#DVAM 2017/Does Talking About Domestic Violence Really Make a Difference?

While de-cluttering my bedroom recently, I found an old magazine that reprinted my first published article in 1993. First posted in Alaska Women Speak, later in The Radical, I wrote it about the epidemic of domestic violence.

 

How novel it seemed at the time to be writing about what was then considered to be a deeply personal matter. Pre-O.J.Simpson trial. Pre United States Surgeon stating that domestic violence was (then) a leading cause of injury to women in certain age brackets.

It was truly wonderful to be a part of making a positive difference. Along with the other domestic violence advocates, I got to give a series of presentations and trainings. Trainings for judges, police officers, and employers. Presentations for clergy and public assistance workers, concerned citizens, and eventually for doctors, once it was confirmed how many victims presented with mental and physical injuries that needed attention. No matter who our audience was, we encouraged people to get a little nosy. “Ask when you see injuries if you have a private moment with the possible victim. Address concerns in a non-judgmental way.” Easier said than done.

Below is from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Initiating this conversation can be difficult. Some tips to help:

Tell what you see “I noticed a bruise on your arm…”
Express concern “I am worried about you.”
Show support “No one deserves to be hurt.”
Refer them for help “I have the phone number to…”

If your friend begins to talk about the abuse:

Just Listen: Listening can be one of the best ways to help. Don’t imagine you will be the one person to “save” you friend. Instead, recognize that it takes a lot of strength and courage to live with an abusive partner, and understand your role as a support person.

Keep it Confidential: Don’t tell other people that they may not want or be ready to tell. If there is a direct threat of violence, tell them that you both need to tell someone right away.

Provide Information, Not Advice: Give them the phone number to the helpline (1.866.834.HELP) or to their local domestic violence resource center. Be careful about giving advice. They know best how to judge the risks they face.

Be There and Be Patient: Coping with abuse takes time. Your friend may not do what you expect them to do when you expect them to do it. If you think it is your responsibility to fix the problems, you may end up feeling frustrated. Instead, focus on building trust, and be patient.

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This past year, I’ve had the chance to join domestic violence advocates in a number of community presentations since publishing my memoir.

Abuse in relationships is still far too common, and well over 1,000 women every year die because of it in the United States alone. Millions of kids are still being raised in homes witnessing domestic violence.

It’s natural to wonder Are we making a difference?

Then I had coffee with my friend Ruth. She used to manage the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) shelter I worked at 20 years ago and we left our jobs around the same time. Now on blood thinners, Ruth bruises like a banana.

“Does anyone ask you about the bruising?” I asked.

“All the time,” she told me. She’s been asked by friends and strangers alike if she’s okay. “Even the groundskeepers downtown have asked me if I was safe.”

So Happy 30th Birthday to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and to all who’ve stuck their neck out to ensure we’re making progress.

I encourage you all to become a part of the conversation and part of the solution when opportunities arise. Or donate to or volunteer at your local shelter.

As a side, I’m grateful to my friends at AWAIC for honoring me for sharing my story. Without them, there would be no story.


Thanks for stopping by.

Four Thank You’s and An Apology/Publishing My Memoir

 

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Next month, my memoir will be published, and just after that, I’ll have my book launch.

It may not seem like much, writing 80,000 words (give or take) and getting them published, but for me, it’s been monumental. And while I went to great effort to thank people in my Acknowledgment section – those who helped me find my kidnapped daughters, the people who later helped me to raise them, and who were above-and-beyond supportive as I wrote my story- it turns out that it doesn’t come close to a complete list.

Four Thank You’s.

Thank you to my family, near and far, from daughters to siblings, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins, I’ve been so fortunate to have your support. The book covers my childhood and young adulthood when family dysfunction ruled, when I felt all alone and believed I always would be. Each of your social media shares, every text, email, or contact through my website has positively made the stress of this effort so worth it, and I hope in the end, you’ll be proud.

To my fellow She Writes authors, thank you for connecting daily on our Facebook page. I’ve loved learning from your experiences, getting to know some of you and exchanging our books for blog interviews or reviews, and sharing the journey on our path to publication. It’s become a sisterhood I will always treasure.

Thank you also to the non-profits and other sponsors partnering with me to launch Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters in October:

  •  The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s (UAA) Consortium Library
  • UAA’s Pre-Law Society, Alaska Book Week, Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC)
  •   Green Dot Anchorage
  • Victims for Justice Eva Project
  •  YWCA Alaska

Thank you for joining my effort to kick off the launch during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Together, we’ll make a positive impact on our community.

To my friends, old and new, thank you for your excitement about Pieces of Me. It’s contagious. Your shared enthusiasm has resulted in two gift shops asking to consign books, a radio interview, book clubs, and more speaking engagements. Finally, I have confidence in my book.

An apology.

I was so tickled last week to get a late night message through my website’s Contact button from the Republican Women’s Group in the MatSu Valley, requesting I speak about the late Senator Steven’s efforts to aid me in rescuing my daughters in the mid 90’s.

And then it hit me: I’d completely forgot to thank Senator Stevens in my Acknowledgments section.

photo courtesy of UAF

Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens was haunted by my Alaskan support network from 1994-96, especially by my former supervisor and now dear friend, Heather Flynn. At one point, Heather arranged a calling tree to his office. My friends at Faith Daycare and Learning Center took turns ringing his DC number all day long when my case heated up. After my arrest in Greece, he called the American Embassy to make sure the girls and I were safe, reinforcing to the Embassy staff that we were important to Alaska.

I’m sickened by the omission, and will do what I can to get this error corrected in the second printing.

Thank you, always and forever to Senator Stevens and his talented staff.

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is available now for pre-orders through your local bookstore, library, or on Amazon. The first launch is on October 5,2016 at the UAA Bookstore upstairs in Anchorage from 5-7PM.

Click here to find out what others are saying about my book.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen and Learn/The Secret to Being a Good Advocate

Sometimes, I learn the most when I simply listen.

I phoned one of my brothers a few days ago. As we were catching up, he mentioned that he and his wife took an out of state trip to Michigan from Kentucky by car. How did he decide on Michigan?




“I wanted to see a car museum, and my wife loves quilting, so I got online and found a location where we could do both.”

This, from my oldest brother who is all thumbs with computers, and whose wife doesn’t travel easily due to health problems. It wasn’t a simple trip, but they both had a wonderful time.


I’ve repeated this story a few times to married  friends this week, and it always seems to catch at the back of their throats, this act of uncommon chivalry more than 50 years into a marriage.

Later, I attended my oldest daughter’s ultimate frisbee tournament.  My more secretive daughter used her quick break from frisbee-playing to visit. She told me that her new boyfriend had objected greatly to her playing frisbee. It kept her away from him, and he maligned her participation on the team. My eyes may have widened, but I said nothing. “And I told him he should be supportive of my hobbies and interests if he wants to be with me,” my daughter said before she re-joined her team.

She’d paid attention. All those years of talking about the signs of abusive relationships had taken root.

When my daughter was a toddler, I got my first and perhaps best job as a domestic violence advocate at the local battered women’s agency. 

We gave clients access to information like the online handout  below from AWAIC. There, I learned the art of active listening. Active listening was followed up with a referral. No one should have to suffer alone, nor should they feel pressured or judged by professionals or loved ones to make the difficult choices ahead. As my girls grew up, I showed them the handouts I used with clients to start conversations, both about my work, and about safe relationships.

How is your relationship?
Does your partner:
  • Embarrass you with put-downs?

  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you? 

Listen and refer. That was the essential role of the advocate, as well as safety planning.

We all have opinions about how relationships should go. We want the best for our loved ones. We know they deserve to be treated well. We know emotional abuse is often the first sign of what will later become an violent relationship. 

Do you have a friend or loved one who you think is in an unhealthy relationship?


Listen and refer. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can find resources accessible to your loved one.

Do you know of an especially healthy relationship that inspires you?

Talk it up with your circle of friends! We can set these examples as our new normal.

P.S. Want to see my in-progress author page?
  
Please go to https://www.facebook.com/lizbethmeredithfan and Like me! Thanks! 

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