Law-enforcement personnel from Long and Liberty counties recently attended the annual Cops and Coffee on Fort Stewart.
The domestic violence seminar was sponsored by the Victim Advocacy Program and held at the Army Community Service Center. This year’s speakers were former Army officer Joyce Buckson and Jesup Police Department Lt. Perry Morgan.
Buckson told the packed classroom that in 1984, she was a married officer serving on Fort Stewart with a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. Two weeks into their marriage, her husband slapped her and knocked her to the floor. The physical abuse continued with her being hit and kicked, and there also was verbal abuse with her being degraded and threatened.
She said that he told her that there was nothing she could do to him, and that if she did try anything, he would kill her.
“I felt like I was in a cage. I felt like I was his slave,” she said. “My ego was shattered, and I lost my identity of who I was … I was never allowed to look him in the eyes. Later, through counseling, I found out that when you look them (abusers) in the eyes, you are on equal terms with them, and they don’t like that.”
Buckson said that one day, while she and her children were eating, her husband shot her three times in the face with a .357 caliber pistol.
“I heard him say, ‘Didn’t I tell you I was going to kill you’ … I thought he had shot me in my brain, but I was still thinking, so I knew that he must have shot me in my face,” she said.
Buckson said she later learned that he attempted to shoot her a fourth time, but that the bullet was lodged in the chamber. She also was told that she had only a 10 percent chance of surviving. Since the shooting, she has endured 29 surgeries, including five that involved reconstructing her face.
She said that the domestic violence also had a huge impact on her children. Buckson’s daughter, Diedra Pryor, also was at the seminar and told the class how she remembered hiding with her brother on the day of the shooting.
“I remember we were eating chicken, peas and rice … when the bullets went off. Me and my brother was in the hallway, and we went to my mother’s room and hid under the bed,” Pryor said.
She praised her mother, whom she said was an inspiration.
“As long as she is an example, I will be striving to be just like her,” Pryor said.
Buckson said that many victims of domestic abuse feel that it is their fault and can’t stop what is happening.
However, she said it’s not their fault and the violence can be stopped, but they have to seek help.
“I’m here to let you know that domestic violence is real, and when threats are made, they are real … I tell every victim that I talk to, ‘You can go forward. You will never forget, but you can go forward,’” she said.
Morgan said more and more males are being victimized. He also told the law-enforcement officers in the room that they always need to have the right attitude when responding to a domestic-abuse call, and if possible always respond with more than one officer. He added that how they look and how they act will have a major impact on how they are received on domestic-abuse calls.
Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles said it is good any time law-enforcement agencies come together for training, and that Buckson’s story made the training even more compelling.
“This class provided good reinforcement for those in attendance on the statutes involving domestic violence,” Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Capt. David Edwards said. “It also helped us to remember that the victim is the most important person in these cases, and they are the ones who we need to be focusing on helping.”
Long County Sheriff’s Office deputy clerk Beth Reddish was recognized by the Victim Advocacy Program, which annually recognizes a local law-enforcement employee for going above and beyond to help military victims of domestic violence.
Other agencies represented at the session included the Midway Police Department, the Jesup Police Department, the Fort Stewart Criminal Investigation Division, the Tri-County Protective Agency and the post’s military police division.
Those who know or suspect domestic violence is taking place can anonymously call the Fort Stewart Victim Advocacy Program 24 hours a day at 767-3032.