A quick note to share art and conversations that I think you might enjoy, too.
My recent favorite book is Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn. For anyone considering beginning a writing career, the author gives a step-by-step guide of how to succeed. And in a perfect world, I would love to think that I could become my own publisher one day and have more autonomy over my career as a writer.
Best watch at the theater: The Peanut Butter Falcon, reviewed here by Forbes. Sentimental and kind without being simple, I loved it so well that I saw it twice.
Addictions and recovery have been on my mind. My work, my family, and my community in Alaska are heavily impacted by substance abuse. This interview finally helped me understand how the incredible shame people in recovery face can make their success a near impossibility. I hope I will never look at a newly sober parent of a delinquent minor the same way.
I joined some dynamic authors for a talk about domestic violence. Leslie Morgan Steiner, Dr. Christine Ristaino, and Kerry Schafer and I each hope that you’ll join the conversation, and share it with your loved ones as you see fit. It’s now available on YouTube.
Thank you for the emails and comments. I never feel alone with this community.
I love a good book, and was honored to provide an author endorsement for this one. Shrug is available to order now!
I’m so pleased to have Lisa Braver Moss as my guest.
inspired you to write Shrug?
My experience growing up was similar to that of Shrug’s main character, Martha, so that was my inspiration. I wanted to create a coming-of-age story about childhood domestic violence and other trauma. I also thought the wild vitality of Berkeley of the 1960s made a great backdrop for the story. I was interested in the interplay between Martha’s household chaos and that of the world of Berkeley at the time.
How did it influence your writing to be a survivor of childhood domestic violence?
witnessed domestic violence against my mother, and was a target of it myself,
while growing up. I felt chronically outraged by what was going on, and could
be quite confrontational (which my father did not find amusing). My appetite
for speaking the truth eventually morphed into a sense of urgency about writing
stories of teenagers show rebels. What made you create a character who’s anything
but a rebel?
I would argue that Martha is quite a rebel. Sure, she’s a bit of a goody two-shoes; she wants nothing more than to do well in school and find meaning in her life. And yet, just her being an achiever is radical in the context of her family. She’s contradicting all that’s unconventional at home: negative messages about school, unpredictability, lack of structure, impossible emotional demands, and explosive physical violence. The challenge was to show Martha as a complex, sympathetic character whose rebellion paradoxically takes the form of conventionality.
The family dynamics in Shrug are complicated. In essence, Martha’s father is abusive, but likely the better parent to her. Her mother is a victim, but flees the entire family. What do you hope the reader takes from these imperfect parents?
Yes, the battering father, Jules, turns out to be the better parent than the victimized, histrionic mother, Willa. You see clues of this along the way. I wanted to show what it’s like to have the story’s “bad guy” be more capable of love than the “victim,” Willa. I felt this added depth and complexity to the story.
Your book cover is stunning. Tell us about the process of selecting it.
you! It was one of those situations where there were four choices and it was
completely obvious which one was the one. That was also obvious to the
publisher, so it was nice that we were on the same page (so to speak…!).
had expressed to the publisher that I envisioned a kind of wistful look for
Martha. I provided a black-and-white photograph that I felt captured that look,
and they did a fantastic job of creating the same mood without using that particular
photo. I love the design and colors they came up with, too.
Of the three siblings, Martha, Hildy, and
Drew, Martha, the middle child, seems to be the mother’s favorite. How does
this family role affect her?
is indeed in the unfortunate position of being Willa’s favorite of the three
children. I say unfortunate because often in dysfunctional families, “favorite”
means “able to be manipulated.” Couched as extra love, favoritism is generally
more a matter of extra demands than of actual support. It’s no bargain.
Martha carries such a burden of guilt about being favored that she’s slow to
see that she, too is being mistreated by Willa. She’s too preoccupied with Jules’s
mistreatment of all of them, too busy propping Willa up, and too busy worrying
about her siblings. She also experiences her own suffering at Jules’s hands as
secondary to Willa’s suffering. I think many children who see themselves as
rescuers (rather than victims) have these same reactions.
This book of fiction brings up very real topics
of domestic violence and resilience following trauma. How can storytelling
bring attention to social issues and create change?
nonfiction can offer suggestions, how-to’s, research data, psychological insights
and so on, I think fiction is deadly if it’s didactic that way. The subject
matter of a novel may include social issues, but the primary purpose of a novel
isn’t to create social change. It’s to engage, entertain, and maybe inspire
What fiction can do is make people feel less alone. Those who grew up with domestic violence and the kind of trauma Martha experiences tend to feel isolated and ashamed at some level. But while the circumstances vary, feelings of isolation and shame about childhood difficulties are universal. And those feelings can lift somewhat when one immerses oneself in a world of fiction that addresses that terrain. If readers identify with Martha, they can feel less alone. That in itself does create a shift in the reader, and I think we can call that change.
You can connect with Lisa Braver Moss at lisabravermoss.com or on Facebook. Her book is available for ordering wherever books are sold.
There are many reasons an abused partner may choose to remain in their relationship. Faith and ties to their faith community factor in for many.
I’m honored to have author Linda M. Kurth sharing from her experience and upcoming memoir.
Crazymaking: A form of psychological attack on somebody by offering contradictory alternatives and criticizing the person for choosing. -www.yourdictionary.com
“Your husband is a crazymaker,” Susan, my new counselor declared.
Susan was one of several counselors Jim and I had seen during the last half of our twenty-five year marriage. Yet none of it seemed to get to the root of our problem. Jim was a “good Christian.” He was a good provider. He was smart and had a great sense of humor. His hugs were legendary. Yet I was dying inside, and my prayers had not changed our dynamic.
Susan had listened as I told her how Jim promised to change over and over again, and yet hadn’t. “I’m having difficulty believing him anymore,” I said. “He tells me one thing one day, then the opposite the next. When I try calling him on this stuff, he always denies giving me a double message.”
Susan sighed. “I believe Jim’s personality type will try every trick in the book to avoid taking responsibility for sabotaging your marriage. His type is good at keeping the opposing party off guard. I’m not optimistic he’ll own up to his behavior.”
I felt a mixture of relief and what? Resistance? Disbelief? I’m the kind of person who rips a band-aid off, but part of me wanted to cling to hope. Acknowledging that my husband was not going to change meant I’d either have to resign myself to being hurt again and again by his emotionally abusive passive-aggressive behavior. Or, I’d have to leave. I hated both options.
The thought of leaving left a churning in my stomach and a tightening in my chest. I was fifty-five and hadn’t supported myself in years. When I tried to visualize my future alone, the picture was dismal. Besides, as a Christian, I worried that divorcing was not part of God’s plan for me.
During this time, my husband accepted a new job that was near my home town. I agreed to move with him and engage in counseling one last time. Jim found Norma, a conservative Christian counselor, but we made no progress. I saw clearly I had only one choice if I was to survive emotionally.
“I’d like to discuss divorce,” I told Norma, my voice shaking.
“We don’t talk about divorce,” she replied, and then proceeded to talk about it. She quoted the Bible in Matthew 19 verse 9, in which Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
“If you divorce Jim, Satan wins,” Norma explained.
Heat rose in me. I blurted out my truth. “Satan has already won. Jim may not have been physically unfaithful to me but he’s been emotionally unfaithful. He’s unrepentant, and I’ve lost all hope for reconciliation.”
Norma shook her head with sadness. “You’ll be making a huge mistake if you leave the covering and protection of your husband.”
I almost laughed. I certainly had not been feeling my husband’s “protection.”
That night, I threw myself on the Lord’s mercy and discerned his permission to leave.
As I struggled to regain my sense of equilibrium, I was met with a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. I received a scathing letter from a Christian friend of my husband, condemning me for choosing divorce. For the same reason I was turned away from a church I had considered joining. On the other hand, my former church embraced me when I went back to visit, even providing me with a divorce ceremony. Best of all, I was welcomed by a new church that had a large singles ministry. There, I met many other singles, many of whom became my friends and support during my recovery.
Since that heartbreak time, God has blessed me in many ways. I bought a townhouse in which I felt secure. Eventually, I met a wonderful man while ballroom dancing. We’ve been married for fifteen good years.
I’ve recently completed a memoir, tentatively titled God, the Devil, and Divorce: A Love Story from which I’ve drawn material for this article. (I hope to see the memoir published soon.) I have a blog, “Help and Healing for Divorced Christians,” where I offer what I’ve learned about going through and surviving divorce, and where I encourage churches to welcome divorced people with love and grace. I pray both the book and blog will help people achieve a happier divorce recovery experience.
Linda Kurth is offering advice, “Ten Steps for a More Joyful Life after Divorce,” to subscribers of her blog. Click here for the link to download.
Would you like the chance to win a set of compelling memoirs about domestic violence? For the month of October, 2018, enter here to win!
As I prep for a few book events, including a FaceTime conversation with a Florida book group,
The question I get asked the most is always How are the girls now?
And just after that, Do your daughters mind you writing and talking about them?
They’re fair questions with dynamic answers.
At the moment, both my grown daughters live in the same city as me. Neither have married. Neither have children. Neither appear interested in getting married or having children.
My oldest daughter, recently back in Alaska after a year in Mexico, is presently taking seven classes at the local university to finish her degree in psychology. I don’t know what kind of work she’ll go in to, but I’m so proud that she will have options, thanks to her hard work.
Life has been incredibly challenging for her, not simply because she was a child-witness of domestic violence or because she and her sister spent two years living in hiding in Greece. She manages anxiety and significant mental health problems that threaten her quality of life. This has been compounded by losing a shocking number friends to early deaths.
Still, she persists. She has a long-term relationship, adores her pets, and even at times when she’s shut off from other, she remains in close contact with her sister and me.
My youngest daughter finished college some years ago and works in finance. She too has a long-term relationship. She is athletic and busy, volunteering in the community and on a board of directors. She has a thriving dog-walking, pet-sitting business on the side. While her sister’s emotional wounds were deep from being the oldest child who shouldered adult responsibility early, my youngest has had medical leftover concerns.
Some of the resiliency factors after the kidnapping were having stable housing and kind neighbors, good schools, involved family friends, access to community mental health providers, team sports, and knowing they had family-far away-that loved them dearly. And their pets were a healing balm that reduced their stress levels every day.
All things considered, my daughters are doing exceptionally well. Funny and feisty, lovers of hiking and Greek food and good people, and able to incorporate old traumas into their lives while embracing new joys.
I’m sure at times they mind the invasion of privacy of having a mom who’s a writer, but they’ve not said so. I’ve tried to minimize it by not using their names in essays and in local talks.
More often, they sincerely appreciate that people care to ask about how they are.
But it’s impossible to ignore. Not only because of the brutality, but for the truths these stories underscore.
1) Domestic violence is not about a normal person with an anger management problem who takes it out on their intimate partner. It’s the deliberate use of emotional, physical, or sexual violence to gain control of an intimate partner. You only need glimpse the second story to see how carefully orchestrated the plane crash was. The husband was not crazed or out of control. Simply diabolical.
2) Children are not only victimized by witnessing violence, but too often harmed irreparably as they become collateral damage in the effort to hurt the mother.
I detailed my now-grown daughters’ experiences as both child-witnesses and as adult survivors in my memoir. It left scar-tissue that manifest in physical and psychological wounds. But at least they survived. Clearly, not all do.
3) And the third truth is one I stumbled upon quite by accident when setting out to read something cheerier. When researching travel writing opportunities, I came upon a wonderful story written by Ivana Haz titled A Sort of Homecoming.
I read her entire essay story before noticing the writing on the sidebar.
A google search of her name revealed a series of articles on her and her son’s death, attributing it to her husband’s depression after his back injury. One entire article sympathized solely with him.
I guarantee you that Ivana Waz and her child were not killed by a back injury or depression.
Which brings me to my earlier question: Who wants to hear about something they can’t change?
The truth is, we can all make a positive difference in creating lasting change regarding abuse. When we learn about it, when we talk about it, how we talk about it, when we seek ways to get involved, we become a resource.
I decided just now to make a difference and donate several copies of my memoir, themed around intergenerational patterns of domestic violence, to my Methodist church for their silent auction, and will continue to volunteer at the local shelter. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.
What will you do?
Do you know someone impacted by domestic violence? Call 1-800-799-SAFE.
Want to lend your time or resources to affecting global change? Consider attending a meeting at your local Zonta chapter or giving to the domestic violence agency near you.
For information about what to do when you witness or suspect domestic violence, look at your local Green Dot Program.
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.
Initiating this conversation can be difficult. Some tips to help:
Tell what you see
“I noticed a bruise on your arm…”
“I am worried about you.”
“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.
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.
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.
“I don’t understand how you can do that work. It must be so depressing.”
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.
It’s the end of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
I 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.
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.
“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 titledAmerican Rouletteindicated 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.
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.