If prior victims of Carmen Collins’ ex-husband had spoken up sooner, she likely would not have been subjected to his abuse last year.
That’s why she testified against him in a court trial and isn’t ashamed to tell her story to others. Collins was honored Friday during a Victims Rights Week event at Willow Springs Park in Johnson City. The event was sponsored by the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.
“The man I married was a (former) police officer. He had been sworn to serve and protect,” Collins said. In fact, the man she married had once been a domestic violence investigator for a local police department.
“I felt safe and loved,” until a night in April 2011 when a marital dispute became a violent attack, she said. And once was enough.
It wasn’t Collins’ decision to take the case to court, but she didn’t hesitate to testify when state prosecutors took it to trial. The man was convicted of domestic assault and sentenced to a year of probation. He was also granted diversion, which is now in jeopardy because he was recently charged with DUI.
“Until the trial I didn’t know there were prior wives and three girlfriends,” who were his victims, she said. “Had they spoken out this would never have happened to me.”
“I chose to get better instead of bitter,” Collins said.
Collins’ statements were part of a tree-planting ceremony in honor and memory of crime victims. The tree’s purpose is noted on a marker installed near it. It’s the second ceremonial planting at the park.
The keynote speaker, Johnson City Police Chief John Lowry, said domestic violence calls are the most dangerous calls that officers respond to because of the high emotions.
To investigate those and other similar cases, the police department has a special squad — the Special Victims Unit. He said it’s a far cry from what officers had at their disposal when he first started as a rookie officer.
Lowry said during those early years, officers “passed the hat” at roll call when there was a domestic violence victim. That money was used to get the victim a hotel room for a couple of nights so the situation could settle down.
The chief said his goal in law enforcement, especially since he became chief, has been to “do everything we can to make Johnson City the safest place to live, work and raise your family.”
But officers can’t do that alone, he said. Officers need the public to do its part as well.
Also at the event, a local news reporter was honored with the Voice of Victims award. Nate Morabito, a reporter for WJHL News Channel 11, said it was an honor to receive the recognition.
“I got into this business to tell people’s story … and give a voice to the voiceless,” Morabito said. “All too often we remember the criminal and we don’t remember the victim. I thank the victims for trusting WJHL and myself to tell their stories.”