I’m not a football fan.  But, because I’m not a supporter of domestic violence, I was glad to hear that both Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and manager John Schneider avowed they would never allow an abuser to play for them.

Yet here we are today, being asked by the Seahawks’ new draft pick, Frank Clark, to have faith in him.

The selection of Clark as a Seahawks draft choice is dogged by charges that he struck his girlfriend, Diamond Hurt.  They got into a fight in a hotel, someone called the police, the officer determined there had been some physical violence and was obliged to arrest Clark.  Larry Stone’s article in The Seattle Times lays out more of the evidence and issues, and you should take a look at that.

One quote from Stone’s article bears special notice.  He cites John Schneider as saying, “I would say there are always two sides to a story. You have to go through the whole thing. You can’t just go with one police report. You have to talk to everybody involved. Everybody.”  Stone also notes that they did not talk to Diamond Hurt.  So much for everyone?

[Update Tuesday May 5: A subsequent article in today’s Seattle Times revealed that those Seahawk representatives charged with investigating this incident in fact did not talk to any witnesses, of which there were several.  Except for Frank Clark.]

That is not surprising, as another article noted that Hurt didn’t want to press charges.  She may have not wanted to harm Clark’s nascent football career, especially in light of the Ray Rice publicity.  A very common response in abusive relationships.

Again, I don’t know much about football.  But I do know something about abusive relationships and why they exist.  Abusers too often continue to abuse because they can.  It is a learned behavior, it gets them what they want, and there are often few if any meaningful consequences for them.  That’s because often people around them make choices that help minimize and mask the “not-so-bad” behavior.”

Renowned psychologist Paul Ekman has written, in his book Telling Lies, that intelligent people can sometimes fail to see blatant untruths because they have a vested interest in believing the lie, in “collusively helping to maintain the lie, to avoid the terrible consequences of uncovering the lie.”

It can be easy to minimize abuse when the abuser is someone you like, or you think can perform well for your organization.  It can be easy to minimize a police report when that certain someone has skills you want to exploit.  Domestic violence is perpetuated not only by those doing the hitting, but by those with a vested interest in other aspects of the abusers’ lives.  By those well-meaning ancillary enablers who want to give some a second (or third?  fourth?  fifth?) chance, but up teaching that abusers can get away with a LOT of bad behavior before suffering serious consequences.

We will probably never know for sure what happened that evening.  In general, however, by the time a relationship gets to physical violence, there’s been a lot of power and control and manipulation happening.  And physical violence in a relationship, once it begins, happens again, and again.  As a self-defense teacher, my suggestion to students is to recognize the relationship for what it is, and plan how to keep themselves safer.

Going forward could be challenging.  The first step I’d like to see is Carroll, Schneider, and the Seahawks as an organization express accountability for their decision to draft a player who, by witness accounts, did hit his then-girlfriend.  I’d like to see them own up to not really interviewing “everybody.”   Second, I’d like to see them discuss how to hold Clark accountable going forward.  Finally, I’d like to see Clark take seriously being accountable for his behavior, which would involve being publicly honest about that evening’s events.  Because, whether or not I follow football, my community is affected by prominent public figures publicly deny abusive behavior.

Seattle’s Northwest Network is now offering a series of free webinars on various topics related to domestic violence and beyond.  I participated in the first one, which was a powerful combination of basic DV education and empowerment model advocacy.

What is “beyond DV?”  Why, healthy relationships, of course!  It’s not sufficient to not be in an abusive relationship, right?  I can’t speak for you, but I want my relationships to be fun and fulfilling.  How about you?

NW Network also has a library of on-demand webinars that are directly relevant to any self-defense instructor  — among the topics are strangulation injuries, and intimate partner stalkers, and battered women charged with crimes.  Not exactly light viewing, but highly educational.

http://nwnetwork.org/news-and-events/

From their website:  Founded in 1987 by lesbian survivors of battering, the NW Network works to end abuse in our diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. As an organization founded by and for LGBT survivors, we’re deeply committed to fostering the empowerment of all survivors of abuse.  The NW Network increases our communities’ ability to support the self-determination and safety of bisexual, transgendered, lesbian and gay survivors of abuse through education, organizing and advocacy. We work within a broad liberation movement dedicated to social and economic justice, equality and respect for all people and the creation of loving, inclusive and accountable communities.

I (almost) completed DAWN’s 50 hour training to work as a volunteer domestic violence advocate, and today was my first day on the crisis line. Actually, I didn’t talk to any of the callers — I shadowed an advocate to listen in on what she’d say to callers, did data entry on each call, learned about available resources, etc.

This was a busy morning, with one call following another following another. Moms worried about their daughters’ relationships, a woman looking for immediate shelter, a soon-to-be-ex-wife looking for financial help to get through a dragged-out divorce. There’s a lot of need out there, at the very least for accurate information on the law, your rights, and access to the myriad of resources available.  It feels good to be able to connect a person in need with the help they are seeking, to bring just a bit of relief to someone in the anxiety of crisis.

The next volunteer training is in late June.  There’s always the need for volunteers, so if you are looking for a super-worthwhile cause, this could be it.  I’ll be checking the schedule to make up those classes I missed while out of town, so maybe I’ll see you there.

But money can buy anything else.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I’m taking domestic violence advocacy training through DAWN (Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, serving South King County). We cover lots of topics: social justice, economic justice, basic family law, basic protection orders, suicide, teen dating violence, batterer intervention, safety planning, chemical dependency, trauma, LGBTQ issues, religion, available resources, . . . it goes on and on, deeper and deeper.

And money is a recurring theme. Access to resources is probably the most important factor affecting what you can do to keep safe. Abusers very often try to control access to bank accounts, funds, and pocket change.

In all my self-defense classes, I tell students that they need to have their very own bank accounts. Their name, and only their name, should be on it. This account needs to have enough money to live on for 6 months to a year. This is your safety hatch.

Perhaps an insecure partner, even abusive spouse, will whine. “Sugarplum, we’re married now, we don’t need separate accounts. Why are you holding out on me?”  Or maybe, “Honey, don’t you trust me? You must not care about me the way I care about you.” Or even, “You have all that money separate, you must be cheating on me!”

Once upon a time, in this land of the free, women were not legally entitled to own property, including their earned wages. Any and all income, regardless of who earned it, belonged to the male head of household. I emphasize in my classes that the slow change in the law, giving women the right to retain their earnings, to buy and own property, to save and spend and invest, is a critical precursor to effective self-defense. Otherwise, you have nowhere to go.

I’ve taught far too many women who ended up homeless or in transitional housing. Keep the account. In your name. Only.

I suffer from a lack of contemporary culture awareness.  When, three years ago, Rihanna was beaten by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, my first thought was “That’s horrible . . . Chris who?” (I had heard of Rihanna, even if I couldn’t think of a single song of hers.)
So now the two of them are back in the news, in The New York Times no less. Because they both performed in the 2012 Grammys broadcast. There was some disgruntled buzz about why a convicted woman-beater was allowed to perform, and then more buzz after BuzzFeed aggregated some tweets by some women who said they’d take a beating from Brown any day.* And because they each have new songs out, featuring each other (at least on the “remix” versions).**
Jon Caramanica, author of the above-mentioned NY Times article, reads into these two collaborations a need for all parties to move on and away from the “black cloud.” Rihanna does not want to live as a victim, and Brown wants to rehabilitate his image. There seems to be support all around from the music community. Caramanica describes this as “a desire by both to reshape the narrative” of how much that event in 2009 affects their future(s). As if they want to put it all behind, perhaps even to forget anything bad happened. Caramanica’s ending line is “You want to forget? Fine. But don’t forgive.”
And that’s the part I just don’t get. Perhaps it’s the connotations I connect with forgiveness and forgetfulness. To forgive is something you do for yourself, free yourself from the emotional bondage of trauma. You want to move on. To forget is to not only to not remember, but to also to not have learned anything. You want to move on regardless of the cost, and quite possibly risk repeating history and trauma. I’ve know a few people like that.
Rihanna, it’s okay to publicly forgive. But please don’t forget. Don’t let your fans forget, either.
Footnotes:
*I’d bet if you asked any of those women what they meant when they tweeted that it would be okay to be beaten by Chris Brown, you’d probably get a blank look as they said well, no, not REALLY, like they were just telling the world how much they love him regardless of what he does off the stage, and like since they weren’t beaten it doesn’t really factor into how they like feel about him as an artist or person. Like, it doesn’t really mean anything because they like really didn’t put a whole lotta thought before they tweeted.
** Wanna hear the songs? Try these links:

This book was recommended by a student.  She had left her abusive husband about a year earlier, and since then has been reading everything she could get her hands on about domestic violence.  Not only does she strongly recommend this book, she’s bought multiple copies and given them to friends who she thinks need to read it.

Really, everybody should read this book. Consider this: over 25% of all women have been, are, or will be involved with an abusive partner sometime in their lives.  Even if that person is not you, it was, is, or will be someone you know.  I often ask students if they’ve know anyone who’s experienced abuse. Most of the time most students raise their hands. Sometimes only half the class raises their hands.  Sometimes everyone raises their hands. Even in classes for teen girls, most of them already have a friend who’s experienced dating violence.

Pamela Jayne clearly depicts what abuse is, and how it is distinguished from other normal human behaviors that may be immature, petty, selfish, stubborn, or disagreeable. She points out the early warning signs, or “red flags,” of abuse. She goes into great detail, with lots of real examples, of the various ploys and manipulations used by abusive men to justify, deny, or blame someone else for what they’ve done. And she is clear that in order for an abuser to change, they need to take full responsibility for their behavior and really want to change.

Jayne divides the world of abusive men into three camps: the potentially good, the bad, and the hopeless. While they do have a lot in common, there are several important differences that predict whether or not any given abuser may change his abusive ways. This is an important part of the book, since so many women stay with their abuser because they believe they can change him, or if only they were better girlfriends or wives he wouldn’t be abusive, or even that it’s their obligation to stay and not abandon him. Jayne is clear that change is very hard, the abuser has to be willing to put in a lot of work and face some very unpleasant facets of his approach to life, and that not many will change. All the willpower and good intentions and love of the wife or girlfriend won’t make someone else change.

The potentially good man (who is less likely to use physical violence and usually does not have an alcohol/drug problem) may change if he realizes the emotional costs of his behavior and its impact on people he cares about, and takes responsibility for his own actions. However, those men who seem to constantly swim in chaos, who have trouble holding a job, who have substance abuse issues, and who believe they are life’s victims are unlikely to change.  And those who totally lack empathy, who use violence freely, chronically lie whenever it’s in his interest, and is routinely manipulative, are deemed hopeless. (Other authors, such as Martha Stout, have labeled those who fit this “hopeless” category as sociopaths.)

Ditch That Jerk is well written and easily comprehended. It is a fairly short book, and can be read thoroughly in a weekend (or several weeknights). It’s very suitable for young women, including those in their late teens, who may be less certain what abuse is or what their rights in a relationship are. I highly recommend this book, whether you believe you need it or not.

Participate in King County’s Domestic Violence Lobby Day on Thursday, February 4.   Three weeks ago Governor Gregoire released her proposed budget for 2010. The good new is that funding for core DV and SA services is intact; the bad news is that there are huge cuts to many critical services that low income people, including many battered women and their children, depend on for their survival.  Come to Domestic Violence Lobby Day in Olympia and share your voice!

Lobby day begins with a briefing at 9:30am with staff from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who will give detailed information about this year’s DV legislative priorities, pending legislation, talking points, and informational handouts.  They will provide packets tailored for your legislative district and include information about your legislators. WSCADV will provide a free lunch at noon. The afternoon is spent meeting with your legislators. These meetings will likely be in small groups with other DV advocates, survivors and allies who also live in your district.  Most groups wrap up their meetings with legislators between 3-4pm. (If you are unable to attend on February 4, 2010, the STATEWIDE lobby day is February 26, 2010.   Check www.wscadv.org for more information.)

HOW TO REGISTER: Register on-line at  www.wscadv.org/publicpolicy.cfm by JANUARY 18, 2010.  You MUST provide your name, legislative district, and email and phone number.

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.