Kalamazoo shooting leads domestic abuse victim to leave relationship, urges others to get help

Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 18:46:32-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Less than 24 hours after the mass shooting in Kalamazoo, there was another shooting in that city that left a young mother fearing for her life. After nearly six years of suffering domestic abuse, she shares her story in hopes of helping others leave the relationship.

Ashley Williams, 21, is a young mother who ran for her life Sunday night to a neighbor who called 911. Now her four children, ages four to 10-months-old, are in the hands of Child Protective Services while Williams works with an attorney and caseworker to find safe housing.

“He made her cower down in the closet and then he just, she said, ‘I covered my head like this,’ and she said, ‘I prayed to God that I was going to make it,’ and she did,” said Pamela Dutton, Ashley’s grandmother. “God answered her prayer.”

Words too hard to listen to and not shutter. Dutton was in tears as she relived to FOX 17 the near deadly assault Sunday night that left Williams hospitalized.

“[The abuse] continued to keep getting worse and worse and worse,” said Dutton.

A violent assault worse than ever before, the family said Sunday around 11:30 p.m. Victor Peery, 22, Williams’ boyfriend of nearly six years, and father of her four young children, pistol-whipped her at a friend’s house on the 700 block of Duke Lane. Williams she got away, hiding in a closet, until police said Peery shot her three times in the arm and chest.

“She’s got a lot of angels on her side,” said Dutton.

Williams is a survivor who said her story needs to be shared. After almost six years of abuse, she is walking away. Family hopes her bravery help others victims leave, too.

“I think [domestic violence] should be talked about every day,” said Dutton.

Kalamazoo YWCA Program Manager of Housing and Social worker Sherry Brockway said abuse does not get better, it only gets worse.

“Domestic violence always increases in intensity and frequency, which means the assaults become much more severe as the relationship goes on,” said Brockway.

Brockway explained victims stay in abusive relationships for many reasons, perhaps financial reasons, because of children, or fear. But the most dangerous time she said is when victims leave the relationship, calling it separation violence.

Brockway asks loved ones to support victims when they are ready to leave.

“The best thing we can do is provide the support, and the resources, and let them know that when they’re ready to leave, we will be there to support them fully,” Brockway said.

Williams is moving on.

“She’s going to move forward now,” said Dutton. “It’s all up for her now. So things will get better for her.”

She and her family ask anyone being abused to make the call, and get help.

“Have enough guts to stand up and do what you’ve got to do,” said Dutton.

Family created a GoFundMe page to help Williams and her children find a safe home and recover.

Peery was arrested Wednesday night, hiding out at a family home in Muncie, Indiana. He has a lengthy criminal record including several felonies for weapons, assault, and domestic violence convictions.

As for leaving an abusive relationship, Brockway said it is critical to make a safety plan with professionals. She urges anyone being abused to call the YWCA 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at: (269) 385-3587 (all services are free).

Here are some other local domestic violence resources:

  • Domestic violence 24-hour confidential crisis hotline: (616) 451-2744
  • Sexual Assault 24-hour confidential crisis hotline: (616) 776-RAPE (7273)
  • Counseling Center: (616) 459-4652
  • Sylvia's Place, located in Allegan:
    • Assistance or information 24-hour crisis line: (269) 673-8700
  • Community Healing Centers located in Kalamazoo, Sturgis, and Niles
  • Family and Children Services located in Kalamazoo, Portage, and Battle Creek
  • and personal protection orders information