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Sent on Mormon-News: 18Jun01

By Kent Larsen

Rescue From Abuse: LDS Stake Intervenes, Saves Woman, Family from Abuse

SALISBURY, MASSACHUSETTS -- After 17 years of physical and sexual abuse, last month Christine McMullen finally reached-out, and chose her LDS stake to ask for help. After detailing the abuse to her stake president, she called May 8th to report that her husband wasn't home, putting in motion a dramatic rescue, "He was out of the house and she called and said, `We need to do this today,' " a source close to the family told the Boston Herald. Within an hour, church members and relatives descended on her house, fearing the husband's sudden return, and whisked McMullen and her children away.

The daring rescue is now winning acclaim for the Exeter New Hampshire stake from local and government officials who admit they didn't even know the family existed, and from family members who say they didn't know about the problem. "We aren't Mormon - she converted to it following her marriage to Patrick - but now it seems that that was the smartest thing she ever did," said a woman, who would identify herself only as a relative by marriage. "It is to church officials she finally confided." Even LDS Church members in the stake say they didn't know that there was a problem, "A lot of people didn't even realize she was in that type of situation. They knew something was screwy, but they didn't know the extent of it."

Now the story of the family's abuse by Patrick McMullen and of Christine's attempts to save her marriage and courageous protection of her children is coming to light. Her request for a restraining order, filed May 7th in Newburyport district court, describes beatings and sexual abuse that started shortly after their marriage and the birth of their children, now aged 8 to 17.

Christine married at age 18, and Patrick soon made the family into virtual recluses, with few connections with the outside world. The couple moved to Maine and then back to Massachusetts, living in Merrimac and then in Salisbury. Suspicious of paperwork and of outsiders, Patrick wouldn't let the children enroll in school. All six children, three boys and three girls, were born at home, and at least one of the children doesn't even have a birth certificate.

The restraining order reports that the physical abuse increased over time, "He has physically hurt us repeatedly with painful blows to the head, abdomen, chest, etc., causing bruising, abrasions, and headaches," Christine McMullen said in court documents. "He has kicked the children, spanked them with a belt causing severe bruising, and issued tight squeezes with one hand upon the neck."

But Patrick's domination of the family and Christine's desire to make her marriage work led her to keep the nature of the problems a secret, "He is of a domineering and controlling nature of which I have been blind, due to my desire to have a happy relationship," she said. By all reports, Christine kept the children well-fed, clean and homeschooled using materials available on the Internet. And, the signs of the abuse were kept hidden from outsiders

One chance for escape arrived in 1995, while the family was living in Merrimac, Massachusetts. There school officials learned of the family and state officials from the Department of Social Services interviewed Christine and her children at her mother's home in Merrimac, but DSS investigators only saw a safe, well-cared-for family, "The children were clean. They were playing. There was no indication that the children were highly stressed," said DSS spokeswoman Carol Yelverton. "We only wish somebody had come forward with a concern. If somebody had just said, `I'm not feeling right about something in there.' "

The department had responded to some concerns, but they were allayed during the visit, "We had concerns that the family had been living in a store, but they insisted they were living with the maternal grandmother. We were assured they were ... sleeping there, bathing, getting their meals, that it was a real home environment and that we weren't going to encounter any problems with an educational plan being submitted to the schools."

Yelverton added, "This really exemplifies the wall of silence around some domestic violence. Unfortunately, this mother had ample and safe opportunities to seek help. Neither the mother, nor the children, nor any extended-family member expressed any concerns to us in 1995, when we were called in because of a home-schooling situation. ... It's a terrible tragedy that victims of domestic violence are so intimidated and fearful."

While reports so far don't indicate when, Christine McMullen was allowed by her husband to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to attend church. Sources close to the family say this connection was what eventually saved the family, as relatives took her to church and the "brainwashing" she suffered began to erode.

Finally, Christine spoke with her priesthood leaders about her situation. "I think what gave her the confidence to act is when she sat down with a church official and told him what had been happening," said one anonymous source close to the family. "Once she heard herself say this, she knew she had violated that major, major secret. She knew she had to get out of there or it was going to be all over."

For a week after their break for freedom, the family lived in fear that Patrick McMullen would somehow find them. Finally, Salisbury police arrested McMullen, charging him with four counts of rape, two of indecent assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, disseminating obscene material to a child and possession of a stun gun. He plead innocent in an arraignment last Wednesday and is being held on $105,000 bail.

Now, the family is trying to put their lives back together. "As awful a hell as that place was, it is what they knew, and it is gone," said DSS spokeswoman Yelverton. "There is a terrific need at this point ... [for] counseling and support and a sence that you're safe."

Friends report that Christine McMullen is struggling with how to get her life back together and how to care for her children, "She's overwhelmed, to say the least,'' said one friend, speaking anonymously. "She's trying to get her life back together. She left with six kids and they left with nothing. She needs to get back on her feet."


Mormon's aid credited in abuse case
Boston Globe pg3 17Jun01 D1
By Caroline Louise Cole: Globe Correspondent
Woman confided to church leaders, a relative says

Mom 'overwhelmed' by plight: Salisbury family struggles after escape
Boston MA Herald 17Jun01 D1
By Dave Wedge

Salisbury mom reached out in bid to flee horrors
Boston MA Herald 16Jun01 D1
By Ed Hayward

DSS says Salisbury abuse was preventable
Boston MA Globe pgB1 16Jun01 D2
By Brian MacQuarrie: Globe Staff and Caroline Louise Cole: Globe Correspondent


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