TAG | offender
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, Mindy’s on April 5th. Now Debra’s story:
Ilene’s Story by Debra Pressman ©2013
The four of us noisily tramped through the back door into the kitchen. It was four o’clock in the afternoon on the notoriously lazy Friday after Thanksgiving. The year was 1995. We had driven to the local elementary school track in an attempt to banish both the monotony of the day and the calories of last night’s dinner. The day was dreary and overcast, but not especially cold for that time of year. After running and roller blading around the school track we arrived home exhausted and thirsty.
The red light on the answering machine flashed furiously. I mused briefly that it was strange to have so many messages, we had only been gone an hour. Distracted by the kids and their needs I temporarily forgot about the voice mail mystery. The two boys made a beeline for the refrigerator, jostling each other for first place and arguing about who was entitled to the last glass of juice while Rachel headed straight for her room where she closed the door firmly.
I gave the boys something to drink, shed my sweatshirt and running shoes and gulped down a glass of water while playing referee to a dispute over TV rights. I returned to the kitchen to reluctantly consider dinner preparations and remembered the blinking answering machine. I pressed the button to hear my messages and turned away to rummage through the refrigerator and the detritus of last night’s leftovers. With my attention on dinner I halfheartedly listened to the messages but my ears perked up when I heard the voice of my sister Mindy. She lived a few hours away but we talked on the phone almost every day, so I wasn’t surprised to hear her voice. But this message from her was not like any I had ever received. Her voice was shaking; she was crying and clearly distraught, but she didn’t leave any details, only these cryptic instructions: ”Debbie – call me, it’s an emergency! It’s an emergency!”
My immediate thought was that our father was ill, perhaps in the hospital with a heart attack. He had been under a lot of stress lately and our stepmother always cautioned us “not to give your father a heart attack”. As it happened, I couldn’t have been farther from the truth; the story I would hear was worse than anything my imagination could conjure. I frantically dialed Mindy’s number, over and over, but the line was busy. With each unsuccessful attempt I became more and more worried. Frustrated and panicked, I left more messages than I could count. Blessedly – - or so I thought – - Mindy’s phone finally rang and she answered. She was sobbing; her words were barely comprehensible. ”Debbie, Debbie, Ilene is dead! He shot her and shot himself!” At first the words she was saying didn’t make any sense to me, then they began to register as my brain slowly decoded them. I began to feel a strange sensation in my chest, as if a tight elastic band was encircling my heart and slowly cutting off my oxygen supply. I thought I was suffocating, my head was reeling and I was dizzy.
I was a time traveler back in my eight-year-old body, it was early morning and I was asleep in my bed in my white and blue ballerina themed bedroom. I woke when my grandmother crawled into bed with me, she was crying and as I listened she explained that my mother was dead, that God had taken her away. I felt confused, I heard Mindy’s voice coming through the telephone receiver and it mingled with the voice of my grandmother. For a brief moment the past and the present jockeyed for position in my brain, then the reality of the present reasserted itself. “No!” I screamed with abandon, throwing the portable phone and myself onto the floor. “No, no, no! What about the baby!?” Rachel, then thirteen, ran upstairs from her room to see what had happened. She sat on the floor with me and hugged me as the two boys, eight and five, ran downstairs in fear. “What’s the matter, Mommy? ” they called from a safe distance. “Ilene is dead! Jeff shot her!” I screamed. I was by this time sobbing uncontrollably. Rachel cried with me and stroked my head as I listened to Mindy repeat the story, as she knew it, even now we don’t know the exact details.
Petite, five foot one in shoes and ninety pounds soaking wet, with huge dark eyes and a wide smile, my younger sister Ilene was a magnet for men. She walked with self-assurance, strutted really, with her head held high, chest out, buttocks testing the breeze. Confident about her beauty, she cultivated her image and flaunted it. She worked out at the gym obsessively, ate little and rarely cooked, and was one of those single people with nothing edible in the refrigerator. Energetic and dynamic, she possessed a tremendous capacity for saying the truth as she saw it, the term “chutzpa” might have been coined for her. Assuming she could conquer any project she set her mind to, she usually did. She put herself through college and carved out a professional career for herself in the male dominated world of financial planning, where she was highly respected and admired. She ran her own consulting business and owned her own home. Comfortable in the spotlight, she served passionately as the president of a national women’s business organization, expanding her network of friends and clients. She loved her business but it was difficult and stressful so she made plans for a second career, one to touch her heart. People gravitated towards her and she realized that she loved the aspect of her business that required advising others. With the goal of becoming a pastoral counselor she took courses in counseling and expanded her studies in spirituality. Her dream was to leave the east coast Washington DC area for the southwest where the pace is slower and her interests more the norm.
Ilene had many women friends, some friendships dated back to early childhood days, but her relationships with men did not fare as well. While her women friends were strong, competent and professional, the men she dated were not of the same ilk. They were often less educated than she and sometimes weak with violent tendencies, and frequently they were unavailable. If they were too available, she wasn’t interested. When she had affairs with married men and they ended, as they inevitably did, she became depressed and blamed herself for an apparent inability to become intimate. Her professional savvy did not transfer to the love arena. She seemed to confuse sex with love, glitter with substance and money with caring.
In her early twenties she married a gentle, unsophisticated career Army officer. They lived in Germany in a small town outside of Wiesbaden where he was stationed, but shortly after they returned to the States the marriage ended quietly in divorce. That was her first marriage. She went back to school and worked her way up from secretarial positions to stockbroker. She married again, husband number two was a handsome, up-and-coming advertising executive who was fond of throwing his money around, and he owned a boat that they docked on the Potomac. Unfortunately, he was also fond of cocaine and alcohol, and it quickly became clear to the family that he was an alcoholic. He was abusive, controlling, and opinionated, especially about his wife, and he dictated her style of dress and behavior. He always had something to say about the way Ilene looked; down to details such as the way she plucked her eyebrows.
I visited for Sunday brunch once, and while her husband was busy showing my husband the upstairs Ilene pulled back two paintings and showed me the holes in the wall from where he had laid his fist. She finally left him a year or two later, after his fists made contact with her body one too many times, and for years she remained single, concentrating on her business. She studied for her certification in financial planning, which she received, and worked hard to build up her own clientele. Her clients loved her; she was fun, a good listener, smart and caring. Her sense of humor was famous and she didn’t mind making jokes at her own expense. She named her business with the last names of her two ex-husbands plus her maiden name so that everyone thought she had at least two partners, and we all laughed with her. As successful as she was, from the public’s perspective, she still couldn’t get the love thing to go right. Maybe she didn’t think she deserved it, maybe she just plain didn’t know how, maybe she was scared; I could only speculate what stood in her way. I know it bothered her; she wanted to have a permanent love relationship, one where she was respected and treated well.
Unfortunately, either her memory lacked clarity or she just had high hopes, but she seemed to forget the pain she suffered during her second marriage and embarked on an eerily similar relationship with a man she once described as the “sexiest man alive”. Jeff was someone she met at a local AA meeting that she had been attending for some time. She believed herself to be an alcoholic; she often drank to excess and experienced blackouts the next day. By this time she had been alcohol free for quite a while and attended meetings regularly. She was approaching forty and had been dating Jeff for only a short time, in fact I had not met him and barely remembered his name when she called to tell me her news. She was pregnant. This was not her first pregnancy but she had been much younger with the others. She had never expressed a desire to be a mother and each time opted not to keep the baby. She must have felt that this was her final chance at motherhood, it was now or never. I remember when she called to tell me that she was pregnant and planned to have the baby and raise it alone. Later, without explanation, she changed her mind and decided instead to marry Jeff. The baby was 3 months old at the time of the wedding, none of Ilene’s friends or family attended, it was held in Jeff’s home town in the Virgin Islands. I often wondered why she changed her mind about raising the baby alone; my guess is that she succumbed to her fears and uncertainties and banked on hope. I never questioned her, she thought I was too bossy and critical and I couldn’t find a way to ask without sounding as if I disapproved of her decision.
Like Ilene, Jeff was a chain-smoker and an alcoholic. Unlike her, he abused drugs and was a mean drunk. He possessed a palpable rage that he barely disguised with a thin veneer of swaggering machismo. After meeting him for the first time, Rachel confided to me that she was afraid of him. Rachel loved her aunt Ilene dearly, they had a very close bond, and she was worried about her. Other family members and friends were suspicious and concerned, several of us questioned Ilene, only to be reassured that, no, Jeff was not abusing her. She added a little postscript, which, in retrospect, should have worried us. She said, “He would never hurt me when the baby was around”. Nevertheless, despite her protestations, she was very careful around him, she “walked on eggshells” so as not to disturb him, and kept her private life hidden from her family and colleagues. Although she told us that he had been sober for five years, he had in fact begun drinking again.
From her journal entries, we can trace Jeff’s downward spiral; he drank more and more often. During their last summer together, they and the baby Lucas joined our extended family for a few days at a rented house on the Delaware shore. Jeff refused to participate in family activities and spent most of his time alone. One afternoon, though he never saw us, we saw him leaving a bar. He later brought home a six-pack of a non-alcoholic beer to reinforce the lie that he was abstaining.
Back at home after the beach vacation Jeff continued to drink. Ilene had to bail him out of one financial mess after another; she paid his taxes, fixed his truck after an alcohol -related accident, and negotiated with his boss to agree to hold his job yet another week. She pleaded with him to resume AA meetings and even arranged for him to receive outpatient alcohol treatment. But his jealousy of her success and her many friendships continued to grow and eat at him. He was a delivery truck driver with a high school education; she was a certified financial counselor with her own business earning at least twice his salary. If she had dinner with a friend or client, he would retaliate by going out and getting drunk, as if to punish her for being too independent. He was losing his much needed sense of control over himself and over Ilene.
In October 1995, after celebrating both Yom Kippur and Lucas’s first birthday with our parents, our sister Lisa and her husband Tim in Arizona, Ilene decided to separate from Jeff. She asked him to move out of her house. He was furious. We were worried. We pleaded with her to change the locks on her house; she said she did. We asked her to stay with us for a time until his anger subsided. She refused, explaining that she didn’t want to leave her home. “My work is here, I have to come home sometime”, she said. She did acknowledge the danger she was in and arranged to have a friend stay with her for a few days.
Jeff quit his job and left town, calling Ilene from the road from as far away as Florida and Texas. He said that he was going to work on a shrimp boat, and then he threatened suicide if she wouldn’t take him back. The menacing phone calls continued, and she was a nervous wreck, mostly worried about his safety. He made it impossible for her to reach him, every day she waited, either to hear his voice or for someone else’s call with dreadful news. Finally he returned to town and moved in with his brother who lived a short distance away. But he was deeply depressed and continued to harass and stalk her even as they worked out a separation agreement and visitation arrangements for their son. He would drive slowly past her house over and over and call her repeatedly on the phone, provoking arguments that would leave her shaking and crying. She attended individual counseling, they saw a therapist together to work out the separation agreement, and he was being treated by a psychiatrist for depression. Both were taking antidepressants.
Less than a year after their marriage, on November 24, 1995 – the day after Thanksgiving and exactly one month after her fortieth birthday – Ilene and Jeff were both dead. We have tried to piece together the events of that day. It seems that on Thanksgiving Day Jeff spent the day at his brother’s house, lying on the couch, seemingly depressed or brooding, according to his brother. Later, he refused an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner and spent the late afternoon and early evening alone while his brother and sister in law left to have dinner with family and friends. At some point in time, and at some place unknown, he started drinking. Either before or after, he ransacked his brother’s house and found the handgun that he knew his brother owned.
He drove to Ilene’s house, parked far enough down the driveway so as to be invisible from the front door (his truck was found the next day in the driveway in front of her car) and waited for her to come home. She and the baby had gone to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. We’ll never know the specific details, but it seems she arrived home with the baby, put him to bed, and then went to bed herself. Her contact lenses were soaking in their case, a normal nightly bedtime ritual. I don’t know how he lured her into the living room but he was a foot taller and at least 100 pounds heavier, he could easily have forced her down the stairs. They must have fought and he threatened her, and knowing Ilene she might have even dared him to shoot. I am certain of one thing, and that is that she pleaded for him to spare the baby. Drunk and furious and out of control, he shot her in the shoulder and abdomen three times: she died within seconds on the living room floor. Then he shot himself, splattering his brains across her white carpet, leaving their 14-month-old child Luke alone and unattended in his crib upstairs. By this time it was late Thanksgiving night or the wee hours of the next morning. Ilene’s office was in her home, but because of the holiday her staff was not due in until Monday. Miraculously, the cleaning woman arrived that Friday morning, discovered the bodies and immediately alerted the police. My nephew was safe and asleep in his crib when the police arrived. Only God knows what he heard or witnessed the night before, or how long he cried when he woke early that morning before falling off to sleep again.
It has been years since my younger sister was killed. For the first few years a day did not pass that I didn’t think about her multiple times a day, and I didn’t think that would ever change, but time does heal and now sometimes a few days will pass without her memory knocking on my door. For a time, we had four children living in our household. Her son, Lucas, was now my son, and an integral part of our family. He doesn’t remember his mother or father but he does know the story, though some details have been omitted, someday, he’ll know it all. Back then, I wished for him to be two years old forever so that he would never have to know the pain in store for him.
The pain, my pain, is immense. My sister and I grew up together: We shared a room, toys and neighborhood friends. Mostly, we shared the sorrow of losing our mother at an early age, and because of this we were bonded for life. Our personalities were different, and we often quarreled. I was quiet and careful; she was wild and risk taking. Even as young children, our differences were apparent. In a letter to my grandmother my mother recounted the story of Ilene’s activity during one particularly boring school day. Ilene announced at dinner that she had spent the better part of her day at school kissing a boy. I was said to have replied, “You shouldn’t do that!” And she responded, “But there was nothing else to do”. As adults we would transcend our differences and laugh together and listen to each other’s crisis of the week. Between us, we had five marriages and four children, so there was an abundance to talk about.
My sister’s death had left a hole in my life, a crater with a diameter wide enough for me to crawl inside. The sorrow was wide and enveloping, a quivering caul enclosing a raw and bleeding soul waiting for a healing touch. I began to write poetry to express my pent-up feelings and, together with my youngest sister Mindy, to research domestic violence, specifically homicide/suicide. Mindy, who was then a graduate student in social work, uncovered some information describing the risk factors and precursors of femicide (a term coined by sociologists to describe male violence against women). To our horror, we realized that almost every risk factor was present in Ilene’s situation. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and even had we known then what we know now; it may have made little difference. But we didn’t know. Moreover, at that time, the professionals treating my sister and her husband apparently didn’t know either because she was never warned that her life was in danger.
In my sister’s case, the signs were there, every one of them, but we did not know how to read them. It was as if the road map was in Chinese, and we had no translation. We were concerned enough about her physical safety that we asked her for reassurance. And when that reassurance was forthcoming, we believed her, breathed collective sighs of relief, and went about our business. After all, we didn’t want to interfere or to appear to know what was best for her. After all, we couldn’t live her life for her. And what if we were wrong? So we resorted to giving tidbits of advice. Did murder ever occur to us? I don’t think so. At least, it never occurred to me. Hitting, yes. Bruises, yes. Kidnapping the baby, yes. Destruction of property, yes. Killing, no. Was I naive? YES.
I often wonder what Ilene’s thoughts were at the time. Was she afraid? Did she have a premonition of what was to unfold? We found her journals later. In a September 1995 entry, just two months before her death, she addressed Jeff: “I am in pain because it is over with us – you saw it coming and chose it – caused it. Please do not hurt yourself or Lucas. God, I pray – keep us safe.” In November, one week before her death she wrote again: “The gift of Lucas. The gifts of joy and love that I experience in such abundance… The peace I am beginning to feel – the healing that is taking place within me”. That was her last entry.
Often we harbor the misconception that these atrocities happen only to ‘other people’, strangers who live in neighborhoods we are too afraid to enter. We read the stories in the metro section of the newspapers, and shake our heads in disbelief and horror. Jewish tradition instructs us never to pray for a tragedy to bypass us; to do so would be tantamount to asking that it be visited on someone else instead. But when we read these stories, we can’t help murmuring under our breath, “Thank God it wasn’t me!” Sometimes, it is.
In the words of a Jewish song, “What’s the commitment to those who have died when we cry they’ve not died in vain?” Ilene’s death will not be in vain if even one woman is saved because of the lessons we have learned. “Don’t let her light go out. Let it shine through our love and our tears”.
Dear readers – This blog ran previously and continues to bring positive impact to readers. That makes me glad.
This month of awareness has assisted in bringing together those who work to bring an end to Domestic Violence, as well as move forward legislation to assist victims of domestic violence. As we move forward to October and participate in activities that support in bringing awareness and memorial to this ever present issue, we aid those who are suffering everyday to bring them one step closer to safety, and a healthier life for themselves, and their family. What might be things you can do to stop domestic abuse?
In your place of worship
1. Encourage information about domestic abuse in the congregation’s programs, youth groups, marriage preparation, study groups, etc.
2. Establish a committee to promote awareness of the problem and how the congregation can help.
3. Organize a drive to collect food, toiletries, household goods and other needed items for a local domestic violence service.
In your workplace
4. Display posters or brochures (in break rooms, restrooms, or meeting rooms) to promote awareness of domestic abuse and how to get help.
5. Organize a Brown Bag lunch or other event for co-workers and invite a speaker to talk about solutions to the problem.
6. Ask what policies your employer has developed to keep employees safe from a domestic abuser who threatens the workplace.
In schools and daycare
7. Encourage the editor of the school newspaper to have a special issue about teen dating violence and partner abuse.
8. Write a paper about domestic violence to share with your classmates.
9. Educate teachers and other staff about the connection between child abuse and partner abuse.
In civic organizations, clubs or neighborhoods
10. Invite a speaker to educate organization members about domestic violence.
11. Organize a fundraising event or food/toiletries drive to benefit a domestic violence service agency.
12. Publish information about domestic violence and available resources in the newsletter.
13. “Adopt” a family seeking independence from an abuser, to assist with practical needs.
As a Citizen
14. Ask your local library to stock books on domestic violence and to set up displays to educate the public about the issue.
15. Speak out against domestic abuse: Expressing your view that domestic violence is unacceptable has a powerful effect on changing the norms that support abuse.
16. Write letters to newspaper editors or send commentaries to TV and radio to help raise awareness about domestic violence.
17. Vote for public leaders who take a strong stand against domestic abuse.
18. Call 911 if you see or hear a crime of domestic abuse in progress. Write down license plate numbers, locations, and any other information that may be helpful to law enforcement.
19. Volunteer with a domestic violence service. Organizations need help with office activities, fundraising events, technical and professional services and assistance to clients.
20. Donate used clothing and household goods to a program that gives these vital items to families seeking independence from an abuser.
21. Participate in neighborhood crime watch programs.
Source original for this article: http://www.thepaper247.com/main.asp?SectionID=23&SubSectionID=22&ArticleID=17559&TM=9137.525
bottom line · Brown Bag lunch · business · Coaching · conflict · consulting · costs · crime victim’s rights · depression · domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · employer · lawsuit · leadership development · legal · management · offender · personal safety · relationships · risk · Speak out against domestic abuse · strategic leadership · stress in the workplace · training · victim · violence
Have you ever watched a TV commercial and knew that you just had to buy the featured product? Did you eat at a restaurant just because a friend raved about the food? Did you take a vacation to a place your sister had a fantastic time at first?
That’s the same idea behind workplaces that are Safe, Supportive and Sought-after. These are the businesses, big and small, that have built reputations for being desirable places to work.
Studies have shown that employees don’t leave a company, where they feel appreciated, just to earn a few pennies more somewhere else. The same is true for seeking employment.
It’s not pennies that keep someone in your employ, nor is it pennies that make them select a job at your location in the first place.
Companies are sought-after because of the positive way they treat their employees and for what they stand for. They’re also sought-after for what they won’t stand for; like domestic abuse.
When your company is committed to the health and safety of employees and to a supportive workplace environment in which employees feel comfortable discussing domestic violence and seeking assistance for domestic violence you will be the very definition of Safe, Supportive, and Sought-after.
Wouldn’t you agree?
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
bottom line · business · Coaching · company · conflict · consulting · costs · domestic abuse · employees · employer · family · lawsuit · legal · management · offender · personal safety · relationships · risk · training · victim · violence
Helping herself to apple slices, my friend said my new agave nectar tasted like dusty plastic. What a weird comparison! But I swiped at the little puddle on her plate and tasted it.
Ewww. It tasted like dusty plastic.
Now, having said that I can’t remember ever licking dusty plastic, but I can assure you this agave nectar tasted exactly like dusty plastic would if you were in the habit of licking it!
“Stay away from my dusty plastic!” I hissed at her in mock anger. We laughed at our silly selves.
But a person with an abusive personality has a tendency to get all “up in arms” about a comment like that. As if it’s some sort of direct insult to their taste buds. How come? Why do some people interpret it so differently without enjoying the humor? It’s like it sets them on fire.
Sound lame? Family fights usually start off with minor comments – and often end in tragedy.
Coaching · consulting · domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · leadership development · offender · relationships · strategic leadership · training · violence
That question came up one Saturday morning as I was sitting with a group of about twenty men, all DV offenders who had been mandated by court to attend 26 weeks of classes. I had been voluntarily joining these classes for 18 months to observe, learn and contribute. I was enjoying this rare opportunity with the permission of the group leader.
On this particular morning, one of the men was doing a “thought report” where he was explaining in minute detail what had transpired during the fight which led to his arrest. He admitted that a gun was involved – he said it was his girlfriend’s, and that her friend is the one who’d called police to report the argument; which she’d heard through the telephone.
He proceeded to minimize the intensity of the fight and gripe on and on about how the police stayed outside and wouldn’t come in to help stop the argument. He called them chicken s—t.
“Wait a minute.” I said. “You have to look at it from the Police perspective. They have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. They have no idea how many guns, or what type, or where you are in the house. Anything could happen, and Police are killed more often in DV calls than any other type. Period.”
The men stopped to look at me. There was a silence that would shake anyone’s confidence. And then about 10 of them started talking. “Yeah, you’re right” one said. “Never thought of it that way”, said another. “Oh, yea, there was that time when…” And on it went. It was good. That’s partly what those classes are for. To help the offenders, men and women both, to learn to see the bigger picture of a world beyond themselves; to take accountability for their actions and to see the ripple effect of consequences from their behavior.
I hope every one of them saw the article below that appeared on our paper the other day. I hope they never think of these situations the same way again.
Coaching · conflict · consulting · domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · guns · lawsuit · leadership development · legal · offender · Personal Safety · police · relationships · risk · shooting · strategic leadership · training · victim · violence
(That was pretty puny…)
OK. Let me start with this: I am NOT calling out anyone on their personal choices. It’s just a perfect time to make a play on the whole Cupid thing; and that there are relationships that just shouldn’t happen.
The whole idea of cupid is that there’s this cute little cherub with a bow and arrow. He/she/it would fire away at a couple unsuspecting souls and ping! They’d be in love with each other! But where was the dating and taking time (lots of it) to really make sure the other person was a respectful individual, capable of a long term healthy relationship? There wasn’t. That’s all well and good in fantasy land, but not in real life.
In my book Battered and Abused – Bringing the Darkness into the Light, I had asked women to submit stories about their abusive relationships. (The book also contains national resources and information about abusive relationships).
Men – before you get up in arms about the fact that there are no men’s stories about how they were in relationships with abusive women, let me tell you this: I distributed the same request for stories letter to men as I did to women, all within the same week. The letter stated I was working on a deadline and the due date for stories. Not one man submitted his. But they had equal chance to be heard and included.
What I have included below is just the beginning of each woman’s story to give the sense of how insidiously all this starts.
Domestic abuse is more common than you think. I was a victim of such abuse in my first marriage. He was too smart to ever hit me because that would leave a mark. Instead I was verbally abused and threatened on a daily basis with such things as being incarcerated in a mental institution for such things asking him for money to help pay the bills. He was also obsessed with guns and wouldn’t even go to corner store without having a loaded gun hidden underneath the car seat. He also used to brag about brandishing his gun at other drivers, and loved to video tape himself in full camouflage firing all his guns. What finally made me leave was coming upon a stash of rifles that I didn’t know he had. A friend suggested that I should get out before he decided to use one of them on me.
Anyway, I divorced him and I came back to Phoenix. I virtually went underground for the first year or so that I was back. And would you believe that even now, after seven years, a new, (and terrific) husband and new last name, there is still a part of me that is worried that he may be able to find me again. I know the odds are low, but I don’t think you ever really get over that kind of fear. I was lucky in that I had a family to help me out, but not all women are so lucky.
Here’s where my story begins.
After dropping out of college, and at the age of 20, I moved into an apartment with a friend. I was working two full time jobs in order to pay all of my new found adult world bills. One of my jobs was bartending at a local club, where I met my “cool new boyfriend”. Not only was he a musician in the house band, but he was older, by 16 years, and “experienced”. Our relationship started off like any other. We dated, then it turned exclusive, and then we moved in together. Everything was great, until the day it happened. We got into an argument, and he slapped me so hard that I lost my balance.
You see, growing up, I would see movies about domestic violence, and I would hear stories, and I would always say to my friends “if a guy ever hit me he’d be out the door so fast he wouldn’t know what to do.” But that didn’t happen. He said he was sorry. He said he loved me. He said it wouldn’t happen again
In 2000 I was at the top of my game. I was a proud mother of two, post-divorce, and doing well at my career. I had been quickly promoted to National Sales Manager of a nursing publication. The day after Thanksgiving I went shopping to kick off the holiday season and then stopped at a trendy local bakery to buy brioche for the next morning’s French toast. At the counter I met the Operations Manager and we chatted over ciabatta instead of brioche. He was handsome, funny and at-ease with himself. He made me giggle, blush and feel tingly inside. I was instantly attracted to his charm and when he offered to give me his number instead of asking for mine, I was very impressed. I was mad about him after just one meeting over loaves of bread. We started dating and he did amazing things that swept me off my feet. Like clockwork, he brought me two dozen flowers every Monday when he appeared at my high-rise office in downtown Phoenix to take me to lunch. He was sweet, attentive, loving and supportive. He wowed me with stories of his troubled childhood and impressed me with how far he’d come. I was in love and emotionally invested. He convinced me that we were special, that we were lucky to have found each other in such a difficult world. We had lived in some of the same cities and were born only miles from each other. We talked at length of how we were destined for one another and the relationship seemed very magical.
On Valentine’s Day 2001 he proposed to me with a 6 carat Sapphire ring. When we had discussed getting engaged he mentioned to me that he wanted a ring so large that people could see it from across the street. He said he wanted the world to know that I was taken. I was naïve. I thought it was sweet and I was flattered. I now know that it was classic control rooting from a very unhealthy place. (more in the book)
According to Wikipidia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupid) Cupid figures prominently in ariel poetry, lyrics and, of course, elegiac love and metamorphic poetry. In epic poetry, he is less often invoked, but he does appear in Virgil‘s Aeneid changed into the shape of Ascanius inspiring Dido’s love. In later literature, Cupid is frequently invoked as fickle, playful, and perverse. He is often depicted as carrying two sets of arrows: one set gold-headed, which inspire love; and the other lead-headed, which inspire hatred.
Have you ever thought about how Valentine’s Day (VD) and Domestic Violence (DV) are opposites in every way? Maybe we should send our Unicorn after that mischievous Cupid and have him just fling that bow and arrow right out of his hands.
In January 2010 in Spencer, MA a man facing a foreclosure auction took his own life after shooting and killing his sick wife and their horse, setting fire to their home, and torching his pickup truck.
Advocates voice concerns that vast numbers of women are remaining in abusive relationships out of fear they could not support themselves and their children in the current economic climate.
Studies also show that social support networks may influence DV perpetration and victimization. Women DV survivors typically turn to family and friends for emotional and tangible support, such as temporary housing. The current economic recession may limit the ability of concerned family members and friends to assist DV survivors, resulting in increased strain on battered women’s and homeless shelters and the potential for more DV survivors and their children to experience homelessness. Economic Stress and Domestic Violence by Claire M. Renzetti with contributions from Vivian M. Larkin (September 2009).
In her article posted November 9, 2010, on the link between domestic violence and economic stress Deborah Debare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, with whom I had the pleasure of working with when I spoke at their conference in October 2009 said, “We know from experience here in Rhode Island that the numbers of victims of domestic violence are reaching record levels in 2010. And exacerbating the situation is that many of these victims are experiencing multiple challenges in their efforts to get safe, as they have fewer financial resources and more complex social/emotional problems caused in part by the economic stress in their lives.”
An interesting slat to this issue is the confessions of offenders in court mandated domestic violence classes. I have been attending as an observer for over a year now. I attend men’s classes and women’s classes. I’m seeing a lot of varied demographics and family dynamics.
When a person attends their first class they are asked to tell the facilitator (and the group at large) what occurred in the event that led to police arrest and appearance before a judge. Later in during the weeks they attend classes they may also do a “thought report” where they walk through step by step every nuance of the fight.
What I’ve seen are countless instances where the fight brewed over someone coming home hours late, a teenage girl spilling nail polish on a carpet and ignoring the mess while she goes out with friends; leaving her frustrated parents to clean up, or married men’s girlfriends sending gift to the couple’s children.
In other words, I hear a whole host of stories of hurt, frustration, betrayal and irrational thinking. But among them, never a story where the fight brewed over finances.
These offenders are all people who were arrested during a fight where someone was hit, kicked, slapped or possessions where broken. In these instances all the offenders are misdemeanors.
I recently spoke with Amilia Duchon-Voyles, Executive Director of S.W.A.N Domestic Violence Shelter who said, “There are a lot of money issues. No access to money is a key issue for women. “ Amilia went on to retell stories she hears from women in her shelter; such as fights breaking out over money when the abuser wants it to fulfill his drug addiction, or she’s now taking control over the money because she’s now the wage earner if he lost his job. In some cases the woman is trying to create boundaries and he’s resisting them. In other words, Amilia is hearing a lot of the same things at her shelter as I am in the offender groups.
My research of incarcerated offenders, including the experience of working with Tracy Stombres in writing our book Serrated, has shown the same; it’s fights over sometimes the most common and routine issues in a relationship that go completely out of control that result in violence.
My opinion is this: this stress full economic time is not causing more violence. But it’s preventing victims from getting out and severely limiting resources. Anything you can do to help by donating a few dollars or gently used clothes and household goods – or even an hour listening to someone, will mean more to those that need it than you’ll ever know.
bottom line · business · Coaching · company · conflict · consulting · costs · domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · employees · employer · lawsuit · leadership development · legal · management · offender · Personal Safety · relationships · risk · strategic leadership · training · victim · violence
Now that the book is out, people are asking me why I wrote Serrated. It’s a good question, since from most people’s perspective, doing an enormous project like writing a true crime memoir for someone else, is such a diversion from my usual work. And it years to complete. The hours spent devoted to the writing, rewriting, research, formatting and making all the business arrangements for publication often took me away from my own consulting and training work. There’s no doubt that in some ways my business suffered. I spent countless hours interviewing Tracy Stombres, collecting stories and documents in order to distill it all down to a volume that would capture that reader’s attention and create an emotional response.
I wrote Serrated for two reasons. There’s no doubt Tracy’s is a story that must be told. And also because it really does have a connection to the work I do. The reason Tracy and I met in the first place is because I was doing a project for my work. I was writing a book for employers and survivors that blended personal stories with national resources. It was in the process of collecting the survivor perspectives for Battered and Abused – Bringing the Darkness into the Light, that Tracy contacted me.
Tracy worked two jobs during her marriage. At neither one did she have people she felt she could talk to about what was happening in her life. No one approached her and expressed concern either. There weren’t resources offered. There wasn’t an alternate schedule offered. There wasn’t someone to encourage Tracy about her self worth or other possibilities and choices about her relationship.
On the fateful day when her husband came to the workplace and argued with Tracy about the assumed affair, no one reached out to her and offered assistance. Tracy also told me she did not feel comfortable asking for help. Had the workplace been trained and prepared for domestic violence there’s a good possibility that whole situation could have been mitigated.
There’s a chance that Tracy could have been referred to an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) or other counseling services that could help her talk about her life, her fears and her options. It’s possible that Frank might have been referred to the EAP or other resources. He needed someone to hear him and let him vent. It could have mitigated his anger and given him choices; like maybe an ongoing offender therapy group. A life could have been saved and others may not have endured the physical and emotional pain that will last forever.
My life’s work is all about leadership and domestic violence training. That’s why I pioneered a business case for addressing domestic abuse. The intent is twofold. One is to have organizations understand the business – or bottom line costs of domestic abuse and it’s affect on the financial health of the organization. The other reason is for employees, whether victims or offenders of abuse, to be able to reach out to their employers and ask for, and get the help they need; and managers will be “in tune” enough with the dynamics of abuse to detect the cues and offer help appropriately and effectively. There’s even a clip on You Tube with me talking about that to a group of managers.
It’s always been my dream to create corporate cultures which don’t condone and ignore abuse. I want organizations to stop thinking they’re immune, just ‘cause they “never hear about it”, as one executive told me.
I had a conversation with Tracy once about a client company that contacted me because they had an employee who was “obviously” a victim due to visible bruising and a significant other that was showing up at the workplace. The woman refused to talk with the human resources manager so they asked me to step in. Tracy’s words were “do it”, it could make all the difference in the world. I did meet with the client’s employee and management. I’m happy to say it changed everything for them.
Tracy told me she wished she’d had someone to talk to. It might have made all the difference in the world. Hear her say it in her own words.
That’s why I wrote Serrated.
company · conflict · consulting · costs · domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · employees · employer · leadership development · management · offender · relationships · strategic leadership · training · violence
I’m one of those people that always have dark circles under my eyes. First of all, I have some Mediterranean heritage so it comes with the territory. Secondly, I never get enough sleep. There’s always something bouncing around inside my head keeping me up. (Some say sleep is over-rated, but seriously, after awhile it’d be nice to catch up on zzzzzsss) But I digress. So a couple months ago when I had my head shots re-done I had an opportunity to have a professional makeup artist, Mary, “do my face”. The results, if you’ve seen my new pix, are really nice. What made it so great was not only Mary’s expert hand, but the fact that she custom blended the colors for my under-eye concealer and foundation.
That was a first for me. I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years trying to find close color matches when I bought makeup at drugs stores and department stores. I found great makeup a lot of times, but it never quite blended with my skin tones.
The next time I needed foundation and concealer I called Mary. She recreated the custom blends for the makeup; put the concealer in a little jar and the foundation in a bottle. This truly was my makeup. And when I wear it, it feels so right. It works so much better. And those blends would not be as perfect for anyone else.
Workplace domestic violence policies are no different. Companies across the U.S., if they even have a policy at all, usually have a Workplace Violence Policy. They believe it will cover their needs for a domestic violence policy when all they’ve really done is covered up a problem, and not very well. Unless you have a comprehensive domestic violence policy you are only concealing the problem and you are not fully or realistically, addressing it.
Some elements that should be in a comprehensive domestic violence policy:
- the organization’s moral and ethical stance on domestic violence;
- what the roles and responsibilities of various levels and divisions of management are;
- guidance for employees who are victims;
- language to address offenders and co-workers who assist them;
- corrective and disciplinary action;
- local and national resources;
- applicable state laws and how the organization will comply;
- other applicable company policies
Like my make-up, the concept of things made just for you is probably appealing. Think of the success Burger King® has had with “Have It Your Way”, custom fabricated golf clubs, cowboy boots, and any of the other hundreds of things that are specially designed for the user. A domestic violence policy is no different and has the capability to do so much more than just feel right.
Benefits of a comprehensive Domestic Violence Policy
(If these look familiar you’ve probably seen my brochures and web site)
- Reduce time on employee issues
- Mitigate negligent retention/negligent hiring
- Improve corporate image
- Improve lives and safety of employees
- Strengthen legal defense & reduce legal fees
- Increase EAP utilization
- Create a safe environment
bottom line · business · Coaching · company · conflict · consulting · costs · domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · employees · employer · lawsuit · leadership development · legal · management · offender · Personal Safety · relationships · risk · strategic leadership · training · victim · violence