December 31, 2008

Former ER Nurse Gives Victims of Sexual Violence the Power of Hope

By Barb Berggoetz

Caroline Fisher sometimes gets the call she dreads in the middle of the night. A woman in the Indianapolis, Indiana area has been assaulted or raped.

So she dresses quickly and drives the seven minutes from her home to St. Francis Hospital's Center of Hope in Indianapolis, where she will guide the shaken and sometimes beaten victim through a physical exam and that crucial period right after the attack. In a small, homey room, with pink and purple terry cloth robes hung on a wall and two white, cushioned wicker rocking chairs, separated by a curtain from the medical exam chair, registered nurse Fisher gathers the evidence she hopes may lead to convictions.

Just as important, she hopes getting victims quickly into a special exam room -- away from the bustling emergency room -- and using trained sexual assault nurse examiners like herself will help ease victims' anxiety and start them on the road to recovery.

"If I can take (the victim) and give her the tools to start emotionally healing, then that's life-changing. Maybe she doesn't quit school or she's just able to cope with life better. If we're lucky, maybe she'll get counseling. "She shouldn't lose her future because somebody stole sex from her," said Fisher, center coordinator.

It's easy to see Fisher's strong dedication to the Center of Hope, which she advocated for and founded in 1997. You can hear it in her voice when she talks about victims' rights. You can see it in her eyes when she tells how their trauma impacts her life. Since the center opened at the Far-Southside Indianapolis hospital, more than 700 female victims, including 105 this year, have been treated there and provided with advice and resources for counseling and legal help. It's one of six such centers at hospitals in Marion County developed by then-Prosecutor Scott Newman. Together, they now treat about 800 assault and rape victims per year.

Her advocacy for a center at St. Francis was born out of frustration over how assault victims had been handled when she worked as an emergency room nurse. After going to the emergency room, they sometimes had to wait three or four hours in an exam room for doctors. She recalls waiting with victims, not knowing what to say. Doctors sometimes didn't collect evidence properly.

"It made sense (that) nurses could do this," said Fisher, who had been an ER nurse from 1982 until the center opened. Now, 10 trained nurses are on call 24/7, so someone is available any time a victim comes to St. Francis.

Dr. Arthur Stern, a St. Francis emergency room doctor, believes the center's work has had a tremendously positive impact on victims and on improving the collection of evidence for prosecuting cases. When emergency room doctors did exams, he said, a lot more variability existed in the approach and thoroughness.

"You want to make the person feel comfortable and treat any injuries they sustained and make them feel like they're in a safe place," Stern added. "It's a lot less traumatic for victims to have a woman (who is usually a nurse) be the primary person examining them."

Fisher hopes her work and that of the other nurses is having an impact, too. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, I feel like I've made a difference in how they're treated, even if they don't realize it, because I know how it used to be," said Fisher, who was born in Shelby County and got her nursing degree at Indiana Central University, now the University of Indianapolis.

Yet she sees much that still is amiss. Too many sexual assault victims don't report the crimes to police or other authorities, she said, adding that, typically, just 20 percent of women assaulted report the attack. A new study by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, released in November, reports an even lower percentage. Of 913 women randomly surveyed statewide, 13.6 percent reported being raped at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent said they reported it to police.

"They're afraid nobody will believe them. They're embarrassed or they've had a bad experience with law enforcement in the past," said Fisher. She doesn't push victims to call police. "That's their decision," she said. "But if they ask me what I think, I will encourage them to do so. They've had control totally taken away. One of our goals is to give them their power back." Fisher also is disturbed about misconceptions among the general public that lessen the chance for convictions. Too many people believe that DNA evidence has to exist or that the victim has to be injured to prove a rape occurred, she said. Victims realize this. "They think, 'Why bother?' "

"The common reaction is to try to forget it happened and go on," she said. "It's rare for someone to have counseling." Besides dealing with victims and handling administrative chores, Fisher speaks to students and any group who'll listen about sexual violence, domestic violence and bullying. She trains firefighters, police officers and others who may deal with victims. And she teaches volunteer advocates to assist victims and nurses to become sexual assault nurse examiners.

This isn't the type of work she leaves at the hospital door. In fact, she moved close to the hospital so she could respond quickly when on call. She often takes the victims' worries home with her. "I pray for them. It's a hard road these women face."

Some cases are more gut-wrenching for her than others. One victim was bitten all over her body. "That horrified me," she recalled. "I'd never seen a person bitten by another person like that. It just blew me away."

Women who are her mother's age get to her more, as do very young victims, near her 13-year-old niece's age. While her job gives her immense rewards, she recognizes the need to get away and take time for her own well- being. She travels, gardens and reads, and is trying her hand at writing a novel. Even so, she says her life and work are intertwined, partly because she's on call and also due to dedication to what she does.

"This may sound highfalutin. But I really think this is the work God has given me to do right now."

December 28, 2008

Le Chrysalis December 2008 Issue

Happy Holidays & Stay Safe in 2009!!
Holiday Colors are NOT Black and Blue...  Read More

Holiday Blahs...
As a Survivor with Survivor issues, how can you combat the Holiday Blahs?  Here are a few things that Survivors have shared...  Read More

The Meaning of Christmas
Sometimes we miss the true meaning of Christmas, many of us Survivor having to scratch and claw for everything that we've gotten.  Many times not having the things that we've needed...  Read More

Holiday Empowerment for Survivors
It's very important to Empower yourself this Holiday Season!  Read More

New Year Affirmations for Survivors
Starting a New Year...  Read More

Survivor Poem
This issues poem is entitled "All we Wanted for Christmas was Love"  Read More

Those of us in the group of Survivor that relocated to NC with absolutely nothing wish to Thank You and to let you know that your caring and giving has made this Christmas one we will always remember and...  Read More

Happy Holidays & Stay Safe in 2009!!!

Holiday Colors are NOT Black and Blue...

All of us from wish you and yours a Happy & SAFE New Year!

During  the Holidays life can get more stressful, mostly in an economy such as ours at this time, and unfortunately DV incidences rise during this time of year.  Know the Red Flags, get the information you need, and know what to do in case you are faced with a violent altercation with a loved one.  There IS help!  No-One deserves to be abused, and there IS life after abuse!  We've made it, so can you!!

Survivors, please be there during this time of year more then any other, to help speak out and let those that may need support know that it's out there.  Help each other!  Domestic Violence Awareness NEEDS to be SEEN and HEARD more often!  Help be that change and help Break the Silence of Domestic Violence!

Thank You to those that are making a difference!  All your time, effort, and work truly does make a difference and is truly appreciated!  UAADV thanks everyone that has helped in these past years in making UAADV as strong as it has become, and we are looking forward to growing further in the coming year.

Let's make 2009 the year we come together and TRULY make a difference!

~Sister Survivors of UAADV~

Holiday Blahs...

As a Survivor with Survivor issues, how can you combat the Holiday Blahs?  Here are a few things that Survivors have shared...

The Holiday Season for many of us Survivor was usually the hardest season to get through in many ways.  Although many of us looked forward to the Holidays, we didn't look forward to the extra stress that the Holidays can cause and the resulting stress that the abuser took out on us; the small things that we had to look out for increasing, the glass that we usually walked on around our abuser multiplying and becoming sharper.

Even still, when we are facing Holidays alone, without a spouse or someone to share it with, we can still feel the blahs...

For many this Holiday brings feelings of utter heartbreak and chaos.  You feel like part of you wants to cry and the other part of you wants to yell and scream.  For many this season it brings depression and the feeling that after all the abuse and destruction that your life has been through now you are totally alone.  There is no one that understands how you feel or what you are going through.  Many want to sit in their rooms and just shut down.  Instead, of being happy that you are out of the abuse and free, you feel more confined then you ever have.  People being happy just depresses you more as you feel like you have had all the happiness taken away from you, and that you will never feel happy again inside.  This makes you a combination of sad and angry, because more than anything you want to be happy.  You want to feel like they don't have a right to be happy when you are so miserable.  Trying to be around people who tell you Merry Christmas and Happy New Years just depresses you more.

Taking holiday groups in small batches is the best way to do it.  Take little doses of the holiday that way the emotional feelings will help bring you out of the blah feelings a little at a time.  But do not over do it and cause yourself more stress than you had to begin with.  Just remember or try to stay as positive as possible.  That is difficult we realize but if you're anything like us you really want to be happy, it is just really hard to believe there is such a thing as happiness anymore.

Hold your children tight, and if you don't have children, hold your friends and loved ones tight.  Try sharing Christmas with others that will be there to support you, and understand what it is that you are going through.  Give yourself a gift this season, even if it's a quiet bath with bubbles and candles.  Treat yourself like you know you should have been treated all along, and treat yourself to an abuse free Holiday Season.  For this year, as a Survivor, you ARE FREE to have the Holiday that you should have always had!

The Meaning of Christmas

Sometimes we miss the true meaning of Christmas, many of us Survivor having to scratch and claw for everything that we've gotten.  Many times not having the things that we've needed, many times just going without because of the lack of help.  Many Survivors with children don't look forward to Christmas, for they not only don't have the money for the gifts to put under the tree, but they also don't have it inside them to be happy and truly celebrate Christmas anymore.

Christmas is a time of giving.  Unfortunately, it seems that society has become too commercialized and that giving is even less, mostly in this time of economic hardship.

We wanted to share with you how we've seen the true meaning of Christmas here in NC, where UAADV's home state is.

Recently, we had a group of 6 women and 4 children that we helped relocate to our area of NC.  As you can imagine, they didn't have much when they came here, and were in need of a lot of items.  Beds, bedding, couches, tables, clothes, you just about name it, they needed it.  Thankfully they were able to obtain some items before moving from the Shelter/Transitional Housing they were in before hand, and that was such a blessing.  But, they needed so much more, and we reached out to the Freecycle community here in our area in search of help for this group.

The response was more then we could have hoped for, and very overwhelming and touching!  So many from the Freecycle community took their time to clean out their closets, look around their homes, and find items that they could give to this group of women and children.  Children looked through their toy boxes so that they could give the children of the group something to play with, and stocking stuffers for Christmas.  One member that had already given so much, shared wtih her Church what was needed, and the group was adopted by the Church for Christmas.  The members of the church had their children go through their clothes, and gave many clothes to the members that were truly needed and appreciated.

Through it all, 2 sets of living room furniture was given, bedding, beds, clothes to fit everyone in the group, kitchen items, desks, 3 wonderfully hand painted computers for the children, toys, Christmas items, turkey and food for Christmas dinner, and even a Christmas tree was given!  This all came from the hearts of those that answered a post about a group of Survivors that relocated to our area that was in need, and such a blessing it's been to see, not only for us, but for those receiving.

Sometimes, during the Holidays mostly, we don't see that anymore, and it's a blessing to see it alive and well in our area.  Those that gave didn't have too.  Those that had us pick up the donations of needed items didn't have to take their time to go through their belongings to give to those that truly needed it this year, but they did.  Many things were new, and those that weren't, were truly given with love.

One donator shared his story as to why he gave so openly and shared the needs with his wife, family and friends, and has allowed us to share with others.

He shared that he was once "on the other side".  How he was one abusive to his wife, not physically, but mentally.  He didn't realize just how abusive he was or that he was being abusive until a life changing moment when he almost lost a child, and he started having anxiety attacks himself.  As much as those scared him, he wondered at how much he would scare his wife with his yelling, throwing and breaking things when he was angry.  He changed, he saw that what he was doing was hurting and scaring her without him touching her, and when we shared about these women in need, he has done everything that he can to help ensure that these women and children have what they need this year to have a Christmas.

Through this outreach for the group of Survivors, we've talked to others that have been through Domestic Violence that has given.  We've talked to some that had seen it as a child, and knew what the children that have relocated were going through.  One Sister Survivor that has asked to remain un-named, gave each child a Christmas bag of items for each child, and a large box with needed household items for each household in need.  They were giving back, and in essence, giving themselves a gift that they know they would have liked to have received themselves while going through surviving Domestic Violence.  Some giving because they knew there was a need, and didn't like the thought of women and children going without and having to come from Domestic Violence and not have what they needed to Survive.  In all, so many hearts opened and gave, and in doing so, shared the true meaning of Christmas to a group of Survivors that truly needed it...

Holiday Empowerment for Survivors

It's very important to Empower yourself this Holiday Season!

Look at your past Holidays with your abuser, I'm sure you'll find small things that you are unable to do that you wanted to do.  This year, do them!

Cook that Christmas dinner without being yelled at or put down!

Put the decorations that you want up where you want them!

Plan your Holiday the way you've wanted too, and maybe you couldn't!

Call those that your abuser didn't want you to talk to!

Spend Christmas morning with your kids in your pj's, or in whatever you may have wanted to do!

Take your time, do what you want to do, instead of being afraid that you aren't doing things good enough or in the time that your abuser may have wanted them done.

Spend this Holiday Season without the fear that you've lived with while with your abuser!

Take YOUR Holiday back!  Take YOUR life back!

New Year Affirmations for Survivors

Starting a New Year...

To actually believe there is happiness out there, and to believe that good people do exist.

To realize that there are people that do care, and are willing to help.

To live violence and abuse free.

To take the baby steps necessary towards healing.

To take it day by day, and not overload ourselves with issues that we must face.

To cherish those that we have in our life, and not take their love for granted.

To pay it forward in this coming year.

To love our children, reassure them that it IS NOT their fault.

To love ourselves, and reassure ourselves that it IS NOT our fault.

To live fear free and not walk on egg shells.

To make this year the best year of our life.

Survivor Poem

All we Wanted for Christmas was Love...

It was Christmas morning
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.

The stress had been building,
The anger he barely could hide.
We smiled like porcelain dolls,
Our fear barely held inside.

There were presents under the Christmas tree,
Wrapped all in pretty paper and bow.
Our smiles became more strained,
The anxiety inside couldn't help but grow.

The children unwrapped their gifts,
So wonderful was the sight.
Their eyes were not only wide with wonder,
But also wide with barely contained fright.

With all the presents under the tree,
All we wanted for Christmas was love.
But that can't be bought with a bow stuck on,
And put under the tree with a shove.

We appeared the perfect family,
Even though we all knew it was just a show.
For anyone looking at us from the outside,
Surely couldn't see it, just wouldn't know.

Off we went in our Holiday best,
To Holiday dinner with family and friend.
Outside appearing happy and content,
Inside wondering when and how the day would end.

Later on that night,
When all was quiet and still.
He came at me in an outrage,
And took me against my will.

Knowing the children were down the hall,
Tucked just recently in their beds.
I kept it as quiet as possible,
Hoping their pillows covered their heads.

I wore colors I didn't expect to wear that Christmas,
After the night was said and done.
With my head bowed low to hide the bruises,
The next morning he knew he had won.

With presents under the Christmas tree,
And presents around the house put aside.
This was what we got every Christmas,
Something I could no longer abide.

That was last Christmas,
Shortly after with the children I fled.
He never did want us,
This many times he had said.

This Christmas was different,
We didn't have much but that didn't matter.
Because our house was full of love,
Hugs, smiles and true laughter.

No more will we have to wonder,
If the day will end in bruises, pain and tears.
Because all we wanted for Christmas was love,
A gift that together we can now safely give for years...

T. Bunting


  Those of us in the group of Survivor that relocated to NC with absolutely nothing wish to Thank YOu and to let you know that your caring and giving has made this Christmas one we will always remember and cherish.  Your thoughtful and caring gifts brought smiles instead of tears to our children's eyes.  The laughter they have instead of the fear and tears can never be replaced.  Your generosity has relit the light of Christmas and love in not only ourselves but that of our children.  We can never say Thank You enough, these items will always be cherished as will your love, caring and generosity towards us.  Just know that this caring and generosity will be kept going forward.  We intend to help other Survivors and Victims of Domestic Violence.  If we work together hopefully we can stamp out the after affects of Domestic Violence.  We will together strive to ensure that no Survivor has to go through it alone...  Thank You!!

December 20, 2008

Paula Abdul Speaks Out for the Pets of Domestic Violence Victims

Former pop queen and current “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul has never been among the first celebrities to spring to our minds when we think of animal activism. (She’s no Emmylou Harris, is all we’re saying.)

Imagine our surprise, then, when we learned that Abdul has signed on as spokesperson for the American Humane Association’s Pet’s and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) program.

PAWS, created by American Humane Association director of public policy Allie Phillips, promotes on-site housing of pets at women’s shelters. Phillips found that many women are reluctant to leave abusive relationships at least in part because they fear for their pets’ safety if left behind, since most women’s shelters don’t permit pets.

Studies show that domestic violence victims’ fears about their pets are not unwarranted. An O Magazine article referenced a 1998 study:

Frank Ascione, PhD, a psychologist at Utah State University, surveyed 38 women at a domestic violence shelter. Of those who reported having owned pets, 71 percent said that their partners had threatened, tortured—even killed—one or more of their animals during the relationship. Abusers had shot dogs, drowned a cat, and set a kitten on fire. “Many of the descriptions sounded like calculated behavior to terrorize the woman in her home,” Ascione says.

Since then, a decade’s worth of studies have confirmed, and expanded on, Ascione’s initial findings. In Atlanta, for example, researchers surveyed 107 battered women who sought help at a family violence center after being indicted for various crimes. Of those who reported pet abuse, 44 percent said that their partners told them they would hurt the animals unless the women joined in the illegal acts. One 33-year-old said her husband punched and choked her during their five-year marriage and forbade her to see her family without him. Two weeks after he lost his job, he robbed a bank and swore he’d kick her dog to death unless she drove the getaway car. “I was sure he would kill my little Terry Terrier if I didn’t do what he said,” she explained. “I felt trapped.”

Not only are victims more likely to leave abusive situations if they feel confident their pets will be safe, PAWS argues, but they also benefit emotionally from having animal companionship during a difficult time in their lives.

American Humane quotes Abdul, “The relationship I have with my dogs is not only very special to me, but also a great source of comfort and peace of mind…The PAWS Program is a critical way of providing a transition for abused women and children into a safer and better life. I feel privileged to be involved with this extremely important and necessary program.”

To learn how you can help domestic violence victims and their pets, visit American Humane’s Newsroom.

Lindsay Barnett, LA Times

December 6, 2008

"Poster Child for Domestic Violence" Sentenced to 60 Years in California

Friday, December 5, 2008

OAKLAND -- William "Mookie" Johnson was sentenced in Oakland Friday to 60 years to life in state prison by a judge who called him "a poster child for domestic violence."

Johnson, 48, was convicted June 3 of attempted premeditated murder and other charges for shooting his ex-girlfriend outside her Oakland workplace last year shortly after she broke up with him and moved out of their house.

Johnson has six prior felony convictions, including two for shooting previous girlfriends. The two ex-girlfriends testified against him in his current case, which stemmed from the shooting of 38-year-old Nicole Henderson outside the Oakland Parent-Teacher Children's Center at East Ninth Street and 35th Avenue about 5:15 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2007.

In addition to convicting Johnson of attempted premeditated murder, jurors, who deliberated for only two hours, convicted him of assault with a firearm, mayhem, domestic violence, making criminal threats and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In sentencing Johnson, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman said Johnson "has certainly not led an exemplary life" and "to go to a day care center and start firing a weapon is beyond comprehension."

Goodman said it's lucky no one else was injured by the multiple shots that Johnson fired the day he shot Henderson.