By NO MORE Staff – Kate Ranta met Thomas Maffei online. She was a busy single mom with a three-year-old son, and many of her friends encouraged her to try Match.com. At the very least, she thought she’d get a couple of fun dates out of it.
Maffei, a handsome older Air Force officer, fell for her immediately. They were engaged in three months, married in six.
“He was extremely handsome and charismatic,” she says. “We seemed to click instantly. He was divorced, like me. We’d been through similar things. I thought we were coming from the same place. He seemed very together.”
She got pregnant right away.
“Looking back, I realize that he wanted to move really fast, but I lost myself in the relationship,” Ranta says. She was in love.
Early on, Maffei exhibited controlling behavior—he refused to let her cook, and he insisted that she avoid all social media. He eventually relented and let her join Facebook, if she cleared her friends with him first. “He told me that it opened the doors to infidelity,” she says.
He did insist that she work and make her own money, because he wouldn’t let her see his bank accounts.
“When I was growing up, nobody talked about domestic violence,” Ranta says. “And, if you did hear about anything, it was physical. My parents will be together 46 years next month—I didn’t witness any abuse, and I didn’t know what to look for,” she says. “Looking back, I realize I wasn’t even fully participating in my own life. I was in a bubble.”
She rationalized his actions. How bad could things be? The couple had a generally comfortable life in Fort Belvoir, Virginia; her friends and family liked him; and he was an attentive new dad.
In 2010, Ranta suggested moving to Coral Springs, Florida, where she could be closer to her parents. To her surprise, Maffei agreed.
“Then his behavior became completely erratic,” she recalls. “He told me that if any men outside of family members tried to befriend me on Facebook, I had to tell him.” When a male high school friend reached out, Maffei turned violent.
“The law is set up to protect attackers, not victims.”
He left their home with their son in the middle of the night. Ranta called 911. He returned home, raised his fist, and threatened to hit her. When the police arrived, Ranta fled the house and stayed with her parents.
“I was done. Terrified. That one incident alone completely scared me, because I didn’t know what he was capable of,” she says.
She was able to secure a temporary restraining order, though she was refused a permanent one. “The law is set up to protect attackers, not victims,” she says.
Eventually, she and her two children stealthily moved from her parents’ house to their own apartment, not telling Maffei where they’d gone.
Then she saw her slashed tires in the parking lot. He’d found her.
On November 2, 2012, she was at home with her father and younger son when she spotted Maffei through the window, coming toward the front door. She dialed 911.
And then the shots rang out. She was hit twice, once in the left breast. The bullet missed her heart by millimeters. Her father was also hit twice in the arm and side as he tried to keep his son-in-law from barreling through the door. Their little boy sat by and sobbed (Ranta’s older son was visiting his father.)
The dispatcher stayed on the phone as Maffei fired; the frantic call was later made public. Ranta was airlifted to the hospital, where she received blood transfusions. Miraculously, she and her dad survived.
Maffei was arrested at the scene, and he’s now awaiting trial in a Florida prison.
But Ranta’s journey has just begun. “For the first year after it happened, I didn’t feel safe. I was looking over my shoulder. It’s no way to live – sheer survival, just getting through day to day,” she says. She wore a panic button around her neck and installed a security system in her home, which was flagged by police.
But it didn’t help much. “I was always looking in the mirror, wondering who was behind me,” she says. Her son, who grew clingy after the shooting, received counseling through a state-funded trauma group.
Now, Ranta says, “He tells people that he has no father.”
“Trust your instincts,” she urges. “I recognized his weird statements and behavior, but I blew it off. I just wanted the relationship to work. But any controlling behavior is a red flag. As soon as you see it, just let go of the relationship. Get out. Don’t look back!”
Learn about the warning signs for potentially abusive relationships here.
Learn how to help yourself or a loved one remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after leaving a relationship here.
About The Contributor
NO MORE is a new unifying symbol designed to galvanize greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Supported by major organizations working to address these urgent issues, #NOMORE is gaining support with Americans nationwide, sparking new conversations about these problems and moving this cause higher on the public agenda.