The four syllables of the word independent sound gilded coming from Sandy Shaver's mouth.
It sounds like the holiest word in the English language.
Achieving it sounds like the best thing that ever happened to her.
For 13 years, Shaver felt like she was anything but free. She was stuck in what her victims advocate called a "level 10" cycle of domestic abuse that was inflamed when she became wheelchair bound in 2004, following the first of two strokes.
She said the stress of living with her abuser exacerbated a condition that already made her prone to switch-like mood swings.
"When (my ex-husband) was home, he would be in a good mood, then a bad mood and then he'd start breaking stuff," Shaver said, her voice muffled and fingers not quite clicking a finger snap, both side effects of multiple strokes.
But now, Shaver, who also suffers from multiple sclerosis, has a cell phone that she doesn't need to worry about her ex-husband finding and destroying. She now proudly hangs an original painting instead of hiding it. And she has a laptop, which she saved for and bought on her own, that can help her to someday keep tabs on the man she and the advocate say tormented her for so long.
Carson City recently became the 13th county in Nevada to join the Victim Information and Notification Everyday program, which allows victims to keep tabs on offenders in custody. It's not yet applicable for Shaver, as her ex-husband is on the lam with multiple warrants out for his arrest. But when he does get caught, she said it would give her peace of mind.
"It makes you feel more secure," she said.
It is also another layer of support for domestic violence victims, one that empowers them to live independently, victims advocate Frankee Haynes said.
"I think the VINE program solidifies that for them," she said.
It can help the victim prepare for the abuser's release from incarceration or just give them the ability to look online or make a phone call to ensure they are still behind bars, she said.
She said the peace of mind is important because cases like Shaver's aren't uncommon. Haynes, who's worked with Shaver for years, said the ex-husband would often disappear for months at a time. Shaver and her son would relax, order pizza, have a movie night. Then her husband would return and demand to be in charge of their lives again, going as far as shattering windows and splintering apartment doors to re-insert himself.
Then it would hit violent lows: He would dump food and beer on his wheelchair-bound wife, leading to a neighbor's 911 call that sounds like "a woman is getting murdered in there," Haynes said, recalling the caller's reaction. Or another time, when she was punched in the head, thrown out of the car with her wheelchair, and left road-rashed and bleeding in the street, Haynes and Shaver said.
Shaver wanted to emphasize that victims of domestic violence don't need to hit those lows before reaching out for help. She noted all the help available in Carson City, from churches to nonprofits to the local government. And Haynes said that her program is always there for victims who are ready to break the cycle, and it holds no judgment for those that relapse.
Shaver smiled in her wheelchair, her computer's bubble screensaver dancing across the screen behind her, as she encouraged victims to call 911, to file police reports and to seek help to break the violence.
"Because if I can do it," she said, letting the sentence fade into the giddy laughter of someone who is again independent.