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Domestic violence victim set to appear at Walk a Mile event

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Shelly Birkelo
August 25, 2012

— Julie Schebig’s ex-husband left her for dead on the kitchen floor after beating her with a 3-pound hammer in front of their children.

The attack three years ago left her with disabilities, but the 37-year-old Madison area woman said she is stronger today because of it.

“I speak my mind and speak out,” she said.

Schebig has become an advocate for domestic violence survivors.

“I was one of the lucky ones; I survived. So, I feel like it’s my responsibility to be a voice for the men and women who weren’t so lucky and don’t have a voice to be heard anymore,’’ she said.

Schebig said domestic violence is a “huge, huge problem and something we need to start talking about and educating the next generation about so they know that this is not OK behavior.”

Schebig will be in Janesville on Friday, Sept. 14, to walk in and speak to those who participate in the YWCA Rock County’s Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event to end domestic violence.

She’ll also be in Janesville on Monday, Sept. 10, to visit with women who have found a safe haven at the YWCA’s shelter for battered women.

“This will be a bit more personal when I’ll share more about patterns and histories of what I’ve been through, what they’ve been through and encouraging them to be strong,’’ Schebig said.

“The more people speak out, the more society will become aware of domestic violence,” she said.

Schebig said Gerald O. Orton wasn’t abusive at the beginning of their five-year relationship.

“But right from the get-go, he had financial control because I started working for his company that would pay for the house I was living in,’’ Schebig said.

Over time, Orton began to nag and question Schebig, criticize her and her friends and become angry if she didn’t answer her phone immediately.

“Subtly and slowly your abuser works it in, and suddenly you wake up one morning and feel trapped and isolated,” she said.

The brutal hammer attack was the culmination of escalating incidents, Schebig said.

Orton once yanked a necklace from Schebig’s neck. Another time he pinned her against the couch, raised his fist and screamed about wanting to punch her.

He intentionally crashed his vehicle into the garage and another time trashed the house.

“What people need to understand is at any given time it can turn violent, and when that happens it could be the last day of your life,” Schebig said.

The hammer attack was the night of their third wedding anniversary, Aug. 19, 2009.

Schebig suffered a fracture to her left hand, left temporal lobe, forehead and sinuses. Her left ear was nearly beaten off and a few pieces of the same ear had to be amputated.

“The force he used was compared to damage of a high-impact car crash,” Schebig said.

Schebig was hospitalized for five days and still suffers from short-term memory loss, posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

“Living with Gerry was hell,” Schebig said. “Right now, my life is hell, but I’ll take this kind of hell any day over the hell it was living and being with him.”

Orton was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Part of the healing process for Schebig has been to speak publicly about domestic violence.

“Every three months, I speak with new probation and parole officers about domestic violence situations and how to handle them,” she said.

Schebig will be one of the keynote speakers during a Department of Corrections conference in Milwaukee on Oct. 4.

Once a year, she speaks with new Madison police officers about how to handle domestic calls and situations.

Schebig testified in favor of a bill the relieved domestic violence victims of the requirement that they testify against their abusers at preliminary court hearings.

“That oftentimes is within a week or 10 days after the assault, which can be very difficult for the victim. Now, hearsay is allowed from officers on scene when the victim says they can testify on their behalf,” she said.

Schebig recently spoke to a University of Wisconsin Law School class about domestic violence.

“We need to bring public awareness to this topic that nobody wants to talk about,” she said.

“I share my story in hopes of even helping one person and maybe that person can help another person, creating sort of a chain reaction,” Schebig said.

“My husband believed I was dead,” she said.

“Had he hit me a couple more times, I would have been dead.”



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