The problem is NOT that the victim didn't leave, so advising mothers to leave their abusers is not addressing the primary problem. It's keeping the abuser at a distance AFTER the mother leaves, and keeping him from having access to the children. Orders of protection are of some help here (mostly in terms of establishing a paper trail), but orders alone will not keep your children safe.
Notice that dad JOSEPH SWORD nearly killed the mother as well (shot through the neck).
Best advise: NEVER trust an abuser, and learn to arm yourself.
Domestic violence victim shares: 'I want some good to come out of this'
June 02, 2012 6:05 PM
ANGEL McCURDY / Daily News
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A bow lay in the empty chair where Chelsey Sword would have sat for high school graduation.
The girl with brown hair and eyes would have just turned 18 and would have been waving frantically at her teary-eyed mother as she walked across the stage for her diploma.
At least that’s how her mother, Lesley Dunnivan, imagines it would have happened.
Instead, Dunnivan walked onto the stage alone and accepted her deceased daughter’s honorary diploma from Walton High School.
Chelsey was shot and killed by her father nearly seven years ago during a domestic dispute.
“It’s been bittersweet dealing with the graduation,” Dunnivan said recently while eating lunch with her mother at McClain’s Steak House in DeFuniak Springs. “Never in a million years would I have thought that this is where I’d be.”
On Nov. 11, 2005, Joseph Sword asked to come and visit his estranged wife and daughter at their home in the Oakland Hills area west of town. Dunnivan, then 29 years old, agreed despite a restraining order she had against him.
“He seemed fine. He wasn’t mad, wasn’t upset,” Dunnivan said. “There were times when he was abusive that this would have made more sense, but not that day. Everything seemed all right.”
The two were in the middle of a divorce to end a 12-year marriage.
When Sword arrived, Dunnivan was cleaning and doing laundry. During the conversation, Sword said he wanted to move back in.
“I told him if he moved in, then Chelsey and I were moving out,” Dunnivan said. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll take care of that’ and left the room. Then it all happened.”
When Sword reappeared he was armed with a gun. He and Dunnivan fought over it until she was shot in the neck and passed out.
When she came to, a wave of panic hit as she saw Sword lying on the floor with a bullet wound to his head.
“I saw him and started yelling Chelsey’s name,” Dunnivan recalled as tears rolled down her cheeks. “I prayed to God to just let me get help. I thought if I could get help, Chelsey would be OK.”
Dunnivan forced herself to crawl to a neighbor’s home.
She later learned that her husband shot Chelsey in the face before turning the gun on himself.
Chelsey’s body was found in her bedroom.
“Life can change in a split second,” Dunnivan said. “It still doesn’t make sense, and if I could change things, I would. I just don’t know what more I could have done.”
Memories of Chelsey
A photo of the bright-eyed 11-year-old girl sits in Dunnivan’s office in the Walton County purchasing department. Chelsey is wearing an orange wig for Halloween dressed as Raggedy Ann. Dunnivan can’t help but smile when she looks at the photo.
“She was my life,” Dunnivan said. “She was my world.”
In the days after Chelsey’s death, Dunnivan was overwhelmed with letters from students, teachers and residents whose lives had been touched by Chelsey.
What surprised Dunnivan was that most were not letters of condolence, but letters of what an impact Chelsey had on them.
“It was just amazing,” she said. “So many of the children wrote about how Chelsey was always nice and never had anything bad to say, which was true. She was the most loving person I knew.”
One day on the bus Chesley noticed a girl whose shoes were far too big for her feet. After speaking to the girl, Chelsey learned her parents were too poor to afford new shoes.
“She came home and asked if we could do something for her,” Dunnivan said. “That’s just the kind of person she was, always wanting to help other people.”
Lately, Dunnivan’s thoughts have been less on the past and more on the future, and where her daughter would be.
“I wonder how many times she would have changed her mind on what to major in and what she’d be like. Her friends have all changed so much,” she said. “She wanted to be a physical therapist at the time, which makes sense because she wanted to help people and make them feel good.”
Each day is a challenge, but Dunnivan said her faith, friends and family help her through the pain. She is rebuilding her life piece by piece.
“I got married last July and we’re trying to decide on fixing up an old house or moving somewhere else,” said Dunnivan, who no longer lives in the house where Chelsey was killed. “We’re very happy. He’s a good man.”
But Dunnivan said the healing process will never end. After the incident, she began counseling but her faith has sustained her more than anything.
“He (God) makes it to where I can get up and go the next day,” Dunnivan said. “I get people who ask me how I can be so strong, and I tell them it’s not me. I’m not strong, it’s God.”
Dunnivan never misses an opportunity to tell women in abusive relationships that they can find the strength to leave.
“Get out, please,” she said. “I don’t want to say people don’t change, but in my experience they don’t. They’re not capable of it.
“I just hope my story can give someone else the strength to leave and maybe it will make a difference in their life. I want some good to come out of this.”