Abusive relationships often involve power imbalances. One person prevails, dominates, and uses labeled words or actions to control their partner, while the other has nothing to protect themselves. Unfortunately, this type of domestic violence isn’t easy to spot because it’s often subtle — and that’s what the survey found, “Your Worst Nightmare: Never Let Go” shows. This episode chronicles the story of Karen Widows, who was attacked by her ex-partner at the age of 16, and reveals how and when things can go wrong. So, let’s find out everything about her, shall we?
Who is Karen Widows?
Wisnomin, Philadelphia resident Karen Widdoss was strangled, stabbed, beaten, raped and left to fend for herself in the 1990s by an abusive and possessive ex-boyfriend. It all started when 13-year-old sweet and innocent started a relationship with 17-year-old Leonard Tilton. At first, their relationship seemed to be filled with love and understanding, but after two years together, Karen decided to move on and make friends again, and broke up with him.
Despite his controlling nature, he seemed to be fine with breakups, she said. So she moved on, thinking he would do the same. But that didn’t happen at all. Leonard would call Karen from time to time to see how she was doing, but she didn’t mind because he had been a big part of her life for some time. So they were good friends until the day she started getting hang up calls and realized he was stalking her.
Karen then changed her phone number, but this only resulted in Leonard using letters to contact her, where he wrote disturbing and distressing details about his and her life. Finally, one June morning a year later, Leonard woke her by throwing rocks at her window. Karen didn’t want him there, so they had a brief argument, after which he disappeared and she went back to bed. But it didn’t take long for Karen to wake up when Leonard stroked Karen’s feet. She was startled, ran downstairs and told him to leave immediately.
But his response was kind of like, “Can I strangle you?” That’s when everything changed. Leonard grabbed Karen by the neck and lifted her from the floor until she passed out, changed her clothes to put her on a skirt, and raped her. Then he stabbed her in the chest with a butcher’s knife. Karen quickly regains consciousness when she sees Leonard drop the gun, kiss her on the lips and tell her he loves her. Leonard then covered her with sheets and pushed her under her sister’s old bed, where he let her bleed and die.
Where is Karen Widows now?
Against all odds, Karen Widows managed to survive. She put her hands on her chest, crawled out from under the bed, and stumbled into her room, knowing she could call 911 from her cell phone. She was murdered and brought back to finish her off. He beat her all over before leaving forever. But Karen is alive and determined to live. So she drags the bloody, half-naked body out of the house until real help comes.
Karen’s stab wound was deep, just an inch from her heart, but she managed to make a full recovery. Today, Karen Widows turns her tragic ordeal and her status as a survivor into something positive. As a public speaker campaigning for victims’ rights in Pennsylvania and the United States of America, she now works to ensure that no one has to go through what she went through.
Her mission is to give every victim and survivor of violent crime a voice, sharing details of their own experiences and proving they are not alone. What’s more, Karen, now married, passed Karen’s law last year in Pennsylvania. The law, named after Karen herself, narrows the process for re-applying for parole for sexual violence offenders and ensures they stay behind bars for as long as possible.
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