The bones in Janet Bussard's face still hurt when it rains or when it's cold, she says.
Janet Bussard shows photos taken after she was brutally beaten last year. After seeking help at other shelters, Bussard found it at the House of Plenty shelter for battered women, veterans and recovering drug addicts.
Photo by J. Scott Trubey
The pain is a cruel reminder of the brutal beating that she suffered at the hands of her boyfriend Dec. 29 at the house they shared in Richmond County.
Now 10 months removed from that night, Bussard shares her story to other victims of domestic abuse at the House of Plenty, a shelter for battered women, homeless veterans and recovering drug addicts in Columbia County.
Bussard, 41, could not find emotional, spiritual or psychological comfort following the assault by her boyfriend, she said. She came to the House of Plenty and the Rev. Esther Demery on July 1 after staying at other Augusta-area shelters and at her parents' home, she said.
"If it hadn't been for them (the Demerys) I don't know what I would have done," Bussard said, seated on a green couch, nervously wringing her hands. "I was going crazy out of my mind."
The House of Plenty, an independent, Christian-ministry shelter, opened in March, Demery said. The shelter offers spiritual counseling, leadership courses to prepare residents to re-enter the workforce, credit reparation and group therapy to 12 non-abuse residents on the site, and to 20 victims of abuse such as Bussard's in safe houses throughout the county, she said.
After orientation, the House of Plenty works with residents to find a job, and after a job is secured, they pay $450 per month rent to support their care. Residents unable to hold a job are given work to help raise funds and maintain the facilities, Demery said.
The plan is for residents to make enough progress within 18 months to be able to move off the site into an apartment or house of their own.
"(The residents) need to be able to go someplace where they feel comfortable and receive the things that make them whole again," Demery said.
House of Plenty is seeking state and federal grants to help fund the shelter and expand their programs, Demery said. The group has received letters of support from Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross and state Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans.
Assistance from the public is still needed, Demery said. She is seeking donations of services from doctors, professional counselors and ministers from area churches. Money is also needed, she said.
"This place is very much needed," Bussard said. "A lot of women are scared to go to shelters because they are afraid. There's a lot of abused women in Columbia County. (People) just don't know it because (it happens) behind closed doors."
When a call comes in, Bussard joins Demery when she can to help counsel women looking for a place to go for comfort.
In April, Mitchell Troy West, of the 2200 block of Bandler Road, in Augusta, was indicted on charges that he brutally attacked Bussard.
He was convicted in August of felony aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass and sentenced to five years in prison and five years on probation, said Augusta Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney David Parks White.
West had hit Bussard before, on Dec. 4, and he was wanted by police, White said.
After promises to seek counseling and quit drinking, Bussard said, she took West back. But on Dec. 29, she found a bottle of vodka chilling in the refrigerator, she said.
What followed was a confrontation in which West reportedly punched her in the head repeatedly and kicked her in the side.
In the process, Bussard's nose, left cheek and orbital bone around her left eye were broken. She also was badly bruised across her face, head and neck. Her four front teeth were knocked out and her eyes filled with blood.
"All I can remember was praying to God, 'Let me make it out of this house and call somebody and at least call my kids and let them know I love them,'" she said.
Drifting in and out of consciousness, Bussard said, she saw West standing at the door with a knife to his throat. Moments later, he was lying in blood. Knowing it was her chance to escape, she fled to a neighbor's house, Bussard said.
West had slit his own throat but survived and was charged while in the hospital two days later, White said.
Ten months later, Bussard said she still suffers nightmares, headaches and pain in her face.
She cannot afford to replace her teeth, she said.
For now, the shelter's fellowship and sharing her story is the best therapy Bussard has received, Demery said.
Demery said those in need may contact the shelter through the Red Cross, Family Connections, Medical College of Georgia, United Way or by phone at 869-0942.
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