Videos/Educational

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Miss Representation: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See  A Documentary Film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Tough Guise: Violence, Media & The Crisis in Masculinity  with Jackson Katz

Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture  featuring Jackson Katz

The Mask You Live In: Is American Masculinity Harming Our Boys, Men & Society at Large?  A Film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Feminists: What Were They Thinking? A Documentary Film by Johanna Demetrakas

The Bystander Moment: Transforming Rape Culture at its Roots featuring Jackson Katz

Never Say Never: “In Her Shoes”

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20171031_085032No matter how compassionate or understanding a person you think you are, at some point you’re going to be a little judge-y.

*shrug*

O.K.

Everybody scoffs. Everybody – everybody – shakes their head and screws up their mouth and (in a moment of weakness) decides that the way that someone else is choosing to conduct themselves is wrong. We look at someone’s life or their current situation or their reaction to a rough patch and think, “I would never do that!” This is especially true of domestic violence. Comments like, “I would never let a man put his hands on me!” or “I would never put my children through that!” are incredibly common.

And so … maybe that’s actually the case. Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe your reaction would be different than someone else’s. But then again, how can you be sure? The reality is that until you’re in a given situation, you really don’t know how you’d react.

Because I work with DV victims and survivors as well as those who serve them, I was honestly of the opinion that I (mostly) understood the overall plight of the battered woman. Fortunately for me, I live in a county where the local FCS (ours is Family & Children’s Service of Niagara) offers the In Her Shoes DV Awareness Program.

Published in 2000 by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, In Her Shoes is “…a revolutionary community education tool, designed for learning about domestic violence. Participants move, do, think and experience the lives of battered women.” Photo Courtesy of The Columbian, 2015.

I initially registered to attend because while I’ve worked with Family & Children’s Service of Niagara in the past, I was recently made aware that their Director of Passage House, Larissa Bachman, is using Leaving Dorian as a supplemental read with their interns. It got me to thinking that while I know quite a bit about FCS, I know little about the inner workings of Passage House. I thought what a great opportunity to speak candidly with Larissa and her team and as a bonus maybe do a blog post about the In Her Shoes Program.

I was completely unprepared for the experience that followed.

Participants were brought into a mixed-use room where I’d worked previously, only this time instead of rows of chairs there were long tables with stacks of colorful note cards. Each table had a sign attached: “Social Services”, “Hospital”, “Employment”, etc. Attendees were then paired up and we were told to pick a person’s name from the starter table. After that the journey begins; you are to make choices for your person while reading their perspective (as well as their batterer’s perspective) from each side of the card.

Because I’m a survivor of DV and because I work with amazing DV professionals and ridiculously intelligent and well-read professors and because I, too, have chosen to be well-read on the topic, I walked into the exercise feeling confident that I could help my person to avoid the inevitable pitfalls. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be able to guide her into a healthy lifestyle well within the hour or so time frame we’d been given to complete the exercise.

Within minutes I realized that I was wrong.

There’s no way that you can prepare yourself to be given the opportunity to make every choice from beginning to end and still “fail”. There’s no way to prepare yourself to walk through nearly forty-five minutes with a person (yes, a person written on paper, but one that you slowly and inadvertently invest yourself in) just to get to the last card and have it say “Funeral Home”.

I couldn’t believe it. Tears started to well in my eyes. I stood there trying to figure it out; why was the end result so hard to take? I mean, I thought I had it. I thought I knew. I am the “Her” in “In Her Shoes”, after all! I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And even beyond my own experience – as an author who’s made myself extremely accessible on social media – I routinely hear the most sad, perplexing and gut wrenching stories from victims and survivors alike. I thought nothing could surprise or shock me. And yet, tears.

I was seriously under the weather and probably should have stayed home that day, so I immediately wanted to blame it on that; I simply wasn’t feeling well. But the young woman that I was paired with didn’t like the ending either. I said, “Let’s go back…” So we did. Our character was young; not even eighteen. We had her go home. And yet, three cards in, she was right back in a tough spot. I suggested we go back even further, maybe right back to the second card that we read.

I was shaken. That couldn’t be her ending. I refused to finish the exercise. I simply would not walk over to the wall marker that said “Funeral Home”. There was nothing but an empty table in front of it. No more cards. It was left empty for reflection, but I didn’t want to reflect. I dried my eyes as the group sat down for debriefing.

I was happy to find out that not every story ended as tragically as ours. Other groups did manage to successfully maneuver their people into new lives. It’s worth noting, though, that at times these groups had to make choices for their person that weren’t always in line with their real-life belief systems. Again, an incredibly important lesson: You cannot impose your value system on someone else. Hard to hear? Sometimes, yes. But a necessary message? Absolutely.

Of course Ms. Bachman and her team were excellent facilitators and I’d like to believe that every attendee walked out that afternoon with all of their questions answered and with a deeper appreciation of the level of strength, courage, creativity and (sometimes) blind faith that victims routinely have to possess in order to safely and successfully re-start their lives. I know that I did. It was a humbling experience that I will carry with me; one that will necessarily be reflected in every presentation and classroom discussion that I participate in from now on.

I’m incredibly proud to be able to say that Family & Children’s Service of Niagara is my hometown service provider and that the staff there is offering unique, high-quality community education programs like In Her Shoes. Programs like these (offered in house or off-site) are exactly what HR professionals are looking for when putting together sensitivity training for Staff Development Days. Their utilization can only heighten awareness and bring about much needed change in our thought processes (and eventually, our behavior toward) victims of domestic violence.

If you are in Western New York, you can contact FCS of Niagara to schedule an In Her Shoes program experience at http://www.niagarafamily.org or by phone: (716) 285-6984

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and is need of assistance, FCS of Niagara 24/7 Emergency Hotline is: (716) 299-0909

To purchase the In Her Shoes program please contact http://www.wscadv.org

 

 

 

 

 

Knight In Shining Armor

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IMG_20170810_095455_451Be very careful how much credit you take when discussing your role in helping a battered woman to turn her life around. In the end, if a woman can successfully transition from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’, it’s because she did the work. Because she had the strength, courage and conviction to stand her ground and say, “No more.” Yes, friends and loved ones may have helped ~ emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, financially ~ but in the end, a successful re-start is achieved because a battered woman did the heavy lifting. For herself, by herself.

What Is Financial Abuse?

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  • Forbidding the victim to work
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace or causing the victim to lose her job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance”
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions
  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts, taking bad credit loans
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income
  • Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine
  • Hiding assets
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property or inheritance
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay
  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits”
  • Filing false insurance claims
  • Refusing to pay  or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets

Excerpted from nnedv.org

What Is Gaslighting?

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“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way. Gaslighting is often used an abusive tactic by those with narcissistic and psychopathic personalities. The aim of the abuse is to make the victim doubt his/her perception of reality, and gaslighting tactics can be entirely verbal or emotional.

Often, victims of this abuse may start out by challenging the perpetrator, who then turns the situation around by gaslighting them. In doing so, he or she causes the victim to question themselves and in doing so, draws attention away from the abuse. For example, someone might claim that his or her partner engaged in name-calling, yelling, or breaking of that person’s possessions. The partner might avoid taking the blame with gaslighting techniques such as denying that the events ever took place, or pointing out that other person’s transgressions were at fault.

An individual may gaslight another by:

  • Refusing to listen to any concerns or pretending not to understand them.
  • Questioning his or her memory, denying that events occurred in the way the victim (accurately) remembers.
  • Changing the subject to divert the victim’s attention from a topic, trivializing their concerns.
  • Pretending to forget things that have happened to further discredit the victim.
  • Denying events have taken place, claiming that the victim is making them up”

Excerpted from http://www.goodtherapy.org

 

What Is Stalking?

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The kinds of acts that make up stalking include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Following or surveillance
  • Inappropriate approaches and confrontations
  • Repeated, uninvited appearances at work or residence
  • Unwanted telephone calls or texts
  • Threatening the victim
  • Threatening the victim’s family and friends
  • Unwanted letters, e-mails, gifts
  • Repeatedly sending unwanted emails or texts to the victim
  • Using online social media inappropriately
  • Damaging the victim’s property
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Assaulting or killing the victim’s pet
  • Spreading false rumors
  • Filing false charges

Excerpted from Los Angeles College Consortium and usc.edu

What Is Emotional Abuse?

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Any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity or self-worth. Some examples are: yelling or swearing; name calling, insults or mocking; threats and intimidation; isolation; humiliation; denial of the abuse and blaming the victim.

Excerpted from http://www.healthyplace.com

The Strongest Person You Know

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Dear Victim of Domestic Violence,

You are the strongest person you know. In fact, you might be the strongest person you’ll ever know.

If you have lived through even one day when you were physically injured or emotionally battered by someone that claimed to love you, you are the strongest person you know. If you took the hit, physically or emotionally, and didn’t completely shut down on the spot from the hurt, shame, shock, grief, anger, humiliation, horror, disgust, and confusion that you felt, you are the strongest person you know. If you got up the next day and tried life again – took care of your kids, went to work, cooked and cleaned and saw friends, family and co-workers and went about daily life like your very soul hadn’t been dinged – you are the strongest person you know.

What’s ironic is that because of all of this, you probably think that you’re the weakest person you know. You think that it’s your fault or maybe some sort or failure on your part. You look at your kids and you worry because there’s a chance that they might have witnessed or heard the abuse that was wrought upon you. You don’t want friends or family to find out because maybe they would judge you. Worst of all is that you ‘blinked’; when your partner hurt you, you didn’t immediately rise up and end the relationship, like every *kick ’em to the curb* girl-anthem/pop song says that an independent, strong woman does. Maybe you fought back and maybe you didn’t but ultimately, you stayed. And you let him stay. You let things cool down. You told yourself that it would never happen again. You bet on the hope that deep down, he’s a better man than his actions say that he is.

That’s not a bet I’d be willing to take.

Domestic violence escalates quickly and can be fatal. You feel weak because your soul has been dinged, but believe me when I tell you that you’re the strongest person you know because if you managed to live through even one instance of battery and still got up the next day, put feet on the floor and tried life again, you possess a strength that can never be compromised. Not by your partner. Not by anyone.

If you leave, are things going to be weird for a while? Are you going to have to live somewhere unfamiliar? Will you have to change jobs, email addresses and your cell phone number? Will you have to stay away from social media? Will you have to trade in your car for a different model to ensure yourself a good amount of privacy and anonymity? Will your children be confused and scared and require extra patience while you work through keeping yourself safe? Will loved ones, lawyers, co-workers and others ask you prying, silly or uninformed questions like, Why did you stay for so long?, Why didn’t you call the police? or Why did you have another baby with him? All or some of these things might happen, but you will handle it all and you will handle it well, because you are the strongest person you know.

How can I be so sure? Because I know this: If you were strong enough to have lived through even one instance of physical and/or emotional battery with your partner, you’re damn sure strong enough to live without him.

Love,

A Survivor