A NEW LIFE
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Written by Becki Bronson - Intermountain Healthcare
One year to the day she was assaulted by her husband, Linda Thompson, 71, of Parowan, Utah, got the keys to her own apartment...and a new beginning in her life.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a month to recognize the problem of domestic violence in all its forms, and take proactive steps to end it. One step can be for those who experience domestic violence and sexual assault to tell their story, if they choose, as it can help others to know they are not alone in what they face, there really is hope, and ultimately there’s a way out toward a new, fulfilling life, free of violence and assault.
71-year-old Linda Thompson of Parowan, Utah was born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in nearby Warren. Growing up was not easy, says Linda. “The only thing I loved about growing up was writing stories and getting to learn at school,” says Linda. The second child of six grew up impoverished in a home that was not a safe place from abuse. “When I tried to tell others what was happening, I was dismissed,” says Linda. “It just wasn’t something anyone wanted to talk about or think happened.” She didn’t have any friends she says, because “I didn’t want to bring them home.”
As a young girl, while the other kids could play at recess, she would be in the cafeteria, cleaning dishes to pay for the free school lunches she received. But even at the school she loved, Linda had to endure violence and assault. She says, “I remember one time, I was cleaning in the cafeteria, and someone playfully threw a sponge at me and it hit the principal. The principal then hit me. My parents went to the school to confront the principal about hitting me, but after they left, the principal slapped me across the face for insubordination. No one did anything to help me or to stop that kind of behavior.”
As those in terrible pain seek ways to escape, Linda says she tried escaping by shutting the world out, so much so that her dad would say, “Talking to Linda is like talking to the wall.” All of those painful emotions being buried served only to cause more internal damage, to a point where Linda finally tried to end her life at 15, and got married at 16. “I had two little girls and was divorced at 21,” Linda says simply. “Back then they didn’t know much about postpartum depression, and I had it so severely I had a nervous breakdown. I gave my ex-husband custody of our kids because he told me that if I took them that he would never visit or be apart of their lives. Because I had a difficult relationship with my own father, I wanted my children to have a relationship with him. I was then given two choices: either be admitted to the state mental hospital, or endure shock treatments. I saw a movie when I was younger about a mental hospital and it terrified me, so I chose shock treatments. Those treatments were everything you think they are, in the way of truly horrible.”
Without her children or family, Linda was a vulnerable target for abusers, and endured violent assaults, including being beaten with a wooden board and sexually assaulted, then being punched and screamed at daily by her second husband, to whom she was married for 20 years.”I finished raising my children, and I could not take it anymore,” says Linda. “I finally left him. When my neighbor heard I’d left, she told me, ‘Honey, I am so glad. I would hear him yelling at you all the time.’”
Linda sought to escape her suffering and trauma, and found distraction in a destructive source: gambling. From it, she ended up homeless at times, as she would find entry-level jobs, but then take her earnings and gamble them away. The addiction had such a hold on her, she finally checked herself into the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, which treats all kinds of addiction, including gambling. It is a place where those in the program could live and work, helping with the food pantry and soup kitchen. That is where she met Dean. “I met him on my birthday, the day he came into the shelter,” says Linda.
In the early stages, says Linda, their relationship was great. “Dean was there at the mission for his addiction to alcohol, and he worked as a cook in the kitchen. He would say to me, ‘When we get out of here I’d like to get to know you better.’ You’re not supposed to have contact with others in a romantic way when you are living there but he was open and friendly and I felt we were clicking.”
Dean and Linda left the shelter, got married in 2006, and then together moved to Parowan, Utah to live near Dean’s mom and stepfather. The domestic violence cycle that Linda had known for most of her life, began to show itself once again. Linda’s son Mark eventually moved to Parowan, too, to be with his mom, and lived next door. But the tension, explosion of yelling and violence, profuse apologies, and then tension again became a familiar pattern with Linda and Dean. It all came to a terrible head on September 27, 2018.
“The day before we began to argue over an issue with my personal tablet,” says Linda. “Dean thought I was trying to gamble again, because of a credit card charge for a game I purchased for the tablet. Dean took the tablet and, in a rage, began to stomp on it, crushing it to pieces. Dean left and came back later that night. The next morning, I was talking to my sister on the phone about him destroying my tablet. He started to scream, in such a rage and told me he wanted a divorce. The look in his eyes was like he wanted to kill me. The next thing I know he punched me as hard as he could on my head, punched my chest and violently shoved me down onto the floor. He tore up my hands by trying to get my cell phone from me. It all happened so fast, but the chair flipped over and then I saw a kaleidoscope of color when my head hit nearby cement.”
Linda’s survival instincts kicked in and she ran out of the house, even with the blunt force trauma to her head, to her son’s house next door. Her son called the police and Dean was arrested after he was found following fleeing the scene. Linda screened in on the lethality assessment administered by a law enforcement officer and spoke to an advocate from Canyon Creek Services on their 24 hour hotline. Linda’s son came to her house with her for the night and around 2:00 am, her son couldn’t wake her up. Linda was transported to the Parowan airport where she was life flighted to Dixie Regional Medical Center.
Linda has had to keep a stiff upper lip most her life, but in talking about how kind the staff of Dixie Regional were to her she starts to cry.
“The staff and the nurses were constantly checking on me, asking me if could they give me anything, or do anything for me that would be a help. I felt safe there,” says Linda. “They took such good care of me, even though I was a mess. I’d be OK one minute, and then crying the next, but they were with me and there for me at every step. I remember I didn’t have my glasses, so I couldn’t see the food menu when they brought it to me, and so a really nice Food Services girl spent all this time with me to read the menu carefully to me so I could choose something I liked. When they brought me my food, I just looked at that food and started bawling again.”
To ensure she felt safe, the hospital staff carefully screened any calls or visitors, and when a family member that Linda did not feel safe with learned which room she was staying in, the staff immediately moved Linda to another room.
One of the “tender mercies” Linda was shown was regarding a sweater Linda was wearing at the time of the assault. “When I was life flighted from Parowan, they had to cut the arms off of my mother’s sweater that I was wearing,” says Linda. “My mother passed away two years ago. The sweater I was wearing was my favorite sweater of hers and I wore it all the time. It broke my heart that they had to cut it. The staff at Dixie Regional made sure I had the sweater, and then one of them suggested I consider having someone make a pillow using the sweater. A friend of mine created a pillow out of the sweater so it could still be with me and have a new beginning. I cried and cried when I saw it. She made the pillow with a shape of a heart and she put little pink hearts on it. It is amazing.”
It was determined that Linda had suffered a severe concussion, along with fractured ribs. After a short stay at Dixie Regional, Linda was discharged, and has had to endure the many after-effects, including pain, headaches, dizziness, confusion, anxiety and depression.
Linda’s husband shut off her phone and she had no way to communicate with her family. Chief Kenneth Carpenter (Parowan Chief of Police at the time) went to Linda’s home to check on her after the incident because her sister was worried about her and couldn’t get a hold of her. “I was so grateful that someone cared about me enough to do that, he was so understanding and compassionate” Linda says.
Dean was released on bail shortly after the incident, and Linda, with the help of Canyon Creek Services, filed a protective order against him. Her assigned advocate, Kaleigh, helped her with legal resources and support with her divorce. Jess, the Housing Program Coordinator at CCS, assisted Linda and was there for her as a support when she was being evicted after the incident by her husbands mother. Because of the support and services Linda received at Canyon Creek Services, she avoided homelessness and did not have to stay in the emergency shelter.
Linda and her son Mark moved back to Michigan to live with Linda’s daughter to recover. Because of her weakened immune system from her injuries, not long after she arrived in Michigan she was diagnosed with Influenza A and pneumonia, and was hospitalized once again for ten days. “I was amazed at how many nurses and staff I spoke to who they themselves experienced a similar situation of domestic abuse,” says Linda. “I was horrified. I know it is happening every day, but it is really sad. So many survivors don’t come forward, which is why it is so important for me to share my story. Even at my age I wasn’t going to let my abuser get away with this and ruin my life. If I can do it at my age of 71, anyone can.”
Dean ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. Linda says, “It feels so frustrating. You can get more time for beating your dog than beating your wife. You can get more time for destroying a bald eagle egg than for domestic violence. I wanted Dean to get psychological help but I also wanted him to serve time as a consequence for what he did. My whole life was turned upside down and it feels like his barely changed at all.”
But as Linda has begun the process of turning her life right side up again, one important step was securing her own place to live. And, just one year later to the day she was assaulted, she was handed the keys to her very own apartment. “I am 71 years old. September 27, 2018 was the end of my old life, and now September 27, 2019 is the beginning of my new life,” says Linda. “It’s like my new birthday! And God has been with me through all of this.”
Linda says it took a village, including family, friends, and her faith, but also the invaluable services offered by Canyon Creek, to make it possible for her to leave the situation for good and start a new life. “Kaleigh (Bronson, victim advocate at Canyon Creek) is an angel on earth,” says Linda. “She has been there for me through everything. I love and appreciate her more than she will ever know. We have laughed and cried together and she has always been there to hold my hand and tell me it is going to be okay. Canyon Creek and their services and staff have really been the wind beneath my wings. If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know where I would be. I had no idea the resources and compassion and understanding that were available to me and they gave it to me when I needed it most. They were always there. I want to give them so much credit. Canyon Creek is so much more than just an emergency shelter. They will have an advocate walk every step of the legal process with you. They can help with housing assistance, medical and dental care, mental health needs, and give every kind of support needed.”
Linda says she wants other survivors to know that they can get up again, get their own life, and feel safe. “My message to survivors: Don’t give up. Trust the process, there are ways to hold your abuser accountable. Please reach out for help, use places like Canyon Creek, they will help! Don’t back down, keep moving forward and you can start a new life. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the State of Utah, 1 in 3 Utah women and 1 in 10 Utah men will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lifetime. In 2018, Utah victim service providers administered 3,626 lethality assessments and on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. While the impact of domestic violence on individuals, families and communities is tremendous, you can make a difference in the lives of survivors. If someone you know has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, the most important thing you can do is to start by believing. Listen and validate the survivors experience, support their decisions and emphasize their physical and emotional safety. If they are interested in receiving services, call your local or national domestic violence hotline to speak with an advocate about their options moving forward.
Canyon Creek Services (CCS) is a non-profit dual service agency serving Beaver, Iron and Garfield Counties. CCS has served 757 survivors last year and saw a 10% in domestic violence services, a 28% increase in sexual assault services and a 77% increase in stalking services. While CCS is well known for it’s Victim Services Department and emergency shelter, work is being done to further emphasize the importance of Awareness and Prevention with the goal of achieving Canyon Creek’s mission of “Communities free of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.” If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact the Canyon Creek Services 24 hour hotline at 435-233-5732. If you are interested in volunteering, donating, scheduling a presentation or would like more information, visit their website at
Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233