DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

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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Kavanaugh attended a Catholic School.

Kavanaugh attended a Catholic school! So? What does that prove? Or even suggest? What came to my mind when I heard Kavanaugh state this, was that there are Catholic Priests who have sexually abused children.

Kavanaugh suggested that we listen to what people he has grown up with, dated, etc., have to say about him. That reminded me of the fact that in the case of men who are perpetrators of Domestic Abuse, often the horrors that happen behind closed doors are not known beyond the confines of the home. Furthermore, often the horrors could not even be imagined by people on the outside, including work colleagues and even friends. Abusers hide the evil side of themselves from the outside world. Of course!

My point: Kavanaugh may well have been a highly respected person by many people, for many years, but that does not prove that he never sexually assaulted any woman. The ex-boyfriend of mine who emotionally and physically abused me, was a medical student and became a Doctor of Medicine over the period of time that he was abusing me. At his workplace and out and about in public, he was charming, funny, very likeable. That was the Dr. Jekyll side of him, that I fell in love with.

Kavanaugh proudly spoke about his esteemed parents. So? He is not either of them; so, this is irrelevant. My aforementioned ex-boyfriend comes from an affluent, respected family. His parents are both Medical Doctors. They have a son who is a perpetrator of Domestic Violence!

Kavanaugh “traveled on Air Force One”. Again, so what? Proves nothing.

Kavanaugh suggested that this type of allegation that he is facing could dissuade people from serving the country. Umm. No. Not if they have nothing they wish to hide!

I noticed that in his opening statement, before being questioned, Kavanaugh stuttered when he said the word “deny”. Just an observation!

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The use of Restorative Approaches for cases of IPV?!

On March 16th, 2018, a conference was held by the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force, to explore the use of Restorative Approaches to Intimate Partner Violence.

My question: Are restorative approaches a viable, sensible, safe option for supporting victims of Intimate Partner Violence, (IPV)?  I entered the conference believing that they are not!  I was open to being shown otherwise.  The keynote speeches were excellent, and what I heard from the panel members about their work was wonderful.  I could hear and understand that restorative approaches are successful with certain populations, in certain situations.  For example, with young people in schools, when there are conflicts.  I can also imagine success in the case where a crime such as a burglary has been committed.

BUT, what was barely mentioned was how anybody envisages, with any amount of clarity, restorative approaches being used in the case of IPV.  I had been expecting, and wanting, to hear about some potential restorative approach models, specific to IPV, that had been thought up, proposed, by somebody.  We could have then discussed those.

One restorative practice that was talked about a lot was the “circle”.  Circles allow, possibly, for those in it to speak and listen to one another, in a safe place.  Or is it a safe place?!  I, as a survivor of IPV, know from my experiences and from hearing about the experiences of other survivors, that abusers are cunning, manipulative actors.  Furthermore, they do not care that they inflict harm upon their partners.  Do perpetrators of IPV want to change?  In my opinion, they basically have no desire to stop abusing their partners.  Are they even able to change, for the better?  I highly doubt this.

“Circles”; Victim-Offender Mediation; Family Group Conferencing.  Call a restorative approach practice what you will.  When I heard people talking about Restorative Justice at the conference, I thought: “Sounds like Couples Counseling, or Family Therapy, to me!”

My conclusion: Use funds more wisely.  Forget about restorative approaches; concentrate on improving the current systems.

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“Back To Work”

I want to enjoy going to work, coming home, and leaving stress behind. That old cliché “Work does not seem like work” when you enjoy what you are doing rings true. After my abuse I realized that I do not want that 9-5 mundane job. If a job is a job, it is like a chore. I feel I have to give a percentage of my time and energy to produce an outcome that is rewarding and satisfying to others and myself. I had bad experiences with my supervisors or “bosses” that tried to be intimidating to the staff. I did not have personal days off and felt like the pay was not worth the sacrifice I was making. Currently, I am taking classes in writing, blogging, art, coaching, and public speaking, and workshops on entrepreneurship. I feel that being my own boss and having more “me” time is exactly what I was looking for. As children, many girls want to be teachers, nurses or moms. I used to be a paraprofessional at a school, a health aide in a home, and have a stepdaughter. I always knew that something was missing. “When you hit rock bottom a change can be good” – they say. I know my story is unique and is mine. Nobody can have the same story, even twins have different perceptions. I often give presentations on what happened to me and incorporate my drawings with my journaling in my talks. After falling ill and while on my path to recovery, I realized that less is more. My new “normal” is helping other abused women, giving back on Thanksgiving by serving, speaking about my story, and watching faces light up is all I can ask for.

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The Silent Voice

In a child there is innocence that does not understand right from wrong. When a child witnesses abuse, messages of what love, respect and kindness is lost. The family unit becomes dysfunctional as a result of domestic violence, sexual, physical and/or psychological abuse. The child ultimately doesn’t understand what goes on due to the silence of the victimized family member. Victims are silenced and so are their children for they both fear to be subject to more violence. Children in the home rely on safety, shelter, clothing, nourishment, and love, unfortunately, none of these components exist when families are exposed to domestic violence. Sometimes our thoughts are not pleasant so we deny the truth which leads to revolving doors beginning and ending at the same place. The person’s (child and victim’s) emotional and psychological make-up will be damaged and there is a desperate need to repair what has been broken, healing requires trust. Once abuse is accepted, violence can continue through generations. The alternative victims face is to rely on systems that do not re-victimize woman and their children. I request that ACS begins to use their money to assist families by providing support and protection to keep impacted families together. Not only do ACS separate families but also misallocate their resources and prolong the separation. Once again the child suffers in silence without a true understanding of the reason why he/she was separated from his/her caretaker. It’s time for a conversation, the change begins with you. Survivors’ deepest and darkest secrets must be unveiled and brought to the light to allow the process of healing to begin. “We, survivors of abuse, represent a change that we, with the support of others, can make possible. Our values, integrity and transparency lead to an understanding among the general public of what abuse is.  Without community involvement how can we address the victims’ needs? Communication is essential between survivors, policymakers and local communities so that survivors’ experiences are taken into account. When does the cycle of abuse end if the community continues to turn the blind eye?

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Thoughts On “A Better Man”.

A Canadian film and a US Premiere, “A Better Man” was shown at Cinepolis Chelsea on November 15th, as part of the DOC NYC Film Festival. “A Better Man”, the brainchild of survivor of horrific Domestic Violence, Attiya Khan, documented the arranged meetings and conversations between Attiya and her abusive ex-boyfriend Steve, after 20 years with no contact.

Why did Attiya choose to do this? Why did Steve agree to it? What exactly was achieved? These were some of the questions I asked myself. I don’t know the precise answers to these questions, but I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you, addressing these questions.

I believe that Attiya had in mind that if the film were to include an abuser, as long as the abuser was genuinely sorry for the violence he had inflicted upon his girlfriend and the consequential psychological damage that he had caused, then the film could have a more extensive impact on viewers in terms of providing an opportunity for a greater understanding of what happens within an abusive intimate relationship. Could it be that Steve chose to participate, with a similar goal in mind?

Was Steve genuinely remorseful? Yes! To my surprise, I believe that he was. Do I believe that all abusers feel remorse? No, I don’t. And this led me to ask myself: “Are there perhaps different types of abusers? Can I categorize them? Distinguish them?” Maybe those who were abused themselves. And those who are simply sociopaths.

It seemed to me that Attiya attained a good amount of healing via this process and I am delighted about this. When girlfriend and boyfriend, Attiya was just a teenager, and she was hit in the face by Steve many, many times, dragged across the floor over broken glass, (that he had broken), and choked until she passed out. “The sleeper”, she called that.

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Victim Blaming – Why It’s Wrong

Victim blaming concept word cloud background

The abuser is to blame.  Yet some people blame the victim too.  “She knew what type of man she was getting into a relationship with!”  “She must be so naive to believe that he is sorry!”  And other judgements.  “Probably she is as bad as him!”  “She must have done something to provoke him!”  “What sort of a woman would get involved with an abusive man?  She can’t be very intelligent!”

I’d like to address the above unfair judgements, and to dispute them.  They are not based on reality.

 A woman who enters into a relationship with an abusive man does not see the full extent of his nastiness in the early, honeymoon stage.  There may be signs of an abusive character, especially in hindsight, but basically a man will be wearing a mask in the beginning stages of the relationship.  He wants to “catch her” and “reel her in”.  He wouldn’t be able to do that if he were to show his true colors when originally courting her.

 When a good person hears another person apologize for something and promise to not do that thing again, why would she not believe him?  If she apologized and vowed to not do something again, she would mean it!

 Is it likely that she is as bad as him?  No.  It is not usual for an abusive person to abuse another abusive person.

 Even if she did provoke him, there is no excuse for abuse.  Ever.

 No woman is immune from being a victim of Domestic Violence.  She might be of any race or ethnicity, of any level of intelligence, from any socio-economic background, any age.  The bottom line is that it is never the fault of the victim.

 

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Calling Me A Child Witness?

I am called a child witness because I witnessed intimate partner violence in my home as a child.  But, I call myself a survivor. You see, I saw the abuse, felt the emotional turmoil and will never forget it. So, how am I a witness?  I survived it too!  I saw the physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse. I saw my mother beaten and her pain as I felt mine.  I felt it too!

As an organizer who works to decentralize power within policy reform, it is important that I strike labels and words that do not properly identify me. I strike the name child witness from my personal identity and embrace survivor.  My pain is healing and is now becoming my power to advocate for justice.

So, when I am called a child witness to intimate partner violence. I simply say “yes, I saw the abuse, and felt it too.”  I am a survivor not a child witness!  I give you back that name.

-Alex

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