Valdosta woman survives domestic violence -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta woman survives domestic violence

October 18, 2002

Valdosta - Tonya Oakley met her husband in September 2000 and began planning a fairy tale life.

"He was wonderful, bought me gifts, called me all the time, and really cared about me," said Oakley.

But Tonya's husband's loving actions soon turned into violence. "He would pull my hair, beat my head against the kitchen counter, and tried to drown me in the sink."

After repeatedly being beaten, Tonya finally gathered the strength to take her daughter and leave her husband. But she always came back and the violence continued.

Tonya left her husband for the final time this past March. He was arrested for domestic violence and stalking. Feeling safe, she took her daughter on a camping trip and began planning a new life. But a phone call from the Lowndes County jail changed her sense of security.

"They said he had been released and before I could hang up the phone, he was breaking down the door of the RV," said Oakley. "Luckily, the woman I was on the phone with heard me scream and called 911."

The police caught Tonya's husband and once again took him to jail. Shortly after that morning's encounter, Tonya received shocking news. "The detective came in and said he had hung himself," said Oakley. "At that point, I realize how close to death I had been earlier that morning."

"You have two things you can do at that point," said Oakley. "You can let it tear your world apart or you can put it back together and I've chosen to be a voice for women who weren't as lucky as I was."

Tonya now speaks to police officers and other battered women, helping remember those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, and hoping to save those who may not have the strength to leave.

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