Readers will get the opportunity to look inside the darkest days of Barbara Sheehan’s life with the release of the new book “In Bed With the Badge: The Barbara Sheehan Story,” set for release in mid-late summer this year.
The Howard Beach resident is awaiting an appeal to overturn her conviction on a gun charge in the murder trial that followed the 2008 shooting death of her husband Raymond Sheehan Sr.
The book was written by her children, Jennifer Sheehan Joyce and Raymond M., in an attempt to chronicle the family’s trip through horror at the hands of an abusive husband and father. “We really wanted people to be aware of the warning signs,” said Barbara Sheehan in an interview with The Forum. Sheehan says in retrospect, she realizes how many signs there were to warn about the dangers of a relationship with her husband. An open-dialogue in the book discusses the controversial defense known as Battered Women’s Syndrome.
“Looking back, I see all the signs so clearly in front of me now; they were there — plain as day. I just had no idea what they meant.” She continues, recounting many instances of her first years with Ray Sheehan as a teenager. “I was 17 years old, and he would want me to call him every step of the way when we were not together,” she remembered. “I would be on my way home or to the beach with my friends while he was working, and he would want me to call him and let him know about every breath I was taking.”
The former school secretary sees now, she says, how important it is for people to recognize the telling signs that display themselves early on in potentially abusive relationships. “That’s what this book is about, it’s about helping people see these things before they get in too deep. Before they’re physically and emotionally trapped and battered.”
Releasing the book is just one step in her commitment to educate people about the destructive, dark forces of domestic violence. Sheehan has vowed, whether an appellate court overturns her conviction or not, to work toward that cause. “I’ll be doing my work from a correctional facility or from my house,” she said firmly, “but I’ll be doing the work from someplace.”
The work as she refers to has already begun with her involvement in programs both for domestic violence and incarceration alternatives for young women. Sheehan is working on helping out with a program at Riker’s Island, known as STEPS. Founded back in 1986, it is run by a small team of social workers, advocates and lawyers. They take a scheduled number of cases each year where defendants are victims of domestic violence and have an open criminal case related to their histories of abuse. For Mother’s Day this year, Barbara and several friends and relatives are providing home cooked meals and desserts for participants in the program.
“It’s a small way to show these women that there still remains an opportunity to get help and to have normalcy in their lives with something simple like celebrating a holiday.” Domestic violence, Sheehan says, strips every ounce of what is perceived by society as “normal.” “It leaves you in a place where none of that is even recognizable.” She said a portion of the proceeds from the book will go toward programs and public awareness.
Sheehan continues to await her appeal which could take up to a year and a half after the trial, having lost her job as a school secretary because of her felony conviction. She was acquitted on murder charges and one other gun charge; however the charge on which she was convicted could result in a minimum of five years in prison.
Her hope for the book is that it will reach women and families who are in need of information to help them before their personal experiences with domestic violence go too far. “If I had known what to look for, if someone had labeled it so clearly for me,” her voice trails off, “then maybe it would have been different.”
The book will be available through Amazon.com and in bookstores.
By Patricia Adams