Archive for the ‘Domestic violence’ Category

You think domestic violence doesn’t happen in your town? Let me tell you something: Every nine seconds, that’s seconds folks, somewhere in America a woman is beaten in a domestic violence episode. In addition, a woman is shot to death in America every 14 hours by a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend, or someone she was dating. If that doesn’t scare you, I’m not certain what will.

Domestic violence is a term we toss around pretty casually. The “It doesn’t happen here” syndrome is something like sticking your head in the sand. It happens in my town, on my street, but I don’t know where. I knew when it happened in my workplace, although all I could do was tell human resources what I thought and what I saw…they chose to do nothing. I was told to stay out of it…and I did…and I probably shouldn’t have.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.”

“Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. It is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.”

Thankfully, domestic violence has never been in any part of my family. Do I know people who have been victims of domestic violence? Absolutely. Other than the one case that I saw at my place of employment? Yes. My late wife and I sheltered a women who was a victim until she was finally able to escape from years of psychological abuse from a domineering husband. Until she came to us, we were completely unaware that there was any kind of problem. I believe that’s the way it is with a number of these cases. Often, the victim is nearly paralyzed with fear, sometimes feeling that she or he – yes, men can also be victims of domestic violence – has or is doing something wrong that triggers an episode.

Recently, in Massachusetts, a 51-year old man shot his 44-year old ex-girlfriend. After a two-day manhunt, the man was found dead in the trunk of a car, a self-inflicted wound to the head did him in. The victim left behind three children. Just another news story that filled the screen for a couple of days and was replaced by some other tragedy. However, it’s not just a news story for the three kids or their grandmother. It’s a shock that may never go away completely. It’s a loss that will gnaw at them, probably for the rest of their lives. Again, I quote from the NACDV, “Additionally, domestic violence does not always end when the victim escapes the abuser, tries to terminate the relationship, and/or seeks help. Often, it intensifies because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim. Abusers frequently continue to stalk, harass, threaten, and try to control the victim after the victim escapes. In fact, the victim is often in the most danger directly following the escape of the relationship or when they seek help: 1/5 of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of obtaining the order; 1/3 are murdered within the first month.”

What can you do about it? The first thing is to be aware that such a problem exists. In today’s world, violence appears to be an acceptable way to solve problems, whether it’s on an airplane, or at a political town hall meeting, or just about anywhere else. That attitude can often translate right into the home…but it shouldn’t. What are the signs to look for in a relationship? There are many, and some are so subtle as to easily escape detection. Does the abuser try to tell the victim what to wear or control who they can see, what they are allowed to do, or where they are allowed to go. Here are some of the signs put forth by NACDV:
• Telling the victim that they can never do anything right
• Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and
time spent away
• Accusing the victim of cheating
• Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or
family members
• Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
• Controlling every penny spent in the household
• Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money
for expenses
• Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are
• Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
• Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move
(in person or also via the internet and/or other devices
such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
• Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
• Telling the victim that they are a bad parent or
threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children
• Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved
ones, or pets
• Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons
• Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to
or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
• Forcing sex with others
• Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging
birth control
• Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
• Preventing the victim from working or attending school,
harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all
night so they perform badly at their job or in school
• Destroying the victim’s property

I’m not asking that you either get involved or become some kind of avenging angel. I’m asking that you understand that this problem is more pervasive in this country, as well as others, and it should be a concern to all of us. If you know of someone you suspect is a victim, and if you’re speaking with her or him casually without the suspected abuser around, you might ask, “How can I help you?” It’s an open-ended question. If they ask, “With what?” you can always respond with a non-committal, “Oh, I don’t know. I thought you might want to talk about something.” Eventually, if the victim understands that you are sincerely concerned, they will get around to telling you. Sure, it’s vague, but you can’t really come out and ask, “Is that son-of-a-bitch being mean to you?” I guarantee that will earn an unqualified, ‘NO!” and the conversation will end right there. The subject is delicate, and so must be the approach to opening up about it.

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There we were, having one of our after breakfast “He said; she said,” conversations about what is bad and what is…what, you don’t know what a “he said, she said” conversations is? You’re kidding, right? Oh, okay, this is the type of conversation where you begin with a fact…in this case, “Can something or someone be bad without being evil?” Once you run out of facts to justify your position, you then begin pulling things out of your ass for which there is absolutely no foundation in truth. It’s at this point that it becomes a “he said, she said,” and you are free to use glass hammers and sky hooks, along with left-handed paint brushes to prove your case. Since there is no or are no judge or judges, this discussion can go on until someone decides that one more word and they will pee their pants. At this point, both contestants storm off into walls [that weren’t supposed to be there] and the discussion reaches its conclusion.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about any subject [until it differs from my own], even whether or not Oscar Pistorius intentionally murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, or whether the Ray Rice elevator video was actually an outtake of a Mike Tyson confrontation with a reporter. Neither of these cases is subject to be discussed with humor. Both are horrific crimes. How Pistorius has gotten away with murder and why Rice is not sitting in a jail cell are both beyond my comprehension, but I guess that’s the manner in which people with big names and big reputations can get away with things for which the average citizen would find himself doing hard time in a lockup.

Given the circumstances, are these two men bad or are they evil? Anyone in their right mind must conclude that their actions were those of an evil belief, ie, that it is acceptable to murder someone, even through a closed door [did she scream after being hit by the first bullet?} or that it is acceptable to coldcock a woman because she spits at you. Can we say that these evil beliefs are individual behavior or are they, in fact, the beliefs of the tribe to which these two men belong. Think about it for a moment. O.J. got away with murder. The Green River killer, the Zodiac killer, BTK, and even Whitey got away with murder for decades before they were caught. Pistorius is a hero in South Africa. Why shouldn’t he believe that he can do anything and not be severely punished? Ray Rice is engaged in a profession that encourages violence; demands violence as part of the road to success. If I can drive you into the ground hard enough that they have to carry you off the field on a stretcher, which provides a greater opportunity for our team to win and for me to make more money. Is it so difficult to understand the transition from opponent to someone who is being aggressive toward you anywhere else? Lacking a degree of maturity, I can certainly see it happening. Do I agree with it? Hell, no, I think it’s appalling but that is not to say that I don’t see where it comes from.

Domestic violence of any kind, whether it’s by gun or knife, or by foot, fist, or elbow has no place in a civilized society…and the excuse of “she pushed my buttons,” is no excuse at all. Every 9 seconds, a woman is abused somewhere in the world. In America, I believe it’s every 15 seconds. What does that say about us? Basically, it says that we should not be allowed to call ourselves “civilized,” because civilized people don’t do that. Here are a few facts from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

  • One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
  • 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
  • Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
  • Almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
  • Approximately one-half of the orders obtained by women against intimate partners who physically assaulted them were violated. More than two-thirds of the restraining orders against intimate partners who raped or stalked the victim were violated.

The facts and figures go on and on. Children, particularly males, are twice as likely to abuse their partners when they become adults. Kids are also at risk of being abused if they live in a household where abuse is a fact of reality.

There is an unprecedented opportunity in the courtroom in South Africa and in the offices of the National Football League to make a genuine impact on domestic violence. Judge Thokozile Masipa may have cleared Pistorius of murder but she can still nail his hide to the wall with a charge of culpable homicide, discharging a firearm, and being in possession of ammunition, all of which carry serious jail time for this defendant. The NFL can ban Ray Rice for life, thereby sending a message that his type of behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Is this taking away his livelihood? Yes, it is, but in theory he earned a college degree. Let him use it. If not, let him spend some of that money he’s received from the Baltimore Ravens to educate himself for another line of work.

Domestic violence is indefensible, no matter the reason. It’s indefensible for husband against wife or vice versa – yes, men are also victims of domestic violence – or whether it’s same sex violence, or violence of any kind against a partner, friend, or acquaintance. Crime of any kind is unacceptable, but, just like domestic violence, it will continue, and people like me will rail against it by our writing, take classes to become counselors and attempt to help in that way…but it will go on. It will go on because in some form, in same way, in some dark recess of our minds, we make it acceptable and we allow it to happen…and we should ashamed of ourselves.

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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.


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.




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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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So what is domestic violence?

“We all know what a bully is . . .well…

  • Imagine . . . living with a bully all the time, but being too scared to leave.
  • Imagine . . . being afraid to go to sleep at night, being afraid to wake up in the morning.
  • Imagine . . . being denied food, warmth or sleep.
  • Imagine . . . being punched, slapped, hit, bitten, pinched and kicked.
  • Imagine . . . being pushed, shoved, burnt, strangled, raped, and beaten.
  • Imagine . . . having to watch everything you do or say in case it upsets the person you live with – or else you’ll be punished.
  • Imagine . . . having to seek permission to go out, to see your friends or your family, or to give your children a treat.
  • Imagine . . . being a prisoner in your own home – imagine being timed when you go out to the shops.
  • Imagine . . . that you believe what he tells you – that it’s your fault. That if only you were a better mother, lover, housekeeper, kept your mouth shut, could only keep the children quiet, dressed how he liked you to, kept in shape, gave up your job – somehow things would get better.
  • Imagine . . . that you don’t know where to get help, what to do, or how to leave.
  • Imagine . . . that you can’t face the shame of admitting what’s really going on to family or friends.
  • Imagine . . . his threats if you dare to say you will leave. How could you ever find the strength to leave? Will you ever be safe again?
  • Imagine . . . threats to find and kill you and your children, wherever you go.
  • Imagine . . . permanent injuries and sometimes death.
  • Domestic violence is physical, sexual and psychological abuse.”

Women’s Aid Federation of England

Whoa! That’s pretty harsh; it’s also exactly right. Domestic violence is about power and control. It has nothing to do with love or hate. The abuser may actually love his victim but his needs overshadow the needs of the one he is abusing.

Would you like a definition that is simple? “Violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.” Unfortunately, that simple definition doesn’t begin to convey the true meaning or extent of violence “in the home.” In America, a woman somewhere is abused every nine seconds.

“The home” may be wherever the abuser chooses to act out in a violent manner. Police will tell you that going on a DV call is one of the more dangerous parts of their jobs because they never know who might choose to take out their aggression on the police who are just trying to stop the violence from escalating. While material on this is anecdotal at best, I will tell you that on former police chief with whom I spoke came dangerously close to getting stabbed in the back on a DV call. He had been headed home in his cruiser when the call came in and he indicated that he would assist the officer making the visit. When the chief walked in, the officer was separating the husband and wife who were in the kitchen. Suddenly, the younger officer yelled, “Look out chief.” The chief turned to see the wife’s lover, another woman, coming at him with a kitchen knife. He had just enough time to grab a frying ban from the stove and smash it into the face of his attacker. From that night on, domestic violence calls were always answered by two officers in that community.

Some states – many would say, “All” but that depends on how well they’re enforced – have developed domestic violence centers and programs. There is even a national Office of Violence Against Women which was established with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1995. Unfortunately, it appears that too many courts still don’t take domestic violence as a serious issue. Beyond that, however, is the fact that all too often, the victims don’t press charges or blame themselves for getting battered. It’s a very sick cycle of violence and is extremely difficult to understand.

Yes, many abusers have gone to jail and must attend classes as a condition of release. Anger management and abuse classes are great in some cases; marginal in others. I went through a qualification course for those who wished to facilitate running groups in a Massachusetts Certified Batterer Intervention Program. Although I completed the first part of the training, I never did the required internship, but I can tell you it was a wonderful experience. The instructor, a petite lady, was tougher than any faculty member I ever had in college. At one point she separated us into “good” people and “bad” people. As a “bad” person, I was made to feel like scum…and I did. We had no rights; the “goods” could say anything about us they desired, and we had to sit still and be subjected to the abuse. You learn very quickly what it’s like to be a victim.

The cycle of violence can begin with any incident. Dinner isn’t ready when he steps in the door; a simple question such as “How was your day, hon;” there were toys on his route to wherever he was going; the television is too loud or not showing the “right” program. The triggers are unknown to the victim, but they can happen quickly. Next, the anger sets in and with the anger, the abuse begins. It may be verbal; it may be verbal, physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, but it’s abuse. In this stage, the one being abused is attempting to calm things down and in so doing can often make the situation worse. The tension is palpable with the victim realizing full well that she is walking – if she can – on very thin ice; some have described it as walking on egg shells. With luck, the situation calms down before the police have to be called. Then the making-up begins. He may promise this or that; there is always an “I’m sorry; it will never happen again” sentence in there somewhere but she knows; she knows that it will happen again, but in most cases, she’s just not certain she can leave. There are the kids to consider; how will she support the family? Questions, questions, questions! We now go into the calm stage of the cycle where the abuser is kind, may give gifts, treats the incident as if it never happened. If it’s happened before, however, the victim knows that it will probably happen again. This is the cycle. Friends who know the victim and know of the abuse may tell the victim to leave, but again, it comes back to all of those questions.

In Domestic Violence – Part III, we will discuss what happens when the courts ‘fail’ and the victim decides to leave the abuser.


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There was a time…way back in the 20th Century – doesn’t that make it sound ancient – when I used to teach a one-day workshop about domestic violence. My interest was piqued in this subject because it appeared to be all around us. Husbands were beating, shooting, or stabbing their wives to death. Wives were killing their husbands because they couldn’t take the abuse anymore. Boyfriends, partners and personal relationships in general seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket. I saw a woman come to work almost every day with a new bruise or a black eye, and the folks in human resources, the department head for whom she worked, no one seemed to give a damn. If I asked, I was told it was not my concern or that she’d been in accident. One morning I watched as her ‘husband’ dropped her off. I’m going to offend somebody when I say this, but he looked like an abuser; he looked angry, not in a temporary sense, but as though his whole being was angry. How the hell she hooked up with this guy I’ll never know…not do I have any right to know, but it was ugly.

Anyway, I began doing some research. I spoke with some of the police officers who were attending a command training class on campus. I did some Internet searching. I spoke to a friend who is a social worker, and I asked some friends if they knew anyone who was a victim of domestic abuse – that was a real eye-opener, and then I asked myself how I might be able to help. Since I enjoy teaching, it became somewhat obvious that a workshop designed as a public information session might be the answer. At first, it would be something for a couple of hours, sponsored by a chamber of commerce or some civic agency. Then it grew; it eventually became a one-day program, but it also resulted in a series of editorial opinion pieces for a local paper and even a few thank you notes.

It appears the time has come to break out the old notes, update the old presentation, and climb on the bandwagon to protest how domestic violence [DV] is being handled in our court system. I’ve spoken again to probation and police officers and I’ve found that there was a period when domestic violence offenders were getting jail time, but with all of the other caseloads being carried in the judicial system, DV is once more being shuffled through the system with mere slaps on the wrist.

Fortunately, a couple of high-profile cases have recently hit the papers. The first is the case of Jared Remy, son of former Red Sox second baseman, Jerry Remy. Remy the elder, who is now the color analyst for Red Sox television, is a celebrity of sorts in the New England area. His now-35-year old son is an asshole on steroids who has been in court more than 20 times for his violent temper and the abuse of woman since he was 17. With high-priced lawyers paid for by mom and dad, the younger Remy always got off, at least until he took his violence one step too far and murdered Jennifer Martel, the mother of his child. Jared had been allowed to walk time and time and time again until he went that one last step. Had he been imprisoned earlier, perhaps some of his violence would have been eliminated by other inmates. Perhaps he would have been killed while in prison. Perhaps; perhaps, perhaps…it’s all too late now; a mother’s life has been taken; a child is left parentless, and another DV case has graduated to first-degree murder. The real kicker is that the Remy’s are fighting for custody of the child. I don’t understand why…after all, each of his three children has been arrested for assault. Do they wish to raise a fourth delinquent?

The second high profile case concerns a Massachusetts State Representative. Carlos Henriquez was hauled off in handcuffs after slapping and punching his girlfriend. The sentence was two and a half years in the local house of correction with all but six months of the sentence suspended. His attorney indicated that she was “shocked” by the harsh treatment of her client. I wonder how that attorney would feel if she had the crap kicked out of her and her attacker received only six months. When the beating begins, how does the victim know just how far her attacker will go? Will he stop before he kills the victim, or will he go all the way? Don’t get me wrong; I know that there are many male victims of domestic violence out there. I feel the same way about their attackers as I do about the male on female crime which is more common.

Most recently, we have the case of Congressman Alan Grayson (Dem. FL) who was accused by his estranged wife of coming to her house and pushing her hard enough to knock her down. After further investigation, the case was dismissed for “lack of evidence.” Perhaps it was a case of no visible injuries on the former Mrs. Grayson which got the case thrown out. Grayson is not alone; 29 members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse…and these are the people who make the laws that the rest of us are supposed to obey.

One of the most frightening aspects of violence against women is just how slowly America has acted to limit its chilling effects. It wasn’t until 1993 that then-Senator Joe Biden concluded a three-year investigation into the causes and effects of violence against women. According to the Office of Violence Against Women, Senator Biden, “In his introduction to Violence Against Women – The Response to Rape: Detours on the Road to Equal Justice report, “Through this process, I have become convinced that violence against women reflects as much a failure of our nation’s collective moral imagination as it does the failure of our nation’s laws and regulations. We are helpless to change the course of this violence unless, and until, we achieve a national consensus that it deserves our profound public outrage.

This is something of an introduction to a discussion of domestic violence. It’s been allowed to go unpunished for far too long. Reva B. Siegel, in an article from the Yale School of Law, notes “The Anglo-American common law originally provided that a husband, asmaster of his household, could subject his wife to corporal punishment or “chastisement” so long as he did not inflict permanent injury upon her.” Can you possibly believe that it wasn’t until 1976 that Pennsylvania established the first state coalition against domestic violence, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and became the first state to pass legislation providing for orders of protection for battered women. “Orders of protection;” now there’s a misnomer if I ever heard one. Today, we call them restraining orders against the abuser. I have yet to see a single restraining order that could stop a bullet, knife, baseball bat, or frying pan. Restraining orders are, without question, the most useless pieces of paper in our entire judicial system.

In part two of Looking at Domestic Violence, we’ll take a look at a description from the Women’s Aid Federation of England and examine more about this “hidden crime.”

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This is the time of year for inaugurations, state of the states, state of the union, town meetings, and, of course, the Grammy Awards. It’s that period where we take stock of what we have or haven’t, how we’ve done during the past year, and what bullshit we will perpetuate or inaugurate on the unsuspecting public during the next year. Therefore, in keeping with this time-honored and non-sensible performance, I shall present my own state of the mind for the upcoming year and for time in perpetuity, a.k.a. Bishop’s banal diatribe….

…My fellow Americans, illegal immigrants, alien terrorists on US soil, and children of all ages…to put things mildly, the Union is not in very good shape. There is too much violence in our own nation, whether on our college and university campuses, our local schools, our shopping malls throughout the land, the streets of our inner cities and – more and more – in neighborhoods where violence has not existed before. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

After months of discussions with the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, PTA, DARPA, CASE, CUPA, NRA, BSA, GSA, 4-H, ICOP, and several private contracting firms, we have reached agreement that, beginning, immediately…that means tomorrow for those of you nodding off…American soldiers and sailors, in pairs will begin patrolling every avenue, street, road, and drive in every city and town with a population of more than 500 people. Schools, from kindergarten to high school will have a pair of armed military in each and every classroom. Writ of habeas corpus is immediately suspended for the foreseeable future, and the penalty for any crime which inflicts any kind of harm on any American citizen will be punishable by immediate death. I have been reading, watching, and being told of too many crimes and I’m sick to death of it. We have ‘deevolutionated’ – okay, I made it up – back to cave man tactics as a society and, therefore, those who wish to act like Neanderthals shall be treated as they were back in the Neanderthal period. When the nation evolves back into a 21st Century society, with the mores expected of 21st Century men, women, and children, we will…slowly at first…begin to eliminate our police state.

Our plan calls for the withdrawal of all American armed forces from all bases throughout the world. I am sick to death of watching planes land at Andrews Air Force base to unload the coffins of young Americans who have died on foreign soil for no particular reason other than to make a small group of fat cats in our own nation get fatter. Just as we never see John Boehner smoking or drinking, so now, we will never see military caskets being brought home from foreign lands. In addition, we will not tolerate any attempt by any nation or combination of nations to invade – overtly or covertly – our land. We are open to free trade between our nation and others. However, the days of the US as world cop are over. If nations wish to make war among themselves or with other nations, have fun. If any nation should consider the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable, then and only then, will the United States turn the offending nation to glass. Granted, this will end the world as we know it, but what the hell, you started it, and we are fully prepared to end it.

Our native form of speech is American. While it was English for a while, it has been bastardized by various groups who now use such words as “whatevah,” “selfies,” “hinky,” and other bullshit words which have no place in a civilized society. Students using any slang in the classroom may be immediately bitch-slapped by a teacher or either of the two military peace keepers in the classroom…or all three. We will return to speaking a combination of correct English and American beginning tomorrow. Before immigrating to this country, those from other nations must demonstrate a proficiency in the English/American language that is free from native accent.

Beginning tomorrow, all citizens with assets of over five billion dollars will be required to establish foundations to benefit the less fortunate. The initial investment will consist of one billion dollars. I have requested and received consent from Messrs. Warren Buffet, William and Melissa Gates, Harry Reid, and Eric Cantor to select a board of no more than fifteen people of their choosing to administer this fund.

Beginning tomorrow, welfare families will be required to perform twenty hours of community service to be eligible for benefits. Babysitting services for children under the age of six will be provided by the National Board of Children’s Services. All adults over the age of 18 who are not attending school or college and who are unemployed will be required to participate in this Civilian Community Service Program. Those who refuse will be shot.

I could go on, but if you believe this sounds dictatorial and impossible, you’re right. That’s not the way America operates. Would we like to see our children and grandchildren more protected in our schools than they have been over the past half century? Of course we would. Does that mean patrolling the corridors of our classrooms with armed members of the military? No, not in this country…not yet… not anymore than we consider having our military patrol our streets.

Can we demand that people speak English? No, we can’t demand this. In American schools, English is the language of choice. Those unable to grasp this concept should either learn our language or return to where they won’t be burdened with having to learn it. I have always been embarrassed when I’m in Canada, not to be able to speak French, and I generally apologize for my inability to do so.

Can we demand that our billionaires use their monies to help others who haven’t been as fortunate? Of course we can’t. People like Mr. Buffet and Mr. and Mrs. Gates, just to name a few, are already doing more than their fair share to help others. As far as Harry Reid and Eric Cantor are concerned, well, you take your pick as to which one is the greater idiot.

No, I can’t give a state of the union address. We have checks and balances in this nation that protects the general public from the manner in which I sometimes express myself. But…we have many problems in this country that do need to be addressed. We seem to pay lip service and crocodile tears when a shooting occurs at an elementary or high school, a college or university, a theater or a mall, or on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Detroit. In reality, we haven’t done a damned thing to prevent similar tragedies. We put thousands of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but I don’t see the same effort being put into eliminating the cartels in Central and South America, and they are killing probably more Americans daily than are being killed on the sands in the Middle East. Our problems are myriad and many, and rather than face them head-on, we quibble; we squabble; we have elected officials who are more interested in loyalty to party than they are in loyalty to America. These are our real terrorists because they refuse to let the nation move forward. As the late Thomas P. O’Neill, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Country first; state second; party third. Or, if you prefer, how about Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Take your pick…either one works for me.

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