We’re already half-way through October.  This very month, not just this year but a few years in recent history, has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Last week I wrote about DVAM and Halloween, and today’s related topic is one I always find interesting. About 9 years ago I went through a DV training. Not a one-day workshop, but a whole course on domestic violence. The purpose of the course was to educate community members about DV, also train people who worked in other agencies about best practices when their clients were also struggling with DV, and to help the agency running the course develop their volunteer base. It was something I’d wanted to do for years, because the single biggest risk of physical harm facing women is DV.  Just over half of murdered women are killed by a current or former intimate partner. As a self-defense teacher, it seemed important to understand more about that risk and the social dynamics around it.

So I went through the course, and spent about 4 or 5 years as a volunteer. For the first year I staffed the crisis line. The crisis line is a great resource for people needing some immediate help. The single most common call we got, the most common question question asked, was “is there room in your shelter?” And the single most common answer we had was no, please call back later today or tomorrow. Because there was usually no room.  That was the answer, while I was there, almost all the time.

What I find interesting was that there was such a large demand for shelter, yet the vast majority of time we turned people away. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense — if there’s such a demand, why is there so little supply? I don’t know the answer.

When I think about self-care — and finding a safe place to stay certainly is self-care — I see five levels. The first is self-soothing behavior, what you can do to help manage the way you express or experience emotions (such as fear, anger, worry, sadness) to calm yourself. There’s resiliency activities, which have a large overlap with self-soothing behavior but they’re generally done on a regular basis to help the future you become more resilient; this often includes regular exercise, healthy eating habits, meditation, and creative activities. The third level is when do you seek the support of a professional: therapist, doctor, attorney, victim advocate, law enforcement.

The final two levels are not immediate personal self-care, but they create the conditions that determine what self-care options are available to you. Institutional support generally backs your professionals and volunteer advocates. And structural/societal care is the bigger picture of what projects are deemed by “society” as more important. That’s where we find, relative to need, few resources allocated to domestic violence agencies in terms of budget that could fund it, such as for real estate, salaries for staff, food and clothing (not just shelter), legal aid, and programming to help clients get back on their feet.

How do we change that? We in Washington State have our voter pamphlets, and ballots are on their way. Do your due diligence. Make it a resiliency activity, which means you’ll do this every year. Which candidates are supporting funding and programs you care about? Support them, and vote.

You can also take our six-week course, Self-Defense 101. We go into on the dynamics of domestic and dating violence, on recognizing the red flags of abusive behavior how to navigate some of the landmines around DV and our legal system, because once you get into it, it’s not pretty at all. Next 101 classes will begin in January/February 2022, next year already!

Stay safe, live life!

Good morning!  Today is Wednesday October 6, 2021.  The touch of the autumn air is chilly and wet, a relief after this summer’s record heat. Leaves, turning brilliant reds, yellows and orange, are just beginning to drift to earth. Halloween, just one evening of ghosts and ghouls, spirits and spectres, will be here in the wink of an eye.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Unlike Halloween, though, domestic violence is not limited to October, nor should we be aware only these 31 days.

Domestic violence is a wraith that stalks its prey all year long. Abuse victims can be haunted even after the relationship ends: they are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety than are others, less able to form long-term loving relationships, and more likely to engage in harmful, high-risk behaviors, according to the DHHS Office of Women’s Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Life during this pandemic has exacerbated incidents of intimate partner violence.

In the 1960s/70s the phrase “the personal is political” gained traction among feminists as women recognized that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month - learn some of the warning signs!individual incidents and abuses were commonplace, even routine, and were socially OK and supported by legal conventions, which is what is meant by systematic. Women put up with them for various reasons. We heard that’s just the way it was, or that’s just life as a woman in modern America so deal with it. Or “boys will be boys.” Or there would be consequences, such as sexual assault, physical battery, or even murder (even today half of female homicide victims in America are killed by a current or former intimate partner). Those possibilities would hang in the air, unseen and unnamed, a vile apparition always making its presence felt even if invisible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are also significant financial costs of intimate partner violence. They estimate the lifetime costs for women IPV survivors can top $100,000 (the estimated lifetime costs for male IPV survivors is $23,000).

We touch on this issue in our self-defense classes, especially the six-week course, as women’s single largest risk of physical assault is from domestic violence.

If you know a someone in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, download this info flyer and send it to them, if it’s safe to do so (remember, abusers often try to monitor and control all communications). If you are into planning and lists, take a look at this inventory for safety planning. Send it to their friends also — they probably feel like they’re watching a bad horror movie, powerless to intervene. In fact, send it to anyone you know. It may save them from this nightmare later. Do your part to exorcise this demon now, for the whole year.

Stay safe, live life.

CBS, what WERE you thinking?

You had a real opportunity, and you blew it. Big time.

Perhaps you didn’t realize that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You had an opportunity during the October 16, 2009 episode of The Ghost Whisperer to say something intelligent about dating, relationships, and abuse. But you blew it.

Lots of things about The Ghost Whisperer I don’t understand. Like whether Melinda’s husband is dead or alive, or both. Like how she suddenly has a five-year-old son and I never ever realized she was pregnant. Or like how merely sad ghosts can’t pick up material objects, while the violent ones throw things.

But I do understand the warning signs, or “red flags,” of potential abuse.

Melinda’s sidekick Delia decides to stop dating Roger for screaming at the maitre’d in a restaurant. OK, the maitre’d insisted on opening a “special” bottle of wine for them even after they declined, and then spilled it all over Delia. Roger jumped to his feet, and let loose a verbal barrage (fortunately appropriate in language for prime time TV). As her mother told her, don’t date a man who’s mean to the waiter, and Delia saw a mean side she that just didn’t appeal to her. So she does not return his phone calls.

Then strange things begin to happen. On a show about talking to ghosts, that’s to be expected. But these strange goings-on were from a live person. Rose petals and roses on Delia’s car. A shower of violet flowers. A mime sent to pantomime love. Delia suspects Roger is trying to woo her back.

Melissa encourages her to reconsider: “Are you sure you don’t want to give Roger a second chance? But it proves he has a romantic side, and besides you told me that that maitre’d was obnoxious and had spilled things on you before! So, maybe, Roger was just, I don’t know, protecting you.”

Melinda had this GREAT opportunity to affirm Delia’s intuition. She could have said something like, “Delia, he’s still really interested in you and wants a second chance. If you do go out with him again, just look out for controlling behavior, it could foreshadow an abusive relationship.” I’m sure you have at least a couple of scriptwriters clever enough to turn some of the behaviors of potential abuse into scintillating TV dialog. (If you want to know what they are, download this Signs of Batterers list and Campus DV Safety flyer. Or read Domestic Violence for Beginners, by Alisa Del Tufo.)

But no, she made excuses for a man she did not know, evoking romance.

Sure romance is sexier than domestic violence. But when all rates of violence in this country are at 40 year lows EXCEPT for domestic violence, when domestic violence is the #1 lifetime hazard facing women today, and when in all of my self-defense classes for teen girls most already know of friends who’ve been in abusive relationships, popular TV shows have just got to do a better job of making at least a discussion of abuse more mainstream. Abuse is not romantic, to either the living or the dead.

[To watch this episode, paste this URL in your browser: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/ghost_whisperer/video/?pid=fVzaCoSHqUzAFBWSWl5NfT_DYYVFwRmt]

October. The leaves turn brilliant reds, yellows and orange, shrivel and curl, and drift off their tree limbs. The touch of October air is chilly and crisp. Halloween is almost here, one evening of ghosts and ghouls, spirits and specters. The next morning it’s November, time for harvest and Thanksgiving, and Halloween slithers back into the abyss . . . til the next year.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We all know that domestic violence isn’t limited to October, nor should we be aware only these 31 days. Domestic violence is a wraith that walks the earth always. Abuse victims can be haunted for a long time afterwards: they are three times as likely to engage in risky sex and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than other women; they are also twice as likely to report that their activities are limited by physical, mental or emotional problems and 50 percent more likely to use a cane, wheelchair or other disability equipment, a recent CDC survey found.

If you know a college-age woman in an abusive relationship, please download this flyer on dating violence and send it to her. Send it to her friends also. In fact, send it to any college-age girl you know. It may save her from this nightmare later. Do your part to exorcise this demon now.