It was the summer of 2006.
“He grabs me from behind,” said Mary Jones. “I’m in this chokehold where I’m tight right here. And, all I can think about is ‘he’s going to squeeze the breath out of me.’”
Jones still remembers every painful detail.
“I’m dialing 911,” Jones said. “I’m screaming at them, ‘Hurry up! Hurry up!’”
It was the first time her husband had gotten physically violent.
Her two young children were watching nearby, screaming.
“They run down the hall, ‘Let my mama go! Let my mama go!’”
“It was a horrible, horrible day.”
Looking back, Jones told News 2 the abuse started months before. It just wasn’t physical.
“I did not know the signs,” she said.
She said the first red flag was isolation.
“No one could come over, and of course, we couldn’t go anywhere,” Jones said.
She said she couldn’t even have a cell phone.
“I had to use his phone to call my sister, to call my mom,” she said.
Another sign was name-calling and criticism.
“The criticism came constantly,” Jones said. “If I cooked something that he asked me to cook, he would look at it and say, ‘I’m not eating this slop’ and would toss it to the floor.”
She said he also had complete control of their finances.
“Not giving me enough money to take care of what I needed for the house or even personally,” she said.
Classic red flags of domestic violence Verna Wyatt hears all the time.
“There are lots of signs,” Wyatt said. “But, sometimes they’re subtle. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might just brush it off.”
Wyatt is a co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims, which links victims to resources to get out of abusive relationships.
She said family and friends should never ignore signs of abuse.
“You should say something to them,” Wyatt said. “You should say ‘I’m concerned. And, I’ve noticed these things and I’m worried about you. And I’m here for you.’”
Wyatt said along with isolation and criticism, there are other red flags like jealousy, destroying the victim’s property, or even abusing the victim’s pets.
She also said the biggest signs of abuse can be seen in the victim from small changes to more obvious signs.
“Maybe they seem depressed,” Wyatt said. “They don’t want to do the things they normally do.”
“If somebody always has a bruise, if somebody has a cut, a black eye, take notice of that.”
More than 12 years later, Jones now speaks out against domestic violence and works with nonprofits and speaking to women in prison.
She said the signs of abuse are always there but said the first step to getting out is speaking up.
“It’s never hidden,” Jones said. “People know and sometimes may not want to get involved. I say tell somebody.”
To view all the stories featured in our “Domestic Violence: Holding Abusers Accountable” special, click here.