marriage

Domestic violence: not always what you think

As several of my Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers did, I worked for many years with survivors of domestic violence. It happens to women and men, to poor and rich, to unknowns and even the most famous. Mostly the question is, how much it costs to hide what’s happening and what’s at stake.

I feel like people have been trying to educate the general public for so long about DV and the reasons why it happens and the reasons why people stay in relationships that could threaten their lives. It baffles me that it’s not generally understood. Especially by the person affected.

From WebMD:

(The signs are) not always as obvious as you might think. That’s because domestic abuse is about controlling someone’s mind and emotions as much as hurting their body. Being abused can leave you scared and confused. It can be hard for you to see your partner’s actions for what they really are.

Usually, physical abuse isn’t what comes first. The abuse can creep up slowly. A putdown here or there. An odd excuse to keep you away from family or friends. The violence often ramps up once you’ve been cut off from other people. By then, you feel trapped.

Having been married more times than I’d like to confess, I admit there are lies one tells oneself to keep moving forward. It’s not so bad. At least he doesn’t (smoke, drink, stay out all night, hit me, stalk me). Sure, there are people who have it worse than you. But why shouldn’t you want better? Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You don’t get a second take at this life if you wasted too much of it settling for second, third or fourth-best.

In the current political climate, when women’s rights are being threatened or at least disregarded, some abusers are trying to make the subjugation of women a new “normal.” DON’T LET THEM.

How do YOU feel about you, in your relationship?

Toby D. Goldsmith, MD, in an article for PsychCentral , describes a list of symptoms a victim may have:

Victims of an abusive relationship may experience some of the following emotions and behaviors:

  • Agitation, anxiety and chronic apprehension
  • Constant state of alertness that makes it difficult for them to relax or sleep
  • A sense of hopelessness, helplessness or despair because the victim believes they will never escape the control of their abuser
  • Fear that one cannot protect oneself or one’s children. This person will turn down the assistance offered by relatives, friends or professionals.
  • Feeling paralyzed by fear to make decisions or protect oneself
  • A belief that one deserves the abuse
  • A belief that one is responsible for the abuse
  • Flashbacks, recurrent thoughts and memories of the violence and nightmares of the violence
  • Emotional reactions to reminders of domestic violence

Physical Symptoms

Victims of domestic violence can also have physical symptoms that aren’t directly caused by physical abuse. These symptoms are instead caused by the constant stress and tension of living in an abusive relationship. These symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Chronic pain
  • Restless sleep or inability to sleep
  • Genital soreness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain

Does any of this sound familiar? For you or someone you love? Help is available at every income level and social standing. Find a public computer, do some research and reach out for that help. Start at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at thehotline.org.   Start at your local shelter. START.

Photo by William Murphy

 

 

 

She serves, too–but at a price

SecondChances-promoOne of my Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer novels, SECOND CHANCES, tells the story of Inessa Regan, a forty-something lawyer who is unexpectedly thrust into the world of solo family practice. She comes to know an Iraq War veteran, Kurt Lowden,  and his soldier friends, some of whom have serious issues from their time abroad.

PROVIDE COMFORT

One of the worst is the Post Traumatic Distress suffered by Susie Johnston, the wife of Kurt’s best friend.  As an intelligence officer, she’d be invaluable to her unit, gathering information about threats and targets from prisoners. Wall-to-wall counseling, in the local jargon.

But as a woman in a battle unit, she also faces risks she should never have to face: assaults by men in her own unit. Female soldiers in such theatres speak of being afraid to go to the latrine at night, staying in their beds for safety.

Susie is raped during one such trip to the latrine, and the resulting trauma triggers domestic violence and worse on her arrival back in the States.

Sadly, this is not the stuff of fiction.

And as in Hollywood and Washington, the pressure not to disclose, report and prosecute these crimes is hard on women. While the military gives lip service to criminalizing and going after sexual assault perpetrators, the reality is that no one wants to hear about it.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “sexual assault was something female troops did not dare talk about for fear that they would face retaliation and be discharged with a ‘mental health diagnosis.’ ” They go on to say that 62% of those who report face ostracism and retaliation.

In a 2016 story, Huffington Post quotes groundbreaking Chinook pilot Olivia Chavez as saying “she was sexually assaulted multiple times by several different men while on active duty.” Her determination to keep her job made her force all the trauma inside–leading to a worse trauma later when she finally had to deal with what had happened.

2856908465_1033eaedcaby theisKojorthReading comments on these stories, there isn’t a lot of sympathy for the women. Many blame the system that put men and women together on the battlefield, especially when the system as set up is so skewed toward men (i.e. even in VA hospitals, many times the women veterans don’t have equal access to restrooms and other facilities). Hardly anyone says, “Why can’t the men just stop raping women?” Is that really such a difficult concept?

What has happened to many of the 280,000 women veterans coming back from the Middle East is unspeakable. Their trauma leads to homelessness, mental health treatment, even suicide. The HuffPo articles says this: “A report released last year showed that for women veterans between 18 and 29 years of age, the risk of suicide is 12 times the rate of nonveteran women.”

Twelve times.

Unacceptable.

Maybe as the stigma of calling out criminal behavior lessens in the civilian world, we can hope that it does the same in the military world. At least the military leaders should lead and protect those who serve with them, instead of taking advantage, and the bureaucracy set up to help those who are assaulted despite policy should step up and make that happen. If our military is to be one of the best in the world, then we should hold them to high moral standards as well.

At least, in celebrating Veterans’ Day this year, we can remember those women who sacrifice their very soul for the right to serve.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

***

SECOND CHANCES, a book from Zumaya Publications, begins the day attorney Inessa Regan receives a pink slip after ten years of faithful service. She’s been a mid-level associate her whole career, partners telling her what to do, providing her with an office and everything she needs. Thrown out into the legal world on her own, she doesn’t know how she’ll survive.  Her neighbor brings her first client, Kurt Lowdon, a young Iraq veteran with cancer, who’s looking just to have a will made. Inessa struggles to give Kurt what he needs, and he helps make it easy for her.

Once his immediate needs are met, he takes her under his wing and brings her more clients as well as a place to open an office to see them. Things begin to fall together for her, including a very special friendship with Kurt that becomes something more. But his past military service, and the friends he’s made there, begin to cause problems for them both, as well as issues his drug-addicted sister delivers to his doorstep. He still hasn’t kicked his cancer, either, and Inessa wonders if falling in love with him is a blessing or a curse.

Book trailer here

Buy now! on Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Do you pay the price for freedom? Or can you only afford a truce?

My Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers often deal with people who are victims/survivors of domestic abuse. I can write about those situations, because as a lawyer, I represented many of those people–both male and female. Most often, though, they are women. Women like the one in this article.

jelani I’ll never forget the one who came to every one of our Blossom “how to survive on your own” classes but refused the celebratory flowers we gave out at the end because she couldn’t take it home. He’d beat her for it. 

The legal system does feed into an abuser’s control. As lawyers, we could never promise that someone would be safe. Or that kids would be safe. The double-edged sword of knowing the kids were endangered but being too afraid to report it–and then have children’s services swoop down on you for failure to protect when you finally told someone.

It’s happening in your community right now, wherever you live. This writer tells the truth–I’ve seen many flavors of it. Read this. All of it. Then speak up for those who need help.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/removingthefigleaf/2016/08/i-let-my-husband-rape-me/