Dianne Bentley – Strength in the Face of Domestic Abuse
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on September 23, 2015.
Governor Robert Bentley abused Dianne Bentley emotionally, psychologically, and verbally. The abuse started when Rebekah Mason became Bentley's closest advisor and lover during the governor' first term in office. Bentley's domestic abuse of Dianne was pervasive, degrading, and ugly, and his malicious words and deeds, ultimately left Dianne feeling irrelevant, disgraced, and utterly inadequate.
As Bentley's romance with Rebekah Mason heated up, so did his abuse of Dianne. Though not physical in nature, Bentley's abusive conduct was so disparaging towards Dianne that even the couple's four sons and some of his grandchildren have felt the need to disassociate from him.
Once Bentley became governor, he changed. He was no longer the kind and gentle man his children and grandchildren had known all their lives. Everyone noticed how Bentley's respect for Dianne began to wane. This became particularly evident after he began spending more intimate, personal time with Rebekah, the attractive 43-year-old mother of three. As a result of his newfound relationship, Bentley began to manifest an oversized ego and an inflated sense of importance. He constantly talked down to Dianne, berating her over the smallest of things, and he increasingly treated her in a mean-spirited manner.
Bentley had become a man Dianne didn't recognize. He was enamored with the trappings of the governor's office – the trooper escorts, use of the state airplane, global travels, access to dignitaries and celebrities, life in the Governor's mansion, wining and dining Rebekah like a billionaire at Winston Blount's magnificent $28 million estate, along with all the other high-life perks that come with being called "Governor". Bentley had gone from obscurity as a little-known Tuscaloosa legislator/dermatologist to rock-star status as governor, and he simply could not handle it.
As the governor's domestic abuse of Dianne escalated, state trooper Wendell Ray Lewis grew progressively more impatient and distressed by the governor's actions and progressively more concerned for and protective of Dianne.
After taking office, Bentley brought Lewis from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery, where he became a member of the governor's inner circle. Lewis had a tremendous amount of respect for Bentley when Lewis first arrived for his executive security work in Montgomery. The governor made sure that Lewis was well compensated for his work and that he was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant. Once Lewis became a lieutenant, Bentley placed him in command of the governor's executive security detail.
As Bentley's protector and confidant, Lewis saw two disturbing character flaws emerge in Bentley that bothered him deeply: Bentley's growing degradation of Dianne and his blossoming romance with Rebekah. In the span of a few years, Lewis witnessed the governor's transformation from a practicing deacon at the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa to an adulterer and domestic abuser.
Lewis, who holds strong Christian beliefs, formed a close professional relationship with Dianne. He admired and respected the First Lady for her character, class, and principled life. The two talked often and remain close friends today.
Lewis retired from the trooper force a few months ago, in part, because he was powerless to stop Bentley's marital infidelity and psychological abuse of Dianne. Because of his strong admiration for and loyalty to the First Lady, Lewis could no longer function comfortably in the duplicitous environment of deceit, betrayal, and abuse perpetrated by Bentley on Dianne. Lewis' loyalty to Mrs. Bentley's devout Christian values trumped the Governor's efforts to curry favor with him through the award of promotions and enormous overtime pay.
Lewis' efforts to get the governor to stop his illicit love affair with Rebekah were unsuccessful. Bentley would not listen to Lewis just as he refused to listen to anyone else broaching the subject of the governor's relationship with Rebekah.
Ironically, during her first term as First Lady, Mrs. Bentley chose awareness for domestic violence prevention as her platform to make a difference. Because she is a staunch advocate for healthy marriages and families, Bentley's pervasive domestic abuse, coupled with his marital infidelity, was something Dianne Bentley just could not bear. On August 26, 2015, she reaffirmed her platform as she signed her name to a sworn divorce complaint against her husband of 50 years.
The divorce filing caught the governor by complete surprise. He was stunned, angry, and visibly shaken. This time, there was nothing Bentley could do to hurt Dianne emotionally. He had already alienated her affection, abused her emotionally, and dishonored her 50 years of unconditional love and support. She was done.
Dianne's filing for divorce signaled to the world that she would not live a lie. She was prepared to endure whatever public shame and embarrassment flowed from her divorce filing, suffer any act of retaliation or revenge from the Governor and his henchmen, and bear the heavy burden of starting life over again at 72 years old.
In the end, Dianne Bentley set herself free from her husband's domestic abuse and martial cheating. In the process, she preserved her dignity as a woman and legacy as First Lady.
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