A woman who was allegedly raped by her husband Monday at a Charlotte elementary school had filed a protective order against him earlier that day, saying that he'd threatened to kill her.
Experts say Monday's attack is an example of the extreme brutality victims of domestic violence experience and that sexual assault is a tactic often used by abusers to assert control over their victims. Sexual assault or forced sex happens in about 40-45 percent of abusive relationships, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The victim in Monday's alleged attack called officers on Sunday to report a domestic disturbance at her home, according to the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office. No report was apparently taken, and no one was charged.
But the next morning, the woman filed a domestic violence protective order against her 40-year-old husband, asking that he be ordered to stay away from her home, workplace and their children's schools. It also asked that he be ordered to attend an abuser treatment program.
In the order, she wrote that on Saturday he'd threatened to burn the house down and "harm anyone who gets in his way." She also wrote that in April 2010, he had looked through her phone and accused her of having an affair. Then, he "threatened to kill me, hit me, and raped me," she wrote.
Around 4:15 p.m. Monday - only hours after she had filed the protective order - her husband went to Merry Oaks International Academy, where his wife works, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
The suspect reportedly tied up his wife and raped her.
Police said another school employee walked in during the attack and got into a "brief altercation" with the suspect, who then fled. He was soon arrested.
The suspect remained in Mecklenburg jail Wednesday, facing several charges that include rape, kidnapping, assault on a female and communicating threats. The Observer is not naming him to protect his wife's identity.
Records show the suspect had not previously been charged with any domestic violence-related crimes, but according to the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office, officers responded to another domestic disturbance in March 2010 at a home records show as the couple's former address.
It's unclear whether the couple was separated.
Mike Sexton, a spokesman for the Mecklenburg County Women's Commission, said sexual assault is common in cases of domestic violence.
"Sexual abuse is just another way of using intimidation," Sexton said. "It's about telling the victim that they can do whatever they want with them."
Most states did not consider rape of a spouse a crime until the 1970s, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Until 1993, N.C. law said a person could not be charged with raping his spouse unless they were living apart. Now state law says that someone can be charged with rape "whether or not the victim is the person's legal spouse at the time of the commission of the alleged rape or sexual offense."
Monday's attack also raises questions about the effectiveness of restraining orders, but Sexton said they still have value because they put a batterer's pattern of abuse on record.
"But if the guy has in his mind that he doesn't care what the court tells him to...he's going to do whatever he pleases anyway," Sexton said.
He said domestic violence victims can strengthen the protection of restraining orders by giving copies of orders and their abuser's photo to employers or alert workplace security officers. If children are involved, the order should be given to schools and daycares, Sexton said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools offered little comment on the incident, and it's unclear whether officials knew that the victim's husband might be a danger. Staff researcher Maria David and staff writer Lukas Johnson contributed.