No Respite for Domestic Violence Victims at Christmas Time.

In 1963, Andy Williams’ song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” was released.  Can you imagine walking through shopping malls at Christmas time, hearing this and other jolly tunes filling the space, when you know that this is most definitely not the most wonderful time of the year?

For women in abusive relationships, there is additional stress. They are burdened with the task of having to act as though they are living a “normal” life.  They do this for the sake of their young children; wanting their children to not miss out on the joy, excitement and “magic” of Christmas that other little children are experiencing.  And below, I’ll explain the other reason for this acting.

Some people believe that there is a rise in the amount of domestic violence over the holidays.  Whilst it is true that increased alcohol consumption could fuel tempers, “ … data available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) shows a decline in the number of calls received during the holidays, including on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day”.  Source: https://nrcdv.org/publications/holiday-toolbox/  Retrieved 12/19/19.  This makes sense to me.

Domestic Violence is primarily a “Behind closed doors” phenomenon.  Holidays are typically times when extended family are around. Victims are expected by their abusive partners to put on a show that presents a picture of a loving, supportive relationship and family unit.  If she were to be witnessed by him, revealing any sort of indication to her family, (from which he usually isolates her), that he is anything less than the perfect partner or father, she would pay the price later once alone with him and out of earshot of potential protectors.  She knows this. She has been threatened. And from experience, she knows that his threats are carried out.

Decrease or increase in Domestic Violence reporting at Christmas time, for women who are in an abusive relationship, there is no one time of year that is exempt from the possibility of being abused.  “Incidents don’t happen on particular days, the abuser and victim are always somewhere in the pattern of abuse.” Source: https://breakthesilencedv.org/debunking-myths-dv-and-the-holidays/  Retrieved 12/19/19.

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Our Legal System Needs Urgent Revision!

 

I refuse to call the Legal system in this country, a Justice system.  It is far, far from being just.  In fact, the system too often allows for gross miscarriages of justice, damaging many innocent people, to varying degrees.

Take the case of Susan Cox Powell.  In 2009, Susan mysteriously disappeared one night in Utah, leaving behind a husband and two young sons.  Her husband, Josh Powell, was not arrested, despite an overwhelming amount of facts that very strongly pointed towards the conclusion that he was behind the disappearance, and likely death, of his wife.

Josh Powell said, “he’d taken his two sons on a sudden late-night camping trip the night his wife was last seen, despite freezing temperatures and a snowstorm.”  Source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/dateline-investigates-the-disappearance-of-susan-powell-in-new-2-hour-special.html/  Retrieved 11/20/19.  After the disappearance, one of the sons, when being interviewed separately from their father at a police station, said that his Mom had gone on that trip too!  She never came back.

I understand the hesitation to declare a person guilty until there is enough evidence.  Innocent until proven guilty.  Susan’s body was not found.  But Susan had confided in female friends, letting them know that Josh was a controlling, abusive husband.  And Susan had consulted a divorce lawyer.  We know that one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic violence is when the abusive partner finds out that his partner has decided to leave the relationship.

Following the highly suspicious disappearance of Susan, the two sons, Charles and Braden, (then ages four years and two years), were initially allowed to stay living with their father, Josh.  I see this, in basic terms, as allowing a suspected murderer to be allowed to freely take care of two very young children.  Josh had moved in with his father.  When Josh’s father was arrested for child pornography, the situation was re-visited and Charles and Braden went to live with the parents of Susan Powell, their grandparents.  A judge ruled that Josh Powell could see his sons, with supervision.  Supervision in the form of a social worker being present.

In 2012, a social worker arrived with Charles and Braden at a house that Josh was renting.  Charles and Braden entered the house.  Josh shut the front door on the social worker before she had a chance to enter.  Then, in the spirit of pure evil, “Josh killed himself and his two children in a murder-suicide, attacking the boys with a hatchet before setting his home on fire, leading to an explosion.”  Source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/dateline-investigates-the-disappearance-of-susan-powell-in-new-2-hour-special.html/  Retrieved 11/20/19.

Meanwhile, despite so many reasons to back up the innocence of Rodney Reed, Rodney Reed “has spent the past 22 years in prison after being convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites.”  Source: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/rodney-reed-jason-flom-wrongful-conviction-interview-913170/  Retrieved 11/20/19.  For example, “Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship.”  Source: https://www.innocenceproject.org/10-facts-you-need-to-know-about-rodney-reed-who-is-scheduled-for-execution-on-november-20/  Retrieved 11/20/19.  So, accusing Rodney Reed of rape and murder makes no sense.  By the way, Rodney Reed is a black man.  Furthermore, a prison-mate of Jimmy Fennell’s, (Jimmy Fennell being the man who had been engaged to Stacey, and both Jimmy and Stacey being white people), reported that he had heard Jimmy Fennell confessing “to murdering Stacey stating, “I had to kill my n*****-loving fiancée”.  Note: Jimmy Fennell “served a 10-year prison term for a sex crime and kidnapping” after Stacey Stites was murdered.  Source: https://www.innocenceproject.org/10-facts-you-need-to-know-about-rodney-reed-who-is-scheduled-for-execution-on-november-20/  Retrieved 11/20/19.

Rodney Reed was due to be executed in Texas today, November 20th, 2019.  Fortunately, this execution was halted.  Just five days ago!  But, … Bitter-sweet.  Innocent people in prison for decades for crimes they did not commit?!  Where is the justice?!

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To Trust, or Not to Trust?

 

To trust, or not to trust?  That is the question.  After exiting from a relationship in which one was abused, how ought one best approach the issue of trust?  In my case, possibly unusually, despite having been quite severely abused, both physically and emotionally, I did not struggle to trust future men who entered my life as potential partners.  Am I saying that this is a positive thing?

On the one hand, I believe it is.  For it means that I was not allowing the bad behavior/character of my abusive ex-boyfriend to lead me to automatically distrust other men, therefore giving any new man in my life a fair chance to show me naturally whether he was to be trusted or not.

On the other hand, I am questioning the ease with which I trust men.  Is this innate trust that I seem to have perhaps one of the factors that led me deeper, further, into an abusive relationship?  Trusting when it wasn’t earned, when it wasn’t deserved.  Trusting when to others it would have been obvious that the man cannot be trusted!

In the abusive relationship that I found myself in, and in a subsequent long-term relationship in which my partner was, unbeknownst to me, cheating on me, I most definitely had a habit of giving the man I was with, the benefit of the doubt.  Again, and again, and again.  And that was despite my doubts, my suspicions, the warning signs!  So, given that I did see the “red flags”, we can say that this is not a case of blindly trusting.  So, on what basis has my trust lived?

I have asked myself this question.  My deep well of trust was not born out of naivety.  I saw the signs that pointed towards reasons to either at least suspend judgment as to whether something that he said was true, or to veer towards distrusting his future actions in advance because of so many past let-downs.  Let-downs like the broken promises to change, to do better.  So, why did I keep trusting?  Actually, I think the more pertinent question is: Why did I keep hoping?  Hoping that things would change for the better.  Hoping that he would stop hurting me, in any form.  I think the simple answer to that, although it is actually more complicated, is twofold.  1. Since I find it so difficult to “wrap my head around” the fact that a person can and does hurt another person, especially his/her partner, I struggle to believe, or perhaps to accept, that a person would not want to change his/her behavior and work seriously hard on doing so.  And 2. Because I wanted so very much for him to change, as there were some things about him and our relationship that I loved, I didn’t want to lose those things and I fantasized about his cruel ‘side’ leaving him.

So, when does one give up hoping that things will change?  When is enough, enough?!

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Sexual Assault of an Unconscious, Intoxicated Woman

Back in 2015, a man sexually assaulted a woman on a college campus and it became “huge” news!  Why?  Initially, because the victim was unconscious at the time, due to being intoxicated, and because the perpetrator of the assault was at the time a budding athlete and a member of Stanford University’s swim team.  And later, uproar from some, when the perpetrator’s father, Dan A. Turner, let it be known that he believed that prison was too harsh of a punishment for his son and referred to the sexual assault as “20 minutes of action”!  Giving his opinion on the proposed six years prison sentence, Dan Turner wrote in a letter submitted to the court: “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”.  Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/06/a-steep-price-to-pay-for-20-minutes-of-action-dad-defends-stanford-sex-offender/  Retrieved 9/18/19.

Back in 2016, the victim of the sexual assault, then not named, criticized how much attention the media was giving to the impressive swimming ability that the defendant had and the negative effect that this incident would have on his future in relation to opportunities as a professional athlete.  “The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency.”  Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/02/stanford-swimmer-sexual-assault-brock-allen-turner-palo-alto  Retrieved 9/18/19.

Earlier this month, more than three years following the sexual assault, the victim has revealed her identity to the public.  She is now no longer just seen as the intoxicated, unconscious woman.  She is Chanel Miller.  She has a book coming out on September 24th.

It is my hope that the book has a decent-sized portion dedicated to acknowledging the two “angels” who by chance witnessed Brock Turner sexually assaulting Chanel Miller in 2015 as they were cycling through the campus, and stepped in, one of them going to the aid of the victim and the other chasing the perpetrator as he attempted to flee the scene and managing to stop him and hold him there until police arrived.

We, the public, need to be made aware of and potentially educated about acts of abuse, such as sexual assault.  For example: Possible circumstances, dynamics, consequences.  I also believe that we could benefit from more emphasis being given by the media on the details related to any heroes/heroines involved in violent crime stories.  Had Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson not intervened the night of Chanel Miller’s attack, the outcome of the story would have been different.  Let’s increase positive reinforcement of good/right behavior, as well as paying attention to bad/wrong behavior!

Note: Although “Bystander Intervention” is potentially very valuable.  It can also unintentionally escalate a situation, making it worse!

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Australia. A country that takes Domestic Violence seriously!

“In the past, Australia has denied travel visas to R&B singer Chris Brown and boxing star Floyd Mayweather due to domestic violence convictions.” Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/australia-bans-travelers-with-domestic-violence-charges  Retrieved 8/1019

“On Thursday 28 February 2019 Australian Immigration Minister David Coleman issued a new directive barring anyone with a domestic violence conviction from entering Australia.” Source: http://www.ozkiwi2001.org/2019/03/no-visas-for-domestic-violence-offenders/  Retrieved 8/10/19

“The new Directive applies to decision-makers within the Department of Home Affairs who are considering the cancellation or refusal of a visa under s501 of the Migration Act 1958, or who are considering the revocation of a mandatory cancellation of a visa under s501CA.” Source: http://www.ozkiwi2001.org/2019/03/no-visas-for-domestic-violence-offenders/  Retrieved 8/10/19.  Previously, this Migration Act had stated that “a person’s visa must be cancelled if they have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison.” Source: https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/davidcoleman/Pages/govt-introduces-measures-against-domestic-violence-perpetrators-20190303.aspx  Retrieved 8/10/19.  The new directive is not so forgiving in relation to dealing with convicted perpetrators of Domestic Violence; the type of sentence decided by a foreign court is irrelevant when it comes to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs following the directive.

Basically, David Coleman has decided that “Australia has no tolerance for perpetrators of violence against women and children”.  Source: https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/davidcoleman/Pages/govt-introduces-measures-against-domestic-violence-perpetrators-20190303.aspx  Retrieved 8/10/19.  Mr. Coleman said in a public statement, “If you’ve been convicted of a violent crime against women or children, you are not welcome in this country.”  Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/australia-bans-travelers-with-domestic-violence-charges  Retrieved 8/1019.  I did note that the emphasis was very much on violence against women and children, and I am grateful to hear this, although we must not ignore the fact that there are males who are victims of Domestic Violence too.

To clarify, any person now wanting to visit Australia on a visa and who has been charged with Domestic Violence, will not be permitted to enter the country, and any person already in the country as a visitor or living there with visa status and who has a record, from anywhere abroad, of Domestic Violence, will be banished from the country.

Some people are arguing that this new directive is too harsh and even unfair.  For example, in the case of a perpetrator of Domestic Violence who served their sentence in the country where they committed the crime and then emigrated to Australia and has been living there for years on a visa, it could be argued that it is unfair to uproot this person from the country that they have chosen as their current home; they have been convicted, punished to some degree according to the laws in their home country and the case has been closed.  Others, however, welcome such a strict directive, aware of the likelihood of recidivism for perpetrators of Domestic Violence.

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Isolating Himself and Withholding Affection, as Ways to Abuse.

Have you ever experienced the sort of emotional abuse that involves him locking you OUT OF a room, or withholding affection from you?  I have.

It is, I think, more often that we hear survivors of Domestic Violence recount stories of how their abusive partners isolated or attempted to isolate them from their friends and family, or how they were forced to have sex with their abusive partners, despite protesting.  And these are certainly very common occurrences within an abusive relationship.  My abusive ex-boyfriend engaged in the isolation tactic that I have just described, but he also had a couple of other habits, other abusive tactics, that I don’t hear much talk of.

My abusive ex-boyfriend would lock himself inside one of the rooms in the house, so that I was unable to enter and so that, (I came to know), he’d be free to sit at his computer or with his phone and communicate with other women.  He once said to me, when I confronted him about his infidelity, “But it’s you who I come home to at the end of each day!”  An example of verbal abuse.  Keeping me from entering the room where he was sitting, an example of non-verbal emotional and psychological abuse.  I believe that it’s acceptable for partners to keep some secrets from each other.  But this was a case of deceit on his part; of him knowing that the only way to try to hide it from me, was to keep me physically away from the proof; and furthermore, of him knowing that locking me out of the room would likely cause me anxiety and depression.

There were other times when he would be sitting at his computer with the door to the room open, and I would approach him to ask, for example, how his applications for Medical Residency were going.  We worked on them together sometimes.  Quickly, but not quite quickly enough for me to not have seen, the computer screen with a Live Chat in progress would be minimized, and a different screen would have replaced it.  The replacement being, for example, something related to applying for a spot on a Residency Program at a hospital somewhere in the country.  He was desperate to not let me get too close to his Computer of Secrets!  Woe betide me if I were to question him on the minimized screen that I had caught a glimpse of!

Another of his abusive behaviors was to withhold physical affection and sexual intimacy from me.  “Don’t most relationships in trouble look like that?”, you may ask.  Remember that this is just part of a bigger picture.  And this was a way of behaving with the intention to hurt me.  “According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, the definition of abuse is the following: “Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.””  Source: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/abuse-information/what-is-abuse-abuse-definition.  Retrieved 7/7/19

I recall the emotionally painful nights that I experienced, when he didn’t go out, but would climb into bed next to me at 4am, knowing that I’d probably wake up and knowing that I had to get up early for work the next day, (he didn’t have to rise early).  He’d then make sure that he remained far enough away from my body to not be touching me at all.  He knew that this would hurt me.  It absolutely did!  And he knew that I would have been suffering emotionally up until then, lying there thinking about him in another room, indulging in his secret world.  He knew I longed for the consistency of a warm-bodied, warm-hearted boyfriend; I had practically begun to beg him to go to bed at the same time as me.  Deliberate neglect.

 

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New DOJ Definition of “Domestic Violence”

The Department of Justice, (DOJ), has changed the definition of “Domestic Violence”!  I only recently discovered this and was curious.  When I read the new definition, I became concerned.

The Department of Justice’s previous definition of “Domestic Violence” was:

“A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”  Source:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/doj-change-domestic-violence-definition/

Retrieved 06/22/19

The current version on the DOJ website, as of April 2018, reads:

“The term “domestic violence” includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.”  Source:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/doj-change-domestic-violence-definition/

Retrieved 06/22/19

My observations:

  1. What is glaringly obvious is how drastically different the two definitions are from one another! I.e. Not just a few minor changes.
  2. We see that whereas the previous definition recognized that Domestic Violence is not merely physical violence, (it listed all forms of abuse), the new definition includes only “felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence”, which means that it is discounting many forms of abuse that perpetrators use on his/her/their victim.
  3. The previous definition explained the goal behind the Domestic Violence, i.e. to gain power and control, and it even offered further explanation for how the abusive behaviors seek to gain power and control. g. Aiming to intimidate or manipulate a victim.  The new definition acknowledged none of the above.

Why am I concerned about the new definition?  I feel that the new definition is sending a message that only Domestic Violence punishable by law is considered as “Domestic Violence”, and by offering such a narrow description, it is potentially misleading, as well as appearing to invalidate all other types of Domestic Violence.  Also, I am wondering why the Trump administration felt compelled to change the definition.  What could be the thinking and the goal behind such an extreme change of wording?

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Perpetrators and Sentencing

“To what length of time in prison, on average, are convicted perpetrators of Domestic Violence sentenced?”  I had avoided asking myself that question, because I didn’t want to feel further resentment towards the justice system here in New York City, given the outcome of the criminal case brought against my abusive ex-boyfriend.

But then I heard something, from a reputable source, that, on the one hand meant that I could feel better about how the case against my batterer turned out.  For example: The result was not an unusual one. But on the other hand, what I heard left me aghast! Only a very small percentage of perpetrators of Domestic Violence spend any amount of time at all in prison, or even jail!

“Citywide, 4% of cases initially arraigned on domestic violence felony charges were sentenced to prison (at least one year) and 16% were sentenced to jail. … When isolating cases that ended in a guilty plea/conviction, … the citywide median” [for jail] “was 90 days, which ranged from a high of nine months in Staten Island to a low of two months in Bronx and Brooklyn.”  “Note: Cases include … felony cases that were disposed in 2014 (regardless of filing date), as provided by DCJS. Omits disposed cases pending sentencing from pled guilty/convicted sentencing figures.” (Source, retrieved 05/31/19: https://www.courtinnovation.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/2018-03/domestic_violence_nyc_case_processing.pdf)

My physically abusive ex-boyfriend spent zero time in jail, and in my case, the Police Officer who arrested my ex saw the blood around my mouth, (from when I hit the floor after being pushed backwards off our bed), and a Medical Examiner had photographs taken of my neck that clearly showed that I had been strangled.  (Both of those professionals did their jobs well, in my opinion.) So, how severe does an act of physical violence against an intimate partner have to be, in order for the abuser to be sent to jail, let alone prison? Apparently, extremely severe! Murder?!

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PROTECTIVE ORDERS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE U.K.

In the United Kingdom, (UK), “if the police have reasonable grounds to believe that one person
has been violent or threatened violence against another and that a Domestic Violence
Protection Notice, (DVPN), is necessary to protect the other person from violence or the threat
of violence, they can choose to issue a DVPN.” (Source:
https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2018/11/15/domestic-violence-protection-notices-orders-
social-workers-need-know/) A Domestic Violence Protection Order, (DVPO), is then applied for,
by the police, to a magistrates’ court, where the abuser will appear within the next few days,
having been summoned. A DVPO lasts up to 28 days.
At the end of a criminal case, a court can issue a Restraining Order, whether the defendant is
convicted or not, which “can last for a specified period of time or for an indefinite period, until
further order from the judge.” (Source: https://www.rocketlawyer.co.uk/article/restraining-
orders.rl)
If a Restraining Order is not issued by the court, a victim of domestic violence can apply for a
Protective Injunction, including if there has been no criminal trial at all. “It typically takes a
week or two to get an injunction, but you can apply for an injunction to be granted on the same
day if you are at immediate risk of significant harm. If the court grants an injunction without
notice, you will have to go back to court later for a hearing once the abuser has been given
notice. He or she will then have the opportunity to present their side of the story if they wish.”
(Source: https://www.lawdonut.co.uk/personal/divorce-and-family-law/grounds-for-
divorce/restraining-orders-and-injunctions-faqs) Injunctions are usually set for a period of six
months to a year, but they can be renewed and can also be indefinite.
A relatively new type of regulation for criminal cases, introduced in 2011, is the European
Protection Order, (EPO). The EPO “recognises the need to … deliver a more … coordinated
approach to victim support across the EU”, (European Union). (Source:
https://supportingjustice.org.uk/the-link-between-european-protection-orders-and-domestic-
violence/) “The relationship between an EPO and domestic violence is distinct; the aims of the
measure focus on preventing any form of harassment across borders.” EPOs in the UK have
been extremely rarely used so far, partly due to a lack of awareness of its existence. In 2015,
there was an extension to the law, to include protection in civil matters.
‘Brexit’ is the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. If Brexit prevails, the UK will miss
out on the continuation of a potentially life-preserving option for victims of domestic violence,
since by no longer being a member of the EU, the UK would no longer be eligible to apply for
EPOs.

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