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Oh, what a night!

Hey…I have a new phone!

Not only do I have a new phone, but I kept my old number. It would be somewhat unfair to tell you the name of my former provider, but Verizon was – oops, did it, didn’t I? – very cooperative in transferring my number to my new provider.

Here’s the story. Last year, Juli purchased a phone on QVC for a hundred bucks. In addition to no contract, she receives triple minutes, but she started with a promotion 1,500 minutes. Since she’s not a big caller, it works out well for her. Who knows how fast I’ll go through them, but few people call me anymore. Most are dead so I don’t expect to hear from them; the rest are living in Florida; and the kids rarely call, so I’m probably on pretty safe ground.

Anyway, the real story of this new telephone is what happened when I went to activate it. As usual, the new phones come with bells and whistles that are totally foreign to someone like me. That is to say, that had this phone been given to a child between the ages of ten and thirteen, registration, activation, manipulation, and any other ‘ation’ of which you can conceive would probably have been completed within ten minutes. For me the process required an hour and a half, and I’m still not certain that everything has been done properly.

However, to quote the melancholy Dane,” …there’s the rub,” and he wasn’t speaking of a massage parlor or sleep. The ‘rub’ came in the form of some fraud in North Carolina who had usurped my e-mail address and already had opened an account using said e-mail. How the heck he got away with doing this is beyond my computer mastery; however, I have my secret weapons. Ever the Nick and Nora North of the 21st Century, Juli – she was Nora, by the way – and I not only managed to learn the serial number of his phone, cancel his account and change the password to one of my own, together, we figured his password question and used that to utterly destroy him. His comeuppance was complete…ta da…drum roll, please!

I make this sound like a simple process. It was not, particularly since the customer service for this particular phone is in other than the United States. I’m all for outsourcing, but not when I cannot understand the speaker at the other end. Farsi, Hindi, and Mandarin have never been my strong points, but for a while that appeared to be my wont when I was attempting to get computer questions answered. While I do not consider the English language as spoken in Guyana – it is the official language – to be without accent, Tanecca, the young lady who first attempted to be of assistance, had the patience of Job with this old man and carried me up through the first several steps of my registration and activation. When it came time to transfer my existing number from Verizon to her wireless carrier, she suggested that a transfer was in order; thus I was sent to Daryl – not that Daryl, but the other Daryl. I never learned where this Daryl was located – I think it might have been in Suriname or French Guiana. This gentleman was also extremely helpful. If I had to be put on hold, he explained that he would be gone for less than two minutes. While I never timed his absence, it never appeared more than 30 seconds. Like Tenecca before him, he had less trouble understanding me than I did understanding him – shades of the “Ugly American.” Eventually, even Daryl ran out of knowledge – this time, how to get rid of the fraud’s efforts.

Finally, it was on to Christian in Guatemala City. Christian pulled the plug on the fraud, but indicated that there was a problem with Verizon. My account and telephone number weren’t matching up. What did Christian do – I told you these folks were sharp – he called Verizon and set up a three-way conversation. Within minutes the problem was solved; my phone was activated, and all was right with the world.

“Will that be all, sir,” Christian asked, despite having been told on several occasions to please call me “Dick.”

“No, Christian, it won’t,” I told him. “I would very much like to speak with your supervisor.”

He did not question my motive or ask if something was wrong, but merely said, “One moment please, sir, and I will put him on.”

“This is the supervisor,” said an older voice.

I told him how wonderful it was to work with the three professionals who had helped me over the past hour and a half. I explained that while he might not personally know Tanecca in Guyana, nor Daryl in wherever, he certainly knew Christian, but that all three had exercised great patience in being of assistance. It sounded as if he was waiting for the “but” so I didn’t disappoint. I said, “But I’m certain you get complaints whenever your folks are unable to help; therefore, when I receive the kind of help I received this evening, I believe you should hear that also.” There really was a pause on the line before the man came back and said, “We rarely get your kind of call, senor” – yep, he called me senor – “So I say thank to you and I will certainly pass this back to Christian and his colleagues.”

We parted ways, but it made me feel rather good that maybe Christian will get an “atta boy” or however it’s said in Guatemala City. It would have been better if I could have told him in Spanish. Still kinda nice, though.

The vacation

Congratulations!

You have reached your mid-thirties. You have found the woman of your dreams, and after a brief courtship of two years, you have achieved wedded bliss. You never thought this would happen since her older brother, the Nebraska lineman, threatened to beat the crap out of you each time you went to pick her up for a date. “You lay a hand on my sister, I’ll grind you inta cow chow,” was one of his favorite descriptions of how you would be treated. Her mother always referred to you as a “nice boy,” but her father gave you the steely stare that Superman used just before his x-ray vision destroyed the bad guys in their supposedly indestructible hideout.

Following the wedding reception, you received a big welcome-to-the-family hug from the brother, prompting you to wonder if a honeymoon would even be possible – crushed spines do not for a pleasant honeymoon make – a lovely and sloppy kiss from your mother-in-law who was well into her cups, and that steely stare from your father-in-law that Superman used…well, you get the picture.

You have a wonderful job and a boss who is terrific…on the third day of your new employment at $80K per year – after all, you do have an MBA – he told you that if you played ball with him, he’d shove the bat up your butt, prompting an immediate posting of several resumes to many other firms. You later learned that he says this to all the new hires, thereby endearing him to you for never, but you’ve found him to be truly supportive over the past five years and you’re not certain you’d wish to ever work for anyone else [big mistake].

You have two kids and the wife is five months pregnant with your third. You have been working your proverbial butt off and finally, finally, you’re taking your first real vacation. Two weeks of sun and sand on Olde Cape of Cod. The weather to date has been absolutely gorgeous, prompting you to look forward to a little body surfing, a lot of sun tan lotion, and a few nights out with the bride, sucking down raw oysters and feasting on boiled lobster. Being the considerate husband that you are, you’ve even hired a 16-year-old local high-school girl to accompany the family and babysit the younger ones.

The house you’ve rented is spic ‘n span when you move in late Saturday morning. You’re within walking distance of the beach; the sun is shining; the sky is blue, and; it looks like the start of a great vacation. After slathering the youngsters with SPF 5000, off you, the kids, and the babysitter head for the beach, leaving your soon-to-be-mother-again to get some rest. It’s a glorious afternoon. The teenager takes great care of the kids, although her bikini seems to attract the attention of some of the teenage boys – have to speak to her about that; mmm, maybe ask the wife to do that. You all watch a beautiful sunset, but by the time you walk back to the cottage, everyone is exhausted and just a bit cranky. “I know,” you say, “How about I get some pizza?” That seems to please everyone, even the babysitter who is madly texting on her phone after taking care of the kids.

The pizza is a smash hit, but your skin is feeling a bit tight and sitting back bothers your back…too late you realize that you forgot to slather yourself with SPF 5000, and it looks like the sun was a bit too strong for you. By midnight, when everyone else is sleeping, you are in what the lifeguards call “agony.” You will not be going to the beach tomorrow.

It’s now Wednesday. The past several days have been fantastic. The kids are turning a lovely shade of tan; your wife is well rested and has joined the family at the beach while you hide out at the cottage, wearing a white shirt buttoned to the neck and wrists, long pants, and a beach hat that makes you look, well, rather a bit less than masculine. The pain is nearly gone, and you figure that by the weekend, you’ll be back in the water…remembering that this time, you will cover yourself with sunscreen before doing anything else.

On Thursday, you feel well enough to take the wife out for dinner at the local hot spot…a restaurant where reservations are a must…and you have them for 8 pm. The teenager promises that she’ll get the kids to bed on time, and off the two of you go to enjoy your first vacation meal on your own.

The meal is wonderful; the ambience perfect; your wife is lovely; and even the mild stinging on your body is not a bother. The sunset could have been better but what the hell, the rest of the evening was fantastic.

Arriving home, the cottage is fairly dark. Trotting up the stairs your wife precedes you to find the babysitter and one of the teenage boys from the beach engaged in what could only be defined as a compromising position on the living room couch. This is followed by some yelling and screaming as you totally lose it; the boy doesn’t even use the front stairs as he jumps from top to bottom while you wave a golf club – a nine iron actually, for plenty of loft – threatening to send a portion of his anatomy into orbit…which we all know is impossible with a nine iron.

The babysitter has run crying to her room to call her parents. Your wife is crying in the bedroom, shocked that a 16-year-old would be doing such things – her memory of what she did with you at 16 a vague and distant memory; the children have waked, wondering what the hell is happening; and you’re standing in the living room with a nine iron in your hand looking somewhat the fool because your face has cracked from your sunburn and the heat on your back has gone back to feeling like the Gates of Hell!

By 3 am, the babysitter has been whisked away by her parents with little or no explanations about why the departure is so sudden; the children have gone back to bed; against doctor’s orders, your wife has passed out from consuming half a bottle of scotch, and you are sitting on the front porch wondering just what the hell happened…and then your worst fears are realized…

The days have been so sunny and despite your personal tragedy of the sunburn and the in flagrante of the previous evening, your family has enjoyed nearly a week of sun, sand, and surf…but now this. The first sign of the horror to come sounds from out of the dark…the foghorn…this is followed by the white mist flowing over you like a clammy ghost. It’s the dreaded Cape Cod fog. It may last a day, a week, or even longer, but it has arrived and you can only pray to Poseidon that he will take it with him when the morning dawns.

He doesn’t. It stays…and for the next eight days, you and your family are trapped. The cottage has no heat. The fog and mist seep into everything, sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture, the rugs, even the breakfast cereal which becomes mush on its way to the bowls. The blasted foghorn is a constant reminder that the sun may never shine again. Tempers grow short…children yelling at one another about nothing to do; parents yelling at children to play games or read; children yelling back or crying until finally, the Saturday of departure arrives. As you pack up the car, the glorious sun makes its appearance, taunting you. The fog has lifted; the sky turns a brilliant shade of blue; tempers no longer flare, and as you drive home, window down and watching your skin peel away, you think to yourself…”damn, but I’m happy to be going back to work!”

Holy Sha-moly, Batman; I knew we had an obesity problem in the country, but I never realized until today just how prevalent it is.

Juli and I went shopping at Walmart this afternoon. I needed a prescription, and she, well, let’s just say that she had some grocery shopping to do. I hesitate on that because ‘grocery shopping’ at Walmart generally means that the dog winds up with a new toy; the garden will be getting some new plants, and; some kind of powdered fiber, along with Fiber One bars will be gracing the kitchen counter for a while. I also note that there is bird seed listed on the receipt…hmm, a new kind of dinner treat?

Juli went her way and I hustled to the pharmacy, picking up the ‘scrip’ and hustling back to the car. As luck would have it, we’d found a place very close to the front entrance, and since I’d forgotten to bring my Kindle, my wait became an exercise in people-watching. And there was a lot to the people I was watching. One couple, who had parked nearby, climbed into their car and I saw the whole thing sag about six or eight inches. I mean, c’mon folks, Monroe makes heavy duty shocks. Save your car! You go over railroad tracks and your exhaust assembly’s gonna remain behind. These people were not fat; fat is too kind a word for them. They were grossly overweight; a pair of heart attacks just waiting to happen. There is no humor in this. I can only hope it is some rare type of thyroid condition, but I’m not counting on it.

I’m six-one and weigh about 245. I should probably lose about thirty pounds. At one point I weighed in at well over 260, but with the encouragement of several doctors, Juli, and a few friends, I’ve managed to lose some of the fat and look forward to losing more. It’s tough; once you pass 50 years of age, the weight goes on easily, but is harder than hell to remove. You make a determined effort by joining a gym and working out every day, but the minute you begin a weight regimen to go along with your cardio, you find yourself in more trouble. Since muscle weighs more than fat, the first few weeks will find you gaining weight rather than losing it. One can become easily discouraged.

But enough about me; what do you think of me…as the old joke goes. There I was, watching people going in and out of Walmart and thinking, “I’m going to have to sit outside of Whole Foods and see if this is endemic to Walmart or is it true at all stores that sell; that sell; that sell…what exactly? Sure, they sell candy, but so does every other food store. They also sell a whole range of other things, most of which are non-food-related. Based on that, the majority of people who enter a food store should be obese – I know that’s fallacious, but it makes for good copy. So what is it about Walmart that attracts people who are unquestionably obese?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear – whoops, isn’t that what Nixon said – I have no prejudice against people who are seemingly unconcerned about their weight. I’m quite certain that the women would prefer to be a size two model in Milan…or not…and the men would like to rid themselves of that six months pregnancy bump that they’re carrying around…or not. It’s just that…well…I feel for them. It can’t be any fun lugging that extra weight around. I know that I feel better now than when I was 260 and if I can drop the other 30, I’m going to feel even better. I have no desire to run a marathon or even a 10K; it’s just knowing that the more I lose, the less strain I put on my back and legs and both could use more relief.

Obesity is a problem in this country. It wasn’t when I was growing up. Hell, if anything, most of us were too thin. Maybe it’s not us; maybe our food has become so chemically altered to please our taste buds that we can’t resist making gluttons of ourselves. Whatever the case, obesity kills and those who are had better wake up to that fact.

You can’t escape

The Palestinians don’t want to recognize that Israel even exists. The Russians want to take back the Ukraine. India and Pakistan are ready to push the button if one even spits across the other’s border. North Korea wishes to be able to bully anyone it so chooses just like its cousins, Al Qaeda, and everyone’s pissed at America because we have so much and they have “so little.” That about sum it up for you, Bunky?

Meanwhile, back in the lower 48, the Blacks hate the Spanish; both hate the whites; the Asians hate each other. Immigrant sub-groups are trying to take over neighborhoods by violent methods. The Jews are trying to celebrate Passover, and some asshole from Kansas who doesn’t believe in anyone’s civil rights but his own, goes on a shooting rampage to kill them. We have crazy people walking into our schools and shooting or stabbing students, teachers, and administrative personnel. At the same time, we have 435 idiots in Washington who probably couldn’t agree on how to wipe yourself, much less pass legislation that will allow the government to function more effectively and efficiently. We have state governors telling the federal government to fuck off because the states are going to do as they damn well please…and all of this is what future generations have to face and solve. Kinda makes you wonder about bringing children into the world, doesn’t it?

Is this a messed up world or what? It rather makes you wonder where in the hell you could go to get away from all of this nonsense and maybe set down some roots [pronounced however you please] somewhere in the boonies or backwoods of…aw, who the hell knows. Can’t go to a tropical island; never know when an earthquake will hit ‘n sink the whole damned thing. Besides, television sucks. If you wish to move to the back snow country of Alaska, good luck and write when the temperature gets to be around 70 F; I’ll come for a short visit.

However, I have some wonderful news. There are still towns right here on the continent where you and I can go for some peace and quiet; rest and relaxation…as long as you mind your business and I mind my own. If you agree to those terms, I’ll let you in on the secret.

Mother Nature Network has listed twelve towns that sound ideal for getting away from it all. If you’re looking for fine dining and nightlife, you may as well stay where you are, but for me Monowi, Nebraska doesn’t sound bad at all. Hell, I could double the population just by moving next door to Elsie Eller, the Mayor, librarian, and bartender…she’s the only resident living there now. Time was her husband, Rudy, was around but he passed back in 2004, so Elsie’s the sole resident. Monowi was a boomtown back in the 30’s with 150 residents, but the draw of the big cities with greater job opportunities just whittled that population down to Elsie and Rudy.

There’s a big question regarding whether or not I’d be welcome in Lost Springs, Wyoming. There’s a great deal of controversy. Somebody put up an official-looking sign that says Lost Springs has a population of one. Mayor Leda Price, who’s been living there for nearly 40 years, says that’s wrong. Even after the coalminers left, she says that the town has always had three or four residents. Controversy aside, it seems to be a hospitable place; even has a post office and the general store…which is owned by none other than Mayor Price.

I’ve actually driven through Tortilla Flat, Arizona. That was back in 1953. It’s the “…last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail” but no, we didn’t have to fight the Apaches. Tortilla Flat [there is no ‘s’] is Arizona’s smallest official community that has a post office and voter’s precinct. It also boasts a restaurant, gift shop, and a saloon. Right now, the ‘town’ is owned by a couple who bought it in 1988, but if you’re willing to kick in $5.5 million, the place can be yours. With my luck it would be bought by a gambling syndicate and turned into another Vegas…guess I’ll pass on this one also.

If it weren’t for the summer’s heat and humidity, I might consider moving to Weeki Wachee, Florida. “It’s home to just four residents, according to census estimates, making it the only city in the world with more mermaids than people. The deepest naturally formed spring in the U.S. runs through this small town, and Seminole Indians named it “Weeki Wachee,” meaning “little spring.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been located, and every day more than 117 million gallons of fresh water flow into the spring from subterranean caves.

“When former U.S. Navy SEAL trainer Newton Perry came across the spring in 1946, he saw a business opportunity and built a theater into the limestone below the surface of the spring. Perry trained women as “mermaids,” teaching them to swim, dance and perform beneath the water, and the Weeki Wachee mermaids were born. The mermaids transformed Weeki Wachee into a tourist hotspot in the 1960s, attracting thousands of people to the small town, including celebrities like Elivis Presley. The city incorporated in 1966, making it one of the nation’s smallest cities — and the only one with a mermaid mayor. Mayor and former mermaid Robyn Anderson now oversees both the city and her underwater kingdom of mermaids.”

I know two small communities to which I won’t be going. One is Centralia, Pennsylvania. There was a time when the mining town boasted a population of 3,000. Today, that number is down to ten. Ya see, what happened there was that in 1962, some workers set a trash fire in an old mine…damned fire’s still going. The state condemned the town – even took away their zip code; that’s about as low as you can get – and the state spent $42 million just to relocate the townies. The other ‘no-no’ place on my list is Picher, Oklahoma, the spot dubbed the most toxic place in America by the Environmental Protection Agency. At one time, this was the most productive lead and zinc mining area in the world, but the mine waste contaminated everything in the area, turning the local creek red. “Picher was declared too toxic to clean up in 2006, and was further devastated by a tornado in 2008. Despite this, six residents remain; can you say, “dumb?”

So whether your search for peace and quiet takes you to Buford or Emblem, Wyoming, Freeport, Kansas, Bonanza, Colorado, or Gross, Nebraska, just remember…somehow, the IRS will find you!

Today I have decided that I am going to ramble. You may elect to stay on this train or you may choose to get off at any point. We won’t be moving particularly quickly so it – whoops, there goes the first one – should be relatively painless.

Let’s suppose for a moment that I could be reborn as myself; same mom, same dad, same sister who bullied the hell out of me. Being three years older and much wiser, she got away with that crap. However, let’s assume that the current me left that “note to self” that many people seem to be talking about these days so that I could take advantage of what I have or have not learned in my rebirth. There are so many things I wish I had known in my various stages of life, so let us have a look at what I’d say. It might even trigger some thoughts of your own.

First, I’d say that I couldn’t be any luckier to have a Mom and Dad like my own. Neither one made it out of high school, but that was in the late 19th and into the beginning of the 20th Century. Seems a long way back, does it? You bet your ass it was, and things were a great deal different than they are today. Our telephones, if one was able to afford one, were party lines. I’m quite certain that I was in my teens before we had a private phone. We had no computers of any kind, much less the ones that we carry around in our pockets today. There was a pilot at the Hanover airport [a dirt strip with one hanger] who took us up – one-by-one – in his biplane – and I was smitten by flight. On Sunday nights, we had ‘monkey’ for dinner; it was tomato soup with cheese melted in it and poured over soda crackers. It was either that or fried bologna for Sunday dinner. When I ask people now about those two meals, most remember the fried bologna, but no one seems to ever have had ‘monkey.’ I was born just as we were starting to come out of “The Great Depression,” – we got by.

If I was leaving a note, I’d tell my new self to be more interested in what school has to offer and not to look at it as a drudge. Just because my folks didn’t go very far doesn’t me that it’s something I should want to emulate. My mother and father always believed in education; the fact that they dropped out was merely so they could earn money for the family, and it was a practice not uncommon in those days. Therefore, when Madeline Lannin was teaching us to read and write in the first grade…that’s correct; the first grade was for teaching reading and writing; there were no kindergartens back then, nor were there pre-schools or playschools or whatever the hell they’re called today…she was giving us the building blocks on which every other teacher would add a level. By Grade 6, I’d say to my new self, you better have mastered all of the subject matter you were given because if you hadn’t, Mr. Metiever would probably cuff you upside the head – see, even what you learn and when you learn it has changed – because you’re now heading for junior high school, a time for you to make some hard decisions. You can choose the easy road or the more difficult one; you can loaf your way through the next six years or you can work your ass off in the hopes that it will make a difference in your life. Personally, I’d recommend the latter; I did not and have paid a price for it up to this point of my life. I’d work harder in Agnes Lioy’s English class, and study harder in Mr. Joyce’s algebra period. I’d choose the more difficult curriculum over the one through which I could coast.

Like many kids of my time – at least as far as I knew – I was the first member of my family to go to and graduate from college…but I wasn’t any great shakes as a collegian – and I’d tell my new self to spend more time with studies than with trying to make time with girls by joining every coed club on campus.

I’d tell myself that smoking was perhaps the dumbest thing I ever did. At least today they put warnings on cigarette packs. They didn’t do that in my day and even those of us involved in athletics thought we could smoke without fear…what a bunch of idiots. It eventually catches up with you in one way or another, so don’t look at it; don’t touch it; don’t even think about trying it. We didn’t have narcotics like cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, or any of God-knows-what when I was growing up so I was never tempted. Let me advise you to put nothing in your body other than what might be prescribed by a doctor…even then, check out its potential chemical dependency

If you are interested in being an athlete, take good care of your body, and with all due respect to those who enjoy them, please stay away from sports where you stand a chance of concussions or what I call ‘later-life-injuries.’ Hell, I’ve had both knees operated on and three back surgeries which I can relate directly to my “glory” days…if that’s what you want to call ‘em! On the other side of that ‘dangerous’ coin is your talent. If you find that you have a talent, whether it is in athletics, academics, music, theater, or whatever, plunge into it with all of your heart and all of your soul. Don’t hold anything back; you will never know the full extent of your potential if you are shy with something that is uniquely yours.

As you move through your life, you will probably hear the word, “loyalty,” a great deal. You must be loyal to your company, to your boss, to your colleagues, etc. Don’t believe it. Loyalty is a two-way street, and unless your company, your boss, your colleagues have shown loyalty to you, don’t believe that you owe your loyalty to anyone who has never shown any to you. Another word you will hear a great deal is integrity. It’s the right and wrong of your soul. No one can ever take your integrity from you…you must give it away. To give your integrity away is always wrong, because when someone asks you to do so, their reasons are inevitably for the wrong reason…don’t give your integrity away…to anyone…to anything…ever!

Someday you’ll fall in love. It won’t all be sex and starry eyes. If you can determine whether or not she’s really the one for you, you’ll be the first man ever to do so since Adam. If you commit to monogamy and marriage, remember this…there will be good times and there will be times that are not so good. There will be great times and there will be times of inconsolable sorrow. Only together, depending on each other’s strength, will you both get through them. Just as you are her rock, so she must be yours.

Well, young me, there are many more things that I should probably tell you, but I’m in my dotage now so I can’t remember what they are. Let me leave you with a quotation from Leonardo da Vinci, “Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.”

Richard W. Bishop is a member of the faculty of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management (NEILEM). He has prepared this case as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

This case is fiction, based on a series of articles that appeared in the New Bedford Standard Times (MA) several years ago. Sergeant Rita Ribeiro is a very real person and a graduate of Command Training Session #239 of the New England Institute. The author is indebted to Sergeant Ribeiro and (Sergeant) Patricia Ricci of the Canton (MA) Police Department for their guidance in preparing this case.

This story is reprinted from an article authored by Bill Ibelle, staff writer for the New Bedford Standard-Times as part of an investigative series done by the Standard-Times. Repeated attempts to contact Mr. Ibelle have met with failure. It is the hope of the writer that he has done justice to the context in which Mr. Ibelle prepared the article.

Introduction

Some of the characters in this case study are fictitious. The problem of domestic violence is not, unfortunately, fiction in any sense. As most readers of this case are aware, domestic violence is, perhaps, the number one problem facing law enforcement in the majority of cities and towns in the United States today. What makes it so insidious is the number of facets to it in addition to the enforcement side. This case has been prepared for those who have seen the problem of domestic violence, either as victims, law enforcement officials, social workers, or anyone else, and who have been as saddened, revolted, and disgusted by what he or she has seen as the author was in doing research for the case. The solution to domestic violence will tax the creative minds of many, but without solutions, this war will only escalate.

The first time

 

“It must have been something that I did,” Paula thought. “David loves me, I know that. He always says so. Maybe it was the beer and something I said.”

 

Rita Ribeiro was barely in high school then. She didn’t know either of them. She didn’t even know she was going to become a cop.

The next time

Fast-forward fifteen years to nine days before Christmas. The phone rings in the police department’s Domestic Violence Unit. Now police sergeant Rita Ribeiro, in charge of the domestic violence unit, answers and the speaker phone instantly fills the room with the shouts, sobs, swears, and threats of a man demanding the police keep their noses out of his domestic affairs.

“I’m not a bum! I’m not a bum,” the man shouts, nearly sobbing with rage and indignation. “I don’t beat her. I only hit her three times. It’s not like I put black and blues on her every day like those other crazies.”

Sgt. Ribeiro switches off the speakerphone and continues the call without broadcasting the man’s vitriolic ravings. But even half the conversation is enough to illustrate the chaotic dynamics of an abusive relationship — a bizarre tangle of emotions that often causes the abuser and his victim to team up against the authorities.

Dave is 32; his wife is 30. They have been together 13 years, married for four. This is the fifth time police have been called in to referee.

What follows is Sgt. Ribeiro’s end of the call — each new paragraph indicating when she pauses to listen to either the abuser or his wife on the other end of the line.

“No Dave, this is not happening because of O.J. Simpson,” says Sgt. Ribeiro.

There is a long pause while Dave (not his real name) yells. His voice is loud enough to be heard through the receiver, but his words are not discernible.

“Yes, it IS a big deal, Dave,” says Sgt. Ribeiro, interrupting his diatribe.

“Did you break down the door to the apartment last night?” she asks.

Dave has apparently handed the phone to his wife, who is now trying to convince Sgt. Ribeiro that the incident was nothing.

“So then why did you call 911?”

“Nobody dials 911 accidentally.”

“You say you only dialed 911 to threaten him, but that’s not what we use 911 for here.”

“Yes, I understand that, but after he kicked the door in, you told your son to go into the bedroom and call 911.”

Sgt. Ribeiro then reads from the police report on last night’s incident as she listens.

“Didn’t he say to you last night that if he goes to jail for this, you are going to be a fucking dead bitch?”

Sgt. Ribeiro listens to her response.

“I realize it was just an argument,” she says. “But the police have been to your house four times in the last three months.”

“What’s that? He says he’s only violated the restraining order three times?”

“Okay, you say you were off the wall yourself — that he’s not a bad person. But you told your son to call 911. We’re very worried about you and your son.”

A pause. Dave gets back on the phone. Sgt. Ribeiro lifts the receiver away from her ear and says he’s crying and yelling hysterically.

“Dave, are you going to listen to me?”

“Will you listen?”

“Will you listen?”

“Dave, listen to me.”

“I see — the cops are the problem.”

Dave apparently hands the phone back to his wife and she is telling Sgt. Ribeiro she intends to drop the restraining order.

“You have a 14-year-old boy at home in a very violent situation.”

“Yes, it IS violent. You have people kicking down doors and threatening to murder you. That’s a violent situation.”

Dave is back on the phone again.

“Maybe you didn’t hit her this time Dave, but abuse is not just black and blue eyes. You’re abusing me the way you’re talking to me right now. If you say to her: ‘You’re going to be dead if I go to jail,’ that is an arrestable offense.”

Sgt. Ribeiro uses another telephone line to send a patrol car over to the apartment.

Dave’s wife is back on the phone, but Dave continues to shout in the background.

“And how long have you been going to marriage counseling?” Sgt. Ribeiro asks the wife.

“You haven’t been yet, but you’re going to start Tuesday.”

“I understand you want to try to work it out, but in the meantime, you have a 14-year-old boy in the house who’s listening to all this.”

“He IS involved,” she says. “You had your son call 911.”

“You can’t convince me that your son sleeps through your fights after what I’ve heard today,” says Sgt. Ribeiro. “I can hear Dave yelling at you in the background right now.

“No, we are not going to drop the charges. We’re going to protect you and protect your son.”

A pause.

“You say he’s not verbally abusive? I could hear him in the background just now. You don’t consider that a violent temper?”

The patrol car has arrived at the woman’s apartment but Dave has already left. Rather than try to find him, the police issue a summons for him to appear in court for violating his restraining order.

In the meantime, Sgt. Ribeiro continues to talk to the woman. She tries to impress upon her the importance of using the legal system to force her husband into batterers’ treatment.

“You have to protect yourself — if not for yourself, then for your son,” says Sgt. Ribeiro. “If you have problems again and you don’t call 911, you’re failing to protect your son.”

Sgt. Ribeiro hangs up the phone, frustrated and emotionally spent. Getting men like Dave into batterers’ treatment is essential she says, not just to prevent abuse to his wife, but also to prevent these couples from producing another generation of batterers.

“If we don’t stop this now, we’re going to see junior in here in five years doing the same thing,” said Sgt. Ribeiro.1

The last time

Outside of Dave and Paula’s apartment, the red and blues are flashing. In the back of one of the cars sits a sullen 15-year old, his hands cuffed behind his back. Inside, a hysterical Paula tries to explain to Sgt. Ribeiro what happened.

“He was…he was…in…his…room, doin’ homework,” she sobs. David comes to the door and just kicks it in. He was drunk, like usual. He was loud, and he started beatin’ on me. Danny must of heard it and he…he….he just snapped. He came outta his room with that bat and just started swingin’. He got him in the head with the first swing and it sounded like a melon got dropped. David went down and…” she kept sobbing, trying to catch her breath, “and the he pushed me outta the way. That’s when I called 911. Danny just lost it. He just kept saying, ‘No more, you mother, no more.’ Oh, poor David, my poor David.”

“Poor David” was, in fact, the late poor David. Like so many young boys who witness abuse over a period of time, Danny finally took his rage out on his mother’s abuser, and, like so many, he too, was unable or unwilling to stop until the abuser was dead. He, too, has become another statistic of domestic violence. According to one study in Oregon, 63 percent of males between the ages of 11 and 20, incarcerated for murder, were convicted of killing their mother’s abuser.

The Future

Ask any cop. This case is not unusual. The outcome is, but not the case. A man who beats up a woman will do it again. And again. Women in abusive relationships believe that their abuser loves them, and perhaps at the basest level, they are correct; this does not prevent women from dying daily at the hands of those who “love” them…to death.

What are the issues

  • Who might all of the victims be in a domestic violence situation?
  • If what is being done is a crime and not a ‘domestic dispute,’ why aren’t more abusers in jail or serving longer sentences?
  • How must the laws change to reduce this problem?
  • How must the courts change to reduce this problem?
  • How can the media apply its might to helping reduce domestic violence?
  • What can and should employers do to help reduce domestic violence?
  • What role can and should schools play in helping children in a domestic violence situation?
  • What penalties, other than jail time, might help to reduce the threat of domestic violence?
  • It has been said that victims will sometimes torment the abuser into a situation or falsely accuse him merely for the enjoyment of seeing him arrested. How can that be reduced?
  • Write a comprehensive “zero tolerance” plan for handling domestic violence crimes in your community.

 

 

 

There’s an old bromide that goes, “Women get married hoping he’ll change; and he doesn’t. Men get married hoping she won’t change; and she does.” In all too many cases, this is true and in far too many cases those changes or lack of changes create stress and other problems.

For those who are in a wonderful relationship, the entire concept of domestic violence is so foreign as to be impossible to believe. Their social circle is generally with people just like themselves…they think. Sometimes, they are just ignorant of what is going on around them. That is not an insulting remark because both victims and abusers are very, very good at hiding what actually goes on behind closed doors.

‘It can’t be that bad or she’d leave,’ or “I would never allow myself to be put in that situation,” or “the first time he even thought of hitting me, I’d be gone,” are all common statements that I have heard workshop women and men say…with men, it’s usually the first statement. In a piece published by the University of Michigan, they explain, “Women stay in violent relationships for many reasons ranging from love to terror. There are also practical reasons why women stay; they may be afraid of the repercussions if they attempt to leave, they may be afraid of becoming homeless, they may worry about losing their children. Some women who have experienced domestic violence just don’t have the confidence to leave. They may be frightened of being alone, particularly if their partner has isolated them from friends and family. If they leave, they may decide to go back because of . . . fear and insecurity or because of a lack of support. Some women believe that their partners will change and that everything will be fine when they go home.”

There is no way that I can accurately portray the difficulties involved in leaving an abusive relationship. The intimidation that might have already been ingrained is horrific. The coercion and threats, some of which may already have been carried out makes it difficult for the victim to concentrate on anything but staying alive. The playing of mind games and other psychological abuse can often make the victim believe that she is responsible for the punishment she receives. He may exercise economic control, doling out certain amounts of money and ensuring that he sees the receipts. His threats to harm the children if she does not behave or do as he wishes or making the children watch while he abuses her is just another way of degrading and debasing her, and this too can stress her to the point where she is afraid to leave.

If all of these sound like very frightening fables, I assure you they not. The extremes to which domestic violence abusers will go is beyond anything you can imagine. Any time you live in a male-dominated culture that has yet to mature – remember that women didn’t get the right to vote in this country until 1919 with the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution – progress is slow.

In general, women leave or try to leave their abusers eight times before they are successful. That does not mean that they pack up the kids and get out the first time; it means that they either plan, try to reconcile, or are so intimidated after several attempts that it takes up to the eight before a permanent break is achieved. Obviously, this depends on the severity of the violence and the courage of the victim.

How does one leave? Like everything else, it’s a process. While there are more and more women’s shelters around the country, it’s always best to have a plan. “Planning a safe exit from an abusive relationship is a necessary and important step before breaking the ties with your partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests following these steps to improve your chances of leaving safely.

  • Know the phone number to your local battered women’s shelter.
  • Let a trusted family member, friend, coworker or neighbors know your situation. Develop a plan for when you need help; code words you can text if in trouble, a visual signal like a porch light: on equals no danger, off equals trouble.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made.
  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
  • Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
  • If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape.
  • Back your car into the driveway, and keep it fueled. Keep your driver’s door unlocked and other doors locked for a quick escape.
  • Hide an extra set of car keys.
  • Set money aside. Ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
  • Pack a bag. Include an extra set of keys, IDs, car title, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, marriage license, clothes for yourself and your children, shoes, medications, banking information, money ” anything that is important to you. Store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends.
  • Take important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc.
  • If time is available, also take: Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.) Titles, deeds and other property information Medical records Children’s school and immunization records Insurance information Verification of social security numbers Welfare identification Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions
  • Know abuser’s schedule and safe times to leave.
  • Be careful when reaching out for help via Internet or telephone. Erase your Internet browsing history, websites visited for resources, e-mails sent to friends/family asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately after in case abuser hits redial.
  • Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate.

    After Leaving the Abusive Relationship

    If you get a restraining order, and the offender is leaving:

  • Change your locks and phone number.
  • Change your work hours and route taken to work.
  • Change the route taken to transport children to school.
  • Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times.
  • Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
  • Give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
  • Call law enforcement to enforce the order.

    If you leave:

  • Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail. Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
  • Change your work hours, if possible.
  • Alert school authorities of the situation.
  • Consider changing your children’s schools.
  • Reschedule appointments if the offender is aware of them.
  • Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
  • Alert neighbors, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
  • Talk to trusted people about the violence.
  • Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible. Install a motion sensitive lighting system.
  • Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
  • Tell people who take care of your children who can pick up your children. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
  • Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.”

    This safety plan is personalized. It’s only one of any number of safety plans that are available. Another good one is from the Metro Nashville Police Department. The most important thing is that if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, it’s critical to get out of the situation. Forget the “Where will I go; how will I support myself and the children; what will I do for money; what if he comes after me.” What is most important is that the victim lives and goes on to lead a somewhat normal life. If only one person reads this and helps themselves or a friend, I will be happy. Thanks for reading.

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