D.C. Sniper’s Ex-Wife Helps Launch Seabrook Domestic Abuse Ministry
By Tracey Dorch
Mildred Mohammad, ex-wife of John Mohammad—known to the world as the D.C. Sniper—recently shared her story of domestic abuse with members and visitors of the Seabrook church in Lanham, Md. Her story and presence was also to help the church launch its new ministry “Steps to Restoration,” a toll-free help line for domestic abuse victims.
Mohammad shared a possible motivation to the 10 random killings in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002. With a confident yet gentle voice, she told the packed audience that domestic abuse in their marriage was one of the triggers that unleashed the tragic 23-day killing spree that many will never forget.
Mohammad, founder of “After the Trauma,” an organization offering support to domestic abuse survivors, came to Seabrook to tell her story and support the launch of “Steps to Restoration.” Seabrook’s program is designed to provide informational resources to domestic abuse victims and survivors.
Chaplain Larry Jones, co-founder of Seabrook’s ministry, invited her to share her story in hopes that it could touch and motivate people that are struggling with domestic abuse to seek help. As Mohammed stood at the podium to unravel some traumatic moments in her marriage, the audience silently hung on her every word. John was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 for the killings. She believes John intended to kill her along with the other shooting victims so it would not be apparent to officials that her death would have stemmed from a domestic dispute.
Her story includes moments of mind manipulation, death threats, and the kidnapping of their three children while they were separated. When John had the children during a weekend in March 2000, Mohammad says he assured her that he would bring them back home safely. Instead, he boarded a plane at the Seattle, Wash., airport and she would not see or talk to her children for 18 months. While her life had been turned upside down by the loss of their business, income and home, Mohammad says, “I never lost hope or faith that I would see my kids again, although friends told me to go on with my life.”
Based on her personal experience, Mohammad shared three key reasons why victims of domestic abuse do not seek the support they desperately need. She says victims are often repressed when they reach out to friends or family members for support. When Mohammad told people in her immediate circle about some of the hostile moments in her marriage, they discounted it as his typical behavior and encouraged her to go back home. “When victims of domestic violence come and tell you what is happening in their house and you turn around and say, ‘Girl, what are you talking about?’ you have just silenced me from talking to you.”
Mohammad tells the audience to not just offer passive advice or flippantly tell victims to just pray about their situation. The willingness to sacrifice “time” is what they really need. Secondly, Mohammad states that there is an unspoken code of conduct when it comes to discussing marital affairs in most faiths. “In church and some religions, you are taught that you don’t tell anyone what’s going on your house.” She says it can be seen as a sign of disrespect for an outsider to suggest advice or provide counsel in these matters.
Lastly, Mohammad says domestic abuse victims suffer in silence because they are afraid of the stigma that will be associated with them or their spouse, especially if they are public figures or officials in the community or church. She says some victims rationalize their situations by saying, “I don’t want him to look bad; I don’t want people to know how stupid I am; I want them to think we have the happy-go-lucky family.” She states these perspectives prevent victims from getting help and keeps them suffering in silence.
Mohammad offers clear and immediate solutions for domestic abuse survivors. The first involves domestic abuse victims reaching out to a minimum of three people. She believes the chances for getting support are high if victims reach out to more people. However, domestic abuse victims must reach out to people they trust with their story.
Secondly, she pleads with survivors to contact established organizations or programs, such as “Steps to Restoration” that provide confidentiality and empowers them get the resources they need.
Seabrook’s “Steps to Restoration” is a new ministry that directs domestic abuse survivors to organizations and resources that can meet their short- and long-term needs. Jones says one of the ministry’s goals is to recognize and touch people who are in the church and community without asking them to convert to Adventism. “The ministry provides an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives in where they hurt,” Jones says. “Many Christians struggle with openness when it comes to others and God. They hold on to the secrets and pain and they only develop into a shadow of what God would have them to become.”
Jones says the ministry hinges on Christ’s message “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28). “Steps to Restoration” provides an avenue for those who have or are currently experiencing domestic abuse to come and seek immediate relief from their problems. The ministry has a toll-free resource hotline where domestic abuse victims can call between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily to obtain information on shelter, food, clothing, and medical and legal services. Although the service does not provide counseling or advice, hotline volunteers will provide options that can guide domestic abuse survivors through the next steps.
For more information or to support “Steps to Restoration,” call Jones or Leslie Bridges, ministry co-founders, at (301) 577-6342. To access the hotline, call (866) 979-STEPS.