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Friday, October 31, 2014

Domestic Violence Does Not End with October

By Jillian Maas Backman

Our conscience is not the vessel of eternal verities. It grows with our social life, and a new social condition means a radical change in conscience. -Walter Lippmann, journalist (1889-1974) 

The time has come to say goodbye to the yearly blog posts designated to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness for the month of October. My fellow authors did an exceptional job describing the highs and lows of this formidable social opponent. As heart- wrenching and warming as the posts were, I’m afraid it’s going to take a lot more than underscoring this public epidemic once a year to influence long-term change.

As famous journalist Walter Lippmann stated long ago, not everyone’s conscience is filled with virtuous truths or principles. For some, their scruples resonates with less than impeccable verities and act accordingly towards mankind/womankind.

So how does revisiting this open-ended dialog every year at this time help solve or combat this societal issue? For the very reason Lippmann pointed out way back in the day. This is the only way to keep moving forward and grow in our social life, set new social conditions and patterns to achieve radical transformation.

I realize we would all like to snap our fingers and make this social deviance magically disappear, but that’s not how “radical change in conscience” truly occurs. It’s slow and steady -- like the turtle and the hare. One small step at a time. If we keep pushing the issue to the top of our concern list, this will eventually lead to the conscious shift we so desperately seek.

Domestic Violence Achievements

The victories may seem minuscule in scale to other social problems we have right now, but I assure you, if we don’t keep this conversation going past this month, we are going to have bigger challenges down the road. Relationships are the brick and mortar that keeps our social structure together in one cohesive, conscious group. Every time another case of violence is afflicted upon another, it blows a tiny pinhole into this edifice. Eventually, if we accumulate enough pinholes, the entire consciousness will collapse upon itself. And this, my friends, is the biggest threat we have at the moment.

The part Mr. Lippmann didn’t get to experience in his lifetime are the achievements we’ve made towards a new awareness when it comes to this issue. Yes, our walls may be filled with tiny pinholes from aggression towards another, but we are making significant advancements towards plugging up those nasty holes with a new type of mortar.

Thriving survivors and their supporters are reforming social conditions using words and legislation to fill these pinpricks with a new kind of eternal verities. A vessel containing social plaster, mixed with the right amount of integrity, inspiration and hopeful principles that are leading us down the enlightened change Lippmann envisioned.

Change for Peace

As we close this month out, I want all of us to commit ourselves to staying on task to honor those who have lost their lives bringing forth this change, and stay diligent in assisting those who need help in finding their way through dark times far beyond this month of October 2014. My hope for us all is when we convene again next October our posts will contain less stories about tragedies and more about: Peace dear ones, peace!

The kind of peace one finds in hearts, minds, and best of all, relationships we treasure the most.

Please keep life SACRED!

Jillian Maas Backman is a professional speaker, award winning author and radio host. She is an innovator in the realm of creating personal paradigm shifts integrating established methods to augment communal objectives through leadership training and private consultations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

10 Reasons Why I Stayed in a Violent Relationship

By Heidi Hiatt

“So why didn’t you just leave?” The question hit a nerve somewhere near my third thoracic vertebra and sizzled in my right cheek like an antagonized hornet.

That question. I hate that question. I’m tired of that question. But I try to use that question to give people a crash course in the dynamics of domestic violence because they might end up saving the life of a victim. Everybody knows somebody.

When you’re in an abusive relationship, chances are you can’t just leave. You’ve heard me say it many times– the risk of homicide goes up 75 percent when you leave an abusive relationship. Your abuser might not want you anymore, and has tried to make you feel like the most vile, undesirable piece of filth on the planet, but let me tell you something– they still want control over you. Some will do anything to keep it. Anything.

There are some fantastic lists online that detail why victims of domestic violence stay, such as the LAPD’s Domestic Violence: Reasons Why Battered Victims Stay With the Batterers. I strongly suggest becoming familiar with this material because, if it hasn’t happened already, you’re going to catch wind of domestic violence close to you sometime and that person will need your help. Their life could depend on it.

All of the possible reasons a man or woman might stay in an abusive relationship won’t be listed here. I do want to expound on ten reasons victims don’t just leave. Please understand that reasons vary from victim to victim; one size doesn’t fit all.

1. The victim doesn’t understand that what they are experiencing is abuse. 

Growing up, I never realized that what was happening to my siblings and I was technically abuse. We didn’t know we could call 911, or tell an adult who could have involved the authorities. We thought it had to happen all the time or cause long-term physical injury. We knew that it was wrong, but we didn’t know we could have done something about it other than try to get family members to listen.

Recently I became aware of an incident in which the abuser told his daughter that if she sought help, nothing would happen because, “it’s not abuse unless it leaves a mark.” She is being conditioned to accept several types of abuse as normal and legal. This is what abusers do– they rationalize their behavior and remind you that it’s not as bad as you think it is or what you think it is. They often claim to be disciplining you, but their bursts of screaming rage, whether hands-on or hands-off, are ultimately meant to satisfy their own need for power and control.

Many of you are familiar with the Power and Control Wheel. Think of the wheel as a pie. Many people define domestic violence/abuse as physical violence. Abusers like you to believe that, because then they can raid your bank account, tear you down emotionally, sleep around, and threaten to slit your throat while you think there’s nothing you can do about it. Physical violence is just one piece of the pie. Get familiar with the other pieces so that you understand what’s going on. Domestic violence often starts in one part of the pie and moves to another, or gradually becomes the whole pie.

2. The victim doesn’t understand the cycle of violence. 

There are often three phases of domestic violence. Tension builds, the abuser explodes, and then the honeymoon phase sets in. Because of the honeymoon phase, a period in which the abuser may seem calm, apologetic, or remorseful, victims can be lulled into believing that life has gotten better and their abuser’s changed. But they must understand that the cycle will continue if not stopped, and that fragile appearance of peace is just the calm before the next storm.

Remember in the Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It when Ike Turner brought her presents after strangling and sexually assaulting her? That’s one manifestation of the honeymoon phase. It’s the time during which your abuser convinces you to stay because they don’t do it all the time, or the makeup sex was intense, or they went to counseling. Maybe they bought you a nice present, brought you flowers, or worked some overtime to pay some bills. You start to think that it’s not so bad and because it doesn’t happen all the time you’ll get through it.

Get off the fatal merry-go-round. Connect with a domestic violence advocate in secret, make a safety plan, and document what’s happening. If your abuser was serious about change he wouldn’t keep hurting you. Don’t let others convince you how dangerous he is or isn’t or whether or not he’ll escalate– you already know, deep down, that this is serious and it always repeats.

3. The abuser has brainwashed the victim into helplessness. 

You’re not hot anymore. You don’t dress sexy anymore. You’re not the svelte single digit size you were when you married him 15 years and three kids ago. You’re book smart, but you have no common sense. You could never survive on your own. You’ll have to leave the kids and pets behind if you go. No one will help you. No one will hire you. No one else would want an ugly, stupid ____ like you.

Millions, even billions, of victims hear these vicious jabs on a regular basis. This is everyday life in households across America and the world. After days and weeks and years of hearing how horrible you are, you start to believe the lies. The stress of constantly being told how inadequate you are doesn’t motivate you to eat heathier, go back to school, or work out, it makes it all worse.

Mental manipulation is like the sonic screwdriver in the abuser’s toolbox. They can bust it out anytime, anywhere, and use it to harm you, charm you, disarm you, or alarm you. Hear this: God made you a unique individual with a special purpose. You are beautiful to Him. Start listening to who He says you are and stop believing the lies that are pounded into your head mercilessly. You are worth so much more than this. You are not who your abuser says you are. Get help now.

4. The victim has conflicting emotions. 

You married them because you loved them, right? You still love them. It’s not the same as it was in the beginning, but you promised your life to this person. Because you love them, you want to make it work. They’re a selfish narcissist who terrorizes you and the kids half the time, but you know that good guy from your early days of dating is still in there somewhere.

You might have this argument with yourself many times while deciding what to do about an abusive situation. The thought of breaking that bond can be overwhelming when you love the person. As Sandra L. Brown often points out at her Institute for Relational Harm Reduction website, the feelings you have for a pathological personality (narcissist, sociopath, etc.) can be especially intense.

Ask yourself this: is it worth your life? Is there some unwritten rule that says if you love someone you’ll hang in there no matter what horrors they inflict on you, your kids, and your pets? God loves you more than anyone, and God doesn’t approve of you being terrorized, threatened, or beaten.

You might always have feelings, in some form, for that person. Or, like many of us who’ve gotten away from unhealthy relationships, you come to see the relationship realistically over time and realize that’s not what true love looks like. True love– a love that builds you up rather than draining you– could still be out there.

5. The victim has been convinced that their culture and/or religion does not allow them to move on. 

I wrestled with just such a theological argument for years. Some influences in my life had taught me that if you are divorced– no matter the reason– God will never, ever allow you to be married again. Even though I knew I had to get out, it seemed that I might have to live the rest of my life as a barren widow, practicing some sort of eternal faithfulness to someone who was already doing whatever they wanted.

“God hates divorce.” Yes He does. It’s in the Manufacturer’s Handbook. But God also hates evil and calls us to separate ourselves from it. Domestic violence isn’t a trivial trial incidental to marriage. It’s a sin. It’s wrong. It’s sick and selfish and sadistic. It allows the abuser to act as god rather than honoring the real God by honoring our spouse.

Unfortunately, the first place domestic violence victims go for help is often the last place they can find it– the church. This damning judgmental legalism you heard about in my Blaming the Victims post is pervasive in God’s house. Far too often, when victims speak to someone in the church about what’s happening to them, the first thing that happens is they’re counseled as to how THEY could make it better!

Pastors and priests need to understand that the first thing they should be concerned about when domestic violence comes up is the safety of the victims. The victim should not be guilted or burdened more than they already are. They shouldn’t be told to act more perky, make nicer dinners, or submit to their abuser more. They don’t need to be sat down with their abuser as if both of them need to humble themselves and make concessions. That’s aiding and abetting the abuse. What they do need is practical help from an advocate or agency who will consider their safety first and worry about the relationship later. Hook them up.

Domestic violence is wrong. Many aspects of it can result in criminal charges. I call on the church to stand united against it rather than taking the easy or uneducated out of making victims think they have to keep enduring it. That’s not Christian. That’s crazy.

6. The victim does not have enough resources to leave. 

This is a common problem. A victim may be financially dependent upon their abuser. Perhaps the victim doesn’t work, or makes less money, or is primarily responsible for the children. The thought of walking away with little or nothing keeps many trapped. They don’t know how they’ll survive. How do you eat? Where do you sleep? They might have heard that 40 percent of homeless women are homeless because of domestic violence (this is true in my area).

This last year, a group of coworkers got together to furnish an apartment and buy necessities for a woman and her children in this situation. They’d left the abuser with the clothes on their back and their toothbrushes. That’s it. Thankfully we live in a region where a lot of nonprofits, churches, and agencies will connect victims with resources to get them back on their feet. Many aren’t as blessed. But don’t assume there’s no way out– talk to an advocate or agency to find out what help might be available. And again, remember that it’s not worth your life.

7. The victim feels ashamed of or embarrassed by the abuse. 

Admitting that you’re a victim can be much more difficult than it sounds. A victim might think that speaking out or leaving screams failure. Disconnecting from a dangerous, toxic relationship is not a failure, but a victory. When you become free from the soul-sucking, potentially fatal chains that have held you down, you discover that there’s a whole world out there you were missing. Life blossoms with possibilities and you achieve things you never could have dreamed while someone else was drowning you.

You might process all sorts of confusing emotions while making it to safety, and your life might be peppered with negative people who treat you like you didn’t do enough. You know what? They need to work on their own issues, one of which is dissecting other people’s lives while ignoring the issues in their own. Hypocrites are hypercritical. Focus on the successes you have and that will come, not the coulda shoulda wouldas.

8.  Fear. 

Plain and simple, fear is legitimate and justifiable in the context of abuse. We might be afraid of being murdered if we leave, which is why documentation and safety planning are so important. We might be afraid of what people will think. We could be afraid of the unknown. We could be afraid because we have no idea what to do next. The thought of being alone can be terrifying as well.

Ace pilot Eddie Rickenbacker aptly stated, “Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.” As bestselling author Gavin de Becker says, fear is a gift, an instinct that can alert us to danger. So pay attention to that fear even when it doesn’t make sense. But also know that you can harness that fear to achieve positive change. Once you have overcome the fear that is holding you back by strategically leaving abuse behind you, who knows what you’ll achieve? You might, like me, find that where there was once fear there is now a passionate righteous anger that motivates you to help others.

9. The victim might be unsure that the police will believe or help them. 

I understand this well. That was a major hesitation and gamble for me. I had to report a cop to the cops. I was blessed with a police department and prosecution team who thoroughly understood what was going on. But years later, I’m still treated as a lying, vindictive attention seeker by some in the law enforcement community because I chose to stay alive. I remind myself that they don’t know, they’re quick to protect their own, and they have no idea how much sacrifice has been involved.

But this gut-wrenching dilemma is faced by victims of all walks of life in myriad locations. Will the cops believe me? I don’t have bruises right now. I didn’t start documenting this until the past year. No one else but me knows what he’s really like at home. He’ll just put on his Mr. Smooth persona if I call the police and convince them that I’m mental-emotional.

This is why domestic violence and sexual assault training is so important for first responders. They need to recognize red flags and take every allegation seriously. They need to document these incidents. Their agencies should require this of them so the treatment of domestic violence is not left up to their personal discretion. Despite the widely trumpeted myth that many women fabricate domestic violence allegations and sexual assault, studies show that the vast majority do not. Start by believing.

Victims, if what is being done to you is minimized or dismissed, keep trying. Contact a domestic violence hotline, a prosecutor, a local advocacy agency (like LifeWire in the Seattle area), someone who you can confide in. Have details ready and don’t downplay what the abuser’s doing. Don’t give up.

10. The victim doesn’t know where to start.

 Let’s solve that right now. Before you visit these websites, know how to swiftly delete your browsing history so that your abuser doesn’t know you were there. It’s advisable to use a computer the abuser can’t access outside of the home to view such information, like a library computer. Consider what information might be retained on your cell phone as well.

National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Times Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships

Document the Abuse – learn more about a valuable legal tool for victims called the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit here

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Christian Mental Health & Family Hope Ministries

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Start by Believing

National Network to End Domestic Violence

No More

Love is Respect (National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, 1-866-331-9474)

Domestic Shelters – find a safe place near you

Stalking Resource Center

OutrageUs (stalking help)

If you’re in Washington State, here are additional resources, including for those in the greater Seattle area:

Crisis Clinic, 1-866-427-4747

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Christian Coalition For Safe Families

King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-562-6025

LifeWire, 24-hour help line 1-800-827-8840

New Beginnings, 24-hour help line 206-522-9472

The Hope Line, 206-432-8424 (help with a wide range of issues including domestic violence, human trafficking, housing, gangs, etc. as well as confidential prayer support)

In conclusion, next time you’re tempted to ask someone, “why don’t you leave?” or “why didn’t you leave?”, consider how that sounds. It sounds like you’re blaming them, which will only complicate things. Instead, as blogger Amy Thompson proposes in Language Matters When Engaging Survivors of Domestic Violence in Discussion, ask how they found the courage to leave. If they haven’t left yet, ask how you can help them. Even if you simply provide them with a hotline number, that could be their first step towards becoming a survivor rather than a victim.

You could literally save a life.

Read more on this topic, including tweets from survivors: #WhyIStayed

Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. –Robert Collier

Heidi Hiatt, MA recently graduated as a Forensic Psychologist.  You can read more of her posts at her personal blog, Truth, Justice, and All-American Allergen-Free Apple Pie Straight Talk in a Crooked World

Monday, October 27, 2014

Intimate Partner Violence Revisited in Chicago


By Donna Gore

It was August 1993, Susan Murphy–Milano had already lived at least five of her seeming nine lives by that time. She had experienced a childhood like no one should ever have to bear, serving as the “in resident protective services” for her beloved mother who had experienced years of abuse and violence from her detective husband.

“Sometimes Roberta called the police, but she usually didn't even get to see the responding officers. Phil Murphy would flash his badge, joke with the guys, close the door, and return to battering the object of his disaffection…. "He called her sometimes 20 times a day at the office where she worked," notes Milano. "He constantly accused her of infidelities. He claimed she was a lesbian; he claimed she was having affairs with other officers….He always told her, "If you leave, I'll find you; if I find you, I'll kill you."

Susan was reeling from a personal relationship that caused more pain and heartache. She was doing her best to raise a preschooler with the help of a dedicated babysitter. In 1993, she had been taking on the role of Advocate in Chicago’s Domestic Violence Court without question for three years. Even if she was denied, she had the Domestic Violence Act on her side: (Enacted in New Jersey first in 1991).

Back in the day, Susan’s initial most celebrated case played out in the hallowed halls located at 1340 South Michigan was that of Dawn Wilson whose ex-husband, Christopher stalked and beat her and was played out on national TV, newspapers and magazines. “Even before their marriage, he'd push her around. “After we got married, the real violence started," Dawn says. Violence that started right after the wedding and never really let up. Christopher was arrested nine times following the divorce, to no apparent effect. " He asked me once, `Why do you waste your time taking me to court?' He knew he would get away with it."

During the classic feature article, “Life Saver” for the Chicago Reader in which Susan was the topic, a typical offender, “Gilchrist” was described as such, “He is not so much physically abusive as verbally abusive and prone to "detaining" her--deciding that he doesn't want her to go to work and taking her keys, or removing the battery from her car, or changing the locks on the garage. But this has escalated to death threats against her and her coworkers; he's even put a knife to her throat. "Each little bout is a little bit worse." said Susan.

There is a stir at the bench; it seems there's a problem. There are three charges outstanding against Gilchrist--violating an order of protection, assault, and criminal damage to property, but only two of them are in his folder. They'll have to find the other one before they can proceed. "Pass," says Judge Gembala, and Gilchrist is taken out. Murphy Milano is fuming: that means the case has to be reviewed. They can't do anything until Gilchrist talks with the public defender and Jones talks with the state's attorney. This is the eighth time Gilchrist has violated an order of protection, and Judge Gembala had promised that the next time Gilchrist came before him he'd be put away, period.”

Susan did what she did in the backdrop of her own tragedy within the judicial confines of a system that was “all procedure and no heart.” In her words, she learned as she went along what worked and what didn't work: "Mostly, I went by my gut." Although she denied any obsession with the subject, she admitted, "I was relentless. I did what I felt was right, and I worked to show the media I wasn't just the flavor of the month.”

Former colleagues in the 90s spoke of Susan’s zealousness, her sincerity, her “Let’s take care of business NOW style, and her high productivity, and her personal need to stay uninvolved personally with her victims in order to be effective. You know you’ve created something meaningful when you need body guards. “The International Service Associates is a security agency, licensed and active in 16 states that until very recently served only as a contractor for the federal government. The sole exception to the rule: a few months ago ISA started providing bodyguards--free of charge--for Milano and the women she works with.”

Intimate Partner Violence had become a way of life in all sectors of society, much to the chagrin of Susan. Although she helped one person at a time, she was “the lone ranger” for so many years, as she skillfully navigated the system in her unique manner. Although her accomplishments were many, it was not until the inception of the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit that a prevention tool was able to cut across boundaries and have equal access to anyone affected by IPV.

But, as I thought of creating this piece, I wondered, what was her “stage” like then as opposed to today? What was the history of the building at 1340 South Michigan, Domestic Violence Court?

According to a Chicago preservation website:

It was previously known as the “Interior Furniture Company” built in 1922 in Classical Revival style. The area of Michigan Avenue south of Roosevelt Road was originally residential and then gradually became a mercantile area, used by furniture companies, wholesale clothing companies, horse carriage companies, and later automobile companies. The mercantile history of the area, with loft structures that doubled as showrooms, created a high quality design of building facades that tell a story Chicago business and architecture meeting to create a unique building type. In later years, the building served as the site of the Domestic Violence Courthouse.

In 2005, there was a lot of controversy about whether this building, among others in a “not so nice area of town” was worth saving. Well, what a difference a couple of years and history makes…. For now we have – “Aviation Lofts” Luxury Living! See video too! How nice it would have been to “shelter victims of intimate partner violence” here!

What was the “flow of traffic” like when Susan was perusing the courtrooms? ''It was pretty much a mob scene going into the elevators. Often you would have victims and abusers going up the same elevators,'' said JoAnn F. Villasenor, the supervising attorney of LAF's Family Law Project,

There was a similar problem at 28 N. Clark St., where victims and offenders share a single waiting room. The new building streamlines services for the victims, but it may also improve things for practitioners and the judiciary.

Prior to the opening of the new “state of the art” building in 2005, …Only one judge heard civil orders of protection, When the new court opens, there will be two judges hearing those cases. There were more than 5,300 so-called ''independent'' civil orders of protection filed in 2004.

Civil orders of protection were being heard at 28 N. Clark St. Criminal orders of protection are heard at 1340 S. Michigan Ave, said Laura Bertucci, supervisor of the Domestic Violence Division for the Cook County State's Attorney's office . As is done at Central Bond Court at the Criminal Courts building, the felony preliminaries are held via closed-circuit television. 

“Completely Victim Friendly” for $64+ Million

Among its many advantages, the new Domestic Violence court ''is going to be completely victim-friendly'' was the rave!

The new building features separate entrances for alleged victims and alleged offenders, Bertucci said. There are also separate elevators and waiting rooms.

Additionally, there are spaces for an array of victims' advocates on the new court's first floor, Bertucci said. The scattered branches put a heavy burden on the victims.

''People who went to 13th and Michigan prior to the new building, , if there wasn’t enough evidence to sustain a criminal charge, then advocates told them to go to 28 N. Clark for a civil order. That made for a very long day for people who've very recently been victims of violence''.

The Maze of it all. Without GPS- “Organizational Structure” (See Map) And I’ll bet Susan knew it like the back of her hand!

The pièce de résistance- 555 West Harrison Street Children’s Advocacy Room

Although there has been child advocacy in the Chicago judicial system in various forms over the years, children are very vulnerable victims of domestic violence and need a safe harbor. The new courthouse has such a place. It provides a number of valuable services:


I’m thinking of a little girl from Chicago who wrote a poem expressing the violence that was happening in her home as a means of reaching out. The teacher and the principal did not believe her…and she was punished! That little girl, and author of “Holding My Hand Through Hell” was Susan Murphy Milano!

Donna2Donna Gore created a service program for crime victims and offers her assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. She recognizes that this could be of great value to not only the crime victim, but to the court system as well.

By using Gore’s services a crime victim can be coached on how to best present their victim impact statement. From her vast experience volunteering in the courtroom, she is able to act as a liaison with advocates who may not have the same experiences. Working with the court advocates, attorneys, and prosecutors, not only will the crime victims’ voices be heard, they will be presented professionally, courteously, and effectively.

Donna R. Gore is a consultant and trainer with the Office of Victim Services within the US Department of Justice. She is the host of the internet radio show, Shattered Lives which broadcasts every Saturday at 5pm Eastern time on the Inside Lenz Network.

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