Dating and Domestic Violence

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Sara Garvin |

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, many of both male and female students gathered in McGuffey for a seminar on dating and domestic violence. The event was sponsored by Radford’s Substance Abuse and Violence Education Support (SAVES) office to encourage students to report acts of violence or abuse to someone who can help. Guest speaker Teresa Sayers, a survivor of domestic violence, spoke to the audience about her traumatic experience with dating and domestic violence, encouraging students how not to be a victim.

Sayers was born and raised in Tazewell, Virginia where, as a child, she never experienced or saw domestic violence between her parents. At age 17 she married her husband Sam who was a Vietnam veteran, and shortly after their marriage the two moved out to Tennessee.

“Verbal abuse began just after the loss of our first child,” Sayers said. “The verbal abuse and control in the relationship began to escalate from there.” She described the way the verbal abuse increased after her husband was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and opted out of working to stay home and control her every move.

“He would call me immediately after work to make sure I was coming straight home, and would sometimes time me,” she said.

Throughout their marriage, the abuse and control worsened and Sayers told the audience at times he would raise a hand to her or make threats. Eventually, after their sons began attending high school, Sayers made a promise to herself to escape their toxic relationship.

“I decided that enough was enough, and I needed to leave.” But this would be much more difficult than Teresa ever anticipated. After secretly recording her husband Sam threatening to kill her and then commit suicide, Teresa received a protective order against him, but it wasn’t enough.

A couple months went by without contact or harm from her husband, until he stalked Teresa and attempted to kill her. After shooting at her husband three times in self-defense, he remained unharmed. Teresa ran to the neighbor’s house for help and was stabbed eight times by Sam. She was pinned down by her husband struggling against his weight, when her neighbors finally came to the rescue and police forces arrive at the house to arrest him.

“I’ll never forget the relief I felt when he was arrested and out of my life forever,” she said.

Following the attack Teresa underwent plastic surgery on her face to repair nerve damage and to hide scarring from the stabbing, her husband was tried in court with attempted first degree murder, violating a protective order, breaking and entering, as well as aggravated malicious wounding. He was found guilty on all charges except for aggravated malicious wounding, and is sentenced to 30 years in prison. After living in fear and danger from her husband for over 20 years, Teresa was finally able to escape her abusive and violent relationship.

Sayers did not find justice in her husband’s incarceration, so she has worked relentlessly to write laws and bills for the state regarding domestic violence. Teresa is now an advocate not only for the law, but also speaks out against domestic violence to warn and aid others.

“I want to change the law so that other people dealing with violence and abuse won’t experience what I have been through,” she said. “In abusive relationships, control makes the controller feel better about themselves, and it needs to end.” Teresa’s story was gripping and raw with emotion, and she encouraged audience members to seek help if they are in a dangerous relationship. SAVES Office also urged students to reach out to the various recourses available at Radford University to protect and help those experiencing domestic violence or abusive situations.

For more information on dating and domestic violence, or if you would like to contact SAVES, they are located in Heth Hall.