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

Reading List

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Linda Dynel, Leaving Dorian, (2014)

Susan G.S. McGee, 20 Reasons Why She Stays: A Guide For Those Who Want to Help Battered Women, (2005) – This paper can be viewed an downloaded at: www.stopviolence.com/domviol/whytheystay.htm

Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (2002)

Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help (2006)

Michael Kimmel, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, Understanding the Critical Years Between 16 and 26 (2008)

Jody Raphael, Saving Bernice: Battered Women, Welfare and Poverty (2000)

Michael P. Johnson, A Typology of Domestic Violence, (2008)

Robbin S. Ogle & Susan Jacobs, Self-Defense and Battered Women Who Kill (2002)

Evan Stark, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life (2002)

C.J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re A Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality In High School (2012)

Jody Raphael, Listening to Olivia: Violence, Poverty & Prostitution (2004)

Michael Kimmel, Angry White Men (2013)

Natalie J. Sokoloff, Domestic Violence at the Margins (2005)

Michelle Kaminsky, Reflections of a Domestic Violence Prosecutor: Suggestions for Reform (2011)

Gavin DeBecker, The Gift of Fear (1997)

Erin Pizzey, Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear (1974)

**Please also see my blog posts under Domestic Violence and “Think About It” Thursdays

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

“Not totally believable.”

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20170105_081155When I sat down at the computer this morning and noticed that a two star review had come through on Amazon for Leaving Dorian, I immediately assumed that a first edition copy had once again slipped through the cracks. I have disclaimers on all of my media letting readers know that if they’re given the option of purchasing a first or second edition copy, second edition is always going to be a better read. I was the newbie of all newbies when I published Leaving Dorian back in 2014 and didn’t realize the importance of hiring a professional editor. Since there’s no way to put that genie back in the bottle, I simply cross my fingers and hope that potential readers take the disclaimer to heart and purchase a second edition. But when I scrolled down to read the review, I was surprised to find that there was no mention of poor editing.

“The book is ok. A little frustrating in its organization and lacking some of the spark of other similar stories. Not totally believable.”

Now I know that the ‘organization’ the reader is referring to is my back and forth style of writing. I go from the day that I left my ex-husband in one chapter to describing my childhood and then back again. I understand how this can be confusing to some people, especially if they don’t get through the book in a couple of sittings. So, no harm no foul. The fact that the reader thought that it lacked ‘spark’, well, that’s his/her opinion and they’re entitled to that. But what made me literally laugh out loud was the last sentence: “Not totally believable.”

Whaaaaat?

Not believable?

I sat there at the keyboard, chuckling to myself. Not sure how to remedy that; it’s my actual, real and true life, so…..yeah. The reality is that I went easy on the graphic details of my childhood and my first marriage on purpose, because I vividly recall having to read an extremely graphic memoir about child abuse when I was in college. It was so horrible, so graphic, that it made my skin crawl; reading it made me cry and feel physically ill. Though it was a relatively short read, more than once I had to put it down because I felt as though the details were just too awful to know. Though I wasn’t sure just exactly what I was going to share when I sat down to write Leaving Dorian, I knew for sure that if nothing else, it had to be readable. If it wasn’t something that people could sit with then it couldn’t do its job, which was to help victims and survivors of abuse.

Again, though, readers are entitled to their opinion and if this reader didn’t believe everything that I’d written, well then, so be it; I can’t fix that. I clicked off Amazon and went on with my morning, but I couldn’t help coming back to that last line, “Not totally believable.” Why did it bother me so much?

I guess what’s bothering me has little to do with that singular review. What’s bothering me is that I know very well that victims and survivors of abuse are met every single day with that very same skepticism. Are their friends, loved ones, co-workers and neighbors coming right out and saying, “I don’t believe you”? No. But responding to a women’s candid, heart-wrenching admission that they’ve experienced something tragic with questions like, “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”, “Why didn’t you call the police?” or “Are you sure it’s abuse? I mean, couples fight; don’t make more out of this than it needs to be” is exactly the same sentiment. It’s “I don’t believe you” wrapped up in feigned moderation, excessive caution and good judgement. (…We don’t want to accuse someone unfairly, now; let’s make entirely sure we have all the facts before we start ruining reputations and upending lives…) Isn’t it interesting, though, how often it’s the abuser that’s given the benefit of the doubt instead of the victim?

Students and DV service providers have asked me on more than one occasion what I think the most important thing is that you can say to a victim or survivor of abuse. That if I only had one sentence, what would I choose? My answer is, and will always be, “I believe you”.

To continue to diminish victims and survivors with the old, worn out stories of supposed liars, “Oh, I know so-and-so whose wife lied about him hitting her and he got thrown in jail and it was total BS…” or “There was this girl when I was in college that lied about being raped and the guy she accused got kicked out of school and his life was ruined forever…” is unfair at best and harmful at worst. People lie, it’s true. And people will lie about all sorts of things, for reasons that aren’t always entirely clear. But the chances that a woman is lying when she finally steps forward to tell her story and reach out for help is incredibly slim. More often than not, victims and survivors are actually holding back; keeping the really hurtful, humiliating details to themselves. Telling just enough to get the help and services that they need in order to re-start their lives and keep their families afloat.

Maybe that reader didn’t believe my story, and that’s fine with me. But to every victim and survivor out there who reads this blog post, no worries. There are multitudes of people out there who will believe you. Reach out for help. Tell. Get to safety. Re-start your lives; you deserve nothing less.

And just for the record, “I believe you”.

Fall Semester, 2016

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20161211_121241Five schools, hundreds of students. I remember their faces and many of their names. More than once this semester I looked out at them looking back at me and thought, “This is crazy; how in the world did I get here?”

Well, I’m here primarily because while I thought that typing “The End” was the end, there’s a growing body of professors and helping professionals who have decided that Leaving Dorian is only a beginning.

When asked the first time if I would speak to a group of college students – as a sort of companion piece to the book – I was extremely hesitant. I didn’t think I had anything left to offer. I remember asking my husband, “I’ve already exposed my soul on paper; what else is there?” Turns out there are volumes that remain unwritten and there are students who are eager to read each and every page.

Because each class is learning about intimate partner violence from a different perspective, what I’ve set out to do is to become a living research project, of sorts. I encourage the students to poke around – to take a good look around my mind and heart and see for themselves what abuse looks like from the inside out. The goal is to see if they can connect the dots from my experience to what they’ve learned about in class.

The opportunity that I offer them isn’t an easy one; it takes real courage to look someone in the eye as you’re cutting them open, even when they’re the one who handed you the scalpel. But these young adults rise to the challenge; they take that scalpel and they cut and try and peel back the layers. They poke around and try and find the answers that they’ve read about but have not seen with their own eyes. Sometimes they find what they’re looking for easily and we build on their enthusiasm by cutting a little more, digging a little deeper. Other times I don’t have the answer; I don’t know exactly what they’re looking for (sometimes they don’t really know, either) and I ask them to try again. Cut again, I encourage them. Keep digging. Here, I’ll help you. They cut here and see what’s under there; they dig and I encourage them and their professors guide them and we, as a collective, try to extract the answers.

I’ve received stacks of glowing student evaluations this semester, most of which describe me as “brave”, “courageous” and “inspirational”. It’s heartening to know that the students view me in this way, but I have to admit that I would describe them in exactly those same terms; studying to be a helping professional isn’t for the faint of heart.

Fall semester 2016 was fantastic and I’m looking forward to revisiting new students in these courses again during the Fall of 2017!

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The Niagara University campus was WINDY that evening, though my frazzled appearance might also have something to do with the fact that I spent three hours hashing it out with these students from Dr. Dana Radatz CRJ 585 Domestic Violence class. I have real affection for this group, as I still see many of them when I visit the NU campus for other DV related events.

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You just never know what you’re walking into when you visit a campus for the first time. Nazareth’s Health Center brought me in for an evening presentation in support of DV Awareness Month. The podium was unlike any I’d used before (short!) and I couldn’t see my notes, even with my readers on. I tried to remedy the situation by kicking off my heels about ten minutes in but as it turned out, shorter wasn’t better. So… I ended up delivering the entire presentation sans shoes, notes and readers 🙂

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Because it was a campus-wide event, there were faculty and students from many different disciplines in attendance. Such great questions for me and interesting discussion afterward! I also loved that I was able to spend extra time with students who wanted to speak with me one-on-one long after the scheduled presentation time had come and gone.

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Presented to me by the Health Center interns: “Thank you so much for sharing your story with Nazareth College students and staff. We appreciate you taking the time to be with us.”

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Two day event in the Finger Lakes region for Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

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The room filled up with students and professors pretty quickly (past and present – some even brought their parents!) but there were folks from the community in attendance, as well.

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Talking about Emily Carson, a young mother of three who was murdered in downtown Geneva in February of 2016. She was shot twice by her boyfriend before he turned the gun on himself. It all happened one quiet Sunday morning while dozens of innocent bystanders became unintentional witnesses. His family was quoted afterward as saying that he “…wasn’t a violent guy.” I talk about how quickly an emotionally abusive relationship can turn violent, especially once a victim leaves or tries to leave.

 

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And this is how we do it – taking questions from Dr. Jim Sutton’s undergraduate Social Deviance class, Hobart & William Smith Colleges.

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Book signing 🙂 By the end of the class, many of the students are comfortable enough to share their own stories with me. Honestly, this is my favorite part of any presentation – meeting the students one-on-one!

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I wish my own children were as enthusiastic about having their picture taken with me as my students are! About half of the class is pictured here.

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I always take a very relaxed approach to presentations because the material can get extremely graphic and emotional. Reactions run the gamut; there are students who spend the entire class period furiously scribbling notes while others will cringe, get visibly agitated or need to leave the room to compose themselves. There are always survivors of violence in the room – always – and Dr. Noelle St. Vil’s Social Work class at the University at Buffalo was no different.

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It was very early on in this “public speaking” thing that I realized that I was going to need to sprinkle in a little levity here and there. When I smile, the students smile. When I poke fun, they laugh. It’s an essential element to making sure that the students can “hear” me. Yes, I tell them, what I lived through is terrible and no, it wasn’t fair and yes, I bear the scars of it – but – my life continues to move on and here are some of the dozens of silly, crazy, ridiculous stopping blocks I’ve had to overcome in the years since I left.

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Many graduate students are already working in the field; staffing shelters, working at local help centers or with law enforcement. Their timely, real-world anecdotes are helpful in generating discussion that goes beyond my experience and what they’ve learned about in class.

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I’d never Skyped a class before, so I was more that a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to gain the emotional momentum needed to connect with the students. Happily, within minutes I realized that it wasn’t going to be an impediment; the students in Dr. Angie Moe’s SOC 4950 Family Violence Class at Western Michigan University made the best of the unusual set-up and filled the hour with really thoughtful, specific questions.

Presentation Reviews

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20161228_090617“I have been talking to my class as well as to folks who attended your evening presentation.  Everyone has shared thoughts that contained words like ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ and ‘powerful’.  It is clear to me that your visit made an important contribution to their learning.” – Dr. James Sutton, Professor of Sociology, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

“I really appreciated how you were able to talk about such difficult material in an honest and down-to-earth manner. The Skype session with you was clearly the stand-out class period of the semester. It’s certainly not every day that college students can speak directly to the author of one of their reading assignments! You both reinforced and enhanced our collective understanding of the dynamics involved with intimate partner violence. We admire and respect you greatly.” – Dr. Angie Moe, Professor of Sociology, Western Michigan University

“I assigned ‘Leaving Dorian’ to my graduate level Domestic Violence course. From the very start, my students were enthralled and invested in her story. This was not only apparent in our class discussions, but also when Linda visited my class as a guest speaker; the three-hour time frame for the one-day per week course seemed to pass within minutes rather than hours, as we sat in a circle informally discussing her book. Linda’s visit was invaluable, not only to my students, but also to me. So much of what Linda shared in her visit with students aligned with my course material. Linda’s name frequently arose in classes after her visit, as many of the students (as well as myself) referenced Linda in subsequent classes. The ability to use examples from Linda’s book and her class visit was incredibly beneficial when teaching challenging concepts and driving home important points. Also, I find it important to note that at the end of the semester, when I asked for informal feedback on the course, every one of my students mentioned that Linda’s book and her visit were “absolute musts” for my future classes. Without a doubt, I firmly believe Linda positively impacted my students’ understanding of domestic violence, and cannot wait to have her visit Niagara University in future semesters!” – Dr. Dana Radatz, Professor of Criminology, Niagara University

From Student Evaluations Administered After Presentations:

The one thing I found most helpful about this presentation was:  “The openness of the conversation. We were allowed to ask whatever questions we were wondering.” – “How honest and understanding she was.” – “The statistics she gave were eye-opening and I really loved that she gave out packets of data, as well. She made her story so open and honest to us; it made it so real and incredibly motivating.” – “It was more of a discussion and not a strict lecture. She was very personable, funny and friendly.” – “The open discussion format. I liked the different directions that the presentation went in due to our ability to ask questions continuously.”  – “Her candor and honesty about a very difficult topic.” – “How open and honest she encouraged us to be.”

Other comments: “I love your style of presentation. Amazing experience!”  – “I really enjoyed your presentation and conversation we had!” – “I think your current role in the world is very important. Everyone needs to hear your story and other stories like it so we may be one step closer to implementing change.” – “I am so very thankful for Linda Dynel and strong individuals like herself who so bravely share their stories to educate and help complete strangers. It is because of people like her that brings bursts of light to those who feel they are alone in the dark.” – “Emotional and wonderful experience. Painful but cathartic.” – “So awesome! This book should be required by all colleges for their students to read!” – “This was an amazing presentation and I felt like it improved me as a person and as a social worker.” 

24th Annual Writer’s Digest Awards Review

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bookcoverFrom Judge #53, Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, Category: Life Stories.

“Whenever a woman writes about her experience in being in an abusive relationship, she helps other women. This is exactly what Dynel has done with Leaving Dorian, which seems to be the author’s story written in third person, as if it were a novel. I appreciated the choice the author made in this perspective, for it conveys the necessity of a woman distancing herself from an abusive past. Dynel has done a brilliant job. The reader is immediately hooked by Kassy’s circumstances. Dynel does not depict Kassy as spineless victim, but she definitely is a girl who has had to deal with less than easy circumstances while still quite young. There seems to be limitless ways a woman can end up with an abusive man, and Dorian is both unique and classic in the ways he chooses to dominate. His manipulation of religion, his threats, and his belief he is always right are recognizable. I liked the way the author went back and forth from her escape with the little girls to the backdrop story of how she was snared to begin with. Dynel achieved this balance beautifully, succeeding where many other writers have failed. This book cannot fail to find a following, once a female audience is informed of its existence! The only mistake I found was in the spelling of a variation of the verb “to lie” (i.e. to recline) on page 139. “Laid down” should be “lay down.” I think better cover art could be made for a book as good as this. What I see is a bit plain.”

*27/30 points

So, a few of my own thoughts on the above review: On the whole, it’s fantastic. The judge has nothing but positive things to say about the structure, organization, pacing, plot and story appeal, character appeal and development as well as “voice” and writing style, and in fact gave me “5” in all of those categories, “1” being “Needs Improvement” and “5” being “Outstanding”. One grammatical error was found, which brought my spelling, punctuation and grammar score down to a “4”.

I used to stress about missing details like this, but over the last three years my husband has taken to pointing out misspellings and grammatical errors accidentally left in books by professional copy editors, so – I simply don’t take it to heart anymore when I miss what should be an obvious error, no matter how large or small. (Even in this case – throughout the review the Judge erroneously refers to my main character “Kassy”.) In the nearly three years since Leaving Dorian was published, no one has ever mentioned that error, so I’m thrilled that it was brought to my attention. The beauty of being a self-published author is that an error like this can easily be corrected. What irritates me, though, is what always irritates me when I enter my work into any generic sort of contest – the lack of understanding or consideration about why certain details of my book are done the way that they are.

The judge gave me a “3” on cover design, stating that it seemed “a bit plain”.

OK…. *deep sigh*…

When I sat down to write Leaving Dorian, I didn’t just bang out a manuscript, blithely choose cover art and throw it out onto the market for purchase. I researched. I looked up everything from the proper way to write a memoir to standard font styles and sizes and paper choices. I also looked at the cover designs of other memoirs about sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Do you know what I found? Every other memoir’s cover design was dark and brooding. Blacks, dark purples, reds and grays were the colors of choice for these stories. The artwork often times depicted violence or had dreary, foreboding images. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the cover design for a story which is subtitled, “A Memoir of Hope” was going to need to be very different than anything else that was on the market.

There’s also a lot written in writer-y digests about “knowing your target audience”. This directive gave me pause on more than one occasion, primarily because to say that I had a “target audience” was a bit of an understatement. Leaving Dorian was not just written with victims and survivors of domestic violence in mind; I wrote it for them. Leaving Dorian is my gift to them. Leaving Dorian says, “I see you.” It says, “I believe you.” It cries out, “I found my way to freedom and you can, too! Reach out. Seek help. Believe.”

The cover of Leaving Dorian is done in soft neutrals and pastels because if “hope” had a color, it wouldn’t be that of a bruise. The artwork is neat and clean, almost minimalist, because chaos isn’t. The type face is 12 point font (like that of a young adult novel) and not 8 or 9, as is standard in books written for adults, because I remembered very well trying to fill out forms and read documents when I first left my ex-husband. The tiny fonts were frustrating to manage when my brain was awash in the thousand thoughts that I had to think every minute just to manage myself in the “outside” world after being penned in an abusive relationship for nearly a decade.  The pages are off white and soft to the touch because when trying to focus, pages that look and feel like they’re out of a textbook can be intimidating. Leaving Dorian was structured to be inviting because it can’t do its job if it’s not read.

Thank you to Judge #53 for what is, on the whole, a very thoughtful, thorough, fantastic  review! And I’ll take the “3” on cover design, because I’m keeping it 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

J-E-R-K

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Do you know a J-E-R-K?

“J” is for JUSTIFICATION. This person believes that everything they do, say, think and believe is right and beyond reproach. This person is literally never wrong. If you dare point out a flaw in their actions, words, thought process or belief system, you immediately become the enemy and are accused of trying to hurt them, tear them down psychologically or emotionally or (the most egregious of all sins) embarrass them.

“E” is for ENTITLEMENT. This person believes that it is their right to do with you whatever they like. Every part of you, from the most intimate pieces of yourself (your body, self-concept, self-esteem, value system, ideology) to those things that you cherish outside of yourself (relationships with family members, friends, pets; even your belongings) are theirs to criticize, manipulate, diminish or destroy.

“R” is for REALITY. This person believes that they, alone, are allowed define and judge the way in which you experience every situation. Your opinion doesn’t matter. How you feel doesn’t matter. They will tell you what you experienced and how you ought to feel about it and if you refuse to see things their way, you are deemed wrong, stupid, obtuse, phony, crazy, etc.

“K” is for KNOWLEDGE. At times, this person will try to convince you that they are so in love/angry/drunk/overwhelmed that they lose control of themselves. Other times they’ll want you to believe that the controlling, hurtful way that they treat you is for your own good or that you bring it upon yourself. This person tries to cut friends, family members, work mates and neighbors out of your life under the guise of “loyalty” to them or to the relationship, because they understand that knowledge is power. They don’t want you to know anyone else’s opinion of the relationship.

There’s another word that perfectly describes someone who’s a “J-E-R-K”. Seven letters, starts with an “A” and ends with an “E”. (No; not that word – but good guess and accurate description nonetheless!) The word I’m talking about is “A-B-U-S-I-V-E”. If your significant other fits even one of the descriptions above, it might be time to sit down and talk to someone. There are help centers available in every city as well as online (www.ncadv.org, www.nomore.org, www.safehorizonorg ). No one deserves to be treated the way that the J-E-R-K in your life is treating you. You deserve better than that. Please reach out for confidential help and please don’t wait. Life is too short to waste hanging out with a J-E-R-K.