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Dear Hannah

Dear Hannah,

I read your story.

Uxoricide by fire claimed your life. Filicide by fire claimed the lives of your three beautiful babies. Burning to death is arguably the worst way to go. But even in the worst of it, you kept persevering. You tried to save your babies. You tried to save yourself. You’re an honorable heroine. I’m sorry your life was cut short. It hurts to know your two beautiful daughters and a handsome son are no longer on this earth. They all had your infectious smile.

Abusers don’t go after people who mirror their own ugliness. They’d rather be with someone like you – beautiful, vibrant and awe-inspiring. You were easy to love. Putting you on a pedestal early in your relationship took no effort at all. And then darkening your bright light became satisfying. Watching you run in fear was exhilarating. Adrenaline coursed through his veins when he had the power and the control. How dare you leave? Didn’t you promise to love him through sickness and health? Until death do you part? He was sick, and his heart was still pumping.

By all accounts, he must have seemed like the missing piece to your puzzle. He was handsome, strong, your protector, and the man who would make your dreams become a reality. Didn’t you always want to be a mother? Didn’t he give your greatest gifts? I know he didn’t change overnight. If it was quick and overbearing, you’d have left sooner. But it was slow and inconsistent. Then there was the gaslighting. And the advice from your friends and family. But he had the wool pulled over their eyes, too. They didn’t know the entire story. But it’s not like you tried to tell them. You protected him. You supported him. You loved him. But it was never enough.

Hannah, your story happened 10,000 miles away, yet it could have happened in the house next door. This isn’t an American issue or an Australian issue. This is a humanity issue. It happens everywhere. To men and women all over the globe. And the only way to fix it is to learn about it and share the knowledge.

The Quincy Solution is one way we can begin to protect our children. And I know you’d agree it was always about protecting them. You’d give your life to save their tiny bodies if you could. You’d likely envy my state’s latest victim, Jennifer Dulos. Her fate was also uxoricide, but at least her children didn’t suffer from filicide. There may be a long road ahead for her children to process the trauma they’ve endured. But at least they have a chance to live and breathe their mother’s legacy. 

I’m sorry he fooled you. I’m sorry he scared you. I’m sorry he silenced you. I will speak your name – Hannah Baxter. And from 10,000 miles away, I’ll tell your story. I’ll use my voice to put the spotlight on what happens in these situations. And what happens to people around the world in abusive relationships.

Sincerely,

JoAnna Bennett

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JoAnna Bennetthttps://obriencg.com/blog/
I’m a working single mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life. OCG is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do this so well because we get to know our clients, listen to their reasons for existing, and share their message loudly and proudly.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful and heartfelt, I will spend time in my mediative contemplative prayer time, speaking to God of you and all those who are victime of Domestic Violence, and Joanna, I will especially meditate on you and your beautiful soul

  2. JoAnna, This a power-packed emotional story. I have no tolerance (for lack of a better word) for men who try to manipulate or control women. A man that hits a woman is a sick depraved individual who in all likelihood needs help on top of severe legal repercussions. Children are precious jewels. They need to be loved, nurtured, guided, protected, etc. until they are old enough chronologically and emotionally to move out on their own. The one thing they don’t need or deserve is physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. What is the makeup of a person who would and does demoralize women or abuse children? How do we as “civilized” society allow this to happen? I am sorry JoAnna for rambling but these types of people make me sick!

    • Thank you Joel. The only way that it changes is to break the silence. As you mention, abusers should be held accountable for their actions. Most abusers get away with it by lying and being deceitful (their specialties). They know how to get away with it, so they do. And the courts allow it.

      We allow it to happen as a society because most abused men and women remain silent. They’d been abused and believe there is no way out. They are not believed when they express the situations they’ve encountered. It will change one day, I’m sure of it.

      And I agree, children are precious jewels. And they need to be protected at all costs, or they become abusers and the abused. Here’s to keeping the conversation going and shining a light on a very dark place in our culture! We’ll get there! It’ll end!

        • Victims rarely chose to stay silent. It’s a defense mechanism that he or she is taught to remain safe. They stay silent to prevent the abuse. They stay silent because people don’t believe them. Even when they speak up, courts don’t save their children or the next victim. If the abuser is a good liar (as most are) they manipulate the situation to continue the abuse post-separation.

          • JoAnna,
            It is a defense mechanism but some get to the point where they cannot take it any longer and seek help or somebody else steps in to get the person out of the situation they are in. It takes great strength and courage to break the cycle which not everybody has. The abuser sooner or later may make a costly mistake or somebody will hear them or see something.

  3. JoAnne, Thank you for your strong and consistent stand to honor the lives of women (and in this case her children) who have died at the hands of their abuser. As the veil lifts and we gain greater understanding of ways to break the cycles of trauma, the trauma bonds of perpetrators and their victims-how these challenges are multifaceted, layered as you’ve described— how the perpetrator often shape-shifts into many personas, engages in gaslighting, then appears to be a “protector.” Pathological predators are often perceived by others as “normal” and they may be accomplished business professionals or otherwise “respected” individuals in a community. I appreciate your eloquent writing about topics that are often kept silent. I’m curious to learn more about the Quincy solution. Thank you for honoring the life of Hannah Baxter and her children.

    • Thank you Laura. I’m a domestic violence survivor and eight months after I successfully obtained a restraining order and filed for divorce, I’m still not officially divorced. He is continuing his abuse through the courts. It’s astonishing to me that the courts allow lies, contempt, and all sorts of post-separation abuse. My story is not uncommon. And reading about these woman proves it could be worse.

      When I read about the cases online from news outlets, the stories seem so impersonal. I have to use my voice to make sure they are thought of as a person. A warm and loving mother that was trying to live a normal life. I’m currently sitting in a house that I bought by myself and I wish Hannah and Jennifer could have the feeling of peace that I now know.

      • Oh, JoAnna, what an incredible and courageous journey you are right now living through. How important it is to make people-human-these women-you-with thoughts, feelings, experiences you imagine Hannah had and knowing, also, what you are actually experiencing right now–how many micro-movement brave steps and actions that are involved, how the courts lag far behind reality in these cases (the laws, procedures remain way out of date?) –The women you are honoring in these letters are not statistics but actual breathing, feeling human beings who were living their lives as best they could-making choices, reacting, responding, weaving, dodging, and enduring so much.

        Journalists can not ever quite tell the “story” like the person who is living through terrifying and life-threatening challenges. How great that you are bringing these women to “life” in your letters and imagining what they must have felt, thought, done for themselves and their children. How they loved inside of a vortex of violence and fear.

        Six years ago I took on a brave contested divorce from a controlling narcissist (he was arrogant-poisonously righteous-demeaning and belittling-had affairs-mostly -thank goodness left me and the kids alone for large chunks of time). I was fortunate that my swift and focused actions with the support of an award winning attorney brought it to a close within 11 months (from the day he moved out to the day I signed the Emancipation papers-which is what I will forever call the divorce papers.) I always feared physical violence from him-it only happened once when he shoved me into a wall during a family meltdown that swirled around my teen son’s behaviors and my son’s not great choices. Way out on the edge and I imagine only a tiny slice-a wiff- of what you have endured. (are still navigating from a place of physical safety-and much greater peace.) What I know is you are strong. May you prevail in the court proceedings and complete the total emancipation process/the divorce for you and the sake of your children. I celebrate the peace you have found in your life and new home. May this inner peace expand 1000 fold. I will keep you in my thoughts and meditations while sending you waves and waves of good energy, strength, stamina, perseverance, and windows of time for deep self-care. You matter. You are a treasure. Keep writing!!

        • Thank you. I can feel the camaraderie and compassion in your words. My situation is paired with diagnosed PTSD, a TBI, and I’d say anti-social personality disorder (still a Cluster B but different manifestation).

          I’ll be here accepting your good vibes and positivity. Thank you!

  4. This is the most powerful piece of writing I have read for sometime. I salute you on behalf of the millions suffering a painful fate in unhealthy relationships now round the World. Long may you wield you pen with such sympathy and honesty, to help others.
    Penny Wobbly of WobblingPen.

    • Thank you Penny. Your compliments mean a great deal to me. I didn’t consider myself a writer until recently. Reading your words gives me confidence. We are all in this together. And if my words can help others, I’m on the right path.

  5. Oh, JoAnna. I hardly know what to say other than “bless you” for honoring this poor woman and her babies with your beautiful words. I was holding my breath while reading. Domestic violence in any form is always horrible, but this goes beyond words and rational thought. Thank you for sharing. I will be looking into both these stories.

    • Thank you Sherry. It feels important to share these stories in a human way. I’ve read so many articles about Hannah and her kids. They tout the facts and feel cold. She was a person. A person who died because she chose the wrong spouse. With 1 in 4 relationships being marked with domestic violence, it happens more often that we think.

  6. I can’t even process this story let alone tell it so powerfully as you have done, Joanna. My heart is shattered at the thought that domestic violence has become so prevalent. I’m overwhelmed with grief that families that started out saying I will live you forever have turned destructive and vicious. So vicious and hatefilled that lives are taken by the person who was supposed to fulfill the love promise to the end. Thank you so much for sharing your letter with us.

    • Thank you Jane! DV happens in 1 out of 4 relationships. I hope by the time my son an daughter are dating that number improves. And the only way to do that is to keep talking about it and sharing these stories.
      the obsession with power and control is dangerous, but fixable. If abusers are held accountable for their actions, they don’t abuse. They only do what they think they can get away with – which is a very long list when you think about proving abuse in the court of law. It usually happens behind closed doors. His word against hers. Or who has the slimiest lawyer?

  7. OMG Joanna! Thank you for honoring this woman and continuing to inform? You beautiful writing invites the reader to try to comprehend the incomprehensible. Being in MA, I am most familiar with the case of Jennifer Dulos. Thank you for the reminder and importance of keeping alive what is often silent the issue of Domestic Violence.💖

    • Thank you Darlene. Using this voice of mine loudly and proudly. It’s the only way to shed the light. No more waiting around for news outlets to get the story right, I’ll do it myself!! Thankfully Dennis has this platform – it helps my voice become louder and more heard.

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