WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Mildred Muhammad, D.C. Sniper John Allen Muhammad's ex-wife from his second marriage, was making preparations to attend his funeral last Tuesday in Baton Rouge, La., with their three children John, 19; Salena, 17; and Taalibah, 16.
"They need closure and to see their dad one last time before he is placed in the ground," Ms. Muhammad said.
Muhammad was executed by lethal injection at Greenville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va., for the murder of one of his 10 victims, Dean Meyers, who was gunned down at a gas station. Muhammad's death was confirmed at 9:11 p.m. Nov. 10.
Neither Ms. Muhammad nor the children visited Muhammad the day of his execution although his first wife, Carol Williams, and son Lindbergh Williams, 26, did.
"He didn't put their names on the visitor's list, and he didn't call them," Muhammad said. "His attorney said that it was out of shame that he didn't want to do that. He couldn't muster up the courage to see our children."
Ms. Muhammad said she was not surprised by his actions. The children had had no contact with him while he was incarcerated. Even his silence before the execution was what she expected.
"He stayed true to the person that I knew," she said. "He didn't want anybody to know how he felt. He didn't want anyone to dissect his last words or give them anything to hold on to. I told my children before it even happened, 'Your dad's not going to do that. So don't look for that.'"
No Hard Feelings
Ms. Muhammad holds no hard feelings toward her ex-husband. She said that she is at peace and has found closure. She also makes sure that she doesn't speak negatively to her children when reflecting on her marriage.
"They have the facts," she said. "I'm not going to distort it. I will never say anything bad about their father. They have a right to love him and it would be wrong for me to speak badly to them about him."
Now an author and national spokesperson on domestic violence, Ms. Muhammad shares her experiences with abuse in her marriage as a way to empower and help others who are in similar relationships.
In mid-October, Ms. Muhammad released her first book, "Scared Silent," a collection of personal journals, a comprehensive safety plan for victims to escape their abusers and resources. Published by Simon & Schuster/Strebor Books, "Scared Silent" talks of her relationship with her ex-husband and stresses that "you don't have to have physical scars to be a victim or survivor of domestic violence." She has also started an organization called After the Trauma.
Domestic abuse, which is the verbal, psychological and economic degrading of one's partner, is also a part of domestic violence, Ms. Muhammad said.
"Unfortunately, the abuse part of domestic violence is not looked upon as serious, because there are no physical scars to prove that type of victimization," she said. "There have been several men and women that have approached me and told me they didn't know that they were victims until they heard me speak, because they thought that they had to have a physical scar."
'I Didn't Look Like a Victim'
The domestic abuse survivor said that it was hard for her to get support when she sought it.
"He was in the community," she said of her ex-husband. "He was charismatic, very well spoken, well dressed, attractive man. Nobody believed he was doing those things that I said because he presented himself one way to the public and he was a different way at home. No. 2, I didn't look like a victim, by coming in crying. I was a professional person and I wasn't going to belittle myself to try to get the help that I needed."
This was her only experience with domestic abuse, but she said the first threat was enough to make her leave.
"Statistics said it takes seven times for a woman to leave. I left the first time. I didn't need to go back to find out if he was going to kill me. He said he was going to kill me. It was enough for me."
Changed by the Gulf War
As she recalls her five-year relationship with Muhammad, she notes that he was not always abusive.
"He was a person that was always talkative," Ms. Muhammad said. "Even when he woke up in the morning, he was always talking about something."
However, she noticed a change after he came back from the Gulf War. "He was very quiet and withdrawn," she recalled. "He didn't want anything to do with anyone. He was just so reserved that I knew something was going on."
In addition to the custody battle over the children and the divorce, the lack of debriefing from the military aided a little in John's reign of terror, she said.
"I believe that had he had debriefing and counseling for his PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) then perhaps he would not have exploded the way he did," she said. "I will say that they had a part in it, but he was still able to make decisions on his own and I feel he knew what he was doing."
'Stop Reacting and Start Acting'
As a domestic abuse survivor who had a hard time receiving resources, Ms. Muhammad makes sure that her organization, After the Trauma, provides victims with the courage, shelter and support that they need whether they decide to stay or leave the relationship.
"There are professional people that I am helping right now that are trying to figure out how to maneuver between home and keeping their jobs because they are victims," she said. "Some people were in the military and they're saying my husband is acting the same way and he just came from a war zone and nobody's listening to me."
Ms. Muhammad said the most important advice she can give victims is "to stop reacting and start acting...As long as you're reacting to what he's doing, he's keeping you off balance so that you don't recognize it, but when you start acting that's when you take your power back."
She stressed that planning is also a key element in fighting against domestic abuse and violence.
"If you've got the time to plan, then that's what you need to do," she said. "You need to be strategic when leaving an abuser, because they're always thinking ahead of you. You always have to stay one step ahead of them in order for you to save your own life. That's what I had to do."
A New Life
Ms. Muhammad is content with her new occupation and is enjoying life with her new husband of two years, Reuben Muhammad.
"He is a counselor for substance abuse teenagers," she said. "We have a lot in common."
As of now, Ms. Muhammad has no plans to rest in her campaign against domestic violence.
"I've got a lot of work to do," she said. "I'm not tired from it. I'm not running from it. I'm working through it face forward and trying to help as many people that I can.
"We concentrate on the 20 percent; we forget totally about 80 percent of us walking around. If you slit us down the middle and turned us inside out, then you will see all of the scars that you will need to see."