Author: admin

Peace

Peace

This blog has been a wonderful way of regurgitating all the pain I’ve swallowed. I caused pain too. I said a lot of hurtful things to people I loved and I’m sorry about that. I became a public hot mess on social media partly because I wanted to offend my family and partly because I was, in fact, a hot, traumatized, suicidal mess. I have no shame about anything I ever posted but I did offend and so I am sorry. I don’t get to decide if I hurt people any more than they get to decide if they hurt me.

But facts are facts. I am the domestic violence survivor and the crime victim. I am the one who experienced the abusive marriage and the only witness to the crimes. And I am the one who was alienated and blamed for the breakdown of my marriage and family after those crimes.

My memoir is just a detailed diary of every word texted or emailed between me, my abuser and members of my family. For me, it’s validation that I am not the evil, raging bitch everyone painted me as. It’s proof that I am resilient, adaptive, loving and honest.

I am very grateful to the many therapists, advocates and support group peers who allowed me to express my feelings of fear, grief, anger, and hope. I am also grateful to my employer who believes in me and my story and to the Jeanne Geiger Center and Detective Wile who helped save my life post-fire through their efforts on my behalf via the DVHRT.

Most importantly, I have been so very fortunate to have a partner that has been by my side every step of the way for over three years. Without the unconditional love and support of my spouse, I would most likely be homeless, or worse. It was my spouse who created the framework so that I could unpack the trauma churning inside my head and make some sense of it (I love you!).

The last step toward peace has been posting my latest blogs. Instead of publishing my memoir, I chose excerpts to illustrate the many layers of family dysfunction that we all experienced post-fire. By blogging my story in pieces, I’ve accomplished a sense of closure without airing all the dirty laundry. I have wanted and needed to talk about it for so long, but no one would allow it, except my brother Eddie. He and his family are the only ones who’ve let me talk, actually listened to what I had to say and even cried with me (I love you guys).

I am finally at peace almost five years after my abuser torched my life.

I’ll probably still blog once in a while about life going forward and of course about domestic violence. But I don’t need anyone from my past to make me feel whole anymore. I have let go and it feels so liberating!

Woof
Why Didn’t I Leave?

Why Didn’t I Leave?

Five months after I married my abuser, I was pregnant with my first child. Less than two years later, I was the mother of two. I was thrilled to be a mom. My kids were my world. They deserved to be loved and nurtured and I deserved their giggles and hugs. I was positive I’d raise confident, compassionate, loving people and we’d spend our lives connected by the inseparable mother-child bond I fantasized about.

I also clung to another fantasy. I believed my abuser would be as devoted to our kids as I was and that we’d shower them with affection together and be the family I’d always imagined. I was young and naive and I thought having children would bring us closer and that he’d finally be happy.

But my abuser’s temper didn’t change at all after we became parents. He seemed to grow more paranoid and stressed out after our kids were born and his violent outbursts frightened them. He also started to develop a pattern of putting them in harm’s way.

I’ll never forget standing over a boiling pot of soup with a 2-year-old clinging to my legs and an infant in my arms when my abuser went into a rage. My babies were screaming as he pushed me closer to the hot stove and yelled profanities at me. I remember carefully leading him out of the kitchen, babies in arms, as he raged at me.

Another time, he picked the kids up from daycare and got into a road rage fight on the way home. It was a dark, rainy night when another guy cut him off and they both pulled to the side of a busy road to confront each other. My 3-year-old daughter was terrified and managed to escape the confines of her car seat and get herself out of the car. She toddled precariously on the dark, wet road crying “don’t hurt my daddy!” as the confrontation escalated. Thankfully, the other guy saw her and quickly retreated to his car.

These are just a couple of examples of my abuser’s negligence and lack of responsibility when it came to his children’s safety and security. Instead of teaching my children about patience and kindness, he demonstrated increasing anger and hatefulness. They learned early on that their dad was a ticking time bomb, always ready to explode.

At this point, I’d been trapped in the relationship for years. I couldn’t just pack up and leave. My abuser had always threatened to off himself and maybe me if I left him. Maybe I was afraid that if I did try to leave he would hurt all of us. But this was my normal and I didn’t realize that I was being abused. I did think that if I placated him I could at least keep my children safe inside my home. Maybe I was blind, maybe I accepted the abuse or maybe I just felt trapped in a situation I thought I’d created for myself.

Whatever the reason, it was my job to protect my kids regardless of how their father treated me. It was my job to shield them from his temper and shield them I did. Almost every day, I carried on with my daily routine of walking on eggshells, counting the seconds until I could take a shower where I’d have the freedom to cry when no one was looking.

I remember struggling to appear happy at family events while I was fighting back tears because my abuser had terrorized me earlier in the day or sometimes even in the car on the way to a family gathering. I remember making excuses for him when he snapped at me in front of my family, sat outside sulking in the car during a party or dragged me out the door because he wanted to go home.

I’ve been asked, “Why didn’t you leave?”. I’ve been told, “If any man did that to me, I’d tell him to fuck off.” If I had done that, I’d probably be dead (and perhaps my children too).

Why don’t we leave? Here are a few reasons:
Fear: When a victim attempts to leave or threatens to leave, the abuser feels he is losing control and the violence escalates. Most domestic violence-related homicides occur after the victim leaves, attempts to leave or even threatens to leave. Victims live in fear of what will happen if they try to leave their abuser.

Isolation: Many victims, like me, are isolated from friends and family, so we feel like we have no one to turn to for help. Abuse is a process and if it’s done well, victims are left feeling alone and without options.

Emotional and Economic Dependence: We are afraid to be on our own because we have become dependent emotionally on our abusers who’ve convinced us that we are fucked without them. We have low self-esteem that’s been cultivated by our abusers over the years. And economically, especially if we have children, we feel like we can’t survive without our abusers. The fear of being homeless and unable to provide for our kids is frightening.

Guilt: Abusers have a knack for making us feel responsible for their happiness. This was a huge issue for me even after my abuser set my house on fire. He was severely burned and sought pity from me and my family. He expected me to return to him and care for him as if he hadn’t torched my home and killed my dog. And I struggled with guilty feelings for months.

These are some of the reasons why we stay (or even return). My biggest regret is that my children were raised in a household where they were taught that respect for their mother was nonexistent. They learned from the example set by their father that my happiness and well-being don’t matter. They’ve also learned that their violent dad is the victim and I am the monster.

But my biggest joy is that they are still alive.

Sister or Victim Blamer?

Sister or Victim Blamer?

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked just after I received the news that I’d been banished from the wedding.

I replied “No”. I just wanted to be left alone. My husband had tried to kill me and when that failed he concocted a bullshit smear campaign and successfully ruined my family relationships.

I had lost my home, my possessions, my dog and my children because of my abuser. I was devastated. And I was terrified of my abuser who continued to stalk and harass me while he awaited trial for his crimes.

“I understand your not wanting to talk about things, but I am in agony and need to.” She said. “I cannot even wrap my head around the deterioration of your relationship with your kids. I do not know how you let this happen, but from where I sit, it has continued to look like you have gone to some other dimension created out of feeling victimized and misunderstood.”

She was blaming me. My husband torched my house while I was in bed and she was blaming me.

“You think that the only people who understand and support you are your online friends and that is so insulting. Were they the ones at the hospital in the middle of the night, or was that your brother? Did they rush to the hospital immediately to make sure you were okay or was that your mother and your brother? Did they rush to see you, with a bag of clothes in hand, on the day of the fire, or was that me? Did they open their home to you for as long as you needed, or was that your sister….and Mom?”

Why did she say this? I was eternally grateful to my family and I had thanked them repeatedly for what they’d done for me.

“If you can’t figure out who loves you anymore, then I am so sorry for you”, she said. “If you can only react in anger to everything, and continue to demonize everyone who is trying to help you, then I am sorry for you.”

Again, why was she saying these hurtful words to me? The only person I was angry with was my abuser.

She went on “Your lies have got to stop. Your dangerously sick relationship with John has got to stop. You two have embraced victimhood for too long and have become so narcissistic and self-absorbed and dishonest, that it is just crazy. I don’t know who you are anymore.”

She continued to lay guilt and shame on me. “I only know I miss my little sister and I, along with EVERYONE else is feeling sick over this entire mess. I hope you can find it within yourself to see beyond yourself and make things better.”

“The damage you and John have done to your children has been life-changing for them. They are seeing things much more clearly than you right now and their families support them 100%. I love you and I cry for you and for your family and for our family.”

She loved me? I sure as hell didn’t feel loved. If she loved me, she would have defended me not only after my abuser tried to burn me to death, but also when he and his flying monkeys demonized me in order to save his ass. If she loved me, she wouldn’t have claimed she didn’t know who I was anymore. She would have said “My sister isn’t okay. I need to find out why and I need to help her.”

I replied “Wow you have so many facts wrong. But thanks for sharing your opinion. Nice to know I’ve wasted my time talking to a therapist who has been giving me advice on what I need to do to feel better. Once more, I did NOT lie to you or anyone else about Twitter, and who the fuck are you all, the social media police?”

“I don’t remember EVER saying that the only people who support me are those people! I did say they have supported me a lot and even helped me get my apartment because I didn’t feel comfortable asking mutual friends of my abuser to do references!! WTF?”

I said “Who am I? I’m a wife who thought things were fine until my husband torched himself! I’m a mother who has been trying to fix relationships that were torched too. I’m going by advice a professional is giving me to get back on my feet! You have NO RIGHT to judge and make assumptions about my marriage. I’ve been looking in the mirror for months! I’ve also been trying to help John for months. I’ve done more than I should to try and help him! I’m not wasting another minute emailing. You want to talk, then call me. Otherwise, don’t waste my time. “

She replied “I would call but I can’t talk to you right now…all I would do is cry.”

Child Abuse and the Path to Teen Dating Violence

Child Abuse and the Path to Teen Dating Violence

I was born in Boston and grew up in a suburb just north of the city, the youngest girl in a family of 6 kids. My mom only wanted 3 kids, but she had 6. I was the only girl in the group of 3 unwanted pregnancies. Mom was frazzled and bitter and she took out her frustrations on me. She told me I was a mistake and she labeled me “the bad seed”.

Mom also instilled in me her resentment for having been born female. She was the oldest of 4, the only girl, and she bore the responsibility of caring for 3 little brothers. She wasn’t allowed to go to college because she was female, and she suffered in silence watching her brothers grow up to be doctors and MIT scholars. 

Mom was raped by her uncle when she was 12 years old. When she told her mother, she was punished and shamed and told never to speak of it again. So she swallowed her trauma which manifested in a nervous tic and major anxiety issues. As an adult, she was forced to have her rapist over for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. She was fucked up and bitter and full of rage because of it. Mom’s oppression and reaction to it were on display all my life, but I didn’t understand the enormity of it. 

I grew up thinking I was cursed to be born with the wrong genitals. Mom reinforced that fact by treating my brothers well, but in essence blaming me for being born. My older sisters, on the other hand, were nurtured and well-adjusted. I was constantly compared to them and left feeling inadequate. They were much older than me and were raised by the younger, more energetic version while I experienced the haggard, frustrated, angry mom who didn’t want 6 kids. Mom’s anger toward me made my childhood difficult. When she raged at me, I’d shut down and usually retreat to my bedroom. Mom scared me.

When I was 16, I met my abuser. He was aggressive about his interest in me and the love-bombing began. I liked him but he intimidated me. At 6’4”, he towered over me and his demeanor was overwhelming. I was definitely attracted to him, he was tall, muscular and extremely good looking. But I just wanted to be friends. My abuser followed me everywhere, in school, at play rehearsals, to parties, saying he’d never give up because he had to have me. I was flattered by the attention and I felt special. I remember thinking “wow, he really cares about me.”

After months of pressure, I agreed to date my abuser. He was triumphant about having “won” me like a prize. I wish at 16 years old that I could have recognized the red flags. But I was ignorant about toxic masculinity and I was in for a rude awakening.

In the first week of our relationship, my abuser told me he was going to marry me. He said “I used to watch you walk by my classroom and I knew I was going to marry the girl with the amazing tits”. No one had ever spoken to me in such an overtly sexual way and I felt very uncomfortable. 

From the get-go, my abuser made it very clear that I belonged to him. He was controlling and extremely jealous. He kept tabs on my whereabouts 24/7. He started beating on boys in my class if they showed the slightest interest in me. And he was always pissed off about something. He’d throw things, destroy things, get into brawls or scream profanities at anyone who set him off. And if I said anything about his behavior he’d turn his anger on me. He told me that he had a “redheaded temper” and that I shouldn’t piss him off. He also had a knack for twisting my words to make it seem that I was the aggressor and he was the victim and I believed him. I was no match for his tactics.

He was menacing and unreasonable and his anger frightened the shit out of me. But that was the way mom made me feel too. I accepted both of their toxic personalities as normal behavior and I assumed I deserved to be treated that way. So like I did with mom, I started to freeze and put up a wall of silence when my abuser verbally attacked. And this would make him angrier, so our fights continued to escalate.

It seemed whenever he gave me something, like a necklace for my birthday, he’d end up ripping it off my neck in a rage and destroying it. Other times, he would threaten to kill us both by driving us off a cliff or into a brick wall, anything to scare me into submission. My abuser would block my exit if I tried to leave. He kicked down doors, grabbed and shoved me. He had a huge chip on his shoulder, was always life’s number one victim and considered everyone a threat, especially boys who talked to me. 

One of my girlfriends labeled our fights “nuclear wars” because of the magnitude of my abuser’s destructive and violent outbursts. She warned me to be careful, but I told her everything was fine because he loved me.

As our relationship continued to evolve, my abuser’s jealousy and control became so menacing that I gave up all of my interests. I stopped participating in school and community theater. I stopped singing. I stopped playing guitar and flute and I stopped seeing my friends. I lived every day for my abuser, with my abuser and in fear of my abuser. There were times I tried to break up with him, but he’d threaten to kill himself and sometimes both of us if I went through with it. In spite of the enormous red flags, I was ignorant and I stayed. I felt safer with my abuser than trying to leave him.

My family also witnessed his temper and overall toxic behavior, but they never said a thing about the obvious red flags that were there, right under our big Italian noses. For years, we were all willfully ignorant about the abuse.

The more intense my relationship with my abuser became, the rockier my relationship grew with my mom. The tug-of-war between each of them for control over me became a constant source of stress. My abuser promised to love me forever while mom made it clear she couldn’t wait till I moved out of her house. Mom was verbally and emotionally abusive and wanted me out. He was verbally and emotionally abusive and promised to always love me. So just like my big sister, I married my high school sweetheart.

Years later, after my abuser set my home on fire, I started trauma therapy. This is when I began my education about coercive control and teen dating violence. This is when I realized I had spent my life in an abusive relationship. This is when I learned that I was a domestic violence survivor. My family still has a lot to learn about domestic violence and more specifically victim-blaming. Unfortunately, I believe they’re a lost cause.

But the domestic violence center where I work runs an extensive teen program to help educate kids in the community about healthy relationships. I’m very proud of the work my employer does and I’m thrilled to be directly involved in making positive changes for future generations. Love shouldn’t hurt.

If you’re a parent, talk to your teen about healthy relationships and ask for help if you’re unsure what to say. Support is always just a phone call away. I believe that in order to change the culture of intimate partner violence, we need to focus on educating our children.

The Parole Hearing

The Parole Hearing

After serving only 15 months, my abuser was eligible for parole. I received a letter notifying me of the hearing and inviting me to attend with a statement. I believe without a doubt that he meant to kill me and that he’d finish the job if he had the opportunity, so I flew from Seattle to Boston to make a statement. I wasn’t able to prepare for or even read my victim impact statement when he was sentenced, so this was an opportunity I was not going to miss.

For what I hope was the very last time in my life, I was face to face with my abuser in a small room at the prison. I wasn’t prepared when he sauntered through the door and I was taken aback by his appearance. He was dressed in a khaki-colored jumpsuit and his thin, auburn hair was tied askew in a tiny ponytail with a piece of string. He smirked as he walked to his chair and then sat with his back to me. I was struck by how rough he looked. 

The Parole “Board” sent one member to the hearing, a former criminal defense lawyer named Tonomey Coleman. Mr. Coleman walked in, sat down and started talking to my abuser without acknowledging my presence in the room. As usual, I felt insignificant.

He asked my abuser a series of questions and my abuser showed absolutely no remorse. This surprised me. I expected him to say he never meant to hurt me and that he was sorry. I expected him to beg for leniency so that he’d be released as soon as possible from prison. But I was foolish. Instead, he pitched the same bullshit he’d been telling my family. He stumbled over his words as he attempted to portray himself as the victim of an evil witch. He told Mr. Coleman that I’d come to him with “evil” in my eyes saying I was sending nudes to “other men” and that I was leaving him to be with “other men.” 

I remember thinking “wow, he’s shooting himself in the foot with this bullshit.” He talked about me like I was Melisandre from Game of Thrones, the red priestess who manipulated the man in her life through fire and brimstone. He sounded like he’d gone mad and it was chilling.  

And Mr. Coleman didn’t seem impressed at all. In fact, he cross-examined my abuser on some of his ridiculous comments. He even insinuated that my abuser’s story sounded like bullshit.

Then it was my turn. I was nervous but very prepared to speak this time. But the second I started talking, Mr. Coleman called a prison guard over for a conversation. I hesitated and looked at him as if to say “I’ll wait”, but Mr. Coleman never looked up. It was obvious he wasn’t interested in hearing anything I had to say. 

I continued speaking very slowly and methodically so my abuser could hear every word, all the while thinking to myself “what the fuck?”. I flew all the way across the country because what I had to say was important. And I was being ignored. But maybe he’d already decided my abuser was criminally insane and should stay in prison.

I started by saying that “for the record” my abuser’s story about the night of the fire was entirely untrue and ludicrous. And then I read my statement. I described the events of that night, how my abuser doused my home in gasoline and lit a fire in a room directly under the bed that I was in, how he’d killed my dog and almost succeeded killing me. I described being stalked, manipulated and threatened for months after the fire, all while I was in a perpetual state of shock and fear.

I asked that the two and a half year sentence for arson and animal cruelty be served in full because I lived in fear. I explained that my abuser originally was charged with attempted murder, but that due to my fear and lack of cooperation the charge was dropped. I stated that the judge at sentencing felt that this case was a failed murder-suicide attempt and that I agreed with that assessment.

I explained that as PTSD has no cure, I had no choice but to serve a life sentence of my own and that I’d spend the remainder of my life struggling with debilitating triggers. I said I was certain that releasing my abuser would cause further trauma, as I no longer felt secure after witnessing what he was capable of doing.  

The moment I finished talking, Mr. Coleman stopped his side conversation, turned to my abuser and gave him another opportunity to speak. Then he told my abuser that he would have a decision within 24 hours. He abruptly stood and walked out of the room without even glancing at me. I had been dismissed. The patriarchy was alive and well.

A couple of hours later, I got the call that my abuser’s parole had been approved. I am certain that Mr. Coleman had made his decision well before the hearing and that the hearing itself was just a formality. I had flown 3000 miles because I was the crime victim and I was afraid of the criminal. But I was marginalized and dismissed.

After I flew home, I did some research on Mr. Coleman. He is a former criminal defense attorney hired for the purpose of tackling the Parole Board’s workload. The attached article in Boston Magazine described the current state of parole in Massachusetts when Mr. Coleman was hired as “a public safety issue that the parole release rate in Massachusetts is so low” and it’s obvious that Mr. Coleman’s job was to increase the rate of parole approvals. My testimony meant absolutely nothing.

https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2013/03/06/meet-the-new-massachusetts-parole-board-member-tonomey-coleman/

The Good Wife

The Good Wife

He told me he would love me forever. What he really meant was I belonged to him forever. I was his property. This wasn’t love, he was my owner. He was proud to have me because I was desirable to him. In his mind, that meant every other human with a penis wanted to fuck me. So it was his duty to “protect” me from the predators. He was the only one allowed to devour me. It started when he began escorting me home from school every day. Then he’d show up unannounced at my job. He was there to make sure my male co-workers didn’t rape me. Without him, how would I survive? No one loved me the way he loved me, no one ever could or would.

In return, I was expected to be his dirty little girl. He dressed me like a whore and used my body to prove his masculinity. He put two babies in my belly. How could I not love them? I was their mother. I devoted my life to them, trying to shut out the ugliness by which they were conceived. They were my purpose.

He groomed me over the years to be submissive. He taught me that it was my responsibility to make him happy regardless of my feelings, wants or needs. My family also groomed me to be a good wife, meaning my husband and children came first and my needs came last. My father told me that above all else it was my job to be a good mother and wife. So I strived to be just that in spite of the daily abuse, just like all the other good Catholic wives.

I loved those little people who came out of my body. They were everything. What I didn’t realize was that they were made more of HIM than of me. They were their father’s offspring and I was merely the vessel that produced them. It didn’t matter that I devoted my life to ensure their safety and security. It didn’t matter that I gave them a mother’s love, a love so fierce that I would have died for them. It didn’t matter that I traded my own safety and security to keep them safe and secure.

I invested my life in a sham. The husband, the children, the sisters, brothers and parents, they were all a sham. I didn’t fit the mold of a good Catholic wife and mother. I was violated in every possible way, emotionally, physically, sexually, even financially. I received the consistent message that I wasn’t worthy of real love. It was all conditional. And when I failed to meet those conditions, I was cut loose and the family moved on, lighter from the burden of me. They were free to follow the Catholic narrative of family without the dead weight of me bringing them down.

I’ve learned that the fierce love I carry inside me is precious and I am not willing to just give it away, not even to the beings that percolated inside my body. Not just anyone deserves my treasures. So I carry them like baggage to the people who I find worthy and I slowly unpack them hoping they accept me and my burden. I guard my love fiercely because I’ve learned that no one, even those I’ve personally propagated, has the freedom to confiscate my riches without investing their commitment in me.

The Good Wife
Truth

Truth

“You can hate me. You can go out there and say anything you want about me, but you will love me later because I told you the truth.” – Mary J. Blige

What is the truth? Lately, the concept of truth has taken a beating. Just look at the political maelstrom we’re currently experiencing. Between “alternative facts” and “fake news” it feels like we can’t believe anything we hear. But thank goodness for “transcripts”. 

Our current president is gaslighting America. There are transcripts verifying his quid pro quo conversation with Ukraine’s president. There is written confirmation that he, in fact, violated campaign finance law. His conversation comes off as a mafia shakedown complete with bribery and extortion. It’s also obvious that he’s engaging in obstruction of justice whenever his activities are investigated. Yet he still insists that he’s a victim and everyone is out to get him. 

This is eerily similar to my abuser’s behavior after he did the unthinkable to his own family. As I watch 45 have public meltdowns on Twitter and on TV, with namecalling, bullying and full out lies, I feel triggered. I’ve been the target of lies and smear campaigns. I’ve also learned that a seasoned sociopath can manipulate his flying monkeys to believe his lies and do his bidding. 

But back to those “transcripts”. I’ve compared some of my documented conversations with the felon who tried to murder me to quoted documentation from or about 45. And I’ve confirmed that a sociopath is a sociopath. Period.

Coercion, Witness Tampering, Obstruction of Justice:

“I just spoke to a psych doctor here and he says unless you say I threatened you, they can’t charge domestic violence. So I’m guessing they are going to ask you just that. Did I threaten you or did you feel threatened. You just need to say no.(45: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”)

“So, apparently I’m being told by my lawyer that the fact that the dog died makes this a bigger deal than if he wasn’t part of the equation. I know we loved the dog but please try not to break down in tears when they bring up the dog. Regular concern but not heartbroken.” (45: “The President and his personal counsel…did not want Manafort to ‘flip’ and cooperate with the government.” Mueller Report).

“I hope you’re happy because you have no idea just how bad it’s going to get because you made me into a monster. After today you won’t have any choices. There is no tomorrow for us unless you call me today. There will only be pain and loneliness forever.” (45: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal”).    

Gaslighting: 

“There is no 100 people combined on twitter that could even come close to honestly caring for you like I do. No one can or ever will love and adore you as much as I do.” (45: “Nobody has ever done so much in the first two years of a presidency as this administration. Nobody. Nobody.”).

“Your family is ready whenever you want to reach out and fess up and ask for real help. Just stop lying to yourself and fess up to what everyone else already knows. They fucking know it and are just waiting for you to ask for help and fess up. It really would feel really good if you were just brave enough to stop lying to YOURSELF.” (45: We are simultaneously fighting the Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party. Always tough to beat the “Press,” but people are beginning to see how totally CORRUPT they are, and it makes our job a whole lot easier!”). 

Victim-Blaming/Playing the Victim:

“Blame me and don’t accept that we did this together. You AND I did that. Now it’s all on me and only you are a victim. We have BOTH of ourselves to blame. We did this to ourselves. (45: “On BOTH sides”).

Why were you so physically scared to be with me? All I was offering was my love. The saddest and most pathetic part is that I would still take you back in a heartbeat” (45: “It’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.”).

This is only a small list of my truths. I have thousands more, including “truths” from my abuser’s flying monkeys that are coincidentally similar to members of the GOP who are complicit to the behavior of the sociopath in chief. It’s all documented for posterity. I am proud of myself for painstakingly sifting through hours of written documentation to support my truth. I am not ashamed of my truth. It is not “alternative facts”.

I know in my heart that I am on the right side of history.

High Risk Team

High Risk Team

The night my abuser set my house on fire, I was placed on the High Risk Team by the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. This is a program that Jeanne Geiger launched back in 2005, the first of its kind in the United States and they continue to roll it out across the US. DVHRT is an evidence-based risk assessment to alert the domestic violence response system when a case has a high risk of turning lethal. In their words “Once a high risk case is identified, a multi-disciplinary team of domestic violence advocates, local law enforcement, prosecutors, probation, corrections, and other community-based organizations implements case-specific intervention plans to mitigate the immediate danger.”

I’m not sure, but I think I was placed in the group after the detective on the team interviewed me in the ER. I had never heard of the Geiger Center and it never occurred to me that I was a domestic violence victim. Unfortunately, I left the state for five months before speaking with an advocate and I floundered in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania while my abuser stalked, coerced, threatened and intimidated me. Meanwhile, my family blamed me for my “part” in the failure of my marriage and abandoned me.

If only someone had told me that I had been identified as being at high risk of being murdered. If only I had been given the resources and education I desperately needed, then I think things would have been much easier for me. But I did eventually return to Massachusetts and I did take advantage of their resources. And I believe the High Risk Team and its resources are the reason I am still alive.

But it took a tragedy to bring about the development of this program. Dorothy Giunta-Cotter was murdered by her estranged husband while their daughter was on the phone with police. He shot her and then turned the gun on himself, leaving two traumatized daughters behind. I remember when it happened. I remember being horrified that a man could do that to the woman he supposedly loved and to his own kids. I never EVER imagined that because of what happened to Dorothy, I’d be considered a “high risk” case for potentially being murdered.

I feel like I owe Dorothy a thank you. I wish I could honor her somehow. But the only way I can think of is to share her story and the efforts undertaken by the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center to keep battered women across the United States alive. I urge you to read Dorothy’s story here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/07/22/a-raised-hand

I urge you to watch this video, listen to that phone call and learn.

In Memory of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter
Domestic Violence Awareness

Domestic Violence Awareness

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the USA. Incredibly enough though, it’s not listed on the Wiki page of October observances which are:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Filipino American History Month
  • Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month 
  • LGBT History Month
  • Miscarriage Awareness Month
  • National Arts & Humanities Month
  • National Bullying Prevention Month
  • National Cyber Security Awareness Month
  • National Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • National Hispanic Heritage Month
  • National Pizza Month
  • National Work and Family Month
  • Polish American Heritage Month

National PIZZA Month is included, but not DV Awareness Month. America, like the rest of the world, is ignorant about domestic violence, even when it’s happening right under their noses. Domestic violence is not taken seriously even though on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

I’ve personally learned that my abuse is insignificant within my own family. To give to the Chicago Cubs charity foundation because your beloved uncle was on the team eons ago instead of giving to the DV center that saved one of your own from probable death speaks volumes. To Walk for Hunger or donate to Autism Speaks or St. Jude’s Hospital are all admirable charitable endeavors. To do it in spite of the fact that you are 1 degree away from someone who barely escaped death due to DV illustrates that you don’t take their DV experience seriously. It also confirms that you think very little of that person, or perhaps you don’t think of them at all.

I am a survivor and I pay it forward by working for a domestic violence shelter. I will continue speaking up for DV victims and I will advocate for gun reform (a gun in the home increases an abused woman’s chances of being murdered by 500%), the VAWA Act, DV homelessness, teen awareness and overall DV education. Below is a list of questions to ask yourself if you think it’s happening to you or someone you care about.

Do you…..

  • Worry that your relationship isn’t healthy?
  • Dread going home?
  • Feel afraid of your partner?
  • Go to great lengths to avoid making your partner angry?
  • Feel like you can’t do anything right in your relationship?
  • Feel like you have no control over your life?
  • Feel emotionally numb, or overwhelmed or helpless because of your relationship?
  • Worry about the safety of others you love?
  • See that your connections to friends and family are shrinking?
  • No longer do activities you love?

Does your partner…

  • Criticize you for little things?
  • Blame you for their actions?
  • Call you names, put you down or humiliate you?
  • Demand to know where you are at all times?
  • Control what you do or where you go?
  • Force you to stop seeing family or friends?
  • Get jealous for no reason?
  • Control your money?
  • Manipulate you into doing things you don’t want to do?
  • Do things to make you feel like you’re going crazy?
  • Trap you, or limit your movement in your home?
  • Try to sabotage your job or other activities you care about?
  • Force you to either take or stop taking birth control?
  • Force you to use alcohol or drugs?
  • Force you to do something illegal?
  • Threaten to turn you in to immigration authorities?
  • Threaten to hurt you, your child, other family members or your pet?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • Display a gun or other weapon to send a message to you?
  • Force you to have sex?
  • Hit, punch, grab, push, burn, strangle or otherwise physically hurt you?

Do you wonder why women stay in abusive relationships? They stay because they…

  • Love or appreciate their partner and simply want the abuse to stop
  • Believe their children are better off with two parents
  • Are afraid of losing custody of their children
  • Are afraid their children will be harmed
  • Are afraid of possible police involvement
  • Know their partner has threatened family or friends
  • Are afraid their partner will kill themselves
  • May have no job skills or have been out of the workforce for some time
  • Will become homeless if they leave
  • Are worried their partner will sabotage their job
  • Don’t want to leave their pets behind
  • Are afraid their possessions might be destroyed
  • No longer feel confident or have strong self-esteem
  • Have depression, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury
  • Have a disability and will be losing their caretaker
  • Don’t have legal immigration status, so can’t legally work or access certain public benefits
  • Fear deportation
  • Have become dependent on drugs or alcohol
  • No longer have a support system
  • Are being pressured by family to stay
  • Are facing religious or cultural pressures to stay
  • Are afraid their partner will kill them

And finally, victim-blaming is WRONG. For all the above reasons, battered women (and men) feel gaslighted, guilty, responsible, hopeless and fearful of their abusers. We are far from perfect people. We make mistakes. But victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim. Victim-blaming also reinforces what the abuser has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. It is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s choice. By engaging in victim-blaming, you allow the abuser to perpetrate relationship abuse.

If you think you or someone you care about is being abused, there is help available at 1-800-799-7233.

If you are in my gene pool, maybe the next time you want to feel good about your charitable self you’ll consider donating to the center that saved my life. https://donate.jeannegeigercrisiscenter.org/

The Dream

The Dream

There is a dream that dances through her broken brain on repeat.

An empty school bus arrives. But where are her babies? Panic sets in as she watches the other children run to their mothers. The town unites to search for the missing tots. But the woods are deep, dark and brambled. The neighbors call for her children. She cries out their names. She can’t rest until they’re found. They have no coats. He has a cold. She is hungry. Fisher cats wail in the distance. They mock her cries. The crickets drown out her voice as she screams. She falls onto her knees, mud splashes in her eyes and she can’t see.

Her children’s father takes her hand and leads her from the woods. She is relieved that he is finally taking her home. Maybe the children are there. Maybe they’re waiting for her. Yes, they must be dirty and scratched, but surely they’re safe at home.

She sees the house in the distance and she knows her babies are inside. She rushes through the door calling for them. Flames surround her. She hears her children screaming from upstairs. They shriek “Mommy, help!” She tries to save them, but they’re out of reach. The flames pirouette around her and approach. She hears him cackle as her babies cry. The flames consume her.

Wash.Rinse.Repeat.