In October 2008 when Danna Broom was shot in the stomach by her husband, Robert Morris, her first thoughts were for her unborn child, still developing in her womb. Although the bullet missed the baby, doctors were compelled to extract the infant early so that they could try to save the life of her mother. Thirty-one days later, the 26-week-old Lily Broom died from complications related to premature birth. And later, in 2009, Robert Broom, 39, was charged and later convicted of her murder, receiving a sentence of life in prison without parole. (Broom also received 13 years for the attempted murder of his wife, Danna Broom).
As terrifying and shocking as this story is, the above incident, as recounted in Sunday’s News & Observer is nevertheless an important reminder of the prevalence–and danger–of abusive relationships. And it is an important reminder that domestic violence defies racial, cultural, and socioeconomic stereotype, and can occur sometimes unexpectedly, suddenly and without warning.
Danna Broom she says she didn’t even know she was in an abusive relationship until it nearly took her life, and in her own retelling, her life with her husband had always been a bit of a fairy tale, at least at first. The couple first met in Charlotte, in 1997, while both were working as paid professionals in an engineering firm. They were married five years later in 2001, and three years after that, their first daughter, Emma, was born. But, after Emma was born, Danna says she suffered crippling postpartum depression, and said that she and her husband began drifting apart. By 2008, the couple began fighting and fighting often. Then in the spring, Danna Broom became pregnant again, this time with Lily. Initially, Danna says, she and Robert promised to work harder, and try to make their marriage work. However, what she didn’t realize is that her pregnancy put her in the greatest danger of all.
During pregnancy, irrational feelings of jealousy, fear, possessive/ownership and stress (elements which are sometimes underpinning and all-too-common in most abusive relationships) often lead men who are abusers to erupt in some of the most violent and unpredictable ways. Statistically speaking, women are most likely to suffer violence and abuse during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. Research has shown that homicide is the leading cause of traumatic death for pregnant and postpartum women in the US--accounting for as much as 31% of death resulting from injuries to pregnant women.
In October 2008, just moments before the tragic events that nearly cost her her life, Danna said that she and Robert were in their upstairs bedroom, talking about their future. They discussed divorce. They fussed, and began arguing. Robert (while testifying on his own behalf), said he threatened to leave. Then, while Robert excused himself to go to the bathroom, Danna says the next thing she knew, she felt the muzzle of the .45-caliber pistol pushed against her stomach, and a blast that blew her onto her back.
Through the afternoon and night, Broom said, her husband held her hostage, refusing to call for medical help. She fought sleep, and says she survived simply by sheer force of will, and drew encouragement from every little movement her unborn daughter made. Finally, twelve hours after the initial shooting, she made a deal with her husband–“If you call for paramedics, I’ll tell them it was an accident.” Mrs. Broom repeated the “accident” explanation several times over the next few days, even though doctors immediately saw through her story, saying that because the wound had already begun to heal, she had to have been shot at least eight hours before the 911 call was placed.
Eventually, police arrested Robert Broom, who was charged and eventually convicted of Danna’s attack, and Lily’s murder. Broom’s lawyers have recently appealed the ruling, arguing that because Lily wasn’t directly injured in the attack, and died (they claim) as a result of the actions taken by the doctors trying to save Danna’s life, Robert”s conviction of first-degree murder should be overturned. But regardless of the legal criteria, sentencing guidelines, and arguments arising out of this case, one fact remains undisputed: an innocent life was lost as a result of a violent attack.
As tragic as the incident in Alamance is, it is also a painful reminder that similar incidents are playing out in homes across the state and the nation–and even here in Orange County. It is important to note that at least to outwards appearances (and indeed, even to Danna Broom’s own recollections), the Broom family didn’t fit any of the stereotypes of a “domestically abusive household”: they were both white, educated, trained professionals, of middle- to upper middle-class means, and had no discernible history of substance abuse, alcoholism, or mental illness. They were, in effect, an outwardly “normal” couple.
This gets at the uncomfortable truth underlying many abusive relationships; that there is no group of individuals prone to domestic violence and that often the most shocking (and most dangerous) instances of domestic violence come with little warning, from the people we least expect. It is critically important to build communities of understanding which victims of domestic violence feel that if they do speak out, that they will be not only heard, but also believed. Because only when victims feel comfortable speaking about their situation can they ever be expected to seek help for it.
FVPC offers crisis counseling and a 24-hour hotline to aid victims of domestic violence who wish to seek help. But even beyond these services, FVPC also offers information about healthy relationships, and how to identify when a relationship has become abusive, in addition to safety planning for victims on how to keep themselves safe, both in an abusive relationship, and after leaving one. If you believe you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship,or if you’d like to learn the warning signs of a relationship that’s become abusive give us a call at 919-929-7122.