December 12, 2009

10 Myths About Domestic Violence

I think this blog post is something that anyone that has dealt with Domestic Violence, or has a family member or friend involved in Domestic Violence should read.  I agree with many points within this blog, and feel that one of the most important things that we as Advocates and Survivors need to do is help dispel the myths and misconceptions that many have surrounding Domestic Violence.

10 Myths About Domestic Violence 

1. Only women are victims of domestic violence.  

Between 2001 and 2005, 22% of all reports regarding nonfatal violence cited females over the age of 12 as the victims and...

 2. Domestic violence occurs only in lower-class, uneducated, or minority households.

Domestic violence does not discriminate against socioeconomic, educational, age, sexual preference, or racial lines any more than it does gender. It can happen to anyone...

3. Instances of domestic violence are actually quite rare.

In May of 2002 alone, 16 of the largest urban counties in the United States reported a combined total of 3,750 cases of intimate partner violence. Trending data shows...

4. Domestic violence is usually a one-time-only occurrence.

In May of 2002, 46% of convictions for nonfatal intimate partner violence had a history of prior abuse towards the victim. While some instances of domestic violence only involve one incident...

5. Victims of domestic violence usually provoke the abuse. 

A blame the victim philosophy surrounds many violent crimes, with fingers pointed towards men and women alike who find themselves on the receiving end of abuse questioned almost as intensively as their assailants. Many mistakenly believe...

6. Substance abuse is the root cause of domestic disturbances. 

Drugs and alcohol amplify aggression, and many men and women abuse their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, or other intimate partners while under the influence. However...

7. Domestic violence is an issue that only needs addressing between the people involved.

The fact that 21.8% of female victims and 39.2% of male victims fail to report their abuse at the hands of an intimate partner because they believe the matter is best handled...

8. Improving a broken relationship can stop a batterer.  

In believing that working on the relationship between abuser and victim makes for a solution to end abuse, the mindset that...

9. Victims stay in violent situations because they secretly enjoy being beaten.  

Another corollary to the blame the victim perspective labels repeat recipients of domestic abuse as masochists who stay in violent situations because...

10. Domestic violence is a side effect of a patriarchal society or filial structure. 

Many perceive domestic abuse as a negative aspect of living within a patriarchal society or a family where men dominate over the women. Studies have shown...

Original Blog Post

December 4, 2009

Knight in Tarnished Armor

One of our members shared the link to a story written by a Domestic Violence Survivor, and I've since talked to her and gotten permission to share with you the below.  Not many Survivors are able to put in book form what they went through for many various reasons, and it's always amazing when yet another Survivor is able to do so.  I not only thank Erin for writing this book, but for reaching out to others that are in need of her courage!

Knight in Tarnished Armor

I often have said that if domestic violence was going to happen to anyone, it was a good thing it happened to me.  I was raised in a very loving, kind, stable household.  My parents are the best, and there was hardly ever a voice raised in our house, let alone people beating on others.  I grew up with a strong sense of self, fierce independence and a lot of self esteem.  I had supported myself for years before I got married and really wasn't all that interested in getting married, until my "knight" came along.  So when it came time to get out - I did - after almost three years of abuse.  But I couldn't get off my mind the women who have gone through similar circumstances and didn't have the fortitude or the support group that I did.  I didn't have children, didn't have to go to a shelter, didn't have to go find a job or place to live.  I had it easy - and still almost ended up dead.  I just kept thinking of the thousands and thousands of women who go to bed at night praying they will wake up in the morning and almost wishing they wouldn't because they will have to go through another day of abuse.  So, this book kept writing itself in my head.  Heck, I'm not an author, but I wrote a book about what I know, and I know domestic violence.  I'm stronger for it and my goal is to help anyone, woman, man, child, whomever, make it out and live life the way it should be lived - without fear of being abused, beaten or killed. 

In addition to my book, I've taken classes and courses and attended seminars and have read countless books on abuse.  I co-founded a support group for women which meets once a month.  This group isn't just for abuse victims, it's for anyone woman who needs the support of other women. Then I have "Sit and Sip" - which I call comfort sessions. These are conversations - either e-mail, phone or in person - with domestic violence victims where basically I let them talk.  I have found that I'm a very good listener and have the knack to ask questions that draws out what a victim needs to get out without making them feel pressured.  One woman, a stranger, called me out of the blue and talked for 4 hours.  At the end, she said, "You know, I've never told anyone my story from beginning to end before.  My life really sucks!" And she left her abuser right after that and is a very successful real estate agent now.  All she needed was to see her life in perspective, for someone to listen, and that's what I do.

The Knight has been out since September 8, 2009 and the feed back I have been getting is exciting and humbling at the same time.  I wrote this book for one reason - to help other victims - and I'm glad to say what I have been hearing is that it's doing just that.  There is a safety plan (compliments of Focus Ministries - a WONDERFUL organization for victims) and encouragement after my story.  One woman ordered one for herself and after she read it she ordered four more to send to each of her granddaughters.  I've have done a few radio interviews, but I do have to be careful with where I do what because my ex is still out there and if knows I've revealed his dirty secrets for all the world to see...I'm dead...he WILL kill me, no doubt in my mind. 

I guess the best way to sum it up is to read what I have written on my website and I'll include it here:

Welcome to my World

During the years of marriage to the man I thought was my knight in shining armor, the violence that quickly escalated took me by surprise.  I had no idea the man he truly was, was not the man I married; sweet, considerate, loving and gentle.  There were reasons for the abuse, I was told, so I waited, hoping it would stop. As the violence increased, I started a journal to document what  was happening.  I would document our latest "encounter", make a copy and give it to my mother to hold in a large manilla envelope - just in case he killed me, there would be enough proof to put him away forever.  Sounds a bit sad, but when you are a victim, you think like a victim.

What you will read in my book are those actual journal entries, as well as letters I had written to my husband and his doctors.  I have filled in with facts between the entries to flesh out my story and give you a glimpse into the world of a domestic violence victim.

But the important part of Knight in Tarnished Armor is not my story.  The important part is the advice at the end, the safety plan, the encouragement, and hopefully the realization that if you are a victim, you are just one step away to being a survivor - that one step out the door that will lead to your freedom. I'm not saying it's easy, but believe me, it's worth it.

I have my life back. I've never been happier and I'm stronger for having walked through the fire.  You can do it too and become the woman you want to be.  Take that step, we are here to help.

December 1, 2009

Out of the Chaos of DV, is Born a New Family...

Too often Domestic Violence situations go severely wrong, so it is wonderful to hear stories of them going right.  Below is a story of love, strength, and the commitment to children to protect them, and the bringing together of family.

This hits me personally because I myself am adopted, and have worked with children within the Foster Care system.  Too often we hear of those again that go wrong within the system, here is a family that has not only survived but has Thrived through the adversities...

Before clips from 2 sources covering the wonderful event of adoption is a message from Chelsea Hayes.  She has shared her story and that of the children she loves in order to help others understand a little bit more about Domestic Violence from a Survivors perspective.  After which follows links and an original article about the day of adoption.

Again, I want to express my Congratulations to this family, and a deep heartened Thank You for sharing your story.

A word from a Survivor and a Wonderful Mom...

Here is a speech I have given to other nurses and graduating police officers that i would like to share with you:

First let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity to listen to me speak.  Please let me begin by giving you a little history about me….My name is Chelsea and I am a survivor of Domestic violence. I am 29 years old and I am a Nurse. I worked in a local ER for 6 years, and was a volunteer EMT and Firefighter for 4 years. I now work full time in a doctor’s office. I have 5 kids 4 of whom I have now successfully adopted from my ex-husband and 1 biological son. I have never been arrested, I don’t smoke or drink..I was married for 4 years to an extremely abusive man. We met when I was 23 in June of 2003, his 4 children came to live with us 3 weeks later, their mother has and had a severe drug problem and mental issues. We married in October 2003 I got pregnant in November 2003, and I left August 8th 2006. My divorce was final in Sept 2008; I had to wait until after the final trial to legally divorce him so that my testimony during the criminal trial could be preserved. In May 2009 he was sentenced to 20 ½ years with 10 suspended for two counts of 1st degree assault and violating my protective order. The original charges were attempted murder 1st degree assault (twice) False imprisonment and violating my protective order 10 times. We plead down after 3 trials because I did not want the 4 children to testify. The states attorney and their therapists said it would be too much for them and I agreed (1 trial because he plead Not Criminally Responsible, 1 trial for the criminal charges with a hung jury, 1 juror could not decide, and the final trial where he was found guilty) the sentencing was in May 2009. He filed for an appeal that trial was in October 2009 in front of a panel of 3 judges and it was denied. I legally adopted my 4 stepdaughters from the state November 20th 2009. He should be out of jail in 1-3 years from now depending on his behavior while incarcerated.

In the beginning I loved my husband and was ready to spend the rest of my life with him, I truly thought that he was a good man, and a wonderful father, he just had a little bit of a temper… Sometimes.  He would get mad sometimes, it started with yelling every now and then, then he started throwing things at me when he got mad, from there it slowly escalated to controlling my friends, made me quit my job, controlled who I talked to and what I talked about. Then it started to progress to physical violence and a lot of verbal abuse.

Looking at the cycle of violence it now all make sense to me. He completely isolated me from my friends and family, put me down on a daily basis; I never had any money unless I asked for it. He never supported my education. He was Completely obsessed with sex always accusing me of cheating on him, he also liked to use the kids to make me feel bad telling me that I was a bad mother and even using the kids to watch me and what I was doing or saying, he would threaten to kill me, himself, my family or the kids if I left or he said he would move with the kids to another country if I left and I would never see them again. He said if I left and took our son he would grow up a bastard because he would never have anything to do with him or kill himself. He said I would never ever be able to keep the 4 girls because they were not biologically mine. He tried to kill me more than once, shot a gun off in front of my infant son, and me twice. He treated me like a
servant making comments that the house was dirty and would not eat any food that I cooked, HE never let me go to church or get our children baptized and I was raised in a religious school and was accustomed to going to church, He was also very intimidating constantly making threats that I did not love him, I was cheating on him or that he would leave with the kids, often he would threaten physical violence if I disagreed with him things as simple as what time the kids should go bed.

I never ever thought that when I married him he would try to kill me. In August of 2006 he did try to kill me, he beat me unconscious with a rock in front of all of the children, Thought I was dead loaded me into the car to bury me and then proceeded to tell my children that he was going to kill them too but he said he would bury my son and I we could be together. I woke up and basically was attacked again, talked my way out of him killing me by swearing to him that I would never tell anyone what happened, that I was a nurse I could take care of my own injuries and no one would ever know, just to please let me live. He held the children and I at gunpoint for an entire week before I finally had the opportunity to leave.

Something important that I think you should know and understand as healthcare professionals is that if you suspect in the slightest way that someone is being abused do not make a judgment. Do not force the person to leave or tell them what they should do. Instead listen to what they have to say, keep an open mind that if someone is talking to you about being abused it may be the first time. The very last thing they need to hear, believe it or not is why don’t you just leave. I heard this so many times in the hospital and by police officers. The truth is it truly not that simple to “ just leave”. Most of these women are so torn down emotionally they truly believe this relationship however harmful it is, is their only option.  Again I never thought I would be with some one who controlled me and abused me as much as he did.   Women in abusive relationships are extremely co-dependant on their abusers and they truly believe that this is it; this is what they are stuck with. For me it was extremely complicated because there were 5 little children involved 4 of whom were not biologically mine.  That I could not just leave with him.

Unfortunately, all of my children were witness to domestic violence and it took me a long time to realize that he controlled me and he controlled our children. My children have suffered immensely due to the violence that they witnessed. Children know, they hear, they feel, they see it all and most important they remember. As much as I wish they did not know all this they do because they saw it heard it and were apart of it, they will never forget and it affects them daily. My children would even be so terrified of their dad they would lie to police and social workers about him.  He would tell them what to say, he would tell them if I called the police they had to say I hit him even though I had not so I would go to jail not him. So I would not call or I would lie when they came. All of my children have severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  When we lived with my ex husband two of my children failed grades, he would often keep them home to watch me alternating between the four older children. In 3 years we lived at least 10 different places. He would move us when the neighbors or police started to ask questions.

The children are the ones that seem to be most forgotten about in all of this violence, but I think being exposed to this violence so profoundly influences them. In the end the breaking point for me was not when he tried to kill me but when I woke up and realized what had happened that he thought I was dead and so did my children, that my children had seen it all, and all of them were too scared to help me, to run next door  to the police officer’s house or call 911. That is when I knew I had to do something to help myself because no one was going to help me or my children.

That week while held hostage in my own home I was able to make a phone call and spoke with one man named Bill Mitchell who took the time to share with me his story about his daughter Kristen Mitchell and how she had been stabbed to death by her boyfriend, his family had lost their daughter…forever.  I thought that cold be me, that coul dbe my mom or sister  telling that story. After I heard him I had finally gathered enough strength I got that extra reality check, that extra strength to know I HAD to leave. After the support of my sister, mom, one man named Bill Mitchell and one single police officer that finally took the time to listen to me and not make any judgments. I left – I left with just me and my 5 kids I had $500.00 and no clothes, toys-nothing except me my kids and a cell phone. I made the decision for me and my children to leave everything behind. We lost everything the house the toys the car everything all gone. I have had to rebuild
slowly getting clothes and toys from friends and family. But no matter how hard it is it will never be as hard as living one day the way we did.

As healthcare professionals try to keep in mind that if you suspect Violence try and definitely talk ALONE with the patient. Let them know that there are options to help them. Let them know that you are there to listen and not make any judgments, encourage them to make baby steps toward a plan for better different life if not for them for their children. Do not make false promises but let them know that there are many resources in the community to help women in their situation, to help keep them safe. Encourage them to try and confide in at least one person and tell that person how they are feeling and what is happening, keep a journal or notebook of dates. It is very difficult to understand how a person lives day by day with their abuser.

Also keep in mind that if the abuser is with the victim a very good way to get the trust of the abuser is to get on his good side however hard that my be for you, In order to help the victim you have to have the trust of the abuser. This is really hard to do but try as hard as you cannot to make judgments if you suspect abuse. The abuser controls the victim.  If he suspects that you have any hard feelings toward him he will shut her down automatically. He took me to the hospital numerous times, but the second he thought someone suspected abuse he made me leave.

Let me end with a few very interesting facts that I have learned about Domestic violence. Did you know..
Every 9 seconds a woman is physical abused in this country
Domestic Violence is the #1 cause of birth defects according to the march of dimes?
67% of abusers abuse their children
30% of all murders are women being killed by their partners
In 87% of violent homes, children witness the battering.
According to the US department of justice almost 54% of all men experienced physical assault as a child at the hands of an adult caretaker.

Now after I have left life is not easy, not easy at all it is extremely stressful being a single parent of 5 children with severe emotional issues, trying to make ends meet. Trying to make family members understand why I stayed, and some believe it or not why I left…and many whom blame me for their son, brother or uncle being in jail. But every day I am free- free to work, free to be a good parent, free to say what I want when I want, Every day gets better and better and for me and my children and I am truly thankful for every day in my life, because I know that every day is a gift to me and my children.

Thank you again for your time I hoped I have helped you understand a little bit more about Domestic Violence from a Survivors perspective. Thank you Chelsea Hayes

Adoption Day in Montgomery Co. Court

Two dozen families officially unite

Updated: Friday, 20 Nov 2009, 5:58 PM EST
Published : Friday, 20 Nov 2009, 5:58 PM EST

ROCKVILLE, Md. - In a place where fidgety kids are normally not allowed, Montgomery County Courthouse #1 became 2-year-old Walter Best’s personal playground.

Walter crawled under court benches, grabbed at cameras and ran circles around the packed courtroom.

“I’ve been running behind him in the courtroom,” his exhausted grandmother Doris Deltoro explained. “But it’s worth it. It’s worth it.”

It's woorth it because Doris and her husband, Jose Deltoro, were waiting to adopt Walter. They were one of more than two dozen groups waiting to finally become a family.

Across the courtroom, John Ward and Marco Beltran beamed as they showed off 1-year-old Anthony.

Known only as a foster child named Baby Boy Doe, Anthony arrived at their home when he was just 3 days old.

“We were open to pretty much any child,” Ward explained. “We happened to have a crib, a nursery ready to go, and Anthony came.”

Beltran cried as Circuit Court Judge Katherine Savage called the new family to the dais and announced to the crowd, “Here come those magic words.” She read, “This is the judgment for adoption and change of name,” and the signed the document, officially giving Anthony his name.

Later, 12 year-old Sabrina Hayes stood with her three sisters as another judge declared all four the children of their stepmother, Chelsea Hayes.

“We were exposed to a lot of domestic violence,” Chelsea said.

She explained how she fled her marriage by taking her ex-husband’s four girls with her.

“I never thought I would be able to have the girls because they weren’t my biological children,” Hayes said.

Six years later, Sabrina said the ceremony was “amazing because I know I have somebody to love and somebody who loves me and we have a stable home.”

Her eldest sister, 15-year-old Samantha Hayes, then told her new mother, “I love you. Thank you for being there even in the bad times.”

Finally, it was little Walter’s turn, who calmed down just long enough for a judge to transform his paternal grandparents into simply “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

But within minutes, Walter was back in form, hollering at the top of his lungs as a worn-out but jubilant Doris smiled. “It’s a proud day,” she said. “I’m so happy.”

Original Article

ABC7 News Video