Short-Term Emergency Escape Plans From Abusers

In Emergency Plan = Emotional Pain, Kellie Jo writes, “It’s one thing to know you need an emergency plan to escape possible domestic abuse, and another thing entirely to create it.” And then she proceeds to describe how her attempts went.

The first failed because it wasn’t well thought out enough — in fact, as she states, it was only a plan to get out of the house, get temporary relief, not leave her marriage.

I remember too many of those episodes myself; they’re hard to talk about.

The worst was the time I managed to get out of the apartment, shoeless but with my coat, and went to hide behind the small building behind the pool. It had a shoveled path, so there were no footprints for him to follow, and allowed me to remain unseen (by him and anyone else at the complex). On a slight hill, I had a view, just over my shoulder, of anyone approaching — as long as I sat in a giant snow drift. I kept myself warm by swigging from the bottle of vodka I had managed to swipe off the counter on my way out the door. I felt victorious when I saw him stomping out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him, on his way to the parking lot. I remember smugly giggling when he squealed out onto the main road.

But then I knew I’d have to go back; shoeless and tipsy in a snowbank was not how I wanted to be found — or how I wanted to die.

From then on, I was prepared. I kept a cheap paperback novel in one pocket of my old coat, gloves and a hat in the other, and slip-on shoes in the sleeves. I’d escape to the drive-up window area of a bank, read by the light of the (fortunately not-oft used) ATM, feeling vindicated if not protected by the angel that was the bank’s overhead camera. If he came and got me, if he attacked, if I disappeared one day, all would be on tape.

Escape Key Tee
But, like Kellie Jo, this was an escape from immediate danger, a respite plan, not a safety plan to get out of the relationship.

It sounds crazy to those who don’t live with abuse or an abuser, but these tricks often save our lives. At least in the short term. And they build our escape muscles.

We not only flee danger, but give ourselves the time and space to think. We think about what we need and create plans when we sit alone in our cars, under the shield of bank cameras, or swigging booze to dull the pain sitting without shoes in snowbanks. Those small successes also are proof that we can get away — and one day, when we get the right plan, we will get away for real.

Image Credits: The Escape Key by schmang.

Hope For My Own Healing

The Hope For Healing blogathon was harder than I thought…

I thought I could, by dedicating a day to the subject of domestic violence, finally be personal about my own experiences, but that was not the case.

At first I thought it was because the world, my life, wouldn’t stop for me for 24 hours (despite scheduling the date, family came in from out of town and visiting to-dos could not be put off); it may have made it more challenging, but the real reason is that domestic violence is a very personal & emotional issue for me.

Every time I begin to tell/type my story (or parts of it), I hear the heckling from the jerks — you know the ones, the ones who belittle and devalue your statements because they are anecdotal, not statistical — and they belittle & devalue you right along with their “complaints” of non-data to support yourself.

I know these are the same people who call you a “fat ugly hag” because you dare to use facts to stand up for your rights, that these people just plain refuse to listen, let alone hear, and so I should easily dismiss their crude, hurtful statements as the weak defensive posturing (& refusal to become educated) that it is. As a feminist I’m used to these jerks. Most of the time I don’t mind them. But confessing painful truths while knowing how you’ll be attacked for it is far more difficult than intellectual debating or education dissemination.

Truth be told, it’s not easy to say the things I want to say anyway, but knowing what will be said…

I want to be braver than this. I hope I will one day.

I could view my inability to meet my own objective during those 24 blogathon hours as a failure — but I don’t.

What I’ve learned from this experience is vital to my own growth and healing.

No, I’m not fully healed from this — if one ever fully heals from domestic violence — and accepting that is part of the process.

Realizing yet another place I’m stuck at is disheartening, but one needs to see the problem for what it is in order to solve it. And so realizing just how held back I am from telling my story, using my voice, helps me see the issue for what it is — a fear of judgment, of victim blaming, of retaliation…

But if I want to move on, if I want to assist other victims, and prevent others from being victimized, I will need to address this all. And sooner is better than later.

Up & At ‘Em

I am up at 8 A.M. On a Saturday. For the blogathon. About an issue that’s very had to talk about.

I sit here and try to wake up.

My husband is laughing so hard at lolcats on Caturdays I fear he will choke on his peanut butter toast — toast which, by the way, he butters prior to slathering on the peanut butter. Something I and his trying-to-lower-his-cholesterol doctor remind him is not a good idea, but hubby does it anyway…

Which leaves me, as the wifey, to chose between naggin’ him (and all that implies of his reaction to me as “the nag”) and considering life as a widow.

Some choice.

From the sound of his laughter, I’m pretty sure my husband has and continues to suffer from some sort of oxygen deprivation.

This may explain the, ah, immature, developmentally delayed laughter at Caturdays.

And his resistance to addressing his cholesterol issue by only putting peanut butter or butter on his toast.

…Oh, I’m wondering if our marriage will survive this day *wink*

PS use this special link to — clicking it and performing searches will raise money for HopeForHealing.Org.

I Interrupt National Romance Week For Some News…

At 8:00 A.M. on Saturday, August 15, 2009, Hope For Healing will be hosting their first ever Blogathon — 24 hours of blogging dedicated to raising awareness of & funds for helping victims of domestic violence. And I’ll be participating.

Twolia has generously & graciously sponsored me for this Blogathon & I’ll do everything I can to stay up & blogging for 24 hours. What can you do?

I’m so glad you asked!

* Read what I have to say (I know it may not be easy to read so many emotional & perhaps depressing posts; but if I’m going to pour my heart out along with educating y’all, it would be nice to know you give a crap!)

* Carry on the conversation: Post comments, Tweet, post/link at your own blog, email links to your friends & family — spread the word & let everyone you know how important the issue of domestic violence is to you and that you think it should matter to everyone else too.

* While I/we search for answers, try searching for something online… At the end of each Blogathon post there will be a special link to — clicking it and performing searches will raise money for HopeForHealing.Org. (Maybe you’ll want to debate me on a point & need some research… Maybe you want to find out just sleep deprivation does, so you’ll better understand the condition of my posts… Maybe you want to see if you can have coffee delivered to me!)

So here’s the deal for this Saturday: I stay up, confessing, educating, ranting (and I bet raving — it will be 24 hours, you know!); you read, you discuss (here, with friends & family at home, &/or out in the internets somewhere), and you perform a search (on any topic you’d like) and I’ll know you give damn about domestic violence.

More about Hope for Healing.Org: A nonprofit located in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, that works with victims of domestic violence; restores the lives of juvenile offenders; distributes Angel Food, household items and free clothing; and meets some other needs of survivors and their families on a case-by-case basis.

If I Only Had A Penis

Dear Wizard of Oz,

After hearing of your kind generosity towards straw men, lions, tin men, and stray girls & their little dogs, I was wondering if I might be granted a penis — just for a few days. And I’ll return it unused, I swear!

I just need one penis, no matter how small, to get into casting for VH1’s Tough Love 2 Men’s Panel, so that I can access & confront the Evil Witches (the show producers) & Their Flying Monkeys (Steve Ward).

If necessary, I will pour water on them.

It’s not for selfish reasons that I ask; I have to protect women, you see. And I’ll need a penis, no matter how small (a penis is a penis, after all), to get in.

So please, dear Wizard of Oz, temporarily give me a penis. I have the brains, the heart, the courage — and I know how to get back home.


Good Witch In Training, of Relationship Underarm Stick

Men Claim They Are Dumb Animals With No Ability To Control Their Violence

G, aka ToxicShockTaco, commented here about some stupid comments she’s read & frustrating conversations she’s had online which prompted her to write this blog post. Following her links, I found the usual victim blaming mentality which serves to excuse criminal acts; things which shouldn’t surprise me because they are so commonplace. But still, like G, I can’t help but feel compelled to say what I can in hopes that there’s a chance to educate.

Among “Jimbo’s Jems”:

So, I guess if a girl decided it would be cool to smear raw ground beef all over herself & walk inside a pen full of hungry lions, getting eaten alive wouldn’t be her fault either, eh?

Or, on a more plausible note, if she thought it would be cool to walk into an outlaw biker bar & strut around half naked, she wouldn’t be considered to hold one shred of responsibility for anything that happened to her there, either.


OK, don’t you love how he compares himself & men in general to a predatory beast? And how he thinks sex = food?

Yes, the sex drive is biological, like hunger; but they are neither equal in need nor imperative. And even when it comes to hunger, humans — even the male ones who joke about the 5 second rule for food on the floor, would consider the possible consequences of eating raw (or even cooked) meat they just stumbled upon.

If I were a man, I’d be insulted that you forfeit male ability to exercise self-control. As the mother of a son, I’m angry. How dare you say that penis or testosterone equals inability to control one’s self! As if being male limits a person to some sort of reptilian, reactionary response — of a violent nature yet!

Even the comparison to “outlaw bikers” is ridiculous.

First of all, the very word “outlaw” means criminal, so obviously, the matter of safety is an issue for anyone — and if he meant Outlaw with a capital “O”, well, I’m not sure that violence towards women is in the bylaws… And in either case, I don’t think I’d toss around that implication lightly. (Frankly, I suspect, Jimbo is just throwing around pejoratives, playing with fears &/or negative opinions of bikers; my personal experiences with bikers of any sort, including Outlaws with a capital “O,” have been nothing but respectful — in fact, they have been the first to back me up when a drunk jerk hasn’t backed-off when told to.)

Secondly, with regards to his questions/accusations that a woman “strutting around half-naked” in any sort of a bar believes herself free from the responsibility of the actions of others, let me help Jimbo out here. Such a woman may be risking legal actions such as “indecent,” “disorderly,” and “harassment” — not to mention just plain rude — depending upon what exactly “half-naked” is, what the location is (strippers, for example, are more than 1/2 naked and they are not allowed to be assaulted or raped), and other situational issues. But yeah, she’s not responsible for what other’s do.

Jimbo continues:

Because as we all know, a woman should be able to wear anything she damn well pleases with no thought to the possible consequences, and any consequences she may suffer, will never be considered to be even partially her responsibility, even though she engaged in behavior that expopsed her to risk to begin with.


No, of course not. A woman shouldn’t be outside wearing a bikini in temperatures 40 degrees below zero. A woman should not violate dress codes at the place of her employment. A woman should not wear clothing soaked in gasoline, even if she’s not standing next to a burning building. And there are countless other situations in which women should follow rules of safety & convention. But “scantily dressed” or even “nude” does not mean that she has put herself in the path of sexual danger — the criminals stalk her down on her path, regardless of how she is dressed.

In case you can’t see the difference between sexual assault & the to-be-expected dangers of my particular examples, let me make them clear for you. In the case of bikinis outside in winter, the elements are not controllable, so humans must dress for the weather or risk threats of exposure to the cold. In the case of employer dress codes, the employee has agreed to the dress codes and risks loss of job if they do not comply. In the case of wearing gasoline-soaked clothing, well, frankly, there’s no reason to wear it and it would be risking burns & death from a spark from anything anywhere along with other health issues — all immutable laws of science which can & should be avoided by not being an idiot. However, in the case of being “half-naked” or whatever, becoming a victim of sexual crimes is not dependent upon immutable laws of science or medicine or legal contracts — it is based upon the actions of another, something one has no control over, outside of societal agreements & norms (which criminals are willing to break, no matter how the victim is dressed or acts) or, after the fact, courtrooms.

In any other area of life, all people, both men & women, are considered responsible for their own safety & well being. If you have unprotected sex with strangers & get aids, it will be considered your fault for engaing in risky behavior. Drive without your seat belt & get injured in a wreck, even your insurance company will successfully argue in court that you share some of the responsibility for your injuries. But when it comes to fashion choices & how a gal presents herself in public, whether by dressing in skimpy, revealing clothes or posting sexually suggestive pictures of herself online, suddenly reponsibility goes out the window & it’s a ghastly social faux-pas to even hint that she may have brought something on herself by the choices she made.

OK, so my other examples should make most of this clear, but…

Are you, Jimbo, saying that if a woman is raped by a stranger who doesn’t use a condom & ends up with HIV or AIDS, that she is at fault? Maybe that’s not what you intended, but I’m pretty sure it’s implied there somewhere.

Even if it’s not, when a person consents to sex with anyone, stranger or not, condom use or not, this act of sex cannot be be compared with rape in any way because rape is by definition lacking consent, you freaking idiot!

Ditto the seatbelt. Use or non-use of a seatbelt is a matter of consent. And when a woman dresses skimpy, the only thing she is consenting to is being dressed skimpy. She is not consenting to sex. In fact, the question hasn’t even come up yet.

Assaults, rape and other sex crimes are without consent. Which means she said “No” or was unable to say “Yes” by virtue of physical or mental state, and what she had on or off is absolutely meaningless. At this point of “no” or inability to give consent, any action or continuation is solely the act & responsibility of the rapist/attacker/criminal.

He is the perpetrator, she the victim; and he carries all the blame. Period.

So yes, it is “a ghastly social faux-pas to even hint that she may have brought something on herself by the choices she made,” you misogynistic twit.

Furthermore, when talking about rape, do not condescendingly refer to females as “gals.”

Of course stalking or raping a woman is criminal & morally wrong. But that doesn’t mean that it’s just perfectly OK for women to exacerbate their chances by making themselves a target.

How do we, exactly, “exacerbate our chances” of making ourselves targets of crimes which are perpetuated by criminals who hate women? That is the million dollar question. But this has nothing to do with, as you ignorantly believe & argue, the dress, talk or actions of women/potential victims, attractive or not. Simply by opting to remain ignorant (because you refuse to read the actual information, studies &/or statistics), you show no concern for the realities and safety of women and are exposing yourself as a danger to women.

More from Jimbo:

I don’t think most women really understand what the sight of an attractive, nearly naked female does to a man with an active libido. Most men can control themselves, but some just can’t. And those guys have eyes, too.

This is the belief system which exposes you as a man afraid of women. You believe women have “power over men,” rendering men, if they are not already unable to control themselves, powerless to T&A. I guess in your fear of the big bad women, you see on the horizon nothing but a future of weakness, pity & self-loathing for you & your gender and so you think men have the right to take what they want to ward this off. But, Jimbo, that’s not a man.

In another comment, Jimbo wraps up his philosophy:

You make it sound like I’m somehow excusing the act of rape, when I’m not. But I will state categorically, any woman who goes out to nightclubs by herself or even with another girl or group of girls, dressed in an ultra short, tight-fitting skirt with a plunging neckline showing off a lot of cleavage & wearing what Amy Winehouse referred to in song as “Fuck Me Pumps”, then spends the evening hanging out & flirting with strange men, is putting herself in a dangerous situation. And if something bad happens to her, while it might not be technically “her fault”, SHE BEARS A PORTION OF THE RESPONSIBILITY for doing all the things that put her in that situation.

So let me recap too.

By removing any of the responsibility from the person who committed the crime, you are excusing the perpetrator of that crime.

By placing any percentage of the responsibility, no matter how small, on the part of the victim, you are blaming the victim.

Here’s the math, Jimbo: The person who commits rape is 100% responsible.

Of course, I’m aware that Jimbo, if he reads this or G’s post, will just sneer. He’ll likely dismiss this post with his usual rhetoric, “It’s a total lack of a sense of humor & an air of deathly self-seriousness that all feminists seem to have in common.” Or maybe he’ll just call me a “fat old hag” — because that’s the other usual attack. *yawn* (Even if I was, it wouldn’t make me any less right, pinheads.)

But maybe, just maybe, we can reach a few more enlightened folks who at least want to believe that males can & should control themselves & their predatory instincts.

Whether they do or not, they are 100% responsible for their actions.

Enough Is Enough

Now that Steve Ward & VH1 have shown us their true colors, showing indifference to concerns of misogyny and perpetuating inaccurate information which could add to the danger of women and other victims of rape, we must take action.

Before I urged you to contact VH1 via their blog and Ward at his Match Makers website, and Marge has suggested emailing VH1 at; but as we’re not making enough of an impact with those methods…

Flower Films and High Noon Entertainment are partners with VH1 to produce VH1 Tough Love. High Noon Entertainment is one of America’s largest creators of unscripted television, and Flower Films is a commercial film production company founded by Drew Barrymore & Nancy Juvonen.

Here’s how you contact them:

Flower Films
7360 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Phone: 323-876-7400
Fax: 323-876-7401

High Noon Entertainment
12233 W. Olympic Blvd
Ste 328
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone: 310-820-7500

Jeff Olde is the Executive Vice President in charge of Original Programming and Production at VH1.

VH1 Television
2600 Colorado Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phn: 310-752-8000

VH1 Television
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-846-6000

Also, Toughlove(R) America, LLC filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles on March 4th for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and related claims against MTV Networks, Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films and High Noon Entertainment based on the defendants’ unauthorized use of the trademark “Tough Love,” of which Toughlove America is the exclusive licensee.

Igal J. Feibush, the company’s CEO said, “We believe that the actions of MTV/VH1 constitute a clear violation of our federal and state intellectual property rights. We have always vigilantly protected both our mark and the integrity of our proprietary program. With this lawsuit, we intend to stop VH1 from continuing to use our name and to collect damages for the harm being done to our brand by their use of it.” Toughlove America has stopped other media companies, including Sony Corporation and News Corporation, from using its trademark.

I’m sure they’d like to know that we think the show & it’s name are linked with misogyny and rape; that ought to raise damages.

Especially as Toughlove America has plans for its own show.

Matthew Lifschultz, Partner of Toughlove America, LLC

William J. Robinson and Miriam Claire Beezy, partners in the Los Angeles office of Foley & Lardner LLP, are representing Toughlove America, LLC in the action:

William J. Robinson

Miriam Claire Beezy

As you can see, I’m no longer messing around; I’m furious & I’m serious.

I am working on a list of VH1 advertisers too; any/all help is appreciated — as are all your letters, emails and calls of outrage.

PS Steve Ward is also, apparently, on Twitter: @stevenbward.

More On Moron Steve Ward & The Rape Issue

The conversation about Steve Ward’s stupidity is continuing — thank Gawd.

But all the talk brings up a few points I’d like to clarify.

1) I was really enjoying Tough Love up to this point. Ward (and the shows producers) seemed to be operating from the old BDSM mantra, “Safe, sane & consensual,” something pretty rare in reality television.

Most remarkably seemed to be the “consensual” part, in which scripted tricks were not played on either the female participants nor their male “possibilities.” (You might be able to debate the use of physically using electronic shocks to modify the women’s behaviors, but it’s not like these were stun-guns or something. It was no worse than having Ward or another coach standing beside them going, “Bup-bup-bup!” when they did something dumb.)

Overall — and up until the misuse of “rape” (both in diagnosis and as a fear-mongering tool) — I’ve been appreciative of the combination of tact & honest bluntness in confronting the women’s baggage — both the emotional issues & the bad habits. So it pains me to see the show go so low.

2) I’m not condoning Arian’s actions. I understand them; but I do worry for her. (A number of the other women on the show too.)

But there is a clear distinction between Arian’s self-hurtful behaviors and the predatory act of rape performed by another. She, and women like her, need to be held responsible for their own actions — but not the actions of others. In this case, Arian needs to be aware of what she is doing, how her perception of the effectiveness of her defense mechanism as inaccurate and is in fact detrimental to herself and her objective of finding a good relationship. She needs to see this in order to change her behaviors — in order to bring her the happiness she both deserves and seeks.

This is what Ward was trying to do/say. And it would have been a great lesson for all those watching too. He started well, but… *shudder*

This would have been one of those educational & self-help moments; a lesson for all of us at home, young & old who need to learn it, or at least understand it. But…

3) What about the other side? When comments are left at VH1’s blog about this “educational moment”, they go something like this one by Kaya:

To all of you who are so upset with Steve, let me ask you this: is this what you will teach your daughters? That it’s okay to get drunk, dress suggestively, act in a sexually agressive manner and take home anybody you like, and nothing will ever happen to them? Many rapists are predators, just like child molestors. A child molestor will seek out a victime when he or she is most vulnerable and least able to resist. So will a rapistt; in this case, a drunk woman eager to be alone with him. Sure, the rapist is at fault, but that doesn’t make the woman less raped, beaten, emotionally scarred, dead, etc….

If you aren’t teaching your daughters how to protect themselves, you shouldn’t be a parent.

Ignoring my desire to nit-pick some of your comments on the behaviors of rapists, let me say that I agree totally that parents should teach their daughters how to protect themselves. And when, for whatever reason, they haven’t learned such things — or have adopted bad or unsafe habits — they need to be reeducated. See all of the above.

This brings up the post I linked to in my original Ward/rape post (read it; I link for a reason, yo). I too wish the world wasn’t the way it is, but it is and we need to safeguard our daughters, our girls, our women. But what are we teaching our sons, our boys, our men? (Incidentally, that same blogger — the author of the main author here at Kitsch Slapped — has a post about talking to her son about such things.)

In all this talk about rape, where’s the part about parents teaching their sons?

Kaya’s statements completely ignore the lessons here about teaching young men that rape & other abuse is not to be tolerated. Like Ward’s original statement and those of the other show participants, such language of omission isn’t an accident. They are excusing bad male behaviors, placing the blame for “enticing” upon Arian’s shoulders — and all women’s shoulders — when the blame clearly belongs to men who commit rape, assaults, and abuse of any sort.

This sort of complacent language dismisses male responsibility & diminishes the crime. It complicates how we as a society react to charges of assault & rape. It’s why Ward said what he did, why the other women agreed with him, and why the comments at VH1 have been so stupid. It perpetuates the myths, blames the victims, and places other women in danger with misinformation. All things I’ve already spoken of, so I’ll stop now. For now.

4) Because I have a lot of friends who are sex workers * (escorts, phone sex operators, erotica authors, strippers, etc.), I also feel I need to clarify my statements about Arian, her stripping, and my thoughts on what I see regarding a history of her past abuse.

This is the toughest part of the post, actually, because what I’m about to discuss is a stereotype as old as the oldest profession. And incredibly hurtful too. So, let me say for the record that abuse & sex work do not go hand in hand.

Like any segment of society, especially female segments, abuse is a part of the demographic — but abuse is not an identifying characteristic. It should not be assumed to be a part of any sex worker’s history.

Unfortunately for sex workers who wish stories that reinforce such stereotypes would just go away, Arian, the sex worker, exhibits a hyper sexuality that moves past a self-described “bad girl” let alone a content within her own skin, sex positive person.

The true tell-tale signs for me, just in this last episode, were her approval seeking glances at her fellow house mates when she sat in the “hot seat,” her upping the loud & raunchy display & talk when she found no support, and her lashing out in pain like a wounded animal when the rape word hit the fan. (As I said before, she was looking for a reason to leave and explode — but watch closely, she’s got more pain than fire in her eyes at that point.)

In past episodes, we’ve seen her both use her sexuality to garner attention and react dramatically when it’s been of no help to her. Most obvious in her dealings with Ward himself, when she feels she not only has no control but no value to Ward.

I can’t speak for sex workers everywhere, but none of the sex workers I know behave like Arian has on the show.

And so it is this set of behaviors I speak of when I say I believe Arian has been abused; these are the behaviors which are dangerous. Her employment as stripper or sex worker has nothing to do with it.

There. I think I covered every thing I intended to.

Oh, except for the fact that I still urge you to contact Steve via his matchmaking service’s site, Master Matchmakers, and VH1 to demand an apology.

* Don’t act so shocked that I know and cavort with sex workers. They are damn fine people.

If you are “just surprised to hear this because I never mentioned them before”, well, I also don’t identify my computer programming friends. I also don’t identify my gay friends, my black friends, my white traditional straight vanilla mom friends, etc. How horrible would I be if I identified them as such for no reason? I only mention such identifiers when I feel it is relevant.

UPDATE See how the story unfolds:

Mommy, Make The Bad Man Stop

Enough Is Enough

Please take action!

Yes, I’m A Domestic Violence Survivor

This snippet on page five in Wives Legal Rights, by Richard T. Gallen (Dell Purse Book, 1965), breaks my heart. Not just because it’s about what we’d now call domestic violence which “may be” pursued as a crime, but because while the publication is over 40 years old, the cultural lag is so much further behind.


You see, I’m a survivor of domestic violence. Times two. I’m not proud to say that I’ve lived it twice; but it’s important to know because once the abuse damages your world, you may be even more susceptible in the future. This is contrary to what most would call “common sense” or even a natural human instinct to survive by avoiding the warning signs (should there actually be any prior to being in the middle of the madness), but it’s the truth.

I’ll be posting a lot more about domestic violence… I hope sharing my experiences not only educate and support others living it — or even provide a means to strengthen my own voice on a subject I’ve long been afraid to speak of outside of court rooms and therapist offices — but that talking about this serves as a catalyst for awareness and change from the rest of the world who feels they are exempt for the blight. Whether they know it or not, they are part of the problem.

And yes, if that feels accusatory, like I’m pointing a finger at you, I am. Too many people are locking their doors and windows under the mistaken assumption that they are then safe (which is so not what the numbers say). And when they do so, they lock out the realities, putting themselves and their children at risk as well as perpetuating the myths and, by placing judgments on those involved (including the victims), they further allow domestic violence to live — not in dark corners or under rocks, but in the light of day.

You have been put on notice.

13 Signs You’re In A Toxic Relationship

Thirteen Signs You’re In A Toxic Relationship

1 Most, if not all, of your family and friends do not like or trust your partner. This can be a tricky one to recognize for several reasons. Parents, especially, may not state their lack of trust directly because they know that in our state of love & infatuation we romanticize the “you and me against the world” mentality — they also know that this is something which the toxic partner will exploit, driving you faster away from them and into the toxic person’s grasp. Some relatives and friends may know something is ‘wrong’ but won’t know just how to prove it… But if you have people you trust warning you — even if they can offer little proof — you should continue to trust those closest to you and question this new relationship.

2 There are clearly two sets of rules, one for you & one for him, and both are set by him. Most of these things will be seen first in the form of jealousy. And in the beginning, such things will be written off as misunderstandings in the ‘getting to know you’ phase, and the drama can be seen as terribly romantic and passionate. He may even tell you that he reacts this way because of what some former girlfriend (that bitch!) did to him. Eventually, though, he will be so jealous that every last detail about how you look is a fine line between being attractive enough to please him and being a whore; he, on the other hand, may come and go as he pleases and affairs are just something you’ll have to forgive and forget, either because you were fighting at the time, or he was drunk, or he’s just a man who needs your help. You’ll become so anxious to understand his rules and avoid his reactions, that you don’t know what is worse, leaving the house alone or going out with him — so you settle for staying home and letting him go out alone because it’s less likely to upset him.

3 He will want to move in or get married quickly. He may say he’s never been so in love, or he may suggest it for economical reasons — after all, you spend all your time together — but what he wants is more access to you.

4 Once you are together, the toxic partner will disrespect and dismiss all things ‘you.’ All things you will be stupid, dumb, worthless, and on & on. He will belittle you, your body, your gender, your jokes, your hobbies, your family & friends. He will belittle you when alone, he will belittle you in front of his family, his friends, in public in front of strangers — but not so fiercely, or directly, in front of your family & associates because he is smart enough to if not charm them, then at least to remove any suggestion that he is anything other than a gem. That way, should you complain, you will not be believed. He will dismiss your upset over breaking or loss of your things. He will disrespect your privacy, right down to the most intimate bodily functions. He will ignore & dismiss your complaints with a wave of the hand — if you are lucky. (See #6, #8, #10)

5 Your partner monitors your spending, phone calls, mail, computer access, etc., and gives you time allotments for finishing errants and other tasks, especially those performed outside the home or out of his sight. My ex went to far as to call what few friends I did have along with all of his friends to find out where I was if I was not back from an errand within 20 minutes — round trip. I also had to account for all money spent to the nearest 25 cents.

6 You find yourself no longer participating in activities you once enjoyed. At first you don’t see that you’ve quietly acquiesced bits of your life; you just think you two are spending all your time together — how romantic. Ugh. I gave up browsing in bookstores & the library — those time limits vanished too quickly to really browse. I gave up classes & groups, such as pottery class and book clubs, because he thought that stuff was stupid. I also gave up shooting pool with friends — even when out with him — because other men might notice me.

7 Even though your finances are supposed to be shared, he will control the spending, the accounts, access to the money. He will play daddy with the money, holding your Barnes & Noble gift cards in his wallet for you, “Because you know how absent minded you are, dear.” (This way he not only scores the gift cards, but discredits you along the way.) He will use those gift cards when he wants to, without apology. I remember one Christmas he sent me out with my credit card (one I had in my name before we were married) to buy all the Christmas presents — and then he refused to pay one cent of that bill. I had to beg to earn the money from him to pay it off.

8 You find yourself isolated, alienated &/or cut-off from family and friends. If stopping all your usual activities and socializing habits hasn’t already alienated you from your family and friends, he will start misunderstandings and fights between you and your relatives and friends. When my friends called, my ex used to pretended to be talking to me while passing me the phone saying horrid things such as, “I’m not going to tell her you don’t want to talk to her,” or, “That Cathy you call ‘The Cow’ is on the phone for you,” etc. I didn’t know any of this until after the divorce, of course. Some of us never know why or how… We just find ourselves isolated, without a support system, in a world dominated & controlled by him.

9 You find yourself flinching, cringing or otherwise fearful even if your partner has never struck you. A part of you recognizes what’s to come, even if you don’t cognitively think it — or refuse to see it.

10 When he hurts &/or disappoints you, the conversation’s focus becomes all about him. Not just an angry lecture about what he wants and demands and how you have disappointed him (that usually is part of the abuse activities); but he becomes contrite, even cries, asking you to forgive and even to save him. It’s so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I remember once, holding my ex while he cried, soothing him telling him everything would be alright — this after he beat me with balled fists for the first time. He will make many promises to be good, to get counseling, to make it up to you — none of which will ever be carried out past a smile and some trinket. But by this time, you’ll be so relieved to have him happy — or at least not agitated and angry — that you’ll accept it just to keep the peace.

11 You find yourself changing shifts at work (if allowed to work outside the home), denying yourself regular sleep habits, to accommodate his schedule and wishes. If you have children, you will also find yourself, however unconsciously, trying to be a protective shield between them and the abuser. It is also another reason why you do not leave the house to attend activities with friends — because you do not want to leave the children home alone with him.

12 He threatens you, your children &/or your pets with violence. My ex used to threaten my then-grade-school-aged daughter that her cat would be dead by the time she came home from school; neither she nor I can remember why. Violent threats are not just statements the abuser is willing to make, he’s willing to carry them out too. When he does, you might not remember why either.

13 You, your children, &/or pets are hit, shoved, raped, or otherwise assaulted.

If you recognize any of these signs in your relationship, get out of the relationship. If you are living with a controller, abuser or toxic partner, seek assistance. Feel free to contact me and visit Women Against Domestic Violence. And if you are on a computer that he has access to, clear your broswer cache!

If you see these signs in a family member or friend’s relationship, take great care in what you do. Here’s a great tip sheet for you.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! UPDATE: The original site appears to be down, so please check!

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Who Has Questions?

When I decided to start this blog I figured that I’d need a base of questions to work with. Sure, I have my ‘classics’ to share with you (and I will), but it could take awhile before those of you reading here are brave enough to send in your questions (more info on that here). So I gathered twenty of my friends and assigned them the task of filling out a blank piece of paper with one of the following:

a) a relationship question they’ve always wanted to ask, but been to shy/embarrassed/uncomfortable to ask

b) a description of a relationship issue or dating situation they’ve seen or known about which had them thankful they weren’t a part of

c) the story of a past relationship issue or dating situation which they think they should have handled differently

d) any sort of relationship ‘stumper’ they’d like to test me on

I thought I’d have problems with them filling out the papers — I even had a complicated plan for them to use my computer, instructions for folding the paper the same way, so that I couldn’t tell who wrote them. But amazingly I received 36 good questions and lots of loud laughter.

What this tells me is that your friends probably have a lot more questions & concerns than you know about — they’re just waiting to be asked.

We usually behave on the old friendship rule of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — meaning we wait to be asked to offer our advice, but may of our friends are just waiting to be asked to unburden themselves. So, this busy holiday season, you may want to make the time to ask your friends for their advice (you’ll find they are rather willing) as well as make sure your friends know you are really open to helping them with their relationship stuff. If nothing else, you’ll improve your relationship with your friends.

Anyway, all this gives you an idea of where this blog is heading, what you can expect.  There will be lots of questions, lots of answers, and lots of laughter.