She didn’t know what domestic violence was, but he said sweet things and she was in love. They got married and then the nightmare began.
“I have back issues. I have a herniated disc. I’m blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. Just because I’ve been kicked in the head too many times,” Samantha Hagan said. “I wish someone would have opened my eyes sooner.”
New to relationships, Hagan, of Avis, didn’t realize that this wasn’t normal. If she moved the wrong way, sneezed, did anything he didn’t like, her husband would beat her.
“I felt trapped,” she said.
The nightmare continued for over a year until Hagan turned 21. After enduring constant beatings, being kicked with steel-toed boots, Hagan final said she had enough. Friends came to her aid and told her this was not normal and had to end. Hagan filed a Protection From Abuse order against her husband and a divorce soon followed.
But the nightmare wasn’t over yet. She got married again and while there was no physical abuse, she said he was not supportive and she again filed for divorce. Her husband retaliated by sexually assaulting her.
“I’m done with relationships,” Hagan said. The trauma from two abusive spouses has made it hard to trust, or to try again, she said.
In Lycoming County, reports of domestic abuse have continued to rise each year, topping 320 in 2019. Across the United States, one in four women, and one in nine men suffer from domestic abuse.
‘I was in shock‘
When she was 9 years old, Star Poole watched her step-father hit and throw her mom to the ground. She never imagined that over a decade later her own kids would have to witness the same thing.
“I knew it was wrong, and I thought that I would know better,” Poole said. “I was 9 so I didn’t have a choice, but as an adult, it’s really hard, but you do have a choice … to walk away and see your options.”
At 18 years old, Poole began dating a man and the pair now have five children. He slapped her once before they had kids. But she thought it would never happen again.
It could be “tumultuous” at times, she said, but not violent.
Years later, when Poole decided to end the relationship, he retaliated. He kicked her, threw her against the wall and pinned her to the ground in front of the kids. Initially outraged and shocked, Poole filed a PFA, but soon dropped it, thinking he wouldn’t hurt her again.
But a week later he beat her and then held her hostage inside her room for hours. Poole managed to get in touch with a family member through Facebook and asked for help.
She filed a PFA, which was granted and she sought help from the YWCA’s Wise Options program for victims of abuse.
“They were just with me, and let me know that I’m not alone,” Poole said. “Because I did kind of feel like I was alone.”
‘We all have this story‘
Hagan and Poole are devoted to sharing their stories and letting other domestic violence victims know they are not alone.
“My goal is to be an advocate for domestic violence and prevent people from going through what I went through,” Hagan said.
Hagan works with Wildflower Enterprises, an Avis-based support group for women struggling with a number of issues, including domestic violence.
After finding support through Wise Options, Poole built a passion for investing in her community and now is on the board of Northcentral Pa’s Alternatives to Violence Project, intent on helping people find nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution.
“It’s sad, but it’s amazing to see how many women around me have gone through that,” Poole said. “We all have this story, and the more we hold it in and don’t share it, the more we’re just holding ourselve’s back.”