How a wife's love turned to years of torment

OCT.19th, 1997:

Husband's ordeal one of many that go unreported, officials fear
By Michelle Shephard, Staff Reporter, Toronto Star

It took a .22-calibre bullet, lodged two millimetres from his spine, to convince David Alexander he was an abused husband. It was his wife, after all, who had fired the rifle at him..
And as he lay in the emergency ward of the hospital, close to death, he began to take stock of the years of mistreatment he had suffered at the hands of a woman he loved - and who insisted she loved him..
Just hours earlier on that Nov. 2, 1995, afternoon, his wife had pointed a Cooey hunting rifle at his head, pulled the trigger and then beat him with the butt of the rifle as he tried to escape..
Alexander describes his days since the shooting like "going to sleep and waiting for the alarm to go and wake me up."
But the nightmare for Alexander didn't end at a sentencing hearing Friday in Whitby for his estranged wife, Christine Alexander. The 48-year-old woman was convicted this summer of attempted murder in the shooting of her husband..
Due to an unexpected delay, the hearing won't conclude until Nov. 28 when a sentence will be delivered..
Alexander's family is still haunted by the events of that afternoon, and he suffers from chronic headaches, anxiety and short-term memory loss..
On the day of the shooting, Alexander, who was already living with a friend, went to the family home, where his wife was still living, to move the last of her possessions..
He said it was one of the few days they actually talked. In fact, he said, she seemed very calm and loving, and it was the first time in years he felt close again to her. They had sex that day, the court heard..
But then when the moving resumed, Alexander testified his wife cornered him in the basement and shot him at close range with the rifle - the same rifle she had taken to Gagnon Sports store in Oshawa a week earlier, desperate to have it fixed..
The gun blast sliced through Alexander's jaw, cut his carotid artery and stopped two millimetres from his spine. Stumbling in shock, Alexander managed to rip a piece off a basement door to escape his wife's violent swings with the rifle..
A jury heard that Alexander's wife stood over his bleeding body screaming: "I'm sorry. I love you. If I can't have you then nobody can."
Christine Alexander denied having screamed those words..
Leaving the Bowmanville home, he finally collapsed in front of his neighbour's home and wrote on a piece of paper that his wife had shot him..
At the sentencing hearing in Ontario Court, general division, on Friday, Crown attorney Lisa Cameron pointed to prior cases involving domestic assault, but was cautious about relying on those cases since the 47-year-old man doesn't fit the typical profile of an abused spouse..
He was the abused husband..
As uncommon as this sounds, just last week at a meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Toronto, an American psychologist presented findings that indicated female violence against men - while usually less physically harmful - is just as frequent..
It's also the topic of a newly released book by Toronto author Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad: Violent Women And the Myth Of Innocence..
But in Durham Region, rated second highest in Canada in the number of reported domestic abuse cases, this is the first husband abuse case recorded, said Penny Contreras, co-ordinator of the Victim Witness Assistance Program. "It's a bit of a role reversal," said Detective Sergeant Dan McMullan, head of Durham police homicide squad, referring to Alexander's case..
"It's a very unique case," Contreras agreed, also downplaying the prevalence of the crime against male partners..
"I don't think in anyway should it take away the attention of the seriousness of wife assault," she said..
But both agree there could be more abuse cases against men that go unreported..
"Certainly an embarrassment for a woman to come forward, and it's also an embarrassment for men, for what I imagine are different reasons," McMullan said..
"I can't imagine a bunch of guys sitting around a bar on Friday night talking about their wives or girlfriends physically abusing them," he said..
But it wasn't macho pride that kept Alexander away from the police even when his stocky, 5-foot-2 wife pointed a rifle at him as he showered or when she assaulted him with a knife. It was a desire to help her, he said..
"I don't hate her for what she has done. I never have. I just think she needs help," said Alexander..
So without going to police after years of enduring abuse, Alexander finally said he just wanted out..
"It's hard to believe all this happened (the shooting) when all I ever wanted was a simple separation," he said outside court Friday..
Over the last five years of his decaying marriage, the domestic abuse pattern emerged: the arguments with his wife turned to shouting matches, the shouting turned to threats, the threats turned to assaults, the assaults got worse with knives and guns and it all ended with a bullet..
However, their relationship wasn't one built on violence..
Alexander met his wife in 1973 on stage during a hypnotist's show in the Isle of Man..
They came separately to the island that sits between Christine's homeland of Scotland and Ireland, from where David was visiting. They were standing side-by-side on stage among a group of tourists, and the hypnotist tried to seduce them into a trance..
The hypnosis didn't take hold of the couple, but that introduction on stage was the beginning of a relationship that would eventually bring the pair to an altar in Scotland..
After their wedding, they moved to Canada and had two sons, David, now 19, and Robert, 17..
Alexander described their marriage as a happy one in those days, and says Christine was "a wonderful wife." It was only in the final five years of the marriage that things fell apart..
Cameron is asking Christine Alexander be sentenced to 11 years in prison..
At the sentencing hearing Friday, Mr. Justice Alf Strong heard that, while incarcerated at the Whitby jail from November, 1995, until this summer, had 10 misconducts on her record..
The mother of two sat during the hearing writing notes and glancing back occasionally to smile and wave at her sons..
Alexander, a family friend and the couple's two sons sat stone-faced in the back row..

Copyright © 1996, 1997, The Toronto Star..