TAG | family
In September I had the opportunity to speak at Sojourner Center, Phoenix’s largest domestic violence shelter. (In fact it’s the largest shelter in the U.S.). After the presentation I was approached by several attendees who had questions to ask and stories to share. It’s always the most meaningful part of my work. Two of the women who introduced themselves to me were sisters; Lisa Pressman and Mindy Kavalerchik. Sixteen years earlier one of their sisters was murdered in an act of domestic violence. It was impossible to talk with these two and not feel their pain, as if it were yesterday. Lisa, a singer, musician and song writer, along with her husband, had written a song to express her feelings on the death of her sister. She shared it with me on a CD she brought with her. The song, TEACHER – MOTHER – SISTER – DAUGHTER is haunting yet beautiful.
I asked if each sister, including Debbie, who was not there that day, would be willing to write the story of her own experience with Ilene’s death. Each did. In the next months I will post these powerful, heart-wrenching stories, one at a time. I will also post Lisa’s song with a purchase link to iTunes. I know it will mean as much to you as it does to me.
Lisa’s story posted on March 8th. Now Mindy’s story:
Ilene’s Story by Mindy Kavalerchik, MSW ©2013
This past Thanksgiving night marked the 17th year anniversary that our beloved sister Ilene became a victim of intimate partner homicide. The question continues to haunt my thoughts: if we knew then what we know now, could we have saved her and kept our nephew from becoming orphaned that night and almost certainly deceased as well? My 13-month-old nephew was left in his crib: if not for my sister’s housekeeper entering her home the next morning, he surely would have died as well. I unfortunately know that the answer to my constant questioning is a resounding no. If a suicidal, estranged spouse wants to kill, he will always find a way. My sister and brother-in-law had signed a separation agreement three days prior to her murder. My estranged brother-in-law had wanted a statement included in the agreement that my sister would not date for some period of time; of course she refused to include the statement. I now know that this is the most dangerous time for an abused spouse due to the perpetrator losing his ability to exert power and control over his spouse; he will kill if necessary to attempt to maintain that power and control.
My brother-in-law began stalking behaviors such as constant calling, and threatening suicide immediately following the signing of the agreement. My sister had contacted the police; the response that she received was that nothing could be done until a crime was committed. My elder sister Debbie and I begged my sister to come to our homes for Thanksgiving, to change the locks on her doors, and I offered to come and stay with her. My sister, being the strong, independent, empowered woman that she now was, refused all assistance, feeling that she “ could handle it “.
My brother-in-law had been drinking Thanksgiving Day, found his twin brother’s gun and then drove to my sister’s home where he parked and hid his truck in the back of the house to lay in wait for my sister and their son to return home from Thanksgiving dinner with a friend. Only my sister and her abuser know the following events, and the horror of what she endured continue to torment me. The only solace that I can find is that my sister experienced the terror and her death once; those of us left behind experience the events over and over.
The following scenario is what we believe took place on that fateful Thanksgiving night, according to homicide detectives. My sister and nephew had gone to bed; my estranged brother-in-law awakened my sister and forced her downstairs. There was evidence of a struggle in the bedroom; pillows and sheets thrown from the bed and personal items lay all over the floor. My sister was shot three times – once in the right arm, twice in the chest and abdomen. There was very little blood where my sister had fallen; therefore we believe that she died very quickly. We will never know the suffering that she endured prior to her death, the argument and emotional torture that she suffered. Upon entering her home with the homicide detectives we found tremendous amounts of blood in the entry way, walls, sofa, living room rug; all from my estranged brother-in-law following his suicide by shooting himself in the head. I laid down where my sister had fallen, trying to find some comfort, be close to her in death. I stomped my feet in my brother-in-law’s blood as though that would punish him for murdering my beloved sister. I have since come to forgive him, and tell myself that my sister gave her life to save her child from an abusive man.
As I write the tears flow, the pain comes anew, but of course, it is always there. My sister was three years older than I, and she was my idol for as long as I can remember. I was blessed to look and sound like her; this was a tremendous source of pride and identity for me as I was growing up. Our mother died when I was three, my sister was six; my sister then became my surrogate mother, and I never dreamed that I would have to live without her love and her guidance.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
By guest blogger Erika Evans for Human Resource Essential
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Teen dating violence is too common and statistics show that it is as common as family violence and domestic violence. One out of 3 teenage girls are victims of verbal, physical or sexual abuse by their partner. These numbers are much higher than any other type of teen violence. It is important for parents and educators to know the signs and to talk openly about it. There is a myth that “dating” cannot lead to violence but knowing that there are people to confide in opens up the opportunity for girls to reach out. There are several different resources such as loveisrespect.org where girls can take an interactive quiz about their relationship and learn different steps to protect themselves and get help.
The effects of teen dating violence are both traumatic and damaging. It could be loss of interest in academics, isolation, increased use of substances, pregnancy and/ or sexual assault. The long term effects could be low self-esteem, eating disorder, higher risk for suicide or a future of domestic violence. In most cases the relationship seems great at first and love may blind the warning signs. As time goes on it changes into power and control, jealousy and anger. Verbal abuse and emotional abuse are threats, bulling, isolating and stalking. Physical abuse is the intention to physically harm someone or to strike them and sexual abuse is any act that impacts the person’s ability to control their sexual activity.
I spoke with A.S, a 17 year old female that was in a relationship with her boyfriend for almost 2 years. She told me that her boyfriend started their relationship by giving her gifts and always putting her up on a pedestal. Within the first few weeks he wanted to spend all of his time with her and she said that it made her feel good. I asked if she would spend time apart from him. She said there were times when she would try to see her girlfriends but he would grow angry and say cruel things to her. She said that one day she was so scared to see him because she was late to meet him that she showed up crying and he said that she looks ugly when she cries and left her stranded.
I asked A.S. if they had an intimate relationship. She told me that she lost her virginity to him because he would tell her that if she really loved him she would have sex with him and that he would break up with her if she didn’t. She says that she regrets doing it now because she feels disgusting and dirty. I asked her if she could see when the abuse was starting to escalate. She said that he had gone from name calling to screaming at her to throwing and punching stuff but he never physically harmed her. I asked her when they broke up and she told me that they were playing kickball one day with school mates and she was talking to the first baseman when she was on first base. She said that he boyfriend became so angry that he and his friends beat the boy up and he refused to talk to her for days.
I asked her if she had ever spoken to anyone about what was going on. She told me that she finally had talked to her mother about it after the kickball incident. She said that her mother was very supportive but also disappointed that she didn’t come to her for help sooner. She said if it wasn’t for her mother’s support she probably would have gone back to her boyfriend after the incident but instead she never spoke to him again. I asked A.S. if she had any advice for girls that may be going through the same thing. Her response was to share it with someone they trust so they can help you and you can help yourself and to remember that no matter what may happen it is not their fault.
It’s an honor to be participating as a panelist at this discussion. I’ll represent employers and provide advice on measures they can take to prevent abuse, what employers can do and what policies can support their employees.
I hope you will make time next Saturday to attend this important event in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – and all the Amy’s out there.
consulting · conversation · crime victim’s rights · domestic abuse · domestic violence at work · domestic violence awareness month · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · employees · family · personal safety · training · victim · victim’s rights · violence
At networking events you are usually given just 30 seconds to say your “elevator speech”. So in that time you have to be pretty clear and concise on what you’re about and how your clients benefit.
My clients are CEOs, CFOs, lead Human Resource Professionals, Attorneys and Security Professionals. The end beneficiaries are all personnel in the company. That’s why I do what I do. To create workplaces that are Safe, Supportive and Sought-after.
30 second elevator speeches aside, here’s a ”punch-list” (pun intended) of what I do.
What HRE does for its clients (local and national):
- Customized training of senior management (i.e. C-suite, Legal, HR) and supervisors in state and federal compliance, financial ramifications and effective tools for recognizing and assisting employees who may be victims, or offenders, of abuse.
- Tiered trainings to provide general awareness to all employees, more specialized training for supervisors, and advanced training for members of threat management teams.
- Staff level training for recognizing abusive relationships in themselves and/or others and appropriate communication with co-workers who may be victims, or offenders, of abuse.
- Trainings consist of lecture, interactive conversation, case examples, and skill practices.
- Provide policies and procedures addressing workplace and domestic violence.
- Reviews and updates existing domestic and workplace violence policies, and ensures these coordinate with other employer policies.
- Establish relationship with the company’s Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) to vet licensed counselors who are specifically trained and competent using current and safest methods to counsel victims of, or perpetrators of, domestic violence.
- If client does not have an EAP, HRE assists in procuring one.
- If EAP does not currently have counselors who are experienced with, and specialize in victim assistance or offender counseling, HRE makes referrals to EAP through established relationships.
- Provides electronic and hard copy manual of local and national resources.
- This is an in-depth, comprehensive workplace initiative with long term results. It includes on-going consulting and interaction for sustainable change.
If you wonder at all, even a little bit, if your organization would benefit from this. Contact me. We can do a risk analysis – and we can just talk. Whatever it takes.
Attorneys · bottom line · CEO · CFO · consulting · domestic violence in the workplace · family · family violence · Human Resources · leadership development · personal safety · Risk Analysis · Security · strategic leadership · training
Not long ago, I was speaking to a woman at a conference about the work that I do. It immediately prompted a strong, positive reaction from her. She was completely on board with my mission and my area of expertise. We had a lively conversation, and she shared many thoughts with me. I asked her if she would put those thoughts to paper and allow me to make a guest blog of her writing. Below is Paula’s inspiring message. S. Angelo
Guest Writer Paula Weigel
In the book Not to People Like Us* the author begins her first chapter with a story about white collar domestic abuse. The author apparently interviewed a woman who was married to a very well-known and influential Chicagoan. The woman tells a story of abuse by her husband: a highly respected business man and civic leader. It was the man’s birthday and she invited a group of their friends over for a birthday dinner and cake celebration. After dinner there was left over birthday cake which the man’s wife gave away to their friends. When the people left he, essentially, beat the crap out of her… for giving away the birthday cake. Nice. Now wouldn’t you want to know what corporation this man lead or what law firm he owned?
There is a fallacy that domestic abuse only comes from the blue collar world. The reality is that domestic violence is alive and well in the white collar world as well which is why the previous mentioned book was written. The author interviewed a number of influential Chicago women who told the story of abuse in their own lives.
This book is riveting. In fact, in thinking about domestic violence there are two aims to consider: the perpetrators and the victims. The perpetrators could be those individuals who are running corporations or merely working in the blue collar professions. The victims can come from influential families or hiding in the shadows of a violent blue collar man.
Many people leading organizations don’t believe that “people bring their personal problems” to work or that they should bring them to work. This sounds terrific if human kind were not wired up with emotions. It takes years to build a stoic persona to deal with the problems of home and the problems of work. Those years can lead to decades, if it can even be done by the best of actors. Leaving problems “outside the office” naturally surface in to the office because ultimately what happens is that individuals either drink, use drugs, shop or act out in other ways to resolve the inner conflict. To make matters worse, individuals then become angry, hurtful, mean and unreasonable as they go about their days at work. Sometimes this acting out is intentional and other times people do it unconsciously.
When individuals come from good, strong, safe environments they learn over time how to stand their ground, resolve conflict, manage their egos, be their best without reproach, and to serve and be served in many healthy ways. They can be nice, amenable, open, tough, tenacious, willful, maintain boundaries, and still gain respect from those around them.
The process of growth and becoming a better person takes time. Each individual must go through whatever is necessary to pass through their own individual life tests. Sometimes the pain in their lives magnify in their 20′s, 30′s, 40′s or 50′s. Perhaps even later, but eventually their spirit or mind forces them to deal with whatever is happening within.
That pain, as mentioned earlier, shows up in a lot of different ways. At work, for example, it exudes in wanting to demoralize a staff member because a spouse demoralized them, or shaming another because of growing up in an environment of shame, showing excessive arrogance and elitism due to one’s social and economic status, or it can exude in a multitude of ways. The lucky ones get the mysterious awareness of just knowing something is off and that they must deal with x to improve their work life, their relationships, or their home life.
Life is not easy. We are not all given the right tools to deal with the stress of work, home, and life. Getting good help and often objective help is better than no help at all. One of the key parts of life is becoming good human beings. We spend a lot of time at work, we need people to model good business/people behavior and then allow the modeling to be taken back to homes and neighborhoods. Sometimes this happens in reverse. The people who come from healthy environments and know how to deal with conflict and other individuals must take these tactics to the business world to teach other leaders how to treat others.
*By Susan Weitzman, PhD
It Can Be Too Late
How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s never too late to get out of a domestic violence situation?” Or “It’s never too late to get help”?
I hate to say it but they’re wrong. It can be too late. If you’re in Arizona (and I imagine the news has traveled across the states) you’d have seen the news footage and read the articles about 5 deaths in Gilbert, Arizona on Wednesday, May 2nd. When J.T. Ready allegedly (love the legal term) shot his girlfriend, her adult daughter, the daughter’s daughter (only an infant!) and the daughter’s girlfriend. Then he shot himself. Five people dead.
According to what I’ve read and heard the girlfriend, Lisa Mederos, was a victim of domestic violence; and it had been going on for a long time.
According to the most recent fatality report on the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s web site, as of December 23, 2011 there have been 101 domestic violence related fatalities in Arizona.
I shudder to think what 2012 will show.
A friend of mine recently commented that the key to domestic violence prevention is to not get involved with guys like this in the first place. She’s right. Because it’s a long, hard, dangerous battle if you believe someone with abusive tendencies is going to change for you. Yes, by all means, it can happen. Just don’t risk your personal safety and gamble your life on it. And if you see it happen to someone you know, and yes if you are exposed to domestic violence at work, there are resources. No one should ever feel there are no options to getting out.
Whether you’re heterosexual or LGBTQ here are a few red flags to look for:
- breaks things
- slaps, kicks or punches you
- shoves you
- bites you
- chokes you
- hurts your children
Verbal and Emotional Abuse
- calls you stupid, worthless or other insulting names
- becomes extremely jealous of family and friends
- has a temper that frightens you
- says, “I did it for you own good”
- accuses you of being unfaithful
- will only be pacified if you “give in”
- forces you to do things you don’t want to do sexually
- rapes/sexually assaults you
Abuse through Control
- controls the money
- tells you what to wear
- monitors your whereabouts at all times
- questions your parenting skills
- criticizes you in front of the children
- belittles your family and friends
If you feel:
- afraid to tell others what is happening at home
- like it is all your fault
- you were wrong and somehow provoked the abuser
- the abuser should be forgiven because of abuse of alcohol or drugs
- no one else would want you.
These are all signs of an abusive relationship. Services are available. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for more information.
Please contact me with your questions. We’ll develop strategies so this doesn’t happen to you, your company, friends and coworkers.
An unintended outcome of my work with executive leaders and their employees is that I hear no shortage of stories from people who have lived with abuse. Many are former victims, now survivors, or they were indirectly victimized because they lived with someone, like a parent, who was directly victimized. I’m glad this happens; these stories. It never ceases to amaze me; all the heinous ways in which one person can purposefully torture another.
There are lots of success stories from these courageous people who found a way to leave their abusers. The list below are 10 ways to leave an abusive situation. The order in which they appear is my own opinion. Yours may be very different. And besides that, rarely is only one of these tips going to lead to escape; it typically takes a combination. So don’t despair.
In my book Battered and Abused – Bringing the Darkness into the Light Dawn wrote the story of the atrocious abuse at the hands of her live-in boyfriend. She finally fled with the help of a friend.
“He had total control over me.
How could I let this happen? How could I let things get so out of control? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Why didn’t I leave again? It was because I was ashamed. I didn’t want my family and friends to know what was happening to me.
I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew it was wrong. I knew all of these things in my rational mind, but every time I thought rationally, I would hear that scared irrational voice in my head. What if he was right? What if my family and friends thought I was the crazy one? What if they believed him and not me? What if they thought less of me? What if they were ashamed of me? What would everyone think when they found out all of the horrible things he had done to me?”
Dawn did everything on this list, expect #3 because she didn’t have children or a job at the time. She did them in her own order and at a pace that felt right and felt safe for her. But she survived.
10. Contact the National DV Hotline for someone to talk to
9. Contact a local shelter and/or an alternative safe place to go. Or call the National domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.
8. Collect things you’ll need in an overnight bag for you and your children) hide the bag someplace you can get to it.
7. Talk with your children about a plan
6. Set aside money and spare keys.
5. Make copies of important documents; i.e. Marriage license, insurance, driver’s license, Orders of Protection.
4. Be sure to clear the history, cookies, internet searches and private conversations from your computer. Use only computers not accessible to your abuser or the abuser’s friends who might help them find you.
3. Talk to your children’s school about your safety plan. Talk to your employer.
2. Keep notes of the abuse; what was said, who witnessed, dates times – the devil is in the details. Keep photos of injuries and keep medical records. Maybe it’s the Human Resources manager in me but the credo here is: document, document, document. Be crystal clear and very specific.
1. Contact the police to help you get your things out of the house. Never go along and resist the urge to bring your friends.
- Put Safety Plan Shoe cards in all of your shoes; hide them in books too. Available in English and Spanish at http://hressential.com/resources.html
- YOU must absolutely, completely and totally stop coming up with excuses to stay, denials that the abuse will happen again, and the belief the abuser will stop. Abuse is not love. Why would you deny yourself the opportunity to have a healthy relationship? Why would you continue to expose your children and risk lives? This is NOT re-victimizing you. Face it though – there comes a time where you – and only you can make the decision to go.
- Don’t get involved with an abuser in the first place. Know the warning signs and red flags early on. Refuse to accept excuses and justifications for abuse!
What constitutes abuse? The National Domestic Violence Hotline asks the following questions.
“Does your partner:
• Embarrass you with put-downs?
• Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
• Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
• Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
• Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
• Make all of the decisions?
• Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
• Prevent you from working or attending school?
• Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
• Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
• Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
• Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
• Force you to try and drop charges?
• Threaten to commit suicide?
• Threaten to kill you?”
It can be agonizing to watch anyone stuck in the demeaning rut of domestic violence or abuse. Not a day goes by that I don’t encounter someone with a story to tell, a training has never ended without several people coming up to me to tell me their story, and not a webinar concludes without online or telephone contact with an attendee.
And sometimes the person I’m talking to is a friend. That was the case recently with a friend I’ve known since we were kids. She’s got her back against the wall. The freeloader she’s married to criticizes her, insults her, manipulates her, ridicules her, and cheats on her. He’s conned the kids and in-laws into believing she’s selfish and uncommitted to the relationship because she wants out.
“What’s his motive?” You ask. The guy’s sick. Cancer in every conceivable part of his body. But not so bad that ongoing rounds of chemotherapy and radiation aren’t doing an effective job of keeping the disease in check and the jerk alive. And she’s the one with the insurance policy. See the dilemma?
It’s not at all uncommon for there to be one, or many, obstacles to leaving, and this one is her’s. She feels guilty. She probably feels like she’s supposed to stick to her vows. Yet he’s masterfully reneged on all of his. She also knows quite well, that if the situation was reversed he would never stay with her to keep him on his insurance, if he had it, and see her through such a destructive illness.
I hope, for my friend, that one day she’ll be ready to see the financial and emotional abuse for what it is and get past the guilt. That medical problems aside, there is no marriage. In the best of health there was no marriage, and the hope that things will change is misguided and fruitless.
In the meantime, I’m on the outside looking in. All I can do is listen and love and support my friend. Would you be able to do the same for yours?
Statistics show that:
13% of Americans are likely to have heart disease1
Almost 20% of Americans are likely to have diabetes1
One in eight women or 12.6% will have breast cancer1
One in six men will develop prostate cancer1
As of 2006, the CDC reports that an estimated 36,828people per 100,000 are infected with HIV2
More than 200,000 people — are unaware they’re infected3
If American adults have come to accept these facts, as the vast majority of them have, then why is it still so hard to accept the fact that 85% of women and 15% of men are victims of abuse? Just like the above health statistics we understand there are a number of unreported cases so the numbers should be higher that what you see presented.The same is true for domestic violence.Lastly, when you think of the above noted health statistics you know that until someone’s illness is really in advanced stages you will probably never know someone is ill just by looking at them. The same is undeniably true with domestic abuse.
You don’t know when someone is suffering. You have to have reached a point of trust where the victim is comfortable enough, and feeling safe enough to open up to you. You need to be personally at a point where you understand enough about the dynamics of abuse that you can approach someone you suspect is victimized without jeopardizing their trust and personal safety.
I once had the VP of Human Resources of a very large international organization of 58,000 employees worldwide; boast to me “it doesn’t happen in my company, I never hear about it.” Well, sadly that’s statistically impossible. Even more sad was the fact that this VP didn’t have his ear to the ground enough to even know what was going one in his organization.
Do any of your employees exhibit any of the following?
- Become quiet when he/she is around their partner or ex-partner and feel afraid of making him/her angry?
- Cancel plans at the last minute?
- Not have access to money?
- Have their attire dictated to them?
- Stop seeing friends and family members, becoming more and more isolated?
- Explaining bruises to family, coworker’s or friends?
These are only a few of the possible signs of abuse. No one is immune from domestic violence and there are many available resources. Like the VP of Human Resources I mentioned, you don’t have to see it or hear of it for it to be happening and I’m available to help your organization by visiting:www.hressential.com
Check out other resources too like The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence http://www.ncadv.org/
2Centers for Disease Control
3Kenneth Mayer of Brown University
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When I was a little girl, my older brother, who was always a goofball (just look at that picture will ya!) sometimes pretended to fly like Superman, jumping from couch to chair with a makeshift cape over his shoulders. I was ten years old the first time I really saw him fly. That was when my mother’s boyfriend launched him from the living room to the dining room – where he crashed to the floor in a heap. My brother wasn’t trying to be a superhero, but he was trying to stop this man from hurting our mother.
The boyfriend came and went over the next six years, finally disappearing when I was sixteen. Each time he left my relief was immense. Each time he came back my disappointment was crushing.
My brother and I used to take long walks at night just to get out of the house. I remember one night crunching through snow in five-degree-below-zero weather trying to figure out how we could become emancipated at the ages of twelve and fourteen. Our options looked pretty grim so we dropped the idea and waited for the years to go by till we could be free.
When you’re a kid living with abuse in the home it’s like living on an earth quake’s fault line. You never know when the ground is going to come out from under you. Nothing is safe or secure. You never know who’s next or what will set it off. You don’t want friends over because something might happen when they’re there. There’s no one to talk to. You hold your breath – all the time. (From my book Battered and Abused, Bringing the Darkness into the Light)
Domestic violence affects every member of the family, including the children. Family violence creates a home environment where children live in constant fear.
Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused. They are often unable to establish nurturing bonds with either parent Children are at greater risk for abuse and neglect if they live in a violent home.
Statistics show that over 3 million children witness violence in their home each year. Those who see and hear violence in the home suffer physically and emotionally.
“Families under stress produce children under stress. If a spouse is being abused and there are children in the home, the children are affected by the abuse.” (Ackerman and Pickering, 1989)
Research shows without question that children will react in different ways. Variables are due to the child’s gender, age, what they witnessed, if there was someone giving them appropriate love and support, and other factors. Still children exposed to family violence are more likely to develop social, emotional, psychological and or behavioral problems than those who aren’t. They experience, lower self-esteem, depression, health issues, growth and development problems. They may avoid going to school, and once there are often too distracted to do well. Interviews with teachers have indicated that they are often spending significant time with children with these issues, to the detriment of the other students.
When employers provide resources, support systems and counseling services to their workforce they do a tremendous service to their employees to show they care. Since often times the workplace is the only possible source of information for an employee who’s every action is monitored by a controlling partner, you can imagine how great it is to be able to find resources for help at the workplace.
Employers who have a qualified Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) in house, or on contract, prove to their employees that they aren’t just blowing smoke in terms of being employee friendly. They’re walking the talk. And it comes back to them tenfold in a loyal workforce. That’s when the employer is the real superhero.