#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.

The Amazing Role of a Domestic Violence Advocate/Interview with Nicole Stanish

  “I don’t understand how you can do that work. It must be so depressing.”

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You get used to hearing that sort of comment when working in the trenches of domestic violence (DV). I used to hear it a lot 20 years ago when I was a DV advocate, but now the question was posed to domestic violence advocate/program manager at Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) ,Nicole Stanish, whom I worked with during some DV Awareness Month events.

She answered graciously, but later I followed up with a few questions of my own. It took her nanoseconds to respond, a sure sign of someone who loves her job.

What led you to working with domestic violence victims?

When I was 12 I read a book about Covenant House and knew that one day I would be a social worker. When I was in college, working towards my social work degree, my professor gave us an assignment to write a paper on a social service agency and she suggested that I might like AWAIC. So I interviewed the Shelter Manager for my paper and she suggested I come to volunteer training, which I did, and then I fell in love with AWAIC and began volunteering a couple of nights a week. Later, when a position opened up I applied.

What do you like best about your job?

The best part of DV work is connecting with people. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, even though they can be sad, and offering them whatever strength, compassion and understanding that I can. We are all human and we all have our struggles and people benefit the most from having a non-judgmental person support them through a hard time.

What is the worst part?

The worst part of DV work is seeing someone who has so much potential continue to go back to her abuser, back to her addictions, lose her children, and continue to spiral farther down. It is hard to have high hopes for a person only to see them continue to get into worse and worse situations. I wish that there was a way for me to transfer all of my hope and faith into them to help them succeed.

 What are some things you want people to know about how they can help?

We all have the power to make a difference. We are all humans and have struggles and fall down. And we are all capable of compassion, understanding, and the ability to reach out to someone who is having a hard time and help them.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone. If you are fortunate enough to never have had it happen to you- do not judge those who are currently experiencing it. Domestic violence is very complex and very hard to break free from. If you know someone who is living with domestic violence, just be there for them. Let them know that they deserve all the good in the world and that you will always be a person that they can turn to. Don’t give up on them.


For more ideas on how you can get involved with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, click here. Thank you to Nicole Stanish for doing great work to impact change.

 

 

A Very Big Dream for a Very Small Life/ Book Buzz for Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters

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It’s the end of September, and the beginning of my dream.

Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has found itself a home with some readers around the globe already. Thank you so much for that, and thank you also to those of who’ve reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads. It is truly a gift.

 

In the past two weeks, I’ve been interviewed for television with Tracy Sinclare at KTUU  in Alaska and enjoyed speaking with Lori Townsend at Alaska Public Radio Network.

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Buzzfeed included Pieces of Me in their Five Memoirs that Remind Us of the Meaning of Family and the Culturalist named it in the Top 10 Inspirational Books to Take on Your Next Journey.

Books by Women kindly published an essay I wrote about the journey to becoming an author,

None of these things would be possible without the work of Sparkpoint Studio and a receptive writing community, social media shares by family and friends, and the local community around me.

My memoir has had a promising start. And I hope it will continue to start important conversations about domestic violence.

I timed the actual book release and upcoming launch carefully. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the US, a chance to shine the light on a problem that impacts all of us, directly or indirectly. It’s a chance for victim-serving agencies to connect with the community. I’m proud to be involved and I hope you will do the same.

Click here for more information.

It was well over 20 years ago when I grabbed up my little girls and found safety at an overcrowded dormitory-style battered women’s shelter. Back then, I dreamed of safety. Then of getting my own place. Having mattresses to sleep on. Getting off food stamps. I’ve been so very fortunate that all of those dreams came true, and many more for both me and my daughters.

But there are a lot of other victims who need help. Offenders who need support and accountability to change. Children who need hope.

Before dreams can come true, the nightmares must end. All of us can make a difference.

Thanks always for stopping by. Next month, I’ll have at least one advocate serving domestic violence victims as my guest.

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Domestic Violence, Our Civil War

 It’s the end of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

thumb3I scooted back home from Australia just in time to have the honor of being interviewed by Tom Randell at KSRM Radio about my upcoming e-book, When Push Comes to Shove. How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused.

 

It was such fun to re-connect with my old friend Tom, whom I knew from high school, that I’m afraid I got off track with this topic that impacts so many.

Let me share a snippet from my e-book:

The number of troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was listed as 6,488 as of October 2014.  The number of American women killed during the same time period totaled 11, 766.

People should be safe in relationships.

Do you know someone who’s being abused?

Have them call 1-800-799-SAFE.  And as soon as my e-book becomes available, I’ll post it here.

Thanks for stopping by.

How STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON Helped This Alaskan Woman Writer Clarify her Truth

As the deadline looms to get my memoir on the catalogue for 2016-17 release, I’m flooded with doubt.

What should I omit for the sake of not offending people?

Who have I inadvertently omitted?

How will I drum up an email base of potential readers in the next may many months and increase my platform?

And as I’ve continue plugging along, enjoying the beautiful Alaskan summer, the answers have come indirectly.

It was watching the movie Straight Outta Compton and reading some of the related blistering social network frenzy that answered the first one. The film gives a pulsating lesson in history from the perspective of rap star Dr. Dre. It is magnificent in it’s re-telling of a few talented artists emerging from gang life in the late 80’s.

The controversy?

Several women who were intimately involved with Dr. Dre decades earlier recently got in touch. They shared their stories being victimized by him, suffering injuries, humiliation, and trauma that never resolved. Where were they in his version of truth?

Dr. Dre responded beautifully.

My take on the matter was he was not lying or attempting to gloss over the ugly reality of his violence against women back in the day. Women weren’t important to the men of rap. They weren’t on equal footing, not considered cherished partners, not given the respect that they deserved. They were objects for pleasure. And that they didn’t matter in the 80’s to the men of rap meant they matter much in the re-telling of the story. Just because something happens doesn’t mean  it’s a part of the story-teller’s journey. This I know after many classes and edits.

(These women’s stories are important, and they should share them when and how they see fit.)

The point was driven home to me a second time. While I was clearing my room’s clutter last week I found a file box that was shoved way back in my closet. I opened it. Letters, cards, all that I must have opened at some point, were piled in no particular order. Some were from 1985, when I found my biological father and left college friends in Washington to meet him and the rest of my Kentucky family.

Some were from 1992, when I graduated from college. “Congratulations. You’re life is finally about to get easier!” This, after living in the shelter, after restraining orders to keep me and my girls safe, after living off food stamps. Now, I was about to see the fruits of my labor.

I cringed, reading these, knowing I would have less than two years of semi-normal before my girls were kidnapped and taken to Greece.

blogThen, the kidnapping cards. From my clients at the battered women shelter. From friends. From community members who read about my little girls being snatched by their non-custodial father in the newspaper. The sad part? I don’t remember having read these beautiful expressions of concern. I was too engulfed in sadness. And since I didn’t remember them, I couldn’t include them in my present-tense story. (But I am truly grateful now!)

I also dated a wonderful man through much of the two year trauma, but he didn’t make any of story. My true focus was never him, it was finding my girls.

So what belongs in my story? It’s my truth. What happened that transformed my life. Not every fact. My journey and it’s aftermath. And inevitably, someone will object.

And platform? I’ve written a mini-book, When Push Comes to Shove, that’s available soon! It will answer your questions on how to help when someone you care about is being abused.

What’s helped you clarify your story?

Thanks for stopping by.

Who Would Kill a Child? The Murder-Suicides of Domestic Violence

As I was leaving work today, one of my coworkers was glimpsing the news and shaking his head. “Second murder-suicide report in the last two weeks in Alaska,” he said, adding what’s on everyone’s else’s mind.

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Gonzales, Young and children. (alaskapublic.org)

“Who in the world would kill a child?”

But  before you think this trend in an Alaska thing, a review of all murder suicides published in the Violence Policy Center’s studies titled American Roulette indicated that the bulk of murder suicides including those with children present are largely an extension of domestic violence. Their review of numerous murder-suicides answer the question that none of us can make sense of:

Who would kill a child?

* Mostly men. The Violence Policy Center notes that in 90 percent of the cases, the perpetrators are male.

* The perpetrator has access to a firearm. Very rarely is another percent of murder-suicides used another type of weapon.

* The perpetrator is under exceptional stress at the time, possibly because they fear their partner will abandon them, or they’ve suffered a long-term depression or a job loss.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Dispatch

 

I learned another interesting tidbit in this study. The greater the age gap between the perpetrator and the victim, the greater the likelihood of the murder/suicide.

In American Roulette, an analysis of murder suicides during the first half of 2011 revealed there were 313 events during those six months resulting in 691 deaths. Fifty-five of those were children under the age of eighteen.

 

Who would kill a child?

It turns out, those closest to the child’s mother are the likely culprits.

Do you know a family impacted by domestic violence?

Call the police if you suspect an incident is occurring.

Call child protective services if you know a child lives in a home where their parent is being abused.

And refer adult domestic violence victims to 1-800-799-SAFE.

Twenty Years Later/The Messages that Survived Nicole Brown-Simpson

I can’t believe that  20 years have passed already.

There are important historical events that are forever etched in our brains. We remember where we were, and how they changed our world.

mmonFor me, I remember clearly when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon (1969).

When AIDS became a major health threat (1981).

And most of all, I remember when Nicole Brown-Simpson, former wife of sports star OJ Simpson, was found murdered on June 12, 1994.

At the time, I was working as a battered women’s advocate in Anchorage, Alaska. I worked in the same shelter I’d found refuge at with my little daughters four years earlier. I facilitated support groups for victims, helped them get restraining orders in court. The part of my job I loved best was giving community presentations about domestic violence.

Back then, no one wanted to talk about domestic violence.

nicole simpson's leg
nicole simpson’s leg

That all changed when Nicole Brown-Simpson was found butchered at her home in 1994. This, following a fifteen year-long abusive marriage that began when she was a pregnant teenager.

Why does a social issue need to happen to a famous person to become significant? Domestic violence was the leading cause of injury to women ages 15-44 back then, according to Surgeon General Koop, “more than rapes, muggings, and traffic accidents combined.”

And yet, it remained a dirty little secret.

The months and years following Nicole Brown Simpson’s death, phone lines were clogged at shelters all over the country.

“I’ve been pushed and slapped. Is this abuse?” Or, “My husband’s been threatening to kill me. What can I do? I have no money.”

And presentation requests? Through the roof. Grant money fell from the heavens, and soon, we expanded domestic violence programming to include hospital emergency response teams and a safe home program for Alaska Native women.

I would like to say that domestic violence advocates worked with the community to make lasting changes. I think it’s true. There was something that resonated about this beautiful and rich young mother of two who predicted her own murder, called the police repeatedly, and was slaughtered anyhow.

The messages we learned to tell our abused friends and loved ones?

You’re not alone

You deserve to be treated well.

It’s not your fault.

There are people and agencies that can help you.

We also learned what not to say.
You should leave.

Forgive him. He looks so sad.

What’s wrong with you?

History has taught that the most dangerous time in a violent relationship is just before or just after leaving it. So we advocates, we family members, we friends must remember to hold our tongues and keep our advice to ourselves.

Do you know someone who is being abused?

Tell them to call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Want To Be a Creepy Stalker? There’s an App for That! Senator Al Franken’s Solution to Privacy Violation

Senator Al Franken knows that a parents dream has become a battered woman’s nightmare.

Al Franken
Al Franken

Mobile phone tracking apps, marketed as a way parents can know where their children really are is being used instead by domestic abusers as a way to stalk their victims.

In the post 10 Best Apps for Paranoid Parents, author Brett Singer sells the benefits of these apps.

Ever wish you could know where your child is, all the time? Using GPS in real time, this app helps you keep track of and automatically locate where your child goes with his phone. If he’s traveling alone, you can confirm that he arrived at a specific destination, or if he’s meeting up with friends, they can confirm each other’s locations. Location info is never shared with anyone else beyond those who have permission to see it, and data is saved for later review. Even though the app is free, parents will need to purchase a subscription for the tracking feature.

Now, imagine that you are a person convinced that your partner is cheating on you. Or that you’re a jilted lover who cannot get the other out of your mind, and might wish to confront him or her alone?

The same apps marketed for parents can be used to fuel your obsession.

stuart-smalley
Stuart Smalley

How creepy is this?

In response, Franken has proposed the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014, and tells about a domestic violence victim who was at the court house seeking an order of protection, only to receive a text from her abuser asking why she was in court.

If the bill is approved, it would be a violation for a person to install the app without the permission of the phone owner, and the app company would also be in violation.

The tracking apps have been installed secretly not just by perpetrators of domestic violence, but by first-time dates who’ve been granted access to their date’s smart phone.

The way I see it, there are two takeaways.

1) Password protect your smart phone and don’t grant others access to it. Don’t leave it unattended on a first date any more than you’d leave a drink unattended.

2) Al Franken is as clever a senator as he was on Saturday Night Live as Stuart Smalley.

The Truth About Leaving a Violent Relationship

Many months ago, the Anchorage Daily News reported a brutal stabbing.
Fortunately, the victim lived. Her story wasn’t so  unique. Her former boyfriend, who didn’t appear to harbor ill-will towards her about their break-up two months earlier, apparently did. He stabbed her nearly to death.
Reporter Casey Grove interviewed her days later, and asked the victim why she had been with a man with a checkered past.

Instantly, I was transported back to the 90’s. Back to a time when part of my job as a domestic violence advocate  was providing lectures and workshops for community panels, law enforcement, and other providers. Domestic violence was the new hot topic. It was just after the death of Nicole Brown Simpson, and suddenly, abuse in relationships was no longer a secret. What was on the minds of the audience? More often than not, it was Why Does She Stay?

The other part of my job as an advocate was to work with abuse victims. On any given day, I would see three to five women who had either just left the battered women’s shelter or had never been in it. Most appointments had been scheduled in advance, but sometimes women at wits-end simply walked in unannounced and needed to talk to someone. I loved being that someone. I got to listen to her tell her story, suspending the judgment or hope that a family member or friend might have about whether she should stay in or leave the relationship. I would ask questions meant to spur thought, and give general information about safety and emergency planning. I referred her to an information and support group that was attended by other victims of emotional, physical, and/ or sexual abuse. And week by week, she muscled-up emotionally by meeting with women in similar circumstances and hearing their stories of survival. She would learn to tell her own story. A year or two later, often that same woman who had timidly walked through the door now returned, transformed. She was making a life for herself without abuse, and proudly volunteered her skills or made a donation to the center. The bonus for me was obvious: I inhaled second-hand strength.

Some women left their abusers. Many of them went on to have fabulous lives afterwards, advancing their education, employment skills, or enjoying a loving relationship with a different partner.

For others, the consequences for leaving were tragic. They plunged into poverty. They were injured or killed. Or even worse, their children were put at risk.

I took the survivor’s stories to help with the community outreach.

The truth about leaving a violent relationship is it’s  no guarantee to safety or to happiness.

So maybe asking a different question makes sense.

Perhaps the reporter could have asked different questions. Why did this man stab a woman he once loved? Why do we focus on  domestic abuse victim’s choices for partners rather than the abusers actions? And how can we collectively work to end domestic violence in our world?

The Danger of Victim Stereo-typing

Recently, a legend from the fifties passed away quietly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/nyregion/linda-riss-pugach-whose-life-was-ripped-from-headlines-dies-at-75.html?_r=0

 Linda Pugach was a twenty year-old girl in 1959 when she left her older and married attorney-boyfriend. He subsequently hired men to throw lye in her face. They did. She was left disfigured and blind in one eye. How did she respond?

She married him as soon as he was released from prison.  And after more than a decade of marital bliss, when her husband was caught threatening another mistress, Ms. Pugach stood by his side yet again, blaming herself for his infidelities. Their marriage remained in tact until Ms. Pugach died in her seventies.

Today, we have another famous pair making headlines with their volatile relationship. Singing superstar Rihanna returned to Chris Brown  better than three years after his pummeling of her face shocked the world.

 http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/zwecker/17901161-452/rihanna-confirms-im-seeing-chris-brown-but-its-different-now.html

There are few things more frustrating to domestic violence experts than the stereotyping of battered women, or having to acknowledge that some fit perfectly into the negative stereotypes.

Top Stereotypes 

Victims of domestic violence are poor.

Rihanna reminds us that this simply isn’t true. Victims come from all socio-economic backgrounds.

 In late January of 2013, Wisconsin epidemiologist Jennifer Boyce was murdered by her estranged husband. A family member said, “these things happen on TV, they don’t happen to us.” The family member went on to say, “We’re middle class, normal Americans, and she was a nice girl.”

Jennifer Boyce

http://host.madison.com/news/local/crime_and_courts/advocate-says-murder-reveals-domestic-violence-stereotypes/article_cefd54b4-675c-11e2-84cd-0019bb2963f4.html









The victims must love being beaten  or addicted to abuse since they return to their abusers.

I can tell you from experience that being hurt by your partner isn’t lovely or addictive. But generally, just after the abuse occurs comes a period of remorse, or what psychologist Lenore Walker terms the honeymoon period. The abuser is sorry, and may apologize to his victim or be especially attentive. He may buy her flowers. After a honeymoon period, the victim may wish to forgive and forget about the incident.


So does stereotyping matter?

Definitely, experts say. Wisconsin domestic violence advocate Shannon Barry told the Madison press that “There’s this idea that, ‘This doesn’t happen to people like me. I’m strong, I’m independent. I’m well-educated. I come from a good family.’ That can be a real barrier to reaching out for assistance,” Barry said.

So whether a woman is a superstar or an everyday person living a pedestrian life, she may need help staying safe from domestic violence.  

Does someone you know need help from abuse? Call 1-800-799-7233-The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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