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The Becky Wardlow Story

She didn’t care if it cost her life, she could take it no longer

By Sandy Kline

Becky Wardlow came to speak to Houston police officers at their in-ser- vice training about family violence, and agreed she’d like to use a podium. When Becky started speaking how- ever, she stood several feet behind the podium, plastered against the back wall, scared to death. She wasn’t as terrified by the public speaking as much as she was mortified talking to a group of mostly men. Becky was afraid of men.

Young Becky As a young girl, Becky was the baby of the family with four older sisters and two brothers. As the years went on, she was left as the only child at home. Becky often watched her mother take a rolled up newspaper, striking her father about the head and shoulders when he said or did something her mother didn’t like. Many times, Becky’s mother would take Becky with her when she went on her date with her boyfriend Lucky.

In return, her father carried on numerous affairs with other women. Becky’s mother would go looking for her husband, from bar to bar, and motel to motel, with little Becky in the car. Often she would find him, and a raging fight would result.

Yet through all of this, Becky remained fiercely loyal to her father. When one of his mistresses told her, “Don’t worry, your father is getting divorced and you can come live with us,” Becky replied, “My father will never get a divorce.”

His first wife left him with their two young children in order to escape the marriage. All that Becky knew about Johnny’s abuse with his ex-wife was one time during an argument. Johnny wanted to go out drinking and Linda didn’t want him to. She was ironing and Johnny grabbed the iron, stuck it to her arm burning Linda, and then Johnny left.

Once Becky turned 17 years old, she found out she was pregnant. Johnny was not happy about her pregnancy since he already had two children. He wanted Becky to have an abortion but she refused. Instead they got married.

A pregnant Becky was dropped off at the local hospital to have some proce- dural tests run while Johnny drove on to a local bar. When Johnny failed to pick up Becky in the only vehicle they owned, Becky walked several miles to the bar where Johnny was drinking. Tired and hurting, Becky approached

Johnny, and asked, “Why didn’t you pick me up?” Johnny was enraged that she had confronted him in front of his friends. He stalked out of the bar.

Becky called her mother to pick her up from the bar, and her mother drove her home. Yet the worst was to come. When Becky got home, a seeth- ing Johnny was waiting. Still furious, he went to whip her with a belt. The only thing that prevented him from doing so was Becky’s mother interven- tion. Johnny left infuriated and before he returned home again, he had wrecked their only car.

Becky Meets Johnny All this dysfunction in Becky’s family seemed to be unimportant when Becky met Johnny Wardlow. Johnny was charming, even if she was only 16 and he was already 21 years old, had been married, and had two little children, a boy and a girl. To Becky, it didn’t mat- ter. Johnny loved her, told her he loved her, and it got her out of her house.

Early signs of Johnny’s violence were apparent. Johnny would control what Becky could wear, who she could talk

to, often calling her and slapping her.

disparaging names This is typical of

a violent verbal and

relationship, especially the mental abuse. Establishment

of total extreme

control, sometimes going measures, is a hallmark

to of

domestic violence. not severe enough template making a

Yet the abuse was for Becky to con- report to the police

or a battered women’s too busy trying not to would anger Johnny.

shelter. She

was

do anything

that

As in all abusive relationships, the violence continued and escalated as time went on. The batterer, no mat- ter how much control and power is exercised, continually feels it is not enough. Becky was spending all her time trying to be as perfect as possible, not doing anything that would offend Johnny. The controlling behavior con- tinued, with Johnny setting the rules. He would threaten her if he caught her talking to another man. He continued to dictate what she wore, who she visited, checked the odometer in the car to cal- culate her mileage, and monitored the gas in the car. If the phone rang and it was a hang-up call, or a wrong number, he accused her of it being her boyfriend checking on her. If the caller was a woman, then it was her lesbian lover. Becky worked and was not allowed to go to coffee or have lunch with her co-workers. She met Johnny for lunch every day.

When their son was three years old, Becky and Johnny had stopped at a

fast food restaurant to pick up dinner. Something triggered Johnny who began screaming and arguing with the manager over coleslaw and then he started argu- ing with another customer. The police were called and Johnny was arrested. Becky brought her young son to the jail with her to bail out her husband. Becky was so embarrassed by Johnny’s behavior, she never told anyone. Yet when her son was with his grandmother, he pointed out the fast food restau- rant, telling her that “there’s the place where the police took my daddy away.” Becky thought the young boy hadn’t been impacted by the incident and was appalled to realize that he had.

This was Johnny’s only arrest. He was never arrested for any of the assaults against Becky, even though she would call the police for help. This is typical: most batterers are not violent outside of the home. When their boss angers them, they do not slap and abuse their boss, demonstrating most batterers have control over their behavior when they want.

Calling the Police Becky called the local police only a few times. Domestic violence laws had not been changed to where the batterer could be arrested without the victim’s consenting to criminal charges. Becky was afraid to press charges because she knew there would be severe con- sequences. She wanted the police to come and arrest him on their own. The police would leave without making any arrests, often conduct a bit of counsel- ing, telling one or the other party to leave and cool off. Once the door was closed after the police officers’ departure, the violence would not only resume, but continue with a vengeance for the police having been summoned. It didn’t take long for Becky to learn that

the police were

not going

She was on her

own.

to

be

a

help.

Johnny drank often. He’d come home after hanging out at the bar following his work day. Becky would pretend to be asleep when he came in, not relaxing until she heard him snoring. It was only when he would snore that she knew he would not demand sex from her. Then she knew she was safe and could sleep herself.

One night Johnny came home, and Becky, as usual, pretended to be asleep. This evening was different as her young niece was staying in the house in the guest bedroom. Johnny came into their bedroom, got into bed, and when Becky heard him snoring she relaxed and went to sleep only to awaken with a pillow over her face. She was being suffocated and began struggling to breathe.

Her niece heard her crying out, came in their bedroom, and asked Becky if she

was okay. Johnny told her “Everything is fine; go back to bed.” Johnny then got up and walked out of the bedroom. When he returned, he went to Becky, holding a knife to her throat, and told her, “You are going with me to Dee ’s bedroom and you are going to have sex with her.”

Terrified, Becky got out of the bed. Johnny walked her down the hallway, all the while holding the knife to her throat. When Becky woke Dee up, she told her, “Don’t be afraid. Johnny is forcing us to have sex together.” Dee started scream- ing and screaming. Johnny dropped the knife and fled the residence.

Dee and Becky began crying and hold- ing each other. They made it through the night without any other problems, but Dee never again spent the night and Becky never invited her. Neither of them told anyone else.

Johnny seemed to need violence when having sexual relations with his wife. He would get furious if she refused to have sex with him, and harangue her for hours, not letting her sleep. Johnny told Becky he would have sex and if not with her, he’d find it other places. Johnny would leave, be gone for hours, and when he returned home, he’d tell her about the sexual escapades he had.

Once he approached her best friend about having sex with him because Becky was having her monthly men- strual cycle. When Becky confronted Johnny about this, he beat her. Shortly after their son was born and Becky was still recovering from the childbirth, Johnny left one bar with a man to go to another bar. The two men had sexual relations and Johnny came home and told Becky all about it.

Johnny would rape Becky anally, against her wishes, but she was more terrified of what he would do if she refused. He would force intercourse with Becky at knifepoint or even gun- point. He also seemed to be excited by the use of objects. Becky would often say, “He used everything on me from a hot dog, to a coke bottle, to the family dog.” Yet as terrorizing as this was for Becky, she would not cry out. She was afraid her son would hear her and come into their bedroom and see what was happening.

Johnny, like many batterers, abused animals. He would shoot the same dog he would use in their bed, but not kill the dog. Eventually, he would kill the dog and force Becky to take the dead animal to drop off in the countryside. Many times during their marriage, the children would beg for a pet. Becky could not tell them why she would not let them have one.

Yet everything about Johnny was

Becky...Cont.on pg 9 The Police News - Page 5

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