Sanctuary for the Abused
Friday, April 28, 2006
ADVICE FOR EVERY ABUSED PERSON
(change female pronouns to male, if the case applies)
DURING AN EXPLOSIVE INCIDENT
• If there is an argument, try to be in a place that has an exit and not in a bathroom, kitchen or other room that may contain weapons.
• Practice getting out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevator or stairwell to use.
• Pack a bag and have it ready at a friend or relative’s house.
• Identify neighbors you can talk to about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear a disturbance from your home.
• Devise a code with your children, family, friends and neighbors when you need the police.
• Decide where you will go if you ever have to leave home.
• Use your instinct and judgment. In a dangerous situation, placate the abuser if possible, to keep the abuser calm.
WHEN PREPARING TO LEAVE
• Open a checking or savings account in your own name.
• Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents and extra clothes and medicine in a safe place or with someone you trust.
• Get your own post office box.
• Find a place where you and your children can go or a person who can lend you money.
• Always keep the shelter phone number (collect calls accepted) and some change and a calling card on you for emergency calls. 911 calls are free from pay phones.
• If you have pets, make arrangements for them to be cared for in a safe place.
WHAT YOU NEED TO TAKE WITH YOU
• Identification: driver’s license; children’s birth certificates; your birth certificate; social security cards; welfare identification
• Financial: money and/or credit cards; bank books; check books
• Legal Papers: your Protective Order; lease, rental agreement or house deed; car registration and insurance papers; health and life insurance papers; medical records for you and your child; work permits, green card or VISA; passport; divorce papers; custody papers
• Other: house and car keys; medications; change of clothes for you and your child; address book; phone card; pictures of you, your child and your abuser
WITH A PROTECTIVE ORDER
• If you or your children have been threatened or assaulted, you can request a Protective Order from your District or County Attorney.
• Always keep your Protective Order with you.
• Call the police immediately if your abuser violates the Protective Order.
• Inform family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors that you have a Protective Order in effect.
• Think of alternative ways to stay safe if the police do not respond immediately
IN YOUR OWN RESIDENCE
• If you stay in your home, lock your windows and change the locks on the doors.
• Develop a safety plan with your children for times when you are with them and when you are not with them.
• Present any court orders pertaining to your child’s school, daycare, etc. about who has permission to pick up your child.
• Inform your neighbors and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see your abuser near your home.
• Never call the abuser from your home. The abuser may find out where you live. Never tell them where you live.
• Request an unlisted, unpublished number from the phone company.
ON THE JOB AND IN PUBLIC
• Decide whom at work you will inform about your situation. Include the office building security, and provide a picture of your abuser if you are able.
• When at work, if possible, have someone screen your phone calls.
• Have someone escort you to and from your car, bus or train.
• If possible, use a variety of routes to travel to and from work.
SECURITY AT THE COURTHOUSE
• Sit as far away from the abuser as possible. Remember you do not have to look at or talk to your abuser or the abuser’s family or friends.
• Take a friend or an advocate from your Shelter or DV Facility with you to wait until your case is heard.
• Tell a bailiff or sheriff that you are afraid of your abuser and ask them to look out for you.
• Make sure you have your court order before you leave.
• Leave quickly and ask the judge or sheriff to keep the abuser there for a while when court is over.
• Drive to the closest police or fire station if you think the abuser is following you when you leave.
• If you have to travel to another state to go to court or get away from your abuser, take your Protective Order with you. It is valid everywhere.
CELL PHONE INFORMATION
• A cell phone with a battery and charger can be used to dial 911. You do not need to pay a monthly fee for 911 only access.
• The phone must be charged in order to access police.
• Be sure to identify the city and address you are calling from so the 911 dispatcher can assist you effectively.
• If you need a free cell phone for 911 only access, please contact a Women's Shelter or Victims Assistance
Thursday, April 27, 2006
WHEN GOODBYE IS NEVER SPOKEN
As night settled into its soggy wet blanket, the pooch and I went for a walk. The rain beat a sibilant hiss upon the shiny black road, the streetlights glowed iridescently, casting golden orbs of light, punctuating holes into the dark shadows of the night. I was wrapped in the misty blanket of a rainy west coast evening, my skin moistened by the water-laden air, my breath a frosty vapor leading me silently forward. The pooch pranced happily by my side, her tail a constant metronome displaying the tempo of her happiness as we journeyed forth into the dark.
It was a mystical, magical evening. A night for quiet thoughts that drifted through my mind as effortlessly as the raindrops falling one-by-one from the pearl clad branches all around me.
I thought of love found and love lost and moving on. Of new relationships and old. New found love and love that never fulfills its promise by growing old. Of promises made and promises broken. Journeys taken and voyages lost because the voyageur could not see by the light of the moon and lost his way among the stars. And I thought of my brother to whom I had never said good-bye. And the Psychopath to whom good-bye was just another word for the door is always open until I say so.
For such a little word, good-bye carries a mighty wallop.
Good-bye can mean, see you in a while, or see you in a year. It can carry us into the night on the hope of tomorrow or it can sweep all hope away as we look back and see there will never be a next time, another day, or a new tomorrow.
For those who have journeyed into the valley of the Narcissist or Psychopath, good-bye is a word fraught with the fear that once spoken it can never be returned. It lays frozen upon our tongues, our minds numb in the fear it might slide out on a breath of air and change our lives forever. Terrified we might slip, we pack our hopes and dreams into that one little word and stuff our pride and dignity into the cracks of our pain seeping in beneath the door held fast against our fear. And all the while, we search for the perfect last words that will either make it all right or make him hear us, just this once, before he slithers off into the dark from whence he came.
And as we flounder in the depths of empty words and promises, we pray that there will never be a time to say good-bye but rather welcome back, I've missed you. Spiraling into the darkness of the painfully long good-bye they began when they said, hello, we silently hold onto the word that will set us free and stumble through the words of begging them to please not say it.
But destiny waits for no man, and the door we thought we held so firmly closed is always open, until, eventually we must face the reality that we will never have the chance to say our fond farewells. They have already left. Gone in search of new tomorrows. Of some other happily ever after.
In their passing, we are left holding the shreds of our battered hearts in the basket of our dreams, frozen in time. Alone, forlorn, we whisper, good-bye, into the empty space that lays before us, hoping they will hear the soft promise of our hopes they will find out there, that which they could never find in us. We peer into the darkness of the lengthening shadows, our tears puddling around our feet, forming a river into which we fall, in fear of drowning as we cry out for one last chance to say good-bye.
It’s such a little word but it keeps us stuck on the dream of wanting them back so that we can say, Good-bye.
In the end, the best good-bye is the one we tell ourselves as we pick at the scab of our wounds that never seem to heal.
We will never find the key that will unlock the secret door to their understanding. It resides somewhere in the dark, beyond the edges of the light. But, beneath the scabby, jagged-edge scar of our disbelief, new skin is forming. If we leave it alone long enough to heal from the inside out, we will understand that it was only our shadow we feared. And then, one day, we lift our heads and see, the sun is shining. As it beckons, we step into the light of finally knowing, the only way to say good- bye to what never was, is to accept it never will be.
Written by: M.L. Gallagher
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Tools for Coping Series.
Lack the knowledge that they are being taken advantage of by others.
Are so used to a certain way of being treated that they don't recognize it as unhealthy for them.
Lack healthy self-esteem or self-concepts.
Have little belief in themselves.
Come from high-stress families where their rights were never respected; therefore, they lack the competencies, skills, and abilities to stand up for their rights.
Lack information about assertive behavior and have no experience in using assertive behavior.
Lack of ``others'' in their lives who can point out alternative healthy solutions to their problems.
Are timid, scared, and suspicious of help being offered to them.
Are skeptical about someone really wanting to help them.
Victims often hold to some of the following irrational beliefs in their lives:
You must be nice to everyone, even if they are not nice to you.
Life is supposed to be filled with unhappiness and uncertainty.
The small guy never wins.
This is the way things are supposed to be.
There are winners and losers in all transactions between people.
My role in life is to be a loser.
Most people are basically selfish, mean, self-centered and disrespectful.
You should never complain.
Take it like a ``man'' (woman)!
Be silent with your feelings.
Victims often do not stand up for their rights because they suffer from the irrational fear of:
taking a risk
being overwhelmed emotionally and physically
loss of self-respect
making a mistake.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Stalking No Less Scary When Virtual
By Charles Bermant
There is the idea that your e-mail address is part of your castle, that people should never cross that particular line unless they are invited. This naive concept was pretty much canceled out by spam, so we are resigned to the idea that something unwanted will always appear when you log on in the morning. You just deal with it.
But there is a clear difference between “I can help you refinance your home” and “I know where you live, who you are and I am watching.” The latter falls under the category of “cyberstalking,” a practice that can be as intrusive as its analog counterpart. A person who sends intrusive e-mails may not provide as immediate a threat as someone waiting in your vestibule, but it is as much of a violation.
“We have a right to be free from harassment,” said Joelle Ligon of Seattle, who was victimized for several years by a former boyfriend. “And there is a fundamental difference between spam and harassment. Spam is just trying to sell you something, while harassment is a hate crime directed at a specific person.”
Ligon knows her stuff. She spent years convincing others there was a problem and
unsuccessfully attempted to trap her pursuer. But it paid off. Her efforts resulted in the passage of last year’s anti-cyberstalking law in Washington. She has become an activist for the cause and was featured in last week’s People magazine. She has blazed these trails so others are not similarly ensnared. These days, a stalking victim has some recourse and won’t spend years trying to convince others of the danger.
According to Jayne Hitchcock, a Maine-based activist who has written a book called “Net Crimes & Misdemeanors” and runs a free victim’s service, cyberstalking is easily defined:
Repeated online communications after the sender has been told to cease and desist.Her prescription for dealing with this is also pretty simple and is outlined at www.haltabuse.org.
There are a few steps to take before getting Hitchcock’s help. The first is to be direct, a message that says simply, “Please stop sending me e-mail.” Don’t reply to any subsequent contact, no matter how annoying.
Anyone in immediate physical danger needs to call the police immediately. Save all the offending messages as evidence.
Hitchcock said many stalkers have a previous connection with their victims, the most common being an ex-pal out for some kind of revenge. But many of these folks are strangers and are acting out the Internet version of road rage.
Someone doesn’t like what you posted on a BBS or just doesn’t like your login name. So the stalker chases you for weeks, posting your name on porn sites and your address on mailing-list requests. Hitchcock also suggests that people choose a gender-neutral log-on in all cases and keep two e-mail accounts, one for friends and important correspondents and a free Web mail account for public contact.
These are easy to change if the need arises. But some people just won’t be forced out of their virtual homes. For instance, Ligon’s log-on remains unambiguously feminine.
It takes guts to stand up to the creeps. And while some people minimize the effects of cyberstalking by saying it isn’t truly “real,” folks like Ligon and Hitchcock have made it safe for the rest of us.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Surviving the System: Custody and Access Struggles
By Gwen O'Reilly
The most important thing to remember if you are leaving a relationship is to take your children with you if you can! Apply for interim custody right away. If your partner is violent and/or abusive and you are afraid of him, you may be able to get a judge to grant an ex-parte order – legal custody without notification to the other parent. Women's shelters can help you get a lawyer and go through the legal process. If you cannot take your children with you, or are prevented from doing so, go to court with an application for custody as soon as you can. Any time that elapses with the children in the other parent's care will be seen as your acceptance of their fitness as a parent, and could be construed as a lack of interest in your children. Do not agree to joint custody, unless you want to co-parent with your ex-partner. If possible, apply for child support at the same time you are applying for custody - it is easier to get subsidized legal assistance at this point.
Decisions about access arrangements are very important - think them out carefully. First of all - is your ex partner generally responsible? Will your children be safe and well treated? If not, you should consider asking for no access, or at least supervised access. Unfortunately, violence directed at you will not necessarily convince a judge that your ex-partner should have restricted access. If your safety is an issue, try to get supervised or third party exchanges, so you do not have to face your ex-partner. If you are in the difficult position of having a restraining order against someone who has an access order to see your children, make sure local police are well (and repeatedly) informed about the situation.
Other questions to think about: What will happen when your children are older, in school, in extra curricular activities or able to travel alone? How much time does it take for your kids to get back and forth, and what is the least disruptive schedule for them? In what circumstances would you cancel or deny access – when your child is sick, upset, or if the other parent's circumstances change? What will happen if you start a new relationship or job, or move to another place? Are there grandparents involved on either side? When can your children visit extended family? Be as specific as possible about times and dates for access so that there is no room for argument. Beware of agreeing to any arrangements you will have trouble fulfilling. Keep a journal or record of your ex-partner's use of access, what transpired and what shape the kids were in when they returned.
If you have lost custody, and hope to get it back or have access increased, ALWAYS exercise your access to your children, unless you are afraid for your safety. If the custodial parent makes this difficult or impossible, try to get proof each time that you have made attempts to visit or phone your children. Try to find creative ways to stay in touch through letters, e-mails etc.
Every agency has a different mandate, and a different set of rules for making decisions about your case. Find out this information if you can. When you are going through an intake procedure, such as for legal aid, NEVER minimize violence or abuse. Make sure you tell them clearly that you have reason to be afraid of your ex partner. Ask if they have special considerations for women coming out of violent relationships, and if so, tell them you want those criteria to apply to you. If you are turned down, ask why, and find out how to appeal. Be especially careful of the information you give to workers whose job it is to judge or observe your fitness as a parent - child protection workers, psychologists, supervised access workers, even family counsellors. Never think of them as "being on your side" no matter how sympathetic they appear. When telling your story to professionals, give a factual account of any violence or abuse you have endured, and make sure to include the impact on the children. Never dwell on how your ex has mistreated, cheated on or bad mouthed you (even though these things may be true). Workers may interpret this as selfish or vengeful behaviour. Express your concerns for your children. It is best to prepare and present a practical plan about how you intend to provide for their emotional and physical needs, now and in the future.
Last, but not least - get good support from an appropriate place. Custody and access struggles can go on for years, and be continually adversarial. Mutual friends and even family are soon exhausted by the conflict. Children get caught in between. All these people may also be an inadvertent source of information for a manipulative ex-partner. Better to use a trusted, objective friend who is not too close to your family or ex-partner, or seek out good counselling.
Gwen O'Reilly has been the Coordinator of the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre in Thunder Bay for 10 years. Helping individual women with child custody, access and support issues and fighting systemic bias in family law has been the main focus of her work for the past 5 years.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Why I joined a domestic violence group even though he hadn’t hit me
My home was not a safe place
Our home is supposed to be a safe place, a harbor and haven. Our spouses are supposed to be our nurturer protector and partner. For years my home and partner were anything but. My home was a source of fear, tension, and confusion and my husband made me the enemy. I am strong woman, independent and self-employed so it isn’t easy to make me afraid to go home—in fact its difficult for people to believe I was an abused spouse. But it happens slowly, insidiously.
At first my husband didn’t like the dishes I left in the sink once and while, then he came home and inspected the windows to see if I’d opened or closed them—whatever I did, it wasn’t right. Then the thermostat became a problem—No temperature I turned it to was correct. Soon I was told not to run the dryer in the heat of the day, only at night. I didn’t buy the right detergent or turn the lights on and off correctly. If Bob let me drive, he criticized what lane I was in, what route I took, and complained I was going too fast or too slow. As the controlling behavior escalated, so did his anger.
I told myself "Pick your battles"
Little things set him off and I never knew what it would be—maybe the dogs barked and woke him up and it was my fault, he missed an appointment, it was my fault, I closed the door to the bedroom and the latched clicked and I was accused of doing it on purpose to wake him up. I wanted to be a good wife and so I tried harder—“pick your battles I told myself.” No one thing was any big deal so it wasn’t worth fighting about, but the pattern escalated and his anger increased. The cycle was, intense criticism, I couldn’t please him, he would go on a rampage breaking things, slamming doors and calling me names. He broke dishes, phones, TV remotes. He once tore the dashboard off my truck as I was driving, he would swipe everything off the counters and pull things out of the cupboards—my house would be littered with broken glass, broken mementos and an enraged man who looked like he wanted to rip my face off. Then he was sorry, promised never to do it again but I should not have provoked him.
When my mom first used the word “abuse” with me, my automatic response was, “I’m not abused, he’s never hit me.” I did not recognize what was going on. I kept thinking if I just acted right—that somehow he would stop being so angry.
Abuse is always about Control
Abuse is always about CONTROL. Whether it is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse. The verbal abuser uses body language to control his partner, just as he uses words. The words and gestures often go together, eventually destroying their partner's physical and emotional integrity so that she will be afraid to be herself, will question and compare everything she does with whether it might please or displease her partner.
My husband controlled me by:
constant criticism of almost everything I did or didn’t do
threats of divorcing me and leaving me...
calling me, my mother, my daughter, names
harassing me about having imagined affairs,
accusing me of having a thing for black men and making it very uncomfortable to conduct business
breaking things, throwing things, swiping counters
refusing to talk to me for days on end
refusing to take me any place
hitting or kicking things in the house
accusations, accusations, accusations
he intimidated me with his size, volume of his voice and his strength
Not making him angry became the focus of my life.
I walked on eggshells all the time trying to keep from making him angry. Not making him angry became the focus of my life.
The best thing that ever happened to me was when he went into a rage last year and tore up the kitchen and living room forcing me to flee to the police. They couldn’t do anything because he didn’t hit me!!! But they sent me to a domestic violence group and that group of women became my new family. I began to understand the pattern of control, disrespect and humiliation this man used with me. I began to understand that I would never never never please him, whether the windows were up or down didn’t matter, this was not about me, it was about him his anger. I learned that I was not a victim I was a TARGET and I didn’t have to be his target any longer. I began following the advice from the experts and I managed to get him to leave me alone—but the hostility seethed within him and my home was still not a safe place. It was an angry tension-filled house.
The line between verbal and physical abuse is one of degree.
The line between verbal and physical abuse is one of degree. The same interpersonal dynamics apply to both relationships. Many verbally abusive relationships will never cross the physical abuse "line." However, the absence of physical abuse does not make a verbally abusive relationship OK!
My abuser was clever. He always stopped just short of doing something he could be charged with. He raised his hand to me a couple times, I cowered. He would cross his arms (I think to keep from hitting me) and block the entrance or exits to rooms—he would bump against me screaming names at me—I didn’t want to be hurt so I pulled back, did not confront or stand up for myself.
Once my Husband—after days of raging--handed me his 9 mm handgun and told me to hide it—I went to the police who could do nothing because all he did was tell me to hide it! He was so clever—always stopping short of what was not legal. It does not help that the legal system is often powerless regarding aspects of abuse phenomena. This man often had me terrorized but he didn’t hit me so the law could not be there for me.
Finally, it did escalate to physical. He was screaming in my face, just 3 inches from my nose with his arms folded moving closer and this time I didn’t back down. I was sick to death of his intimidation and constant barrage on me so when he screamed “Fucking bitch, what are you to do about it?” I screamed back.” I’ll tell you what I’m going to do about it”—in the same volume as he just yelled at me and his arms flew apart and he threw me into the kitchen table, knocking over a chair bruising my leg and knocking everything off the table. I was in shock and he immediately started yelling, “You pushed me! You shoved me! Why did you shove me?” He didn’t want to go to jail and he immediately made it my fault.
The message I have is simple—To be abused, you don’t have to be hit. You don’t have to be a victim if you don’t want and you stop being their target by arming yourself with information. Go online, call Quinn Rivers, take care of yourself if your partner has made you the enemy.
Message for law enforcement
And for Law enforcement, I have another message—you did me a huge favor by sending me to Quinn Rivers Domestic Violence Group. It may have saved my life, it surely saved my sanity. But I also have an admonition—when a man is clever like my husband, he won’t do anything that you can charge him with—he is too smart. When he pulled that thing with the 9 mm gun I was terrified and the police thought so little of it they didn’t even file an incident report. They brushed me off saying—well he didn’t threaten you—all he did was tell you to hide his gun! My husband knew what he was doing—scaring the piss out of me—and the police acted like I was an hysterical woman. When a woman tells you she is scared and you can’t see why she is scared, remember that abuse is words and gestures combined—the tone of voice, the look in the eye and our history. Please don’t make me feel it's useless to go to you for help. File the report, tell me you understand, and send me to a domestic violence group for support.
You Are A Target
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
A Useful Tool for Self-Assessment of Sexual Addiction
(from Sex Addicts Anonymous http://www.sexaa.org/ )
Answer these twelve questions to assess whether you may have a problem with sexual addiction.
Do you keep secrets about your sexual or romantic activities from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
Have your needs driven you to have sex in places or situations or with people you would not normally choose?
Do you find yourself looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media?
Do you find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are preventing you from facing problems?
Do you frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
Do you feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid touching your body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual feelings, that you are asexual?
Does each new relationship continue to have the same destructive patterns which prompted you to leave (or abandon) the last relationship?
Is it taking more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief?
Have you ever been arrested or are you in danger of being arrested because of your practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent phone calls, etc.?
Does your pursuit of sex or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs or development?
Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?
Has your sexual or romantic behavior ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, we would encourage you to seek out additional literature as a resource or to attend an Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting to further assess your needs.