The residents of the shelter for abused and battered women shouted, "Kill her, kill her. Get her." They jumped and leaped in excitement as they watched a television soap opera heroine do in her tormentor.
The violence on the TV screen as a mirror of the violence in some of their lives.
The five women and their children were hidden away from the men who beat them. They were staying in a house in Northeast Washington with an unlisted phone number. They worried that the men would find them and hurt them again.
These women are temporary residents at the privately run shelter. It is a place where they can recuperate from their injuries, both physical and psychological. They are expected to go on to their own apartments after getting financial, legal and emotional assistance.
Two of the women agreed to tell their stories to a reporter if their names were not used. Each has a case pending in court.
Jennifer, age 20, says that the beatings started after their baby was born. "He said the baby didn't look like him; he said he wasn't the father," she said.
Jennifer speaks in a soft monotone. Although she smiles occasionally, her voice reflects no emotion.
"One day he was looking at a photograph of the baby and that just set him off," she says. That time she went to the hospital with cuts on her face and two black eyes.
Then there was another time when he hit her on the head and tore the apartment apart. "He really loved the baby. He always took it to a neighbor's when he got set off. He must have loved her because he never touched her."
And then there was the last time. The baby was safe but Jennifer was thought to be dead. The police said a neighbor called them after her man had beaten her for four days.
When Jennifer was admitted to a local hospital, she was unconcious. Her body was swollen and her face and head were bruised and cut. She had cuts on her arms and legs. Part of a toe was missing.
When she was released from the hospital, she was sent to the shelter.
"I would have left that man long ago if i'd known about the shelter," she said. "I just didn't have any place to go."
Cookie Wheeler, director of the shelter, says that the beatings often start for the woman afer a child is born.
"these abusive men are very, very possessive. They don't want to share their women with anyone. They see them as property. In effect, they say, "I will be your whole life and you belong to me,'" she said.
Amanda, 29, and the mother of three, knows about abusive personalities.
"The last six years of my nine-year marriage were violent years. It started right after the first child was born," she said.
"I have been in and out of emergency rooms in several cities. Let me tell you that they don't want to hear that your husband beat you up. They treat you like you have leprosy. After awhile you learn to say that a stranger beat you so that you can get treatment," she says.
Amanda remembers on particular encounter with an emergency room doctor in Georgia. "My husband hit me across the back with a chair. I told the doctor that. And he said, 'Oh yes, just like in the Wild West.' And I said. 'Yes, I was wearing the white hat and he was wearing the black hat.'"
Amanda is an aggressive woman who says she always fought back. A year ago, however, he beat her so severely that she tried to commit suicide.
"He hit me again and again in my left eye. He stood on my knees and hit me with an exercise bar. I saw stars. My lip was split. My heat hurt. I heard cannons going off in my ears.When he left the room, I dragged myself to the bathroom mirror. When I saw myself. I didn't want to live anymore. I took a razor and startes sawing on my wrist," she said.
Someone called the police. An ambulance crew got her to the hospital. She said the attention there was focused on her suicide attempt rather than on the injuries caused by her husband. She survived and eventually returned home.
Since then she has had another baby. She says that her husband came at her with the exercise bar again shortly after she went home with the baby.
"I gather up the children, the baby and a day's worth of Pampers and I went to the Civilian Complaint Center to get a temporary restraining order. While I was talking to the Social worker, he came in. He raised such a fuss that it took two guards to put him out. That's when they sent the children and me to this shelter," she said.
"I'm getting myself together. Then i'm going to get a divorce; this time i'm not going back. CAPTION: Picture, A woman who was beaten by her boyfriend.