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?

Love, Pistorius Style/The Pretty Faces Behind the Ugly Problem of Domestic Violence

With all the other things going on nationally, I had not paid attention to the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Honestly, I thought Pistorius was a political figure. And then I stayed home last weekend and caught up with the news.

What’s not fascinating about a tragic Valentine’s Day ending (in 2013) to a romance between a South African super-model and a super-athlete?

They were both beautiful, rich, and talented. She was a law graduate. He is a double-amputee sprint runner. Soon after they met, the couple appeared to have the world by the tail

Pistorius and Steenkamp -in the beginning
Pistorius and Steenkamp -in the beginning

Pistorius admits to shooting and killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early morning hours on Valentine’s Day, believing her to be an intruder. Given that the place he lives in South Africa is rife with break-ins, and given Pistorius documented history of anxiety about being victimized, I would have believed his alibi.

But according to reports, the Pistorius/Steenkamp union had some classic markers of an abusive relationship.

Like many relationships that turn violent, theirs began with quick involvement.

Pistorius used tactics to control Steenkamp, and made frequent (and very public) negative comments about her. Her gum chewing. Her taste in music. Her efforts to learn accents for an acting role.

Oscar Pistorius demonstrated his jealousy frequently to Reeva Steenkamp, accusing her of flirting with other men, of not introducing him quickly enough to other men at events they attended. Witnesses say he called her incessantly from the beginning of their relationship.

Quick involvement, control tactics, and elements of jealousy are common in abusive relationships. The behaviors typically increase over time and lead to physical aggression.

Do you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence?  It’s important to connect her to resources. 1-800-799-SAFE is a great start.


Outsmarting First Date Jitters/A Few Rules to Bring to the Table

Do you believe in self-fulfilling prophecies?

I do. I definitely do.

When I wrote last week about a few reasons I stink at first dates, I mentioned my history with behaving badly on first dates, especially when it comes to answering what should be easy questions like-Tell me about your family? –or Where is your children’s father?- or even Why did your marriage end?

Had my date read my blog? Because on our second meeting, he began the evening with exactly these questions.

I answered the questions head-on, and soon turned into a hot-flashing giggly mess.  I haven’t felt so unsure of who I am or what I want in a very long time. When I left after two hours, I blamed myself entirely for the fiasco, but when I performed the date’s autopsy later, I realized that wasn’t entirely true. I had made a number of efforts to divert the conversation to tamer subjects. “Tell me about your job?” I’d asked. “Really? You want to talk about my business? Why?”When I asked about his family (after dissecting mine at great length)his answers were short and clenched, and I felt like I’d been a very bad date.

Question: What are your must-have’s when you’re meeting someone new?

For me, I try to be conscious of how I feel about myself when I ‘m in their presence. By the end of the evening, I was feeling small and stupid. Do I think my date was to blame? Absolutely not, but I certainly didn’t like the feeling, all the same.

In relationship guru Bobbi Palmer’s blog Date Like a Grown-Up, she works with a client to come up with a list of rules the client would use to govern her dating musts. I love them!

  • I will take my time getting to know a man. I will not allow him to rush me into a relationship, rush me into being sexual or anything else.
  • I will “be present” on dates by listening to what he says, asking questions or commenting on what I hear, and not be afraid to do so.  I will be open about myself (within reason) and my interests.
  • I will not allow a man to snap at me or be judgmental towards me without me calling him on his behavior.
  • I will not retract into my shell if he disagrees with what I have to say or want to do.  I will no longer go along to get along.  I won’t disagree disagreeably but I won’t be silent either.
  • I will think about whether I like him and use that conclusion to decide whether I want to see him again.  I will no longer focus entirely upon whether he likes me and be insecure about him breaking up with me.
  • I will not be afraid of disagreements or feel threatened by the idea that he won’t like me if I don’t do what he says or don’t agree with him.
  • I will no longer be afraid if the relationship does not work out at any stage and I will feel free to end it if I don’t feel it is working for me.

My question to you: How do you respond when you’re asked questions you aren’t ready to answer without getting defensive or seeming untruthful?

I could use your help.  Email me at Thanks for stopping by.

Zen-ing My Monster/How I Calmed My Nerves and Enjoyed a Date

Am I the only person who becomes a monster when it comes to matters of love and dating?

Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you: I like people. I love their stories and quirks and cultures. I may not be consistently outgoing, but I always love me a new friend. I really do.


Until it comes to dating. The planning of it, the executing it, the whole nine yards.  Then my judgements are never-ending.

Is it that I don’t like men? I don’t think so. Is it that I prefer being alone? Not always.

“Why are you so mad at men?” a friend asked me recently when I groused about a man asking me out.  It stopped me in my tracks.

I don’t like to be mad, and certainly at a whole gender, but she was right. Even when I joined Match, I’d look at rows of pleasant faces online and make snarky comments. This guy’s nowhere near this stated age or Good luck with that, Buddy.

After much deliberation, I’ve come up with my top three reasons to avoid first dates.

unnamed*Dating messes with my sense of control, and though I enjoy other types of adventure in life, I could live without first dates.

*Dating forces me to answer everyday questions about myself in which the answers are anything but normal, i.e. Are you close to your parents?  Do your kids see their father much?  If you knew my weird life, complete with a parental child abduction as a toddler, and my daughters’ international abduction later, you’d understand how this could kill early dating pleasantries.

*Dating requires a certain vulnerability to be authentic. I don’t do that well. Instead, I cover my nervousness with humor and hold my date hostage by asking all the questions. I get to be like a stand-up comedian.  Take my children, please! At the end of the date, I’m worn out, and my date has turned into a raisin.

This past Sunday, as I made the mad dash for the coffee shop I arranged to meet an gentleman at, I was a hot mess. My curls even got nervous and I looked like Albert Einstein. I tried to dust my shiny (sweaty) nose with loose powder in my car and spilled it all over me.

I immediately lapsed into negative thinking. This will never work. I’ll bet this guy’s another jerk. He probably won’t even show.

Then I stopped myself and pictured a better outcome for my Two -Hour Date. That he would be there in the coffee shop. That he would be fun to talk to, and that I would be glad we met.

This week, Leo Babauta wrote in Zen Habits :

2012-07-21 21.30.43You worry about how you look, about how you’re perceived, about how you’ll do, about whether you’ll fail, about what you don’t have, about what you’re missing out on, about how you compare to others.

He goes on to say that if you start to build confidence, you can let go of the worries and feel good rather than anxious.

You will walk down the street, relaxed with a smile on your face.

And so I did. I walked in to the cafe with a smile on my face, and was greeted by a handsome and very kind man. I enjoyed a killer cup of coffee and lively conversation. The time was well spent, and I added a new friend into my life. And I never saw the monster-me the whole time.

The Odds are Good But the Goods are Odd/Taming Alaska’s Wildest Life

70418699JThanks for joining me for my first week at the WordPress site.

Learning how to navigate my way around it won’t be easy, but we’ll get there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling excited about a bunch of new beginnings. The snow here in Alaska is finally melting. I’m off work for our local holiday, Seward’s Day, and an eagle is soaring in view of my bedroom balcony.  And I’m fiddling around on my new and improved site!

Then, as I run outside to  push my recycling bin to the curb, I find a lovely pair of moose eating my neighbor’s tree. They size me up and then move around to my small back deck, where the eating is better.

70418699QLife in Alaska isn’t for the meek.  A woman can get scared by all of the wildlife surrounding her, especially the men.

There was a funny Facebook post I saw not long ago.
 You know you’re in Alaska if–

*You only recognize two seasons: fishing season and waiting for fishing season.

*Dressing up means putting on your cleanest flannel shirt.(There are 98 others tips, but you get the point. We’re a little different in Alaska.)

Men here seem to have rough edges.  They like to catch their fish, shoot their moose, and don’t take kindly to anything or anyone that gets in imagesthe way.

But the women here  are pretty different too. I heard from a male friend once that moving to Alaska where a woman can just as easily filet a fish and chain her own tires was a little daunting. In Portland, he hadn’t ever lit a pilot light or a camp fire.

 What happens when independent women meet independent men?  Is there room in all of this autonomy for love to take root?

My late cat, Tana.

I’d like to think so.

There’s a cautionary phrase told to Alaskan women who have erroneously been told that men greatly outnumber them: The odds are good, but the goods are odd. Very true.

But regardless, I’m ready to defrost and come out of hibernation, maybe enjoy new friendships. I’d like to work a little  less, play a little more.

And if that fails, I’ll get a new cat!

Please come back soon. I’ll steadily improve my WordPress skills, I promise.

Thanks, Liz