Editor’ s Note: Lawmakers and police throughout the state have stepped up awareness campaigns and enforcement of domestic abuse laws. This is one woman’ s account of the terror she experienced in an abusive marriage.
DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine -  For several harrowing hours one spring day in 2007, Jennifer Erb, 37, thought she was going to be killed and her body dumped off a secluded logging road, a victim of domestic abuse.
Up until that time, the Abbot woman had learned to live with the abuse meted out by her second husband of two years, she said. After all, earlier in her life she had been the victim of yet another abusive man whom she had married and later divorced, Erb said.
The mother of two teenagers said she knew she would have to leave her second marriage, but it wasn’ t easy. She admitted she constantly asked herself what she could have done differently to prevent the abuse and asked herself what she did wrong.
“I don’ t think that I’ ll ever not ask myself that because of the type of person that I am,” Erb said during an interview earlier this month. “Inside, I know it’ s not my fault.”
Erb nearly lost her life to arrive at that certainty. She said she had been returning home from a trip to Massachusetts with her husband Darryl Erb when he took a shortcut on a remote logging road from Kingsbury Plantation to Abbot and got the couple’ s jeep stuck. Darryl Erb became angry with the situation and turned on her, she said. She recalled that he choked her, sliced the belt on her jeans with a knife in an attempt to rape her, and bit her face. They were alone in a remote area, and she had no place to go, no one to come to her aid.
When her husband collected himself and freed the jeep, Jennifer Erb said, they returned home. Soon after, her husband started choking her again and threw her across the room, she recalled.
When her husband left the room, Erb said, she dialed 911, but quickly hung up the telephone when he returned. The call went through and Lt. Robert Young of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’ s Department responded a few minutes later.
“‘ My face was covered with blood and I was covered in mud, but I said everything was OK,” Erb recalled.
Young knew otherwise, especially since he spied a clump of her hair on a sideboard and called for a paramedic to care for the bite on her face. She said the officer took photographs of her wounds and arrested her husband on two counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief. She later went to the emergency room at the Greenville hospital and soon after filed for a divorce. The divorce is still pending.
Darryl Erb, who pleaded no contest to the charges in 13th District Court in July, was sentenced to six months in jail with all but 30 days suspended on each of the two assault charges and was sentenced to 30 days for criminal mischief, according to a court clerk. The jail time was to be served concurrently. He also was placed on probation for two years and was ordered to pay restitution.
Despite the 30-day sentence, Jennifer Erb said, her husband served just 10 days and was out of jail before she was even notified. The night of his release, she recalled, her daughter told her she overheard two men talking beneath her bedroom window. Erb said she doesn’ t know whether it was her husband, but she immediately reached out to Lt. Scott Arno, a part-time domestic violence investigator with the District Attorney’ s Office. Part of his job is to make sure victims and witnesses are safe.
While she had not yet filed a protection from abuse order, Arno provided her a safe zone, Erb said. The officer would come at different times to check to make sure her husband was not near the house and that she and her children were safe.
“Scott was excellent,” Erb said. “At first I was very leery of him because he’ d just pop up at the house at weird hours.” She said she later understood why he operated that way, and she relied on him to keep her safe those first two months after her husband’ s release. She also sought comfort from Womancare Aegis of Dover-Foxcroft, she said.
Erb said most women don’ t have the voice to speak for themselves in domestic violence situations so Arno assumes the role.
“I’ ve always been the one to be the healer, the helper. You know, I can fix someone else’ s problems, and I’ ve now come to the conclusion that I can’ t fix broken people,” Erb said.
Techniques to deter domestic violence
A prestigious conference and training session on techniques to deter domestic violence will be offered July 28-29 at the Charlotte White Center’ s administrative conference center in Dover-Foxcroft.
The “New York Model,” one of three nationally recognized training programs for working with individuals convicted of domestic violence, acknowledges it takes changes in the belief system of an entire community for domestic violence to stop.
This training highlights and promotes the concept of “zero tolerance” toward domestic violence. Four experienced trainers from the Volunteer Counseling Services of New York will instruct the course. This is the first time this training has been offered in central Maine.
Agencies and individuals who intend to operate court-certified Batterers Intervention Programs must have training in one of the three recognized courses in order to meet state certification.
The Charlotte White Center in cooperation with Womancare and the Department of Probation and Parole operate an intervention program in Piscataquis County.
More than 30 people from throughout the state have registered for the program. Continuing education credits from the Maine Board of Social Work have been approved for this course. The cost of the training is $150 for both days. Some scholarships are still available for those working in the field of corrections.
For registration or information, contact Robbie Butcher at 564-2464, ext. 104.
Meetings to examine domestic abuse
Prompted by the high rate of domestic homicides, the Legislature has launched a series of statewide forums on domestic violence, hosted by the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Anne Jordan, Maine commissioner of public safety, said the forums were the direct result of the murder of a Wells woman, Nicole Oliver, last year by her estranged husband. “Her family was shattered by that” and pressed the Legislature to pass sweeping reforms of the domestic violence laws.
To ensure that the laws will be rooted in common sense and have successful outcomes, Jordan is leading the forums and statewide study of domestic violence programs, services and solutions.
Among the sessions scheduled in the Bangor Daily News readership area are:
- Presque Isle — 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, Room 118, University of Maine at Presque Isle Campus Center.
- Bangor — 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 11, Husson College, Richard Dyke Center.
- Belfast — 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, Boathouse, 34 Commercial St.
- Machias — Noon Friday, Aug. 22, Blue Bird Motel, Route 1.
The domestic violence hot line is: 800-863-9909.