The face of domestic abuse - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

The face of domestic abuse



MADISON (WKOW) -- For one woman, struggling through years of abuse meant nearly losing her life. Now her story of survival is inspiring others, and teaching the dangers of domestic violence.

Julie Schebig was left nearly bludgeoned to death on her kitchen floor.

"He pulled out a mallet. The whole time he kept saying 'Tonight's the night you're gonna die.'... I remember the first blow. I remember the second hit and then everything went black."

The man behind the attack was her husband, Jerry Orton.

He left a message for one of Julie's friends just moments after he tried to kill her. In it, he said "Julie put me over the edge and I think I just killed her. I wish people would listen to me instead of making me out to be the crazy one. She drove me crazy. Those two kids are better off without her, she is not a good person. I'm sorry, it is what it is. "

Julie's two toddlers watched from their high chairs as their father beat her with a mallet.

She was left with multiple skull fractures, she lost part of her ear, and her face was bruised and swollen.

For her two older children, those images will never go away.

"It was really scary when we saw her. I didn't want to look at her, my sister got sick," said her son Nikolas.

Julie is just one of many who have seen the face of domestic violence, but often stories of abuse go untold.

There are more than 3,000 cases referred to the Dane County District Attorney's office every year.

But experts say there are probably 9,000 more, that are never reported. Mostly, because victims are afraid.

Shannon Barry is the Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, or DAIS, in Madison.

She said, "Domestic violence is about a pattern of power and control. Often times things may not rise to a certain level until a pattern is established."

Even though, Barry says it's important to report minor incidents of abuse, there are a number of cases that never make it to the courtroom.

In 2010, the Dane County District Attorney's office was referred 3,285 cases of domestic violence. Of those, 587 were thrown out.

More than 1,700 were misdemeanors, which means the perpetrators spent less than a year in jail, if any time at all. Only 370 of the cases were considered felonies.

These numbers may discourage victims, but Barry says, they shouldn't.

"We are constantly working with people we serve to examine options they have available to them to report things that may seem minor."

Even though thousands are holding back from doing that, DAIS has seen more people going there for help since the economic downturn.

But their shelter can only house 25 women and children.

"Our shelter is the smallest per capita in the state of Wisconsin," said Barry.

Most nights, there's a waiting list, with 50 people struggling to escape their abusers.

Julie's struggle almost ended her life. But more than two years later, she's using her experience to help others. She shares her story with police officers in training, college students and other victims.

Her advice? "Make a plan and get out. It will never get better no matter how many apologies, no matter how many honeymoon phases you get through, that ship is just gonna sink."

Jerry Orton was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2011.

Powered by Frankly