Sunday

Small Graves

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Helen Grey was a native Belizean woman. She was 32 years old when I met her, and had already given birth to 17 children and buried 10 of them. Helen never had the option of “pro-choice.” For her, “pro-life” meant another small grave in the backyard. That was when I made it a personal crusade to help young Belizean girls acquire birth control whenever possible. Because Belize is almost entirely Catholic, and parents were very strict, this always had to be done on–the-sly. But I like to think that it was a significant contribution on some modest level. As a result, a few dozen girls were able to go college and have careers, rather than being doomed to their tiny villages in an eternal state of barefoot-and-pregnant.

Saturday

McCain and Palin Don't Care About Women

It appears that this move, electing a woman as the VP candidate, was strategic on behalf of the Republic Party. But when it comes back down to the skin and bones of it all, women in America should be appalled.

Palin is a beautiful woman, indeed. And if the Presidential election is no more than another pageant (history AND science will tell you that we like attractive people), surely the McCain-Palin ticket will win. Palin is a strong woman, juggling a family with several children and her various leadership roles throughout the course of her own history. This is admirable and sounds much like the career women of the millennium.

She is firm in her anti-abortion views, which supposedly, for women, isn't a make-or-break issue. But how can it NOT be? I know there are millions of Catholics, religious fundamentalists, and others who believe abortion is wrong--but women worldwide have been and continue to be controlled and given second class status. Abortion rights is a tool that people in power use to limit women's choices.

You don't have to BELIEVE IN abortion. I hate that term as there is nothing to believe in. You don't have to get an abortion yourself, or be affiliated with people who are pro-choice. You don't have to prove that a zygote is a human life or defend what you think is God's plan. You must support a woman's right to choose what is appropriate for her body and life without judgement. A woman that doesn't support this invites society to impose other restrictions...next it will be limiting the number of menstrual cycles and enforcing mandatory HPV vaccines!!!

Palin is 44 years old with an infant that has down syndrome. Anyone that has a child with this disease knows that a great amount of time and attention must be devoted to nurturing and raising him. She also has 4 other children. Although she is not a single mother, parenting potentially consumes much of her time...but how can it, if she has Vice Presidential candidate affairs to which she must attend?...

I am disgusted by the fact that McCain would bother to consider Palin as a VP. The fact that he was trying to make a bold statement is irrelevant and only the clouded mind cannot see beyond it. What he has done is torn a woman from her family, from her children, in order to confuse the fence-sitters and Hillary Clinton fiends.

And what has Palin done wrong?...She has accepted it.

I don't mean to set women back a hundred years and propose that our place is in the home; however we have to prioritize. Is it career and money, fame, then family, or the other way around? Palin will go down in history, but how will her children that need her remember her? She isn't taking on a job in a small town where she can retire at the end of the day, put her feet up, and feed her baby. She is taking on the politics of a fucked up America.

Women are warriors, and women are superheroes, but this attempt conflicts with maternal instincts. If Palin should be so courageous to sever her maternal bond, she should be so willing to stand up for women and their right to choose, because what she has done is choose her career OVER her family. If you are a woman, something about this should cause discord in your heart. How will she handle other issues that threaten our survival?

And McCain? Well, obviously, he doesn't give a damn, (just like Bush and his "issue" (hint, hint, Black people)). He's just an old man that loves pretty, young ladies.

Friday

Fourteenth Amendment - Tracy Thurman Story

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Our struggle is not only with the abuser, but with the legal system that is supposed to be serving to protect our rights as victims. It’s bad enough that DV has yet to be criminalized and batterers are rarely held accountable for their actions, but the court systems likewise do not choose to hold the police accountable for their failure to protect battered women. Doesn’t it seem strange that protection against domestic violence is not considered a violation of our constitution rights?

There was one very high-profile exception to this seeming legal ambivalence. In 1984, a young woman named Tracy Thurman successfully sued the city of Torrington, CT, and two dozen of their police officers for their failure to arrest her estranged and exceedingly violent husband, Charles “Buck” Thurman. There had been repeated incidents of assault on Tracy and overt threats made on her life, yet the police consistently disregarded the situation as a domestic quarrel undeserving of any serious consideration.

On June 10th, 1983, Charles assaulted Tracy for the last time. He stabbed her thirteen times in the chest, neck, shoulders, and face – ten minutes AFTER she had called the police. He kicked her in the head with a booted foot, snatched up their two-year-old, told the child, “I’ve killed your rotten mother,” and left her lying in a pool of blood. It took twenty-five minutes for the police to arrive. Astonishingly, Tracy did not die, but the damage was inconceivable. She spent seven months in the hospital. Although the left side of her body was able to function, she had no tactile sensation. The right side of her body was able to feel, but she had lost 80% of her motor skills.

As a result, Tracy Thurman declared that her constitutional rights had been violated in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment, which was originally intended to secure the rights of slaves, but also includes the phrase, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Tracy further alleged that the policy of not arresting violent and abusive husbands failed to provide the same protection that was afforded to victims of similar assaults outside a domestic relationship. It was a landmark case, and the courts ruled that officers failing to protect the rights of battered women would be held accountable. It is of further interest to note that after Tracy’s settlement for 2.3 million dollars, and the more comprehensive DV law that resulted, the number of reported domestic violence assaults in Connecticut increased by 92% over the next year. Not that it would help Tracy. She was only twenty-two years old.

Thursday

Barack and Hope

I'd prefer not to think of the Democratic National Convention as a mere pep rally, but an actual symbol of hope that we all have, and that Barack promises to deliver.

I don't think I've ever heard a speech that addressed so many women's issues, that wasn't given by a woman. And I am grateful for the impact that Hillary has had and will continue to have as our champion and representative.

The combination of Barack and Joe, and not to mention a strong woman like Michelle, is really the change we need. And I don't say this as a plug, or a one-liner. This is way more than superficial. I mean this as a domestic violence survivor still caught in the struggle, a woman of color, a single parent in poverty, and public service worker still finding the courage to move forward.

Wednesday

Beware to the Winner...

(Paraphrased from an excerpt from Belize Survivor: Darker Side of Paradise)

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

In my own situation, I remember when I first began to see my legal future as a miasma of loss and despair. At that point, a two-fold certainty crept icily over my mind: one, it didn't make sense to fight unless I could win; and two, it was dangerous for my abusive husband to put me in a position where I had nothing to lose. After all, if the legal battle dragged on long enough, the law just wouldn’t matter anymore.

Beware to the abuser and the would-be “winner.” A mother bear will do what she has to do. It is our instinct.

Tuesday

MyKayla's 50-50 Rant

ADadEveryDay- you have stated that children should be in “the most equitable situation possible.” I would agree, but how is being shuffled back and forth from one home to another in the name of “fairness” (for both parents) in the children’s best interest? It sounds to me that this is more about fathers feeling that they are getting their “equal share” than about what is truly best for the children.

True, any “arrangement” will end up being less than ideal for some parties, but as adults, it is up to us to put our own desires to the side, and do what is truly best for our children, even if it means that we have to sacrifice our own happiness to some extent.

Although one parent might “suffer,” for the stability of the children, the 70-30, arrangement is more than fair so that the children can have some normalcy in their lives. They know what their usual routine is, and they know when to “look forward to” a visit with the other parent. If everything is “split down the middle,” there is no usual routine because the children are forced to travel back and forth and often feel “divided.”

Further, if the father wants to have a true 50% of the responsibility of child-rearing, he must share in 50% of every aspect. That means washing clothes, school projects, making lunches, shuttling to extra-curricular activities, AND a straight 50% financial support. This includes locker fees at school, hygiene products, and school supplies (replenished throughout the year.) And I don’t mean just providing the money for these types of items, but actually making sure that the child has them, even when the child comes home and mentions it for the first time the day before they need it.

Also, just as the mother has to make accommodations for having children such as maintaining a 3 bedroom home versus a 1 bedroom because she has children, the father would have to do the same thing. No having the children sleep on pull-out couch!

The most ridiculous and perhaps least forgivable part of this arrangement is that 50-50 sharing would require that both parents remain in the same area because the children obviously can’t move from state to state to accommodate both parents. This is “unfair” that a parent has to miss out on an opportunity such as a career move so that the other parent can have his “50% share” of the child, especially if the marriage ended because of that other parent’s indiscretions. No, it is not ideal that the other parent has to wait until the summer to have the majority of his time with the children, but just as anything else in life, we cannot always have our own way.

This law has really missed the mark when it states that neglect or abuse must be proven because anyone who has been in an abusive situation knows that it is sometimes nearly impossible to prove that the abuse has occurred because it is often done behind closed doors in such a way that there is no evidence. This does not mean that it did not occur, nor does it mean that the children have not been affected by it. It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children, and she is sometimes forced to break the law to do it because such considerations have not been made.

Instead of passing laws about petty issues such as wording involved in child custody, they should be dealing with other issues that actually affect the child directly, such as finding ways to effectively enforce child support.

Monday

"The World As It Should Be"

We settle for the world as it is...
...is what Michelle Obama said tonight, reflecting on what our future President once told her.

And that is exactly what many victims of domestic violence do...we just settle. We settle because we are tired of fighting.

How long must the fight go on? When do we get to move forward? We can't continue to devote our energy toward the fight, so we stop fighting so that we can "live."

I am speaking for those still in violent relationships. They see no end to the abuse, or they can't tell that the grass is greener on the other side, so they just stay...to keep the "peace."

And I speak for those who have gotten out and have found out that the abuse continues on this other side of the fence. You feel powerless against the system--because, who represents you? Who is for you? Who fights for your cause and for your best interests?

We know what "the world as it should be" looks like. We dream about it. And we keep fighting for it for our children. If we can't live in it, we drag ourselves on, based on the thought that it may be different for our children, or for other women and children.

Michelle Obama's speech was very powerful and empowering. I am overwhelmed by my emotions but it has come at the right time.

Sunday

Biden (as VP?) and Women's Rights

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL

Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

While I do not claim any extraordinary political insight, it would appear that the selection of Senator Joe Biden as running mate for Barrack Obama is likely to have a significantly positive impact on women’s rights issues. Adamant that domestic violence can't be cured with one round of budgetary spending, or that no single piece of legislative action will ever be a panacea to the problem, Biden insists that the scourge of DV be treated as an ongoing issue, one that needs to be addressed year after year, one congressional session after the next. He compares the concept to a lawnmower.
"Combating violence in the home is like cutting the grass," says Biden, “you can't just do it once."
Besides his well-known association with international efforts (IVAWA), Senator Biden has demonstrated a high degree of creative thinking by drafting a bill to encourage U.S. lawyers to work on behalf of domestic violence victims. Although there are at least one million survivors of domestic violence annually, only about 20%, or 170,000 in the low-income bracket have legal representation according to a 2005 report by the Institute for Law and Justice in Alexandria, Va., and the National Center for Victims and Crime in Washington, D.C. Accordingly, Biden’s bill allows for the creation of an electronic network of 100,000 lawyers who would be willing to perform pro bono representation on behalf of these victims. And the incentives are realistic. Lawyers who devote more than half of their full-time caseload to low-income domestic violence survivors for more than two consecutive years will get a 20 percent discount on their student loan bill, paid for by the Department of Justice. Lawyers who serve four and five years in their practice will get a 30 percent break. The Senator has been quoted as saying,
“There is a wealth of untapped resources in this country – lawyers who want to volunteer."
With his strong stance against domestic violence and his party already in power in both the House and the Senate, Joe Biden’s further nomination for Vice President of the United States has the potential to be a giant windfall for our cause.

Saturday

Purple Rain?

Tonight I watched Purple Rain for the umpteenth time. And it was on this umpteenth time that I discovered the domestic violence theme in this movie.

Not that Purple Rain is about domestic violence, but it surely wasn't that hard to miss. I can't believe I'm just looking at it in this light--This movie is over 20 years old!!! The main things that resonate in my mind about the movie are the sexy Prince, the sexy Apollonio, and the phenomenal soundtrack.

In the movie, the Kid (played by Prince) sees his mother getting physically abused by his father (played by Clarence Williams III). There is a scene where his father slaps his mother to the ground and the Kid tries to intervene (as a teenage boy would) and gets knocked down as well. The mother says,
You don't ever let me have any fun.
And the father says,
If only you'd just believe in me. I would die for you.
In subsequent scene, the Kid finds his mother outside the house on the street, apparently having recently suffered by the hands of his father. He asks his father about it later, and his father tell him,
Never get married.
As expected, the Kid emulates the behavior of his father and slaps his girlfriend/love interest (played by Apollonia) to the floor. You can see the remorse in his facial expression but it was in the heat of the moment, almost automatic.

Later, while Apollonia lies on the ground seemingly pinned by the Kid, he raises his hand to strike her. She invites him to do so, and this time he retracts his hand. Lesson learned.

I suppose it never mattered to me before because the notion of domestic violence wasn't salient. I knew what was portrayed in the film was harmful, but I never realized the implications.

Well, the movie's on for the second time, I guess I'll go now...LOL!!


Truth, A Punishable Offense

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

(In my book, “Belize Survivor: Darker Side of Paradise,” based on my own true story, my character and namesake, Alexis Lord, experiences the steady decline in the quality of her life due to escalating domestic violence. This passage is particularly poignant, so I thought I would share its reality.)

Gradually, Alexis' image of what family life should be was fading into a charade. Except for her son, and the beauty of the verdant jungle around her, life had become colorless. The dream of a utopian farm had degenerated into a jaded monotony of daily chores. Alexis felt her horizons shrinking. She was lonesome for human companionship. Fear and boredom directed her wooden movements as her verbal creativity became first stifled, then crushed. She no longer wrote poetry. She hadn't kept a journal for years. Life was no longer an open book, full of promise. Max was unbearable and hounded her like a drill sergeant. He cross-examined her every word, thought, and deed, then nit-picked her answers. When she spoke, he wanted to know what she was insinuating, instead of taking her word at face value.

Sadly, Alexis learned one very valuable lesson: that a plausible falsehood was often more useful than an unworkable truth. She wasn't a dishonest person, but it simply became more practical to tell the man whatever he wanted to hear. If openness and honesty were the trademarks of a healthy marriage, then Max had effectively educated her on the value of deception. He’d taught her to become a liar by making the truth a punishable offense.

Thursday

Inspiration through Music

I first heard Marvin Sapp's song probably about a year ago. It was catchy and full of soul. However, somehow, this song didn't hit mainstream until late this year; and even I hadn't listened to the lyrics.

If you're looking for a spiritual boost, no matter your religious or non-religious affiliation, I have to recommend Never Would Have Made It...

The Miles Foundation

I came across the Miles Foundation while doing a search on domestic violence and the military. They had several outstanding reports and statistics on the subject.

I contacted them via e-mail to see if it was a current organization and to see if I could get a hard copy of a specific report. I was informed that the report was outdated, and therefore no longer reproduced. I was very disappointed because surely, someone had some current data on the military and their dirty little secret.

I have contacted them less than a handful of times to see what kind of assistance or guidance they could possibly offer me. I haven't had much luck. Either they are really swamped with this epidemic, or maybe the organization is outdated--virtually non-existent.

Tuesday

Review: Malignant Self Love

I discovered Malignant Self Love while doing a search on domestic violence, abuse, and characteristics of abusers. When I read the online parts of Sam Vaknin's book, I froze. I thought he was specifically talking about my abuser.

His book is about the narcissist and it explains everything you need to know about one. The part of particular interest to me was how he describes the process of defeating the narcissist. The strategy is excellent, although it requires massive strength to engage in this type of intellectual and emotionally draining warfare.

The vocabulary in the book can be a bit overwhelming and the print is very small. It feels like it would take forever to read it. By the way, I haven't finished it myself. But it started me off on my journey of admitting that I was a survivor, and deciding to do something about it...it empowered me.

Monday

Finding Faith

When faced with troubled times I have been forced to repeatedly question my faith. On some days you may think I'm on the brink of Aetheism or Agnosticism, and the next day listening to some of my favorite Gospel music. You may have a problem with this, but I don't.

I'm not really conflicted; but I do see both sides of the argument--that argument being that if there was such a great, merciful, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God, why did he allow these things to happen to me? or to anyone? I know the Christian answer commonplace answer, I just don't accept it...so I try to find a border between what I see, what I know, and what I feel.

On some days, I feel the darkest clouds hanging over my head, forcing me to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my eyes while the world is against me. On the rest of the days, I feel this burning desire to fight through those same clouds and prove to myself that I create my own destiny. Is this God? Does it even matter?

No. At the end of the day, I accept that there is a greater power, some being that put me here for some reason and that it is up to ME to figure out my purpose--it is not written on a scroll. Faith, is the belief in something, if even that something is me--believing in myself.

Every day I must connect with my faith, my spirit, the essence of my being in order to restore myself and create the person I want to be.

Sunday

The Mechanics of Escalation

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

In an abusive relationship, it is imperative that we understand a basic principle: the steady declination in the relationship is inversely proportional to what is at stake, e.g. the overall escalation of the level of violence and the number of years endured is going to be proportional to potential losses. And what do we have to lose?
Children, house, vehicles, investments, health, security, peace of mind…

There are ominous signs in the beginning, but you blow them off. You think he's a bit moody, that’s all. It’s just little things, right? And then it gets better. He’s kind to you again. Romantic, charming. So you move in with him. You saw signs from the beginning, but you forgave his temper. No big deal.

And so time passes…

Next thing you know you’re losing perspective. You live together; you love him. Your stuff is mixed up with his. You have a dog or cat together. Hey, it’s easier to stay. Besides, you know you can fix him. You make excuses. You know that, eventually, you’ll be happy together. Besides, you’re invested in this relationship. You’ve been together for two years.

And so time passes…

Ah, but now things are intensifying. You have a baby. You’ve been together for three years. Now you’re MORE invested in this relationship. But he has control of all the money. Hmmm, funny how the house in his name only because he never got around to changing the title. At one point, you went to couples counseling. But all it did was give you false hope, and anger management classes only taught him how to better control his emotions in front of others. He saves it all for you when you’re alone, doesn’t he? Somehow, the words “hope” and “faith” have disappeared from your vocabulary. Your child, your whole world is now at stake. You know something’s terribly wrong. But what can you do?

And so time passes…

It’s an insidious cycle. He now controls your every move. He watches your emails. He monitors your phone calls. He’s insanely jealous of everyone and everything that isn’t about him. So what do you do? You modify your behavior, but nothing works. He plays up to your relatives, and tells them you’re hormonal. In the privacy of the home, he smacks you with an open palm, chastising your actions, no matter what they are. You become increasingly isolated. You’re been together for four years. Now you’re REALLY invested in this relationship.

And so time passes…

Now, the end is near. It’s been five years. You have two children together now. Their father shouts and beats their mother, and threatens to do worse if you “tell.” You’re becoming hardened and cynical. There was an attempted intervention by some compassionate agency or relative, but he was such a smooth talker, they bought his act. He beats you now, using his fists, but carefully, where the bruises won’t show. He even threatens to harm the children if you attempt to escape. And now you are HEAVILY invested in this relationship.

And so time passes…

Now there is nothing left. You’ve been together six years. You are paralyzed. You can’t leave. He beats you with his fists, kicks you, and throws things at you. Maybe knives or guns or blunt heavy objects have been introduced. He doesn’t care if the damage shows or not. There is no one to turn to. Your world is shrinking and you can barely breathe. At this point you’re thinking in terms of “kill or be killed.” He has threatened to steal the children or, if you are an immigrant without papers, may have threatened deportation. Now EVERYTHING is invested in relationship.

And so time passes…


So how dies it end? You are absolutely desperate. You’re even thinking of buying a gun. But could you use it, even if you had one? Could you arrange a dangerous last confrontation? You are living in terror, yet could you really kill the father of children in cold blood? And would it be seen as murder, or self-defense? After all, sometimes there is justice and sometimes there is not.

Why are these abusers always sorry, after the fact? Why can’t they be sorry before they abuse? Did you know that 32% of victims will see a repeat performance? Did you know that, of the victims who don’t leave, one out of four will be killed at the hands of their abuser? It’s a fact that 30% of women who are killed are murdered at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends.

For those of you who are familiar with my submissions, you will see my continuing theme – get out, and get out early, before the mechanics of escalation can take their toll. Although, getting out can often come at a nearly unsustainable cost, the price of inaction can be deadly.

Saturday

“Qualifying” as a Victim

By Mykayla Green

I always thought of myself as a victim of domestic violence, because I knew that by definition, I was. But as I talked to other victims, hearing their stories, or even being asked to tell mine, I began to question whether my experience really “qualified” me as a victim. I had been through years of verbal and emotional abuse, but only very brief physical abuse because I left right after the second incident. So because I hadn’t been beat up with black eyes, ended up in the hospital, or been physically abused for years, I felt that perhaps I wasn’t a “true” victim of domestic violence.

But after “checking myself,” I realized that it doesn’t matter how bad it was or how long it happened. If it happened, it happened. It’s nobody’s right to belittle or pass judgement about someone else’s experience, how that experience affected that person, or how long it should take for that person to “get over it.” We should all just support each other and recognize that we’ve all been through something, and that NOBODY should have to go through that type of experience.

Friday

Self-Care

Whether you're suffering from domestic violence, its lasting effects, or just plain role-overload, you must realize the importance of self-care. This was brought to my attention several times while I was still in the relationship.

The first time it was mentioned to me was while I was a college student. I was repeatedly getting ill. No one knew what I was truly suffering from, but my body reacted quite frequently. One of my professors told me,
You have to take care of yourself, because if you don't no one else will.
Well, duh! 

But it wasn't that simple. I never thought of myself as a separate individual with my own needs. I was completely tied to my situation and my children and I only existed because of it/them. I didn't know that I required any special "maintenance" to keep myself going...oh how far from the truth I was!

Then, my doctor, while screening me for depression (but never inquiring about the ROOT of the depression, oddly enough), set up a self-care plan for me. SHE had to get me to take care of myself. This involved 15 minutes of daily exercise and 15 minutes of self-time.

Yes, I know. It sounds very basic. But it had to be basic, because I was starting from zero; anything more than 15 minutes would have been completely overwhelming--meaning I would be less likely to participate.

And so I began. My exercise involved a brief walk, or sit-ups, or push-ups, or stretching...this is how I got introduced to yoga. My self-time...all I did was commit to taking a bath. A BATH! Yes, I cleaned myself daily (mostly LOL), but it was via a rushed shower. Hell, I barely had time to sit on the toilet, so I would leave the door open just in case I was needed. But a mere bath allowed me to sit, soak, reflect, and plan...

Thursday

Prehistoric Politics

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

How long has domestic violence been a part of our world? No doubt, violence has been mixing with romance ever since the first cave man clubbed his fiancée and dragged her into his cave!

Wednesday

And If You Mention Abuse

My attorney told me that if I talk about the abuse, and if there are pictures and actual proof that would indicate that my children were abused, I would risk the court charging me for neglecting them--failing to protect them. But who was supposed to protect me?

I think this is about the most non-productive, absurd thing that the court can do--blame me? Obviously, if my children and I were all victims, I wasn't in any position to be able to protect them....but I did. I stood between my ex and them every chance I could. I handled him and manipulated every situation so that he would take his anger out on me. Most of the time it worked.

But now look at this, let's say there is no "hard core" evidence to show that he abused the children, and there IS enough medical evidence to prove what he did to me--the legal system now proceeds with saying what he did to me was isolated, and now that we are separated, those acts are not likely to occur, and thus have nothing to do with the children in their current state.

So now, we're back to square zero. Abuse is insignificant.

But what about the children as witnesses? Apparently that's not a concern of the legal system....And when my child begins to emulate my ex...I suppose that is going to be my fault all over again. Go figure.

Tuesday

The Power of Imagery

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Photographs were a significant subject at the recent NCADV 2008 Convention in Washington. Here is the contention. When we are shown photos of the skeletal children starving in Darfur, every rib sticking out, eyes bulging, stomachs distended, it tugs at the heart strings of the populous. We, the compassionate, weep for them, and the strength of our conviction helps to generate awareness, empowerment, and change. One of the drawbacks in our label as DV “victims” is that many of the influencers of would-be legal policy see us only when have transcended into "survivors.” They see us when we are free of blood and bruises, when we've had our counseling, when we're whole and strong again. So how do you feel about those photographs of yours? Do you have any? Have you ever thought of exposing them? Probably not. We are ashamed of them, right? They hold the stigma of "he-beat-me-so-it-must-be-my-own fault," and no one wants to relive those hideous events. And yet that is exactly what will make a difference. Domestic violence needs to be criminalized, and proven abusers should have their names and THEIR photos listed in the newspaper, the same as sex offenders. It may be difficult, but if we can create an environment wherein those abusers are brought to the forefront of the public eye and made to feel SHAME for their actions, this is when true change will begin.

Monday

The Unexpected Intersection of Politics

I first began examining politics of racism while engaged in African-American studies. After undergrad studies, while searching for employment, I researched politics as it related to reproductive freedom. Then, I became, in essence, a part of the political field while being involved in family court drama, and deciding to fight my abuser and the system that further abuses domestic violence victims. And now, in attempt to pursue a lifelong dream career, I have become involved in yet another arena of politics.

I never wanted to be a politician. I just wanted to get by and accomplish my goals. I detested history and civics during my secondary school years. And now, I can't seem to run away from it. Oppression, racism, sexism, against women and minorities...it's almost the same thing, with violence being at the root. I can even utilize similar arguments across seemingly different topics.

Where does this leave me? Almost confused, practically drained, yet unyielding. We need more collaboration so that we don't have to struggle while in the struggle. And we wonder why "we" have a shorter life span...

Sunday

Been that. Done there.

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL

Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

No, my subject line is not reversed. We, who have spent years or even decades caught in the web of DV are perhaps never fully liberated from the intense emotion and poignant memories of violence and chaos. Sure, we attend therapy. We learn ways of dealing with the past. The edges have been softened by time. The poison has been diluted, but the dregs remain. How does DV happen? Even from a relatively objective standpoint, it’s not totally clear. How is it that someone we love gradually begins to dominate every facet of our lives? How is it that the man we have chosen above all others seems to morph into our adversary, gaining and maintaining some warped psychological advantage over us? How is it that he seems to write, direct, and produce the entire scenario of our everyday lives – stage set, script written, and dialogue executed? How is it that we, like automatons, observe our lives being played out in slow motion, disembodied, watching our mouths move and our blood flow, wondering why we can no longer feel or think? And how can we fight when they use our children as the ultimate control, a stranglehold to keep us subdued and in their grip. Our children are our weakness, right? Wrong. Our children are our strength. With your children in the mix, you will NOT give up. And those of us who have lived through it will not LET you give up either. No matter how bad it is, time has a way of working these things out. Believe me. Been that, done there.   

Saturday

50-50 Parenting

My mind is a little clearer now on the recent Child Custody bill in Florida...so let me continue...

This isn't about 50-50 rights to the children. The part that legislators fail to understand, or better yet, acknowledge, is that children are not objects.

You can't even split a house 50-50 in a divorce proceeding, technically; however, you can make other arrangements, such as buy-out, or even something such as letting the mother stay with the kids, but having her be responsible for the mortgage (the proposition with the divorced parents spending split time living in the one house that the children are accustomed to, is some crazy shit, so I'm excluding that type of 50-50.) and owing the father some of the equity when/if she sells. WHEN. IF. Somebody loses.

Father's rights groups and their counterparts (often disguised as children's rights) are asserting themselves, once again, as having the best interests of the children in mind. Sure, both parents ought to have equal and continuing contact with their children after the parties have divorced. Doesn't that sound good? Good on paper, at least? However, you must be forced to consider this main factor--What type of role the father played before the divorce.

The fathers I have in mind come and go as they please. They interact with the children when they feel good, or when it is convenient for them, leaving at least 80% of the care to the mother. Do they bathe the children? Do they cook for the children? Do they haul the children and their friends around for sports, piano, and after-school clubs? Do they communicate with their children's teachers? Do they spend time grooming the kids? The answer is no.

Now, I can't say that all fathers are like that. I cannot say that. But according to evolutionary standards and traditional roles, men provide. They are not involved in the day-to-day activities. They leave, go hunt, go play, and leave the women to hold down the fortress and take care of the household. That's why we WOMEN carry the children within us...we care for them before and after birth...we nurse them. Do men want to breastfeed, too?

And I'm not saying that we have to adhere to traditional roles, because, ignorantly, if that were the case, I may be a slave working for my massa or in the house, barefoot and pregnant with no formal education.

We women have evolved as we have discovered our autonomy and self-respect, and juggled multiple roles inside and outside of the home. How have men changed? What are they doing differently? WHAT ARE MEN DOING DIFFERENTLY?

Some say that the destruction of the family began with feminism and women's rights. The destruction of the family began with, and continues with men violating the rights of women and children in this paternalistic society.

Divorce, for the majority, seems to indicate that the two parties couldn't agree on things. How then can the court turn around and either expect them to come up with an agreeable contract, or impose a court-ordered contract that may not be suitable for the parent that has maintained most of the responsibility for the children? On top of that, it falls back on the mother to fix things if said contract is not upheld by the father. Or is the mother to return to the court every time the father does not pick up the child for weekly visitation? Where is the fairness?

It looks like this will cost tax payers more in the long run, creating a further burden for already "overworked" family court judges, mediators, and the rest of the system that makes money off of this.

Somebody loses...and it is the children.

Friday

The Critical Mandate of Escape

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

There was once a little boy who asked his father, “If dogs chase cats, and cats chase birds, and birds chase worms, what do worms chase?” The father started to reply, but then thought he might be hard-pressed to explain a world in which the worm obviously gets the short end of the stick. But such a scenario plays out everyday in a more sinister sense – the boss shouts at the husband, who goes home and yells at the wife, who then hits the kid who, in turn, kicks the dog. If the most contagious emotion is enthusiasm, then perhaps the most insidious is anger, especially when combined with intense frustration. Throw in some financial difficulties, job security issues, sexual tension, resentment, and a pinch of bad mood, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abuse by an intimate partner occurs every 9 seconds – that’s approximately 3 million women per year. Other sources claim that the figure is closer to 4 million. Even more astonishing is the fact that 17% of all pregnant women are abused. Strangely enough, the victims are not usually weak, subdued, subservient women, but rather strong, independent, talented, and powerful women. Why? Because they pose a threat to the man who feels inadequate and must constantly prove his masculinity and superiority.

As a survivor, I fully understand why victims refuse to leave their abusive environments: children, money, house, property, vehicles, social pressure, shame, and always, fear of retribution. Regardless, if you are on intimate terms with domestic violence, get out. Things will not change; things will not get better. Thirty-two percent of the women who experience abuse will see a repeat performance. Get out. Get out sooner, rather than later. Get out before the stakes get any higher. Get out, or you may never live to be anyone’s mother, anyone’s daughter, anyone’s friend, or anyone’s inspiration. Get out, and you will find help and hope and people who care about you. There is shelter from the storm.

Thursday

Randi James 30 Day Anniversary!

Well ladies (and gents, if there are any), I have been online for 30 days now! So far, I'm pushing 1600 hits in over 30 articles during this brief time period.

According to the poll, half of you are d.v. survivors, and half of you are sexual assault victims/survivors. You all have found me in a variety of ways, including social networks, social bookmarks, internet searches, and word of mouth. I have a few subscribers to my blog feed. (If you don't have a feed reader, or know what a feed is, you can subscribe by e-mail.)

Sometimes, I update past posts. There is no way to know this currently, other than clicking on each article in the archive. In the future, when I have more returning readers, I will put an "updated articles" section.

I try to post daily. This task is difficult and often emotionally draining; but it is a necessary and vital component to my healing. It is my therapy. I give much thanks to Nancy Koerner who has stepped in and provided some much needed relief.

I have several things revolving in my life at this moment and I'm trying to shut the doors in order to free up some resources--mental resources. My life is not free from the struggle yet. I write from a position of surviving the abuse, while fighting the current abuse perpetuated by the system and my abuser.

Again, I invite all victims, survivors, advocates, and support persons to submit writings to this site. I want this to be a meeting place. A sharing place. It benefits us all.

Wednesday

Women of Another Color, finale

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved


What remedial strategies could be instituted? First, more accurate census data which includes these marginal groups would need to be gathered. Secondly, there should be more thorough disaster planning specific to the most vulnerable areas. And thirdly, the needs-assessment effort should be coordinated by the minorities themselves, as their direct input would help instill pride, responsibility, and a sense of self-determination. Along with these plans of action, there should be ongoing campaigns to fight discrimination inside the communities themselves. Although discrimination is deeply rooted, it is still within the power of the individuals themselves to effect the change. And in the case of natural disasters, it must be remembered that disasters do not discriminate – people do.

There are infinite pieces to this philanthropic puzzle – far beyond our do-gooder intentions, financial bandaids, and pat-on-the-head. We cry for these women; we ache for them. The higher spiritual being within us wants to make things better, to make things right. As humans living in a modern world, a world of laws and rules and righteous indignation, we cling to the notion that we are civilized creatures, when in actuality there exists only a thin veneer of civility layered over our marginally savage nature. We insist there must be order, for without order, there is only madness. Therefore, we nurture the presumption that there is always recourse for abused women, women of color, for minority women – that there are always answers if we look hard enough.

So, in this semi-arrogant safe haven of relative comfort and affluence, we analyze causes, project cures, and dole out gratuitous advice from afar. But even within the scope of so many encouraging suggestions there are no answers that are totally applicable or wholly satisfying to each and every situation. Indeed, within my own circumstances in Belize those many years ago, there is an element of supreme irony in play here – as nothing aforementioned could have resolved that particular dilemma.

In my autobiographical story, Belize Survivor: Darker Side of Paradise, the feelings of hopelessness and despair, almost beyond the capacity of the human spirit, are made apparent in this passage.
Some memories were blocked out by the compassionate nature of subconscious denial. Others lurked beneath the gray veil, and when she dared to peek cautiously beneath that shroud of darkness, vivid nightmares were exhumed. The legions of doom had been there all along, hiding in terrifying illusions of smoke and mirrors. A silent scream died in her throat as she saw her children just beyond reach of her outstretched arms. She watched helplessly as they drifted towards a distant horizon. Her empty heart ceased to beat as a cold tide washed over her unholy corpse.

Homeless now, she had left behind the last hope of her survival. Now there was nothing. The vigil was not a choice. Now her inner spirit would decide which force would succeed. Either she would stay alive, or drift into a coma and die. Time was running out.
“Stay alive or die.” Refined to its most simplistic form, this is the language of survival. My favorite word in Spanish is “sobrevivir,” meaning to “survive” but literally translating as “over-live.” In the extreme, there are times when the propensity to “over-live” an impossible situation depends not on outside influences such as data analysis, projections, programs, and governmental regulation, but rather the ability to draw from the deepest reaches of one’s own soul – on inherent resourcefulness, ultimate self-reliance, and resolute courage. For me, there were no benevolent agencies, no compassionate shelters, no legal advocates, and no options. At the conclusion of the book, all that remained was the will to survive, and the refusal to surrender.
…the Dark One had returned. She could see his scowling evil face lurking in the shadows just beyond the gray curtains of sanity. Terrified beyond all reality, only a heartbeat away from the depths of hell, she was running, running, but he was almost upon her...
She awoke with a scream, staring into the face of a hideous gargoyle carved in stone. Her aimless flight had brought her to an ancient Mayan temple that had once stood high above the forest primeval, now long forgotten and ravaged in the mists of time. But as she confronted the gruesome carving, a transformation took place, and a new strength and courage began to course through her veins. Reaching out tenuously, her fingers traced the lines of its cruel eyes and terrifying grimace. The demon is set in stone, she thought, long dead and separated from me by centuries. It is decayed and weak. It cannot pursue me or harm me. Suddenly, she stood tall.

"No," she said aloud. "These dreams and fears will not defeat me. I am master of my own fate, and I will win. Not by leaving Belize, nor by staying. Not by winning my children, nor by losing them.”

A ray of evening sun suddenly came piercing through the deep bush, the pillar of golden fire landing at her feet, as though lighting her way.

“I will win, because I will live on. This too, I will survive."
********************

Tuesday

Women of Another Color, part 2

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved


As hard as it is to acquire accurate data and create functional programs for victims of DV in the United States, research and implementation in developing countries is far more difficult. Without the benefit of underlying infrastructure, there is no easy answer. Helping a young nation to reach this level of intellectual understanding requires the intense dedication of at least a few enlightened individuals who persistently forward their visions to open-minded authorities through grassroots leadership and, in doing so, eventually influence governmental policy. Once an anti-domestic violence blueprint has been established, a great deal can be accomplished.

Part-time work programs, especially those that match ethnic women to local jobs without extensive daily travel, could be considered a good start. There is always more that could be done with skills and training, especially those with an emphasis on helping women return to the job market after childbirth. Expedient intra-departmental procedures, specifically designed to cut through governmental red tape, can prevent a loss of momentum. Celebrations of ethnic pride might be particularly beneficial, especially if the governments themselves participate and use the events as outreach opportunities designed to publicize programs and specific job opportunities. Having more ethnic women in the public eye, serving as role models, would help women of color to envision themselves as powerful, capable, and effective individuals. Continuing measures to support sex discrimination rulings help increase women’s participation not only in political movement, but also in educational administration – ultimately providing higher salaries for both. In fact, any human action that serves to increase self-esteem and self-confidence helps to empower minority women and allow them to rise above their previous concept of self.

Another related issue is the escalation of natural disasters such as drought, flood, fire, and hurricane – as marginalized minorities continue to suffer disproportionately to their wealthier counterparts. This was made painfully apparent in Hurricane Katrina. The elements of poverty, substandard housing, disadvantaged geographical locations, plus the invisibility to government-sponsored agencies all serve to exacerbate the impact of natural disasters, leading to greater impoverishment, frustration, and criminal behavior on a grand scale – including vastly increased cases of domestic violence. And, once again, humanitarian forces in charge of assessing pre-disaster vulnerability and post-disaster distribution of emergency supplies are obstructed by a lack of official data. Societal norms may also play a role, as in many societies, women may be more prone to drowning, simply by virtue of living near a river and never having been taught to swim. Women with small children are less able to flee and, therefore, may not be able to reach food distribution centers. Nor do women generally have as much say in how aid is distributed. In fact, under circumstances of extreme duress, women may face even greater victimization by trying to compete for limited food supplies. Natural disasters inevitably lead to the types of chaos and despair that can create a ripple-effect in the form of forced prostitution and rape.

Monday

Child Custody and Support House Bill 1075

I think I feel really sick now after reading this article. I thought Florida might have been a potential safe haven even though I have been unsuccessful in the court system thus far.

What the fuck is this? What is going on?
Child Custody and Support: Provides directive to Division of Statutory Revision to retitle "Dissolution of Marriage; Support; Custody" as "Dissolution of Marriage; Support; Time-sharing"; revises definitions applicable to child custody & support; revises provisions relating to presumption of good faith for psychologists making specified determinations; revises provisions relating to modification of support; revises provisions relating to development of parenting plan; provides for orders of temporary support for children whose time-sharing is temporarily modified due to military service; provides for motions for temporary child support adjustment when changes in circumstances or financial ability have not yet been established as permanent; revises provisions relating to presumption of parent's income for purpose of establishing support obligation; provides for time-sharing & parental responsibility in paternity judgments.
Please somebody, do something! The Father's Rights supremacists have the upper hand. This bill in a slap in the face to victims and survivors as we know that abusers will continue to abuse us through the system, now citing "time-sharing."

Sure, it isn't about labels, it is about safety and justice, neither of which can exist with laws like this. I can't fully speak on this right now. I'm pissed, and frightened.  How can I ever heal?

Sunday

Women of Another Color, part 1

by Nancy R. Koerner – Naples, FL
Copyright © 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Perhaps it could be said that within anyone else’s demographic we are all women of color. In fact, the very words “women of color” are deceptive in that they automatically imply minority status, whereas, in reality, that particular definition is greatly dependent on geographical and cultural perspective. The truth is that minorities come in all colors, and when such marginal individuals live in a country whose legal system fails to give them recognition, they are candidates for victimization. Although I am Caucasian, I have had intimate personal experience living the unique flip-side of that particular dynamic. After spending thirteen years in Belize, Central America, as a “woman of color,” that is, a white woman of color, a minority woman, I can bear strong witness to the inconceivable injustice that can exist in a foreign land.

Thirty years ago, in Belize, I was one of perhaps two hundred whites in a predominantly black and brown population of 130,000. My first attempt to escape domestic violence was thwarted by a dispassionate local constable in Belize City who initially agreed to assist in my departure, and then reversed his position when my abusive husband appeared on the scene. At that point, a would-be legal intervention to avoid criminal intent was downgraded to a third-world cop-with-a-nightstick and “a mere domestic squabble.” It nearly cost me my life. Instead of facilitating my escape, the confrontation exposed my obvious intent to flee, thus compounding my abuser’s fury and resulting in retribution when once again isolated in the jungle outback.

Furthermore, I found out the hard way that there existed a legal jurisdictional leftover from the British colonial days known as the “Rule of Thumb.” Contrary to popular belief, this is not a mindless euphemism, nor an expression of feminist-revisionist history, but an actual archaic British Law, stating that, "A man has the right to beat his wife, once a week, with a rod no thicker than his thumb.” Worse yet, when I approached local authorities about potential recourse, they replied apathetically that if a woman retaliated, killing her husband in self defense, the Belizean courts would, most likely, hang her. That’s right, hang her. And this was in 1978. Of course, even if a shelter had existed in Belize at that time, which it did not, there would have been absolutely no capacity for sustained protective services – which brings us to another issue.

Here in the United States, it is often extremely difficult to identify marginalized groups as they are, by nature, concealed within various cultural and socio-economic parameters. When minority women live below the radar, fearing to expose themselves to the authorities due to insufficient documentation, the legal status issue becomes a double-edged sword, automatically precluding any opportunity for legal protection. Because of these unique dilemmas, women of color often feel paralyzed, unwilling, or unable to escape persecution. Or, as it happened in my case, a great risk is taken, only to result in betrayal and escalation.

Saturday

Introducing Nancy Koerner

Again, I say that I had the opportunity to meet a host of wonderful women at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) conference.  A few women stood out in particular.

When Nancy Koerner spoke up about being discriminated against as a woman of color, I turned to face her.  Surely, I was mistaken because the woman I saw was White.  Then again, as I have learned in Florida, often times you can't really tell what nationality a person is.

She told a story about being a minority in the country of Belize and experiencing domestic violence.  Surely, she can relate.  For us survivors, the heart of the story is the same, no matter who is telling it; but the impact may be more severe when you do not represent the majority.
Nancy R. Koerner is the author of Belize Survivor: Darker Side of Paradise. This powerful new book, an exposé of unspeakable domestic violence against a contrasting backdrop of magnificent tropical splendor, is getting rave reviews and gathering momentum as a groundbreaking literary work. As an advocate against domestic violence and a gifted motivational speaker, Ms. Koerner’s mission is to inspire other women to make the impossibly painful choices which will ultimately lead to their own redemption and autonomy, and to celebrate the unquenchable inner spark of humanity. www.belizesurvivor.com For more information, please contact [email protected] or call 239-229-6700.
I welcome Nancy to this blog, and invite other supporters to send in their articles, rants...yell, scream...

Friday

Explaining the Poll on My Page

If you haven't noticed, I have a poll on the right side of my page (yeah, go ahead and look!). It is a casual attempt to survey my readers and determine who may be browsing my site.

Although this is my personal blog, full of random thoughts as they relate to my life as a survivor, I am very interested in the affiliations that my readers have. This way, in the future, I can determine what needs to be addressed. Also, if you leave comments, or sign the guestbook, it gives me a little direction on those days that I really don't know what to say (or I can't translate my thoughts, because I always have something to say!).

This writing process is very therapeutic for me. However, it is simultaneously draining when I'm releasing emotions that have been trapped for over a decade. I'm doing it for all of us--whether you are a domestic violence or sexual assault victim, survivor, advocate, support person, or anything in between!

Well, I'm calling it a day, and a short post. I'm not feeling well--Chinese food and some mixed emotions surrounding a dream I was pursuing...Good Night!