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every statistic has a name and a dear, dear face

back of a woman's headThose of you who read my blog know that I counsel victims of domestic violence.   Every day, these precious women come into my office and tell me their tragic stories.   They have been beaten, throttled, raped, burned, had boiling water poured on them, had their family heirlooms broken in front of them, watched their animals tortured, and have been helpless as they knew their children were witnesses to most of these.

Unless you have walked this road, you have no right – repeat, no right – to criticize or comment negatively in any way.   You have no idea the journey these dear ones have taken, or how hard it is to get off this road.

Well, one of my dear friends has made it!   No longer is she hiding under a pseudonym.   “Ida Mae,” whom many of you have met before in much earlier posts, has come out into the sunshine.   Her divorce from the brute she married will be finalized in two weeks.   My friend’s name is CONNIE.   She is beautiful.   And one day she will show the world her face, when she feels it is time.

Well done, dearest.  So proud of you for crawling on broken glass to freedom.   I am honored to know you.

this is why it matters

remorseful manI had the most amazing telephone call this week while at work.  Normally I would never have answered the phone at that time of day as it was during a session hour, but my client had just called in sick and I was available to respond.

The caller ID said it was from a southern state, one where I knew no one.  When I answered, a man’s voice spoke to me, something that is not part of the ‘daily’  in my practice as my counseling center is only for women.  Occasionally a male doctor or a spouse will call, but this was not a voice I recognized.

He gave his name, and his wife’s name, and shared that I had counseled them briefly, almost two decades before when I worked in another practice and saw marital couples as well.  I had a slight memory of them. He shared that, for a reason unknown to me, he had been looking at my website and had been both struck and convicted by the statistics shown there on domestic violence, because he realized that he had contributed to the statistics.  He was a batterer.

We knew that then.

Somehow they survived.   Somehow they managed to raise a family.   Somehow this man’s wife has had the strength to demonstrate healthy boundaries and yet still has patiently loved him as he has been dealing with the demons of his past, working hard not to pass them on to his children.   This man loves his family.   For all these years he has been working on changing the monster he was.

He called to thank me and, in tears, wanted to bless me for the ministry and the work that I do.

I will never forget that phone call.   This is why it matters.   One person at a time, one family at a time.  There is hope.

“a small nuisance like rape”

Most of the educated world has been aghast at the latest (published, at least) atrocity to a female in India.  A lovely young woman died on Saturday.  She was just 23.

After years of sacrifice by her family so she & her brother could be educated, this still nameless young woman had come to the big city of New Delhi to follow her dream of studying to be a doctor.   She was engaged to be married, and her fiance & she had gone out for the evening and were heading home by public transport, as thousands do every day in India.

But this bus was different.  Several drunken men were already on board and decided to have a little fun.  They came prepared, it seems, having brought with them an iron rod.  They beat the young woman’s fiance and then, for several hours on the still moving bus (one has to wonder about the driver in all of this) they took turns raping her, including the use of the iron rod, severely damaging most of her internal organs.   At the end of their fun evening, the men stripped both the young woman and her fiance of their clothing and dumped them at the side of the road, probably laughing as the bus drove away.

For two longs weeks this 23 year old beloved daughter/sister/fiancee battled for life, her injuries being so severe that she was air-flighted to a hospital in Singapore that specializes in the transplanting of multiple organs, but she was too brutally injured to recover.  A lovely young woman, whose dream it was to be a good doctor and help the women and children in her country, was dead.

Because of, and only because of, the enormous public outcry from within India and around the world, the Indian government has decided to outlaw rape.   Yup, you heard that right.  Up until this point, rape has not been considered a crime.  In fact, India’s Law & Justice minister was quoted as saying:

“It’s such a terrible tragedy when a small nuisance like rape turns into to something tragic like murder,” Kumar says. “Yes, the government has known that rape is a problem in society. But we always thought of it as akin to smoking: something to be frowned upon, but not criminalized or prosecuted.

“Now we have this horrible event which reminds us that sometimes rape can have negative consequences.”

If the atrocity of rape is only now being considered a crime, it will be light years before domestic abuse will ever be taken seriously in India.   I can only imagine being Kumar’s wife, after he was quoted as further saying:

“We’ve neglected the issue of sexual violence in our society because frankly I think who someone is sleeping with should be a private affair. If the government goes around telling rapists who they can and can’t have sex with, what is next? Are they going to tell me which of my wife’s orifices I should use?

And then, to finish off his eloquent speech, he says: “It”s a slippery slope and one I wish I didn’t have to face. But if rapists can’t behave responsibly we’re left with no choice but to ban rape altogether.”

Remember our sisters in India today, and pray for a family as they grieve the loss of their precious daughter.   No word to date on her still nameless fiance, as his body & mind begin their long journey of healing.

Photo courtesy of the Heifer Project International, a wonderful organization that supports the education and safety of Indian women.  They welcome your donations.

when it’s not such a merry Christmas … domestic abuse at the holidays

broken_christmas_ball_by_heart_drops-300x225Mistletoe, stockings hung, Christmas lights twinkling in the dark, presents under the tree …. and a raging alcoholic coming through the front door while his wife and three children hide in the back bedroom.  For all too many families, the stress of the holiday season brings with it even more fear.

Domestic abuse occurs to at least one in every four women during her lifetime.  She might witness it growing up, as in the illustration above, date a teen abuser, or end up in an intimate relationship where she is battered – emotionally and/or physically – by the person she believes loves her.

Life in a financially strapped household is hard enough, but top that with the stresses of gift buying, more alcohol consumption or drug abuse at the seasonal parties and, in some families, the inevitable demand on who will be where at the holidays, and life can be hell.  Then you have the families where divorced parents mean shared holiday times, often resulting in an angry confrontation with an abuser-ex.

The Pixel Project, a campaign in honor of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, has come up with a list of 16 safety tips for women facing domestic abuse over the holiday season.  If you or someone you care about needs to read it, please go to their link here.   (Photo courtesy of The Pixel Project)

one really good cop

I had breakfast this week with one pretty amazing young woman.  Not only is she a wonderful mother to a teenage football star/heart throb, a 5 year old princess and a sweet little toddler son, and is a great wife and loving daughter, Kim Mager is a tough cop, an incredible officer in the Ashland City Police force.

I first met Kim several years ago when she was being honored for being a “Woman of Achievement” in our county.  I was struck by the enthusiasm she had for her profession, her infectious laughter and the fact she was oblivious to her stunning beauty.  I had never met anyone quite like her before.

One of the many gifts that Kim has is the ability to confront evil every day in her job and still manage to come home with enough love to go around.  She is called into homes where little ones have been brutalized, and within a short time is gentle enough to get these traumatized children to trust her.  Her quiet reassurance of safety helps give them a voice.  This completely feminine creature then has the ability to spend hours in holding cells, facing their narcissistic and socio-pathic offenders, getting the deviant men & women to confess to  the horrible injuries they have done to these children who have trusted them.   Then, months later, Kim has to testify in Court on behalf of the children, being challenged and confronted at every turn.

Many of the adult women who come to me for counseling, and who have a history of sexual, emotional and/or physical abuse, never had a Kim in their lives.  No one was there to rescue them, to wrap a blanket around them and comfort them.  No one gave them a soft teddy bear to cuddle, and the reassurance that they would be safe.  No one took them away from the monster(s) that lived in their house.

So, Kim, this post is for you, to say how proud I am to be able to call you my friend, and to thank you for being an incredible person.   Our county is so blessed to have you as one of our heroes.

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Photo courtesy of the Ashland Times Gazette “Shop with a Cop”