‘Abuse thrives in secrecy’: DAIS, victim’s daughter share messages on domestic violence during pandemic

Concerns about pandemic's impact on domestic violence continue into new year

MADISON, Wis. –  The signs of domestic violence can be hard to spot, made even more difficult during the pandemic.

Looking back, Satianna Ewers-Kubly can’t help but consider what she and her family might have missed. She describes her mother, Jessica Ewers, as always happy, focusing on the positives in life.

“Everybody she met, all her friends will say the same thing. She was a lover and a fighter,” Ewers-Kubly said. “She always loved her kids. Her kids were her world, and she was ours.”

She and her four siblings are wrestling with the reality of a new world – one without their mother.

“Everything we should’ve noticed, we kind of brushed off,” Ewers-Kubly said. “I feel that’s the case with a lot of situations like this.”

Her mother was named as the victim of a homicide in the Town of Sun Prairie last week. According to the Dane County Sheriff’s Department, James T. Budworth, 45, shot and killed Ewers before killing himself at the home the two shared.

“This is yet again, a tragic case of domestic violence,” Sheriff Dave Mahoney said. “We want to remind anyone that may be in an unsafe living environment or knows someone who is that help is available.”

According to court records, Budworth was facing domestic abuse related charges. Ewers-Kubly said he and her mother got in physical fight in October – the first time police got involved. Budworth was court-ordered to have no contact with Ewers.

Ewers was looking for a new place to stay, according to her daughter, but was having trouble finding somewhere affordable, especially during the pandemic.

“Abuse thrives in secrecy,” said Shannon Barry, executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Madison. “It thrives in isolation.”

While many are more isolated than ever, Barry said she worries domestic violence is sliding under the radar.

“I’m really concerned, actually, going into the new year. I’ve been having a lot of sleepless nights,” Barry said. “It’s not just the pandemic, the isolation, the fact that people are trapped at home, but it’s really the economic strain people are under.”

The DAIS help line got less calls during the Safer at Home order, when Barry speculated victims had less privacy to seek help. When that was lifted in the spring, she said the numbers went up and continue to do so.

Barry said the people they’re helping report more severe violence, too, and during isolation, warning signs can be harder to notice. She encourages people to really tune into their loved ones and seek help. DAIS offers a number of services, including creating individualized safety plans.

“There were things we should’ve jumped on sooner, and now looking back, it didn’t have the impact at the time it should’ve,” Ewers-Kubly said. “Those are the things we can’t dwell on.”

Instead of dwelling, she’s sharing her mother’s story in hopes it can prevent something similar. She’s asking others to take even small warning signs seriously and take a second and check in.

“(My mother) always wanted to help people, so if we can talk about this and spread a message and help one person, we’ve done our job in keeping her memory alive,” she said. “That’s what I think my mom would want us to spread is that anything, anything helps.”

The DAIS 24/7 helpline can be reached at 608-251-4445. More information on additional services can be found here.