Published in the Hobbs News-Sun March 2005.
Domestic violence has put a hole in the hearts of Jan Lobeck and her family.
Her daughter, Sheri, who died as a result of domestic violence, prompted Lobeck to become an advocate for domestic violence issues. Lobeck will speak to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence during National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Week next week in Washington, D.C.
"I feel God has given me a new purpose in life. I feel the need to help other victims and families so they don't have to endure this pain. I want to help educate communities, police officers, attorneys and judges to take domestic violence more seriously," said the 58-year-old Hobbsan.
Pictures of Sheri before and after her domestic violence and a letter Lobeck wrote for her daughter's memorial service hang on the appointment window at Option Inc. in Hobbs. Those who come into Option, the local battered women's shelter's office, and read the letter ask if it really happened, according to Debbie Pruitt, counselor and safe house interviewer at Option.
"After we explain it happened, it becomes a teachable moment on how easy it is to die at the hands of the person who is supposed to love you," she said.
Lobeck has spread the word that Option is a resource for those who need help in domestic violence situations, according to Dinora Carrejo-Gutherie, executive director of Option. Lobeck has influenced some women who are in abusive and high-risk situations to not go back into an abusive relation, Carrejo-Gutherie said.
Option provided service for 1,520 people in Lea County in 2003-04, Gutherie said. There is 5-10 percent increase in the number of people it serves every year. The shelter is open 24 hours a day with a live-in, on-site shelter supervisor. The United Way organization also does crime victim reparation, assisting victims of violent crimes in screening and completing forms.
"Sometimes people understand better when they see and read Jan's letter. They realize it can be them," Gutherie said. "Jan gives these women a face of someone who has experienced what they have. She encourages them to think twice before they do something they regret."
Sheri, who died 10 months ago, had been in an abusive relationship before, Lobeck explained, but it didn't become physical until her second marriage.
Sheri didn't admit that she lived in an abusive relationship until she called from Germany telling her parents she was leaving her husband and needed an apartment in Hobbs. Her daughter lived in Hobbs for 11 months prior to her death.
Somehow Sheri's husband managed to be discharged from the military, Lobeck said. In an attempt to get back with Sheri, he tracked her to Hobbs.
Sheri and her husband had a fight in May last year. Sheri's husband allegedly ripped the phone out of the wall and hit her in the head with it. Neighbors heard the violence and called 911.
Sheri later died alone in her apartment with her 22-month-old child in his crib. Now Lobeck is raising her three grandchildren.
Sheri's husband is awaiting trail on charges of voluntary manslaughter.
Lobeck admitted she hasn't been able to sleep much since her daughter's death, so she wrote a letter to Barbara Richardson, Gov. Bill Richardson's wife, and New Mexican legislators about the loss she suffered.
"I was trying to see what I could do so my daughter didn't die in vain. I don't want another family to endure a senseless loss due to domestic violence," she said.
As a result of the letter Lobeck spoke to the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Santa Fe in January. Option, American Legion and a private donor sponsored her Santa Fe trip.
Lobeck's main concerns are for the children of domestic violence and to help communities and lawmakers understand the seriousness of domestic violence.
"We can't imagine what it's like for a young child to live in fear, forced to live in a violent home. When parents raise their children in a violent home, they are breeding violence," she said. "Domestic violence exists across the nation. People tend not to take it as a crime. When the police go out on a domestic violence call, they see it as a disturbance, not as a crime. It's not taken as seriously as it should. These domestic violence situations could be a prelude to murder like what happened with my daughter."
Through her experiences, Lobeck said she has learned what criminal justice really means.
"It's justice for the criminals, not the victims. What laws we do have victims -- victims' rights are not enforced. What I would like to see happen is the laws we do have to be enforced and to change the laws so that victims have equal rights as criminals do," she said. "Often criminals get second and third chances, but my daughter didn't get one chance. Often criminals don't get held responsible for their actions, but if these domestic violence situations were seen as crimes, not just disturbances, then we could put a stop to domestic violence."