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“You’re going to die today”: Davenport woman tells of domestic abuse, recovery

By Tom Loewy

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    DAVENPORT, Iowa (Quad-City Times) — Shannon Songer closes her eyes. She travels back to the morning of Aug. 10, 2020.

Her ex-boyfriend is in the living room, sleeping off what he drank the night before. Shannon insists he should leave, and closes her bedroom door.

But the man who always said he loved her is at that door, demanding entrance. He sounds angry, so Shannon pushes her bed against the door, but a moment later it flies off its hinges, crashing onto the mattress. Shannon has seen this rage before and now she tries to reason, explain herself, hoping he will calm down.

He leaves and for a moment Shannon has hope. He is rummaging, maybe for her car keys? Then the raging man — the one she fell for on that almost-blind first date fours years ago — returns and raises a large knife he found in the kitchen. He strikes down, before she knows what’s happening. Shannon feels the cold blade rip her neck, an inch or so from her throat. The knife tears away some flesh and something warm runs down her skin and under her shirt.

“You’re going to die today, bitch,” the ex-boyfriend says. “You think you’re going to get rid of me? You’re going to die. You better believe me.”

His eyes are blank. Black. And for a moment that is a blood-smeared eternity, Shannon believes the man who said he loved her.

A nightmare life

There’s a reason Shannon wanted to tell this story.

“This happens a lot, all over this area and all over everywhere,” the 61-year-old Shannon said after she opened her eyes. “I want to tell women who are abused to call the police, meet with the prosecutors, follow through. Don’t drop charges.

“Put the man in jail. Get help. I don’t know how I lived. But since I survived I have to tell it. “

And the way she told it is clear: She didn’t have to live through the ordeal of Aug. 10, 2020. Twice the Scott County Attorney’s Office built cases against Shannon’s ex-boyfriend. Twice Shannon backed away, withdrew her testimony.

Shannon also turned her back on Family Resources and the SafePath Survivor Resources, available through the county.

“I can’t say I wasn’t offered help,” Shannon said. “The Scott County’s Attorney’s Office did everything they could. The second time? The second time I had sworn I’d left him and I promised I would follow through. But I came back to them and begged them to drop the charges,”

Shannon is certain her childhood contributed to her decisions. She grew in poverty, with a mother who gave her children away. One brother was murdered. Another committed suicide.

“I grew up with a lot of physical abuse and it was a long time before I got help with any of it,” Shannon said.

The first time she was married was at the age of 15. The marriage was marred by mental cruelty. There were two more marriages. Each failed.

“In the last marriage there was a lot of physical abuse,” Shannon said.

“That’s what I’m hear to tell. The day I almost died, I had to make a promise to get back to my own kids.”

Aug. 10, 2020

Shannon closes her eyes again and remembers.

There is blood everywhere.

Shannon sees the next plunge of the knife in slow motion. He buries the blade in her left arm. She raises her hands, hoping to ward off the knife.

“Stop stabbing me,” she screams, praying a neighbor will hear. But the next plunge comes and hits her right hand. As he pulls back the knife the blade cuts the base of her pinky finger to the bone.

Shannon grabs the blade with left hand. But the man with black, blank eyes is too strong. He pulls the knife away, leaving a deep cut at the base of her thumb.

More blood. He stops, breathing heavily. Shannon asks if she can go to the shower and wash the blood away.

The man who always said he loved her agrees to her wash away the blood. When they enter the bathroom, she grabs a ceramic air freshener and attacks him. The effort is futile, and she again feels the knife rip skin from her arm.

The black-eyed man is tiring. Shannon is bleeding. She feels her consciousness drip away and she sees God. And she sees her mother as a young woman. Jesus appears and her mother is begging, asking God to spare her daughter.

Cold, hard facts

It’s not easy to find to find numbers on just how many people like Shannon live in Scott County. The County Attorney’s office doesn’t keep a count. Iowa agencies offer little in terms of numbers.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence does publish some county-level statistics on the number of domestic violence cases, finding 4,172 cases roughly between 2012 and 2018. And that number reflects cases only – an offender on the list can have multiple cases.

According to U.S. Department of Justice numbers, 35.3% of Iowa women and 29.3% of Iowa men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

When Shannon said she knows people die because of domestic abuse, she was correct. Between January 2015 and March, 2020, 325 people were killed in domestic violence incidents in Iowa. Half of these were killed with firearms.

Domestic abuse is like ice on a pond when it cracks, the fissures spread. On just one day in 2019, Iowa domestic violence programs served 1,237 adult and child survivors; another 179 requests for services went unmet due to lack of resources.

Aug. 10, 2020

Shannon closes her eyes for the last time. She’s almost at the end.

The vision of God and Jesus and her mother-as-a-young-woman fades. She gets up from the floor of the bathroom and knows she might bleed to death. She makes a promise to God. If he spares her, she will find a way to leave the man. She will get closer to her children. She will get help.

The man who always said he loved her agrees to let her shower.

She tries to talk to the man about going to the hospital, and how he shouldn’t kill her. She even gets on her knees in front of him and prays to God to spare them both. The man looks up and says “You took everything from me. Just die. I don’t want to hear your voice.”

The man always got what he wanted. In the beginning he was nice, but now he talked to her in the same tone he used when he told where she could go. Or demanded her money. She stands under the water and prays under her breath.

After a long time, the man lets her out of the shower. She stuffs her wounds with sugar. Hours pass. Then the man says she can go the hospital and get stitched up.

He stays for almost a month. She lies to the neighbors, telling them she was injured in that big storm.

Postscript

Shannon fled the man who always said he loved her on Aug. 30, 2020.

“That day, finally, I just ran from the house and ran to gas station and called my son,” Shannon said. “Then I filed a restraining order.”

Shannon’s insurance offered counseling over the phone. For the first time in her life, she took it.

“It sounds weird, maybe, counseling over the phone,” Shannon said. “But I had two counselors and they really helped me. It was the first time, finally, that I really, really talked and listened. I think about the things I learned every day.

“Women, anyone, being abused need to go get help. Legal help and help with your life. Maybe I can help just one person get out of an abusive relationship.”

Shannon said it took a long time to want to tell her story. She wears those scars, jagged white lines, the reminder of places where flesh was once torn open.

She says her eyes aren’t closed anymore.

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