#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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Is it Verbal Abuse or Basic Rudeness? What is the Difference?

Have you ever asked yourself if your love interest is verbally abusive, or simply experiences bouts of unfortunate humanity?

Often, we issue labels for behavior without looking at the context. I think it’s worth noting that there are differences.

To review the verbal/emotional abuse continuum below.
 
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?

I thought about this recently when one of my adult daughters entered in to a new relationship. When I heard her new beau teased her twice for having “bad grammar” after she’d disclosed she was dyslexic to him, I was ready to mow him over.

“He’s abusive,” I told a male friend with near certainty.

When I gave him the rundown on what little I knew, my friend stopped me. “He’s still a boy. He may be 27 years-old, but he’s still just a kid. He’ll only learn how to behave better if she lets him know her limits and expectations.”

Point well-taken. We’re not born knowing how to relate appropriately. We have to learn how to relate. And it requires feedback.

There are a few ways to determine whether or not the hurtful words spoken by another are emotionally abusive, or just a gaffe.


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 Domestic violence is when one person intentionally uses a pattern of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse for the purpose of controlling their partner.
 

Here’s what’s key.

The words have to be intentional.

The words must be a part of a pattern.  Repeated, not just one isolated incident.

Their purpose is to intimidate or control the recipient. That control could occur by wearing her down, having her second guess herself and her talents, or making her feel she isn’t capable on her own.


That’s different than just saying something mean, something we have all done at one time or another. And then there are those of us who experience compromised social skills due to a pervasive development disorder, mental health disorder, or other issue.

The bottom line?

To find out if your sweetheart is emotionally abusive, find the gumption early on to set a limit.

“I’m not stupid.  I don’t have bad grammar, and your saying so hurts my feelings.”

Then gauge the response. An apology is a good start, but it’s worthless if the insult is recurrent.

You deserve to be treated well. We all do. So set your boundaries, and observe how they’re respected by your partner. And if you determine you are experiencing any type of abuse, remember, information and support are available to you. Call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Solo Travel for Women/ Are We Just Asking For It?

It’s a holiday weekend, and I am in the thick of planning my next solo travel adventure.


One thing I enjoy doing is making a friend or two in each place I visit. I keep in touch with them, and make a point of finding them in another part of the world later. So dear Australia, thank you for providing so many of your people that I have befriended. I hope to reunite with them in October!

I’m re-running my post about women traveling alone. If you haven’t already, feel free to buy A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson on Amazon or on Itunes. I contributed one of the stories.

Have a relaxing week.


Recently, I enjoyed catching up with a friend who is back from several months of traveling overseas alone. I so admire women who stop waiting for someone to travel with and just do it. I asked her the usual:

    • Where’d you stay?
    • How did you stay on budget?
    • What did you pack?

She mentioned she brought the Morning After pill with her.Oh, I thought to myself. It never dawned on me to be that open socially that birth control would be necessary.“In case I got raped,” she then told me.My mouth fell open. She shrugged. “Just being practical.”I get it. I even admire it. But how awful that she should even have to think about it.

It made me wonder. How often do we women edit our lives choices due to the threat of male violence against us?

Be it work/career choices, how and when we exercise, and if and how we travel, are we living as free, emancipated citizens?

I notice the tone I get when I tell someone I’ll be traveling overseas alone again soon. It’s the same one as when I put on my boots at work and go for a walk on lunch hour in the dark. And since I live in Alaska, that’s pretty much all of the lunch hours I have in winter time.

That tone implies to me that if I am raped or assaulted while on a walk alone or traveling the globe, I will be a co-defendant in my own victimization.

That’s nuts.

Do you remember last February when Sarai Sierra, an American woman was murdered while traveling alone in Turkey?

The controversy sparked a storm of opinion about when and where it’s okay for a single woman to travel.

No controversy about worldwide violence against women. We’ve come to expect that.

I think Jodi Ettenberg at Legal Nomads said it best.

“US citizens die at home and, less frequently, they die in foreign countries. Stating that Sarai was murdered because she was abroad, as many comments have done, detracts from the real concern: that of violence against women worldwide.”

As an American woman, where am I most likely to be injured? Is it Turkey? Morocco? Mexico?

No, sadly. It’s in America. At home. With a loved one of my own choosing. One out of every four women in the US, and one in three women globally have been victims of domestic violence.

Women, are you interested in safely traveling alone?

Check out safety tips at Legal Nomads or Destination Unknown

 

Is your greatest safety risk in your interpersonal relationship with your partner? 

Call 1-800-SAFE for help. Let’s do everything we can to impact change so that our own daughters can live and move about freely and safely, wherever they choose. Please Like my Author page on Facebook! 

The Beauty of Barrow

I’ve dreaded this trip to Barrow.

A month ago, I volunteered to work here.  This is completely my doing.

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But in the interim weeks, I’ve been barraged by memories of my last trip. The tales of recent suicides. The scarcity of trees and greenery. The abundance of intoxicated people walking around in this dry town. The $4.00 apple.

And then I read a couple of current articles in the paper about Barrow. About the nice district attorney I’d worked with who was murdered a few months ago in a domestic violence incident. And the skyrocketing amount of violent crime like rapes and domestic violence, fueled by insane amounts of bootlegged alcohol and drugs.

Seriously? What was I thinking?

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, and when I finally drifted off, I had a nightmare about bedbugs biting me over and over again.

I didn’t unwind my curls until I took my seat on the plane and buckled up for the long flight.

Then I sat behind an Alaska Native youth who’d just finished high school, and was on his way home after his graduation trip in Hawaii. His sweet smile could melt the thick ice. He had a red baseball cap, red tennis shoes, and a ukulele that he played for the passengers’ enjoyment.

Other passengers asked him questions:

QUESTIONS

  • What does whale blubber taste like?
  • What will you do for fun later?
  • When was the last time you saw polar bears?
  • ANSWERS

  • “A great texture, and tastier than steak.”
  • “Today, I’ll get on my three -wheeler and hunt geese.”
  • “The weekend we got a whale. They come in to share.”
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    He didn’t say too much, but he represented well. And then there was Anne Morrow Lindberg, the fabulous writer who detailed her trip to Barrow in 1931 in her first book North to the Orient. In Barrow, met a family who proudly displayed a tomato plant, acknowledging the plant would never grow in Barrow since there wasn’t enough sun and the tomato was rooted mostly in sand, “but the leaves grow and we can smell it.  Even the smell of growing vegetables is good to us,” she explained at the time.

    It’s all perspective.

    I’m grateful to be back in Barrow. To be back to old friends and gorgeous sites and the possibility of polar bears, but mostly to be among people who know the value of looking at the glass half-full.

    What are you grateful for lately?

    The Discipline of a Grateful Life

    This week, I enjoyed reading Sam Gentoku McCree’s piece on Ten Steps to a Grateful Life.

    Having a grateful life is a discipline.

    photo 1It’s not difficult for my mood to tumble this time of year. It’s dark in Alaska for much of the day. My energy dips just as my work chaos soars. And then there are upcoming social functions associated with the holidays that I loathe given my crowd-averse nature.

    But I’ve made a point of penciling in times of gratitude in my day to day life. I wake up ten minutes early each day to give thanks, and in doing so, realized how much I appreciate the surprise sources.

    Case in point: I am naturally drawn to darker topics, so after much consideration, I decided to piece together the life and death of Muriel Pfeil, who died in 1976 in Anchorage. The story is everything I write about already: domestic violence, international child abduction, the works. The trouble is I don’t know her family or friends.

    I got a couple of names through a friend of mine. Two lovely women who have been friends for sixty-plus years were gracious enough to take me to a Thanksgiving party hosted by the Alaskan Pioneers yesterday to do some digging around.

    Yes, I actually signed up to hang out with a group of strangers and socialize.

    Two hours later, I felt like a part of a great new supportive family. I’d been tentative when it began. ”I’m thinking about writing the story of…” but with the encouragement of my dear hostesses, I left with many new contacts and a greater conviction. I’m not thinking of writing the story of Muriel Pfeil. I am in the process of writing about Muriel Pfeil. And I so appreciate the support and enthusiasm of my new friends.

    My daughters with cats
    My daughters with cats

    There are always the typical things I’m grateful for, like my wonderful daughters. They’re happy (mostly). They’re healthy. They’re working. I even managed to get one of them to move out of the house. I’m grateful for my kittens. My extended family and friends. My work. My health. My volunteer work.

    But I’ve scaled back on some things and it’s given me time for a bit more rest, and for writing workshops and coaching. I have created space again.

    Thanksgiving is here. What are you thankful for?

    I’m always thankful to connect with you here.

    PS– I learned that A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson is now available on Amazon. I’m pleased to have my essay  titled Healing included.

    From Past to Present/Dusting Off My Manuscript to Answer the Real Questions

    A few weeks ago She Writes Press announced a cool new contest for memoir writers.

    Simply put, women writers can submit a query letter and the first couple of chapters of their memoir and compete for an agent with Serendipity Literary Agency. Check it out on She Writes Press.

    I may have mentioned I shelved my memoir about domestic violence and child abduction  for many months after a few drafts, more than a few rejections, and much much more than a few hundred dollars spent on editorial services.  I was positively sick of it.

    Then I listened to a recorded tele-seminar from my National Association of Memoir Writers membership and heard author Linda Watanabe McFerrin give tips on writing memoir. She mentioned that in a memoir, the protagonist has something they want which is the external plot, versus something they truly want,  the internal which has emotion.

    And just like that, it made sense. What do I say I want, and what is really driving my actions? That’s what needs to be in the book.

    I’ve also been re-reading the artful memoir Swimming with Maya again by Eleanor Vincent, and realized I need to re-write my first book in the first person to experience the emotions long buried.

    So here are my first couple of pages. Does it work for you written in present tense?

    I’d love to hear your reactions at liza8m@gmail.com. It’s due on August 31st.  And soon, Eleanor Vincent has agreed to be interviewed for the blog. Stay tuned!

    Chapter 1

    I brush Marianthi’s hair as fast as I can without upsetting her. My oldest daughter, like so many firstborn, seems in tune to my every mood since her birth. Just six years old now, she senses my wave of anxiety about her father’s impending arrival for weekly visitation.

    “Are you scared, Mommy?”

    Marianthi’s voice sounds like a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz, as small and sweet as she is.

    “No, sweetie” I smile. “I just don’t want to keep Daddy waiting. You look beautiful.”

    And she does. She’s wearing her blue dress with the floral collar that matches her liquid blue eyes. Her straight brown hair is neatly held back by a barrette. Now I direct her to her coat and boots while I work on getting her little sister ready.

    I push Meredith’s plump calf into her boot. She groans. “Point your foot down, baby.” Slowly, the boot slides on. I run my fingers through her baby-fine brown ringlets and inspect her round face for remnants of Rice Krispies.

    Meredith is the antithesis of her sister. At two, she lost grasp of her helium balloon, silently watching it float towards the clouds. “God stole my balloon,” she had announced. At three, she told a bald man that he had a baby head. And now at four, Meredith has learned she could belch as loudly as a college boy at a frat party.

    My daughters are absurdly cute. I’m not the only one who thinks so; four separate couples have requested the girls be in their upcoming weddings this spring alone.

    “Ready just in time,” I tell them as their father Grigorios, Gregory for short, pulls up in his dented, bright blue Jeep Cherokee. A male passenger I don’t recognize is sitting next to him. I try to get a closer look without upsetting Gregory. The passenger catches me, and I avert my eyes immediately. What guy would ride along with Gregory to pick up the girls? And why?

    “Momma, will you pick us up tomowoh?” Meredith asks. I dread the day she’s able to pronounce her r’s.

    “I’ll pick you up on the tomorrow after tomorrow, remember?” But of course Meredith can’t remember the court- appointed visitation schedule. She’s only four, and her father visits are irregular. She doesn’t know that the court only recently lifted the supervised visitation requirement that has been imposed during a restraining order, or that I pick her and her sister up at the daycare for the express purpose of avoiding unnecessary contact with him. And she shouldn’t have to. Neither of them should have to know of the grim details of their parents’ divorce. They’re still little girls, after all.

    I feel like I have spent my entire twenty-nine years of life walking on eggshells. It’s March 13, 1994, and I’m four years out of my violent marriage. But despite the passage of time, my fear of Gregory is as strong as the day in March of 1990 when I got back up off the floor, collected my baby girls and fled in a taxi. The scratches and strangulation marks healed after several days, but his parting threats haunt me: “I would rather kill you than let you leave. That way you’ll die knowing the girls will have no mother and their father will be in jail. Leave and you’ll never see them again–I have nothing to lose.”

    That was by no means the first time Gregory had threatened to harm or kill me. Not even close. In our marriage, he’d isolated me from friends, had taken my car, and at the lowest point, limited my access to food while I was pregnant. Eventually, he wrung my neck. And all the while, he delivered the same message, over and over. “You are worthless, stupid, and helpless. I am the only person you have to rely on. Without me, you are nothing.”

    But it’s his threat to take the children and disappear to his native home in Greece if I left him that got to me. He knows that I could never live without my children.

    I remind myself that our circumstances are different now. Yes, things are still hard, even though four years have passed since our marriage ended. I have no family around to help with the girls or with the house. We live in Alaska, a place where one battles ice and snow and long periods of continual darkness that is followed by short periods of constant light. It’s a place suited best for those with money. Money to buy a four-wheel drive. Money to buy lots of insulation for the house and to buy fancy winter boots and coats, and money to buy airline tickets to leave the state once or twice a year for a warmer climate. All of the things

    But on the plus side, our divorce is final now and includes provisions in our custody arrangement to prevent him making good on his threats. I’ve earned my journalism degree. I have a promising job, and I’m determined not to feign independence through remarriage and further dependence. We are out of low-income housing, and off of food stamps. And more importantly, the girls are smart and healthy, and they how to respond if anyone, including their father, attempts to take them away from me. There is no reason to be afraid.

    “Don’t forget your blankie, baby,” I remind Meredith. I hand her the paper-thin quilted blanket that she’s loved since birth. Life for everyone around Meredith goes better when she has the comfort of her security blanket. While her sister is the sensitive, pleasing child, Meredith’s attitude is that if she has to suffer, then so should the entire community.

    The doorbell rings. I hug the girls and open the door. Gregory is standing there in his hooded blue jacket and baggy khakis. His dirty-brown hair looks even thinner than the last time I saw him, and his cheeks more hollow. Though he’s a half -inch taller than me at 5’8,” I outweigh my former husband by an easy fifteen pounds despite my frequent crash diets. This stupid fact has pissed me off over the years as much as the legitimate reasons I have to hate him. And yet, his gaunt look makes him appear more scary and desperate to me somehow.

    Gregory wordlessly takes Meredith’s hand. She in turn grabs Marianthi’s hand. They carefully step over the ice and snow that has yet to melt in the extended Alaskan winter, and Gregory lifts them into his Jeep. They both looked back at me before he shuts the rear passenger door.

    “Goodbye! I love you,” I call out.

    “Bye Mommy!” they say in unison.

    Gregory glares hard at me before getting in the Jeep. I return his gaze and smile brightly, refusing to defer to his intimidation tactics, and then shudder as the Jeep disappears from view. I close the door, chiding myself. I hate being paranoid, but who is that guy with him? None of your business, Liz, I tell myself. Bad things always seem to happen when I question Gregory about anything, and it isn’t illegal for him to have someone I don’t know in the car. Just get over it.

    Time to prepare for the day ahead. I plan to take my friend Julie to lunch at a new sushi restaurant for her thirtieth birthday, and will force myself to enjoy the quiet time without the girls.

    Somehow, today feels different to me. A palpable feeling of unrest is in the pit of my stomach for no particular reason.

    The climate between Gregory and me has cooled again in the last few weeks. I had always hoped we could be on civil terms for the sake of the children, and was occasionally encouraged when time passed without any hint of coarse language or bullying as we exchanged the girls for visitation. But the peace has been short-lived. In general, it seems that the passage of time has only increased their father’s intentions to possess or destroy me, whichever comes first. And although I’m too scared to cross Gregory unless my and the girls’ safety is at stake, the state of Alaska boldly dipped into a legal settlement of his to collect child support a few weeks ago. Gregory is livid. I can’t help but worry about repercussions. He has strong feelings about paying child support.

    “If you need diapers, call me,” he told me after the girls and I got settled into low-income housing four years earlier. “If you and the girls run out of food, you have my number. I’ll do what I can. But don’t ever let some government agency tell me how much I need to pay you to support my daughters. I will decide this.”

    And true to his word, Gregory has not bowed to the government mandate of paying child support. Instead, I have learned to manage the financial struggles of supporting two little girls on next to nothing. I have learned how to manage his threatening phone calls, and the image of Gregory in my rearview mirror. I have even learned to parlay my fear of being killed by him into an inspiration to live each day with my daughters as if it might be my last. Because it really might be.

    Yet I know I can never learn to live without my daughters, and Gregory knows why.

    ***

    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?