Laury Abbott knew she needed to get away from her husband. In her heart, she knew– she wasn’t safe. Neither was her 8-year old son, Danny, Jr. She had told family members that she was concerned, and was planning to file for divorce from Daniel Abbott.
But before she could do that, before she could formulate an exit strategy to get herself and her son to safety, Daniel cut and stabbed his wife and young son to death. Then he stabbed himself. Three bodies were found in their Rainier, Washington home on Sunday night, June 7, 2015.
There were no prior convictions. The police had never been called. There was no gun used. But there had been abuse. Maybe not even physical abuse– but Laury knew enough to know that he was capable of hurting her.
We were putting up the Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving. I appreciated that he was helping– usually I did it on my own. But he was helping, and I loved the scene that was playing out before me: the boys playing in the front yard, wanting to help, but not wanting to stop wriggling around long enough to actually be helpful.
He was untangling strings of lights, and I was trying to anticipate what he might need so he wouldn’t grow impatient. Trying, but failing. He started in on me. “Can you just– God you’re an idiot!” The dam burst. There we were, in the front yard of our military quarters, just two months after moving in. I was embarrassed– sure that the neighbors could hear and see him berating me. The boys became protective and surrounded me, hugging close to me legs, wrapping their arms around me. For that, he berated them, calling them mama’s boys, and telling them to go play. But they lurked nearby, watching. Learning.
Ever since we had moved to Virginia, things had grown progressively worse. For the first four months we lived in a hotel. It was stressful, but no more than usual, as far as I was concerned. We then moved into a brand new, big house on Fort Lee in Virginia. As we unpacked our household goods, he unpacked his emotions, and left the mess for me to clean up.
There were several episodes that stick out in my mind as red flags during those few weeks. We were on the computer planning a summer vacation to Disney World. I was scrolling too slow, and too fast, a new insult coming with every move of the mouse. “Why don’t you just do it?” I asked in exasperation. He pinched the back of my arm, hard. “Don’t get out of line,” he said, and continued giving me directions.
The week before that I had been to see a counselor– with his blessing. He said I needed counseling– to learn how to be an obedient and respectful wife. He was adamant that he not be brought up in these sessions– the counseling was supposed to be about me, not him.
I shared my concerns with the counselor. Explained to her what had been happening in the past several months, the pinching episode, and several others, dating back about six months. The outbursts and little acts of physical abuse were growing more severe, more frequent. She validated my fears that I was not in a safe place. I had considered leaving some time after Christmas. It seemed mean to take the boys away from their dad before Christmas. But she said that might be too late. In her professional opinion, she said, I needed to leave at the first opportunity.
He left for a business trip about a week after Thanksgiving. I packed up my van with Rubbermaid totes full of clothes for the boys and I, a few mementos I didn’t want to lose, and some toys. I bought some gift cards, knowing he would cut off the finances as soon as I was gone, and we left for my parents home in South Carolina.
He had told me a number of times that I could leave whenever I wanted, as long as I left the kids, my car keys, and my credit and debit card. We had once before had a “maybe we should try a trial separation” conversation. It didn’t go well, and it ended with him manipulating me into believing that he was sorry for how he had behaved.
My heart aches for Laury. For the fear she lived with, for the uncertainty of what tomorrow would be bring. I can just imagine the guilt she harbored for feeling that her husband, a man she loved, was capable of hurting her, but not being able to shake the fear. I ache for a little boy who may have heard his mother’s screams as she died, then saw the man who was supposed to protect him come at him with a knife.
It’s the abusers who are fault for the abuse. But I wish and pray that more women would seek help and counseling and find someone to validate their fears so that there are fewer Laurys in the world.
If you’re afraid of someone you love, please get help. If you believe that they’re capable of hurting you– trust your instincts and get out. If you don’t have a place to go, there are shelters that will help you get on your feet. It’s scary, I know– I’ve been there. I’ve sat loading up my belongings wondering if I was doing the right thing, questioning myself. But now I look back and wonder why I stayed so long. Why did I put myself– and my kids– through that for so long?
Life on the other side of abuse isn’t easy. I suffer from PTSD, and I’m a single parent and life is hard. But there is peace, even in the midst of the chaos of raising three boys on my own, there is so, so much peace.