The horror of domestic abuse told in Peabody

Danielle Sicard tells of her near-death experience at the hands of her ex-husband. She cautions anyone who thinks they are in an abusive relationship to trust their instincts and get help. (Thomas Grillo)

PEABODY — It’s been nearly six years since Danielle Sicard’s husband was sentenced to 2½  years following his conviction in a violent assault on her in their home. But the 50-year-old mother of four still looks over her shoulder. 

While her ex-husband, James T. Sicard, 50, served time, his seven years of probation is scheduled to end in 2020. While a lifetime restraining order will remain, the Easton Town Clerk said that’s no guarantee.

“What will a restraining order do?” she said. “He will probably do this again.”

Sicard told her story to a hushed crowd at Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s annual Joint Domestic Violence Roundtable in the Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody City Hall.  

Before April 4, 2013, Danielle Sicard said there was never an instance of domestic abuse and police were never called to their house in their 20-year marriage. But three weeks prior, and after six years of failed marriage counseling, she told her husband she wanted a divorce.

While he appeared to handle the news well, she said her life was nearly ended on that April morning.

While the couple were separated and had a written agreement  that he was not allowed in her bedroom, he entered that morning after their children had gone to school, she said.

James Sicard told her he was going to perform a relaxation technique he learned from his acupuncturist. He asked her to sit at the edge of the bed and put his hand on her shoulder and on her chin and told her to relax. She remembers telling him it wasn’t working as a relaxation technique, and minutes later he violently twisted her head, and tried to snap her neck, she said.

“I tried to talk him out of it, asking him ‘Do you really want to kill me and leave our children without a mother,’ ” she said, “I asked him to get one of the guns he had in the house and I will kill myself. But he grabbed me, threw me on the bed where we struggled.”

She stopped fighting in the hope he would think she were dead and she could escape, Sicard said. 

“I knew I was going to die, I passed out several times,” she said.  He later took her to the bathroom to get a drink of water where he brushed her hair, she recalled. 

The two of them walked downstairs where, she said, he raped her on the stairs. Eventually, she managed to get away and drove to her mother’s house where she was taken to the hospital.

When Sicard told authorities to send police to their home because she feared her husband might kill himself, they said they had already been called and her husband told them she had attacked him.

At the conclusion of the nine-day trial in Bristol County, the jury convicted him of aggravated assault and battery. He was acquitted of attempted murder, rape and intimidating a witness.

Defense attorney James Caramanica had argued that Sicard’s wife lured him to the home with an offer of sex. He told the court his wife became outraged during a discussion and that he tried to restrain her, receiving cuts and scratches. James Sicard alleged her injuries resulted from restraining her.

Looking back, Danielle Sicard said the lesson is trust your instincts.

“If you are in an abusive relationship, or are not sure if you’re in an abusive relationship, believe in yourself. I wished I had listened to that voice long ago.”

In closing, Blodgett, the event’s host, said: “Domestic violence is a murder waiting to happen.” 

Lynn Deputy Police Chief Leonard Desmaris, who attended the 90-minute session, said Sicard’s story is a cautionary tale.

“If someone is abusing you, even if it’s not physical, if someone is constantly verbally abusing you, running you down, or treating you with disrespect, it could be headed to a bad place, and you should take action.”

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