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Sunday, November 9, 2008

[RI] Detective Tori Lynn Heaton shares her officer-involved dv past with others

...."The last thing in the world I want to do is show the world what he did to me... But if I don't, he and others like him will continue... It was a tremendous feat for a member of the Rhode Island law enforcement team to be convicted... It is commonly thought that police are corrupt, and that cops are immune from the law, so this was a big step forward"...

Victim of Abuse Speaks at Domestic Violence Vigil
The Cowl
Student weekly of Providence College
By: Kylie Lacey '11
Issue: November 6, 2008
[Excerpts] The Department of Sociology and Women's Will brought a special guest, Officer Tori Heaton of the Cranston Police Department, to share her story of domestic violence on Monday, Oct. 27 in Feinstein 400. Whitney Henderson '09, president of Women's Will, explained the reason for bringing Heaton to Providence College... "Everyone has the idea that domestic violence happens to other people, and that's not true. It's everywhere. Tori [Heaton] shows that the person who seems the least vulnerable, a police officer, can be abused." Another member of Women's Will, Kelly Sheehan '11, thought the perspective from a police officer was interesting. "I think it's terrible, yet fascinating, that this could happen to someone who is supposed to be able to protect herself," she said. "It shows domestic violence really can happen to anyone"... Besides her work as a domestic violence detective for the past 10 years, Heaton has volunteered at the Sojourner Truth House, working with groups of survivors of violence. "The great thing about Sojourner Truth is that it's a task force, which means it's not bound by political funding," said Heaton. "It's just a group of the effected affecting change." Heaton grew up in a single-parent home on welfare. Her mother was an alcoholic who fell victim to abuse from her second husband... "She got into more and more abusive relationships," said Heaton. "I knew that I was smarter than that"... Heaton met her husband, fellow officer Joe Fillion, on the force... The two married in 1998, but Heaton insisted that she should have seen the trouble coming. "Three months before we married, he attacked me," she said. "It's amazing how you want to believe it will never happen again." The day after they got back from their honeymoon, he beat her on a flight of stairs in their home and put a gun to the back of her head. "Tori [Heaton] the police officer knew the warning signs, knew what was wrong," she said. "But I just couldn't face it." After the two had been married for eight months, he injured her arm and Heaton was able to obtain a restraining order. He was arrested and charged with domestic assault, but Heaton still wanted to make their situation work. One night, while they were officially separated, Heaton invited a high school friend over to her home for a drink. Fillion came over unannounced and assaulted both Heaton and her friend. He grabbed Heaton by the hair, pushed her to the ground, and then proceeded to knock her friend unconscious and break his jaw. It was at this point that Heaton knew she had to take serious measures. "The last thing in the world I want to do is show the world what he did to me," said Heaton. "But if I don't, [he] and others like him will continue." Heaton brought Fillion to trial, filing 13 charges against him, including a felony that meant, if convicted, he could spend 20 years in jail... According to Heaton, Fillion's lawyer tried to paint her as a drunk, promiscuous woman who was asking to be abused. "They portrayed me as a liar," she said. "As a person with a control issue." Fillion was eventually convicted of six of the charges and acquitted of the rest. He was sentenced to three years in jail but was released after 18 months. "How do you think that made me feel?" asked Heaton. She did point out, however, one aspect of the trial that made her feel hopeful. "It was a tremendous feat for a member of the Rhode Island law enforcement team to be convicted," she said. "It is commonly thought that police are corrupt, and that cops are immune from the law, so this was a big step forward." [Full article here]

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