Courageous survivor speaks about silent crisis of domestic violence

Hannah Hendricks spent years in an abusive relationship before she got out.
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Domestic violence is a silent, yet daily crisis for thousands of families in neighborhoods across this city. The problem crosses income, race and education. The numbers and stories of survivors tell us no one is immune.

Hannah Hendricks isn't the picture most of us have of domestic abuse. She hears that all the time from friends.

"You are such an independent, strong woman? How did you find yourself in that position?" Hannah said are questions she's asked.

Well educated?

"Yes," she said

Middle class?

"Yes. Raised by a great family," she answered

But once married to a not-so-good husband.

"Did you fear for your life?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Yes," she replied.


"Nonstop," she replied matter of factly.

For three and a half years, she lived with a man who slept with a sharpened machete and isolated her from her family and friends.

"The biggest factor for not getting out sooner was, 'Is going to kill me? Is he going to kill my family? Am I going to be able to get out successfully, or am I going to be a statistic? Am I going to get killed by this man?'," she said.

Hendricks' story, although horrific, is typical of many abuse victims. Last year The Julian Center followed up on 6,600 IMPD domestic violence calls and provided shelter and other services to more than 6,000 victims.

"It happens to people who are smart. People who are accomplished in their lives, who are trained to deal with these situations," Julian Center CEO Catherine O'Connor explained.

Thursday night, IMPD Sgt. Ryan Anders broke into his ex-wife's home and fatally shot her before killing himself. Police officers are trained and committed to protect people like themselves. Officer Kimberlee Carmack was armed, her home was alarmed and locked. Still, her former husband cut the security system and broke down the door.

"Our message is that doesn't mean don't try. That doesn't mean give up," O'Connor said.

It took Hendricks years to break what she calls the cycle and habit of abuse.

"It may feel like the safe thing to do, the preferable thing to do, if you stay in that. Save your life. You are stronger than you think," she said. "I've been through hell on Earth, I really have. But it makes you...once you are out of it, realize just how good life really is. Even when I'm struggling I laugh, because I'm not where I was two years ago."

While domestic violence affects people from all walks of life, police officers face a much higher divorce rate than the rest of the population, as well as a higher rate of domestic violence.

The National Center for Women and Policing reports that 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, while families not involved in police work have a domestic violence rate closer to ten percent.

Another study shows that domestic violence is two to four times more common in police families compared to the average American family.

Shattering the Silence - WTHR has been working for 12 years to stop domestic violence. See resources here.