“Domestic violence has no boundaries—regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, education or religion—it affects everyone, and no one is exempt,” domestic violence survivor, author, and Hinesville native Joyce Buckson said. Those were the closing words of a powerful story of survival and abuse told at the Tri-County Protective Agency’s domestic violence breakfast on Wednesday.
Buckson and her daughter Diedra Pryor were the guest speakers at the first annual benefit breakfast, hosted by the board and staff of the TCPA.
Originally from Alabama, Buckson moved to Hinesville after enlisting in the army in 1981 as a registered nurse, and served her first assignment at Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart.
Through six weeks of marriage to her ex-husband, Buckson was the victim of domestic violence, being shot three times by a .375 Magnum on September 6, 1984. Ever since that day, Buckson has become an advocate against domestic violence.
The abuse started at the three-week mark, with the ex-husband knocking her to the floor, and smacking her around, she said. Her children, ages two and four, were witnesses to the consistent abuse.
“During the abuse, I lost who I was,” Buckson said. “He would threaten to kill me, and I learned that those threats are to be taken seriously. They are a ticking time bomb.”
The abuse, however, wasn’t just physical. It was also emotional manipulation, she said. Buckson could never look him in the eyes, and he would make her think as though things were her fault.
“I called the police the night of Sept. 6,” Buckson continued. “I felt as though I was going to die anyways, so I didn’t have anything to lose. He beat me unmercifully. I had given him a police record.”
That night, Buckson prepared dinner for herself and her children, she said. While they were eating, Buckson said she distinctly had the urge to get up from the table, as if the voice of God told her to.
“I’m so glad I had obeyed, because my children would have been shot to death,” she continued. “I waited to receive what was coming.”
The ex-husband came in through the garage door, raised the gun, and shot Buckson. She remembered exactly what he said to her: “Didn’t I say I would kill you?”
The bullet entered through the left side of her nose, and tore off her lower eyelids, cheek, nose and sinuses, and damaged her eye, Buckson said.
“He shot me again through my left arm, right through a nerve, and my arm drew up and contracted,” she said. Afterwards, he came up behind her and jammed the barrel of the gun into her left side and shot her again.
“The only person who could save me was Jesus,” Buckson said. She realized that she had been shot through the lung, and would drown in her own blood if she could not prop herself up straight. She struggled to a loveseat where she sat upright, and could hear, as if from a distance, the ex-husband talking, saying things like “wife” and “shot.” However, he realized that she was still alive, and went to shoot her again, and the bullet locked in the chamber of the gun.
“I went into respiratory arrest, and I was revived by paramedics,” Buckson continued. Doctors repeatedly brought her back to life, as she kept coding at the hospital, but eventually was stabilized and flown by helicopter to Memorial Health. She had multiple chest tubes inserted through three cracked ribs, and bandages over the majority of her body.
“They gave me a 10 percent chance to live, and I didn’t wake up until three days later,” she said. “Every day you live is a gift and a blessing, so don’t take it for granted.”
Buckson continued, saying she smelled sulfur and burnt flesh for nearly 10 years after the attack. From 1984-2015, Buckson had undergone 34 facial reconstructive surgeries, with one specifically to remove the remainder of her sinuses.
“Domestic violence is real,” Buckson said. “It kills. An abuser is a coward, who strikes unexpectedly.” She emphasized that those silent people remain an accessory to domestic violence. Awareness is imperative, Buckson continued.
Pryor, who was two-years old at the time of the incident, recalls those details vividly.
“I grew up hurt,” Pryor said. “My awakening of it happened that night. Her brother, Pryor said, pulled her from the kitchen, and immediately understood, in a moment of clarity, that they had to leave. They hid under a bed, and remember hearing the ex-husband come in, and walk around the bed.
“After everything happened, I spent the night in and out of sleep,” Pryor said. “When we finally got to the hospital to see mom, I remember being so afraid. When I looked at her face though, there was a smile. She was so happy that her kids were alive.”
Pryor and her brother underwent extensive counseling growing up, but eventually Pryor withdrew and stopped talking. I hated reliving the event, she said.
“There is something that never fails,” Pryor said through tears. “The love of God. I am crying not for me, but for those who don’t get a second chance. Open your mouth. Say something. You may save someone’s life.”
The TCPA is a 12-bed facility and emergency shelter, serving five counties: Liberty, Long, Bryan, Evans and Tattnall, Executive Director Cynthia Clancy said. In 2010, another 12-bed facility was added to the protective shelter. The TCPA is certified by the state of Georgia as a 501c3, and subsists on grants and donations from the public.
All a potential client needs to be is a victim of domestic violence to use the services, Clancy said. All services are also extended to men.
Services include: temporary protective orders, emergency services, support sessions, transportation resources, a 24-hour crisis line, and trained staff.
“A normal length of stay is usually 30 to 60 days,” Clancy said. “But sometimes it’s more or less, dependent on the individual and situation.”
There are 43 domestic violence protective shelters in Georgia alone, and TCPA maintains a partnership with all of them. In 2017, there were 6,103 bed nights, and in 2018, there were 11,071. Bed nights is an accurate total of how many beds in the shelter were used each night throughout the year. Clancy said that every night, they had to record a count.
“In 2017, we served 304 people,” she continued. “In 2018, we served 503 people.”
The emergency contact line is 912-368-9200, and information can now be found on their new website at tri-countyprotectiveagency.net or on Facebook.