Tacoma center named after murder victim helps others escape domestic violence

TACOMA -- On April 26, 2003, while Crystal Judson and Tacoma Police Chief David Brame were in the middle of a bitter divorce, he shot her dead, then killed himself in front of their two young children.

“She’s this beautiful woman and he’s the chief of police and they live in this beautiful home -- how could this possibly happen?” former prosecuting attorney Susan Adams asked.

Adams worked with the city of Tacoma and Pierce County to create the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center.  It provides shelter, food and counseling to domestic violence victims, and offers legal help filing protection orders and finding financial services and housing.

We had a chance to visit the center and meet a client who left her abusive husband one year ago.

“I was raped, I was pushed down stairs.  I had a machete held to my body.  He threatened to slice my hands off and told me if I ever crossed him he would finish the fight and bury me dead in the back yard,” said the victim.

Much like in Judson's case, this woman's abuser appeared to be a perfect husband.

“He tried to act like a pillar of the community.  He was a very friendly neighbor, always willing to help.  It’s very frightening and not what you imagine an abuser to be,” said the victim.

This is why the Judson Center director says it’s so important to reach out to friends and family who may be in a bad situation.

“When you find you’ve encountered someone who might be a victim, knowing what to say is crucial: ‘I’m afraid for your safety; you don`t deserve to be abused; I’m afraid for your children,'” said Adams.  “If we don’t, as a community, support the victims in a time of need, this will continue to perpetuate.  Domestic violence is something that happens in private, and if we keep it in the dark, it will stay in the dark forever.  We have to shed light on it and help victims and lift them up so they don’t feel ashamed to come out and get help.”

Once this victim found the courage to leave, and got connected with the Judson center, a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders.

“You feel very alone, but coming here I realized I wasn’t alone and there was this enormous support system waiting for me.  I just had to tap into it.”

We will have more on the Judson Center on our news at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.