Targeted: True Crime Domestic Violence, a podcast that investigates one case of family violence each season, using academic research to help us better interpret the events so that we can become better advocates.
Season One tells the story of Melisha Gibson, a 4-year-old girl who was killed by her stepfather on November 13, 1976. Her murder resulted in widespread changes in United States social services. What else can we learn from her tragic death?
Josh’s father and stepmother are tried together for aggravated child neglect in 2006. It all hinges on whether or not starving a 15-year-old to 49 lbs and shackling him to a bed can be considered “serious bodily harm.”
Soon after Josh was rescued, his stepmother’s family began spinning tales of how dangerous Josh was and that he’d once been found standing over her with a butcher knife. Could this be true or was it a wild fabrication? Was Christie truly in fear for her life and was that why she chained up Josh?
A phone call is about to be made leading to the rescue of 15-year-old Josh Osborn, whose parent starved him and chained him to his bed. His rescue will change the course of the Osborne children’s lives. Over the next few months we’ll examine Josh’s case, feature his history as well as that of his siblings, and using this knowledge to examine how we be better advocates. There is much about Josh’s story that never made it into court or into media reports. You see, Josh was not the only one being abused.
When Buck Thurman assaulted his wife, Tracey Thurman for the final time in June 1983, their son CJ wasn’t yet two years old. After stabbing her and stomping on her, Buck ran into the apartment she was staying in and grabbed CJ, bringing him out to see his mother laying limply in the glass, slowly bleeding out. Buck dumped the baby on Tracey’s stomach and said, “I killed your F’ing mother.”
Although CJ had witnessed many instances of abuse, surely at 22 months old, he was young enough to not be effected by it, right?
Most of the time when we hear about domestic violence in the news, it’s because something tragic happened. Usually it’s a perpetrator who assaulted a target, causing extreme injury or even death, such as in the case of Tracey Thurman when Buck stabbed her 13 times and stomped on her while a police officer did not intervene.
Sometimes targets will go through the legal system for protection, as Tracey Thurman did, and obtain a restraining order against their abuser.
We don’t hear about the times when the restraining orders work, we usually hear about the times when the perpetrator violates it and causes damage.
This brings us to some important questions. Are restraining orders worth more than the paper they’re written on? Is it wise to try and obtain one? Or will it just make matters worse?
Today’s episode is a Targeted Topic, a stand-alone episode that you can listen to even if you’re not familiar with the domestic violence case we’ve been covering this season.
Targeted Podcast: True Crime Domestic Violence
Episode 2.5 The Trials of Buck
After Buck Thurman’s first trial, his father, Duke, approached Tracey, warning her that her ordeal with Buck might not be over. He said, “You know, whenever he does get out, he’ll either ask you to get back together, or he’ll be at the door to finish the job.”
By the time Tracey Thurman was placed in an ambulance, nearly an hour had passed since she’d been stabbed and stomped on. She laid bleeding out on the ground without receiving medical care. During eight months of hospitalization, she had to learn how to eat and walk again.
Why did Buck attack Tracey when she left him? There’s quite a bit of evidence to establish leaving as a dangerous period. Dr. Betty Jo Barrett, a professor who specializes in intimate-partner violence says “Research has shown the risk of domestic homicide becomes highest during the period of separation.”
Last season, one of the most popular episodes was the examination of why Wanda Gibson Maddux stayed in the violent relationship with Ronny. Similarly, I want to examine the same topic with Tracey because I know this is still puzzling to many people.
There have been many academic research studies about how targets of violence often undergo a leaving PROCESS rather than just leaving once or twice. The more times a target has left an abusive relationship, the more promising it is that the relationship will end.
While Tracey stayed for a while to try and work on their relationship, she also left multiple times and sought police protection to enforce her choice to leave.
We also consider the media messages that surrounded Tracey Thurman and the theme that true love changes people. Can a seemingly positive message — that love is transformative — impact a target’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship?
When Tracey met Charles “Buck” Thurman, she was a mama’s girl in mourning. After her mother passed away from lung cancer, Tracey dropped out of school in Connecticut to move far, far away to Florida where she met a cocky young man who wooed her.
Buck easily and believably told her he loved her and he was very protective of her. Tracey said that he made her feel safe.
The abuse didn’t begin right away. His protectiveness slid into obsessiveness and his temper edged into violence.
This is the story of his abuse, which culminated on the day Buck nearly killed Tracey while a police officer was present (but did not intervene).
*This episode is a frank description of the relationship between Tracey and Buck Thurman, including details of abuse. Listener discretion is advised
A survivor of abuse once told me, “The more we talk, the more we’re healed, and we see it as history instead of what is still going on.”
Domestic violence is not something that happens to only a few people; it’s widespread. About 35% of women and 28% of men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Why don’t we know more know about it? Shhhhhh. It’s a secret. People feel shame for their abuse. They feel as if they’ve done something wrong. They feel as if they will be judged, and found wanting, if others know about it.
It is time for the secrecy to stop. We can tell our stories, reclaim our power, use our experiences to help, to heal, to demand change in our world.
We’ll begin Season Two with the series “Fight for Justice” about Tracey Thurman, who had to sue an entire city in the 1980s to hold the police responsible for allowing her ex-husband to stalk and attack her despite her requests for police involvement in advance.
Tracey was a young married mother when her husband, Buck gradually escalated from intermittent slaps to deadly violence.
Tracey’s story will help us examine how society and law enforcement might fail targets of domestic violence.