A Mother Loses Her Daughter: A Story of Emotional Abuse
Jody Marchand (left) and her daughter, Olivia (right)
The date was February 1, 2010, and it started as a normal night for Jody Marchand. But nine years later, Marchand still can’t get rid of her regrets. “I will forever live with the guilt that I didn't get my daughter out of there,” she said.
Now, she devotes her life to describing the horrors of that day and warning teenagers of the signs of emotional and physical abuse. One of every four women will experience domestic violence in their lives.
When Marchand got home from her job as a mortgage lender that February day, it was around 7:30pm. She changed into her pajamas, then went downstairs to see if there was anything to eat in the fridge. In the room next to her, her husband, Brian, was on the couch watching TV. They exchanged words, and soon started yelling at each other. Before she knew it, Brian was off the couch with his hands around her neck, strangling her. Scared for her life, Marchand broke free. While these arguments had happened before, this one was different, and Marchand knew she and her 17-year-old daughter, Olivia, needed to get out.
She called 911, but then hung up. She knew that if the police came, Brian would lose his guns. He owned many of them, since he was an avid outdoorsman. “I was used to it, no big deal,” she said.
She’d gone back upstairs to change out of her pajamas, getting ready to leave. But then, her husband walked into the bedroom, and pulled out the glock she had bought him as a Christmas present. He shot Olivia in the head, killing her instantly. Then, he shot Marchand in the left temple. A second bullet broke her jaw and then lodged in her right shoulder. Then, he turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.
Only in hindsight did Marchand recognize all the warning signs that predicted she was headed toward disaster. She met Brian when she was only 19. He was eight years older and drove a nice car. They did normal teenage activities, like going out to get a six-pack. At first they were both happy; they were seen by their friends as a funny and outgoing couple, But before long, she saw that he wanted to be in control of the relationship. Brian didn’t want her to get a job so that he could be the breadwinner. He wouldn't even let her drive. “My way or the highway” was the idiom Marchant used to describe how Brian tried to maintain control. It made her feel that she couldn’t live without him.
She also had to deal with heavy and cruel criticisms, another sign of emotional abuse. For example, Brian would make demeaning jokes about Marchand when they were on dinner dates with another couple. She would go to the bathroom to vent frustration, but her friend reassured her that the jokes were funny and she was just overreacting. This killed her confidence. It was yet another side effect of the psychological abuse she had to endure.
Meanwhile, her husband wanted to keep her isolated. He got so jealous of her contacts with others that she would often hide the fact that she hung out with friends. “I can have fun with my friends but I can’t tell anyone?” she said with a tired type of frustration.
There are many more signs of emotional abuse, such as anger, blame, sabotage, and intensity -- all used to establish control, Marchand said. “There are so many pieces of the pie that no one really knows about.”
Most women feel that emotional abuse affects them just as much, if not more, than physical abuse, Marchand said. In fact, emotional abuse often leads to physical abuse, which is what happened to Marchand, when Brian realized that he was losing control of their relationship.
He realized that the power dynamics were changing when Olivia started thinking about college. Marchant decided to create an equity line of credit one day to better prepare for the cost of college. To get it, she needed Brian’s signature. He insisted that he would not do it, knowing that he would lose financial control over Marchant.
She begged him. “I’ve never pleaded on my hands and knees before,” she said. She not only pleaded, but also threatened him with divorce. That threat seemed to change everything. “He was bitter because he had lost control,” she said. Now, she views that moment as the tipping point.
The scars of that February night have not gone away. Her jaw had to be wired shut for months, and she is now prescribed pain medication just to get through the day. The bullet itself is buried in her shoulder, so deep that it can never be removed.
Sometimes the emotional wounds seem fresh, too. She said that she still suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and regularly gets help from a therapist.
Many victims of domestic abuse have lasting psychological problems, with emotional abuse causing more PTSD than physical abuse, she said. Women often feel helpless and abandoned after feeling maltreated and betrayed. Many victims also suffer from depression.
Now, Marchant tries to use her experience to educate others. She understands how hard it can be to identify emotional abuse. Not only does she speak to groups, but she also founded the Live for Liv Foundation. The foundation, designed to remember Olivia, teaches people the warning signs of domestic abuse. It also funded a garden at Westford Academy to commemorate Olivia’s love for nature.
The most painful part of this story was also the most powerful. After her speech, Marchand talked to students who lived near her. “Did you know my daughter?” she asked excitedly. Her speaking in the past tense reminded everyone that she could no longer look forward to a future with Olivia. That hope had been destroyed.