Race Against Violence just a week after her tragic death.

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