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Monday, February 12, 2018

Porter and Sorensen: How We Could Have Stopped the Violence

Domestic violence and its degrees of deviance happen as a result of society turning a blind eye to the insidiousness of it consequences. Working with families recovering from violent behavior, I have observed the culprit to this menace—it’s society’s need to label someone the “bad” guy. Judges, social workers and police officer aren’t qualified to determine the psychopathy of abuse and often they get it wrong. Knowing innately they aren’t qualified to make an accurate assessment, they are often apprehensive and don’t want to arrest people. They understand the consequences can be devastating (i.e., lose or struggle with employment, restricted from seeing kids and housing). As a result, many professionals are forced to make one of the two guilty and make judgment calls based on their own perspectives. Unfortunately, in the quest to select a victim or a perpetrator they often miss the mark. In a course for people convicted of family violence, I found high percentage of those mandated to class had information that suggested they were not the primary aggressor. When questioned as to where their partners were many stated they weren’t required to get the education. Unlike many family advocates, I believe educating both partners is how we stop abuse. Domestic/family violence is a pattern of behavior that left unchecked leads to more deviant behavior as it escalates. When you require both partners to get treatment in the earlier stages of abuse (i.e., the FIRST time it has drawn attention) then people figure out how to make healthier choices.  But let the behavior slide by ignoring or guessing wrong, you set the family up to fail. My grandfather once told me that when something happened he’d consequence all eight kids rather than try to figure out who did it. He said this way he knew he got the right one. Creating healthier families means everyone has to get educated. People who’ve been violated often tell me they do NOT want to be referred to as victims as it implies they are stupid for staying. They mostly want to stay with their partners but they just want to abuse to stop. Imagine how much court time we could save if the first step was education BEFORE conviction? Make education an opportunity and barriers could be broken down.

I am a proponent of education over incarceration but the problem lies in denial due to fear of losing everything. With this latest round of abuse allegations at the White House, the key issue is that Rob Porter denies what he has done. If there had only been one accuser one could assess that the incident is a he-said-she-said and proceed with an investigation, but when three women come forward the allegations cannot be overlooked.  I had a Top-Secret clearance and I know the drill…ANY information that suggests you could be blackmailed in the future makes you ineligible for a clearance as it jeopardizes national security. This case demonstrates that Mr. Porter should have never been in such a high position. Now, had he admitted he violated his significant others and he had been given the chance to seek appropriate treatment, perhaps he would have understood it is against the law to beat people. But because he got away with it, he was emboldened to continue his bad behavior. With each assault, it increasingly becomes easier to rationalize the aberrant behavior—and makes the behavior justifiable. If people, like Rob Porter and now accused David Sorensen, could get the education without being labeled for life, maybe they could gain the tools they need to be better. This comes, however, from getting EVERYONE education because those who are battered have an increased risk of finding the same kind of partner but with a different face. If they believe that abuse is normal then they won’t see the signs. The tragedy here is there are children watching and learning to repeat the cycle. My challenge to the justice system is to put everyone identified as a potential victim or perpetrator in treatment/education. If someone then chooses not to comply, they get contempt charges. My experience shows that when someone wants out of a violent relationship they would do just about anything to maintain their children but those who can manipulate the system simply use the courts as a weapon to continue victimizing.

In summary, we could reduce court backlogs, we could get families assistance sooner, we could promote healthier behaviors, people could maintain their jobs, homes and families, and children could witness how families should work. I also teach a court-ordered parenting class and the majority of people enrolled when give the chance to use better more healthier skills they use them. They often don’t know what they don’t know.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Perspirator or Perpetrator-Take 2

While taking a stroll with my husband, Alan, another disturbing experience on the Highland Canal bike path occurred. A man clearly out of place had stopped on his bike next to a group of little girls who were playing at a park just1000 feet from the path. He stared at these children with intensity like he was watching a porn flick. It was so disturbing I asked Alan to stop so we could keep the girls safe. We pretended to enjoy the scenery just to keep our eye on him because after my last blog about a suspicious character on the path, a teenager was assaulted a mere 9 days later. At the time, we couldn’t do anything about the guy because he was only looking suspicious. My heart fell when I heard the news and I began to weep as I talked to the crime stoppers’ hotline. This unfortunate assault could have been prevented. I then emailed my blog article to Channel 7 news as soon as I learned the teenage girl was assaulted but neither the police nor the news contacted me for further information.

Therefore, witnessing another potential crime in the same general area as the teenager’s assault, we decided to be the Path Patrol in order to prevent these three little girls or anyone else for that matter from being hurt. We approached the kids and pointed the man out hoping he would see we were talking about him yet he continued staring. He moved his bike in two-feet increments then turned back to stare at them. Eventually he noticed our presence and moved forward about 100 feet to see if we’d moved on. We decided to stay behind him and watch him. He started hiding his face as it became clear we were following him. Soon another strange man joined him on the path and we simply watched them. The older man started scouting out different avenues they could take. He pointed out an area on the Cherry Creek path as though they were recalculating their next move and resorting to Plan B. The older guy soon realized we were suspicious and pretended he didn’t know where he was by asking us which path led to Parker Road. I deliberately pointed in the opposite direction that would have kept him on the Highland Canal path because we witnessed him instructing his partner to go on Cherry Creek. He looked confuses and froze seemingly not knowing what to do when he was misdirected. I think he anticipated we’d tell him to go in the direction he instructed his friend to follow. His friend had gone ahead on the Cherry Creek Path and had stopped to wait on him—watching us. Alan and I decided to go in the direction of his friend and the old man just stood there seemingly perplexed. We followed the younger man on the bike for about 30 minutes because the guy would only move a foot or two waiting for his partner who we must of spooked off because the guy never caught up to him. We warned a mother of three to stick close together as they passed the guy on the bike. I looked at the man and gesture in a manner that would suggest we were talking about him and then the mother took my lead and scoped him out. We did this to show him silently we were watching him—hoping to thwart any possible attack. Alan and I watched her pass the man and then we went to a nearby bridge and watched him for about 10 more minutes. The path was finally beginning to fill up with other bicyclists and runners, so we decided we could stop standing guard and finish our walk.

Were these two men simply exploring nature or were they looking for prey? My guess is the latter because their attire didn’t look appropriate for the path. They kept meeting up at different places as to not be too obvious and the one would not show his face. One might think that the older guy was just an old man out for a stroll but his bizarre behavior suggested otherwise.

This is the third “alleged” crime we’ve witnessed in the last month and I am disturbed by the lack of response I’ve gotten. Our children are being stalked, assaulted, raped and murdered and the unsettling feeling these guys created for us made us believe they were looking around for their next victim. I am forwarding a picture of the two men in an effort to protect others but not to assume these two were anything but weird (hopefully). In this country we are innocent until proven guilty but there isn’t any reason why we cannot be aware of the dangers out there. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Perspirator or Perpetrator

Today while taking a pleasant walk on our bike path, my husband, Alan, and I decided to check out the new parking area that opened up to the public. As we made our way down to the beautiful new area we became instantly uncomfortable when a suspicious-acting man was standing outside his car stretching. Normally, one might say that’s what you do right before a run but what stuck out was the man had his car running with the driver’s door open as though he was planning a quick get away.  I deliberately acknowledged him by saying good morning to let him know I got a saw him; he looked away and returned a salute in a mumbled voice as though he was trying to avoid any further contact or perhaps identification. In my work I have interviewed and counseled many men who have been less than kind to women. I have also had the personal experience of being helplessly stalked for 2-years by a stranger. My encounters with them have taught me how to have my radar up when I see situations like this one—he was out of place and his body language suggested he might be disturbed or at a minimum deeply troubled.

After Alan and I finished reading the trail maps, we decided to start back up to the path at the exact same time a young lady started trekking up the hill. The man stretching and bending seemed defeated and immediately retreated to his car. He drove off once we topped the hill. The event was unnerving because his demeanor and behavior seemed highly suspicious and his exit out of the parking lot once the woman made it up the path felt more than coincidental. I would have liked to believe he was heating up the car before his journey home but it was 60 degrees out plus his trip to the parking lot should have taken care of any warm ups the car might have needed; I would have like to believe he was simply stretching after a run but his clothes did not suggest he was jogging; he didn’t appear as though he’d sweating or even remotely tired after a cardiovascular workout. What his disposition led me to believe however is that there was a predator on the loose and he was preparing to do a grab and go. Every fiber in my being was activated: Everything felt wrong, yet no crime was committed. Did our presence thwart an attack? Has this man been carefully stalking this young lady? We might never know but what I will say to women out there is keep a safe distance between a running car and an open door. Alan and I pondered that it would have only taken mere seconds to kidnap her—seconds. Be safe and diligent as not everyone out there on your journey has your best interest at heart.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Clarence Thomas and Domestic Disputes

As a family advocate fighting for the rights of people to feel free from violence, I find Clarence Thomas’ argument about misdemeanors and guns ignorant and naive. The reason many domestic disputes are misdemeanor is because for far too long we have viewed violence in the home as a private matter and society hasn’t been willing to give consequences for the outrageous behavior. Men, women and children are maimed and murdered annually after years of severe emotional, financial, sexual and physical abuse. Often convictions are guessing games and the persons with the abusive tendencies walk away with a mere slap on the wrist and then turn around and annihilate their families. Family members being assaulted learn that they have no recourse and must endure the extreme abuse often subjecting their children to a life harsher than a warzone. What most people don’t recognize about family violence including our great leader here is psychopathy is a progressive disorder, which is a grooming process where each assault, whether emotional or otherwise, increasingly worsens—eventually leading to trauma and a spectrum of mental health issues for everyone exposed to the intensity. I have been a proponent of using education and treatment FIRST to assist families in the earlier stages of family violence instead of punishment but the issue is so polarized because everyone’s looking for the bad guy. If we required the entire family to get intervention services maybe people could maintain their rights to bear arms while guaranteeing the safety of others— saving lives and allowing families to live violence-free. Unfortunately, we’re looking for someone to take the rap but we’re missing the mark, as 40% of convicted people at least in my program were actually the ones who got assaulted. We’re judging families through shame for being “stupid” enough to stay yet handing kids over to violent parents for leaving giving the abusive persons access to assault their children and torment the protective parents. We’re unwittingly locking parents and partners into battering relationships for years because we don’t want to take away their rights or subject them to anything, which could tarnish their reputations. If people don’t want to lose their rights to bear arms THEN STOP hurting others. Simple as that! But to accomplish this feat we must reframe how we see violence and help families educate themselves on how to live differently. I have worked with many people with abusive tendencies and they change when they understand they can get their needs met without using violence and people who are abused learn that what they were exposed to wasn’t normal. In order to tackle violence, we must recognize the early warning signs. If you threaten to blow up an airport or shoot a supreme-court justice, it is automatically considered more than a misdemeanor so let’s make our families just as important. Why should the elite be entitled to protection when the vulnerable are ignored?  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Apathetic Adolescents—Aspiring Abusers

This past weekend my husband and I were walking on the bike path discussing the possibility of buying a new home in Hawaii. My husband is retired and I work for myself. We have a pretty amazing life, I think. As we were enjoying the fresh air and dreaming about the sunsets on the beach, three young men around 19-20 approached us and were taunting, "Good luck in retirement" like if retirement was some kind of insult. They hadn't heard our conversation so my guess is they saw that we are in our fifties and old to them. Jack Nicholson once said his mother never saw the irony in calling him a son of a bitch. Well these apathetic teenagers who are probably busboys with no real direction seem so angry that they were essentially insulting our freedom and not reflecting on their own pathetic lives. Angry people want to hurt others because they are hurting and don't want to be alone in their pain . The unhealthy emotion of anger can make people jealous, hurtful and destructive. Anger eats away at the soul turning people into ugly, apathetic and unhealthy people . Each time someone takes action with their negative thoughts to crush someone else they're tearing down their core. The sad irony is the people who are really hurting are the ones mulling the emotions around in their heads. Everything we express outwardly we impress on our psyche inwardly. We have all looked at negative people and could tell by their body language they were troubled. The irony that three pimple face boys who don't have a pot to pee in could actually view their lives as more superior. I have worked with people with abusive behavior and this is how the behavior patterns start. Batterers hate the success of other; they hate competence and need to tear people down to feel powerful. The problem though is they never really feel good because it cannot feel good to make others feel bad. They get what they want but they know they didn't get their needs met honestly. The psychological term is learned helplessness. When people have the dog-eat-dog mentality, they are fighting the world and they are often doing so alone and afraid.

If we want our kids to have resiliency and healthy interpersonal behaviors role model to them how to love themselves and those around them. Adolescence is often a time for discovery but if what they learn about themselves is nasty, mean and hateful they'll become insulting, disrespectful and apathetic abusers. As they mature, or should I say immature, they will only find pain in their future. Teach then compassion and how to get their needs met the right way so they don't have to hurt others to be seen and heard. There's a difference between having power and being empowered. Give them the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Normalizing Violence & Unhealthy Behaviors

The NFL not only endorses their players to perform on the field but they also condone their bad behavior off the field by overlooking serious predictive signs of future violence. Here was a clear-cut opportunity to help a young man brighten his potential for healthier living. Not with money or prestige but with interpersonal success. Infants are not born violent they learn it through social tolerance, reward and lack of consequences. Given this fact, we need to play this out. Generational learning is most likely the culprit for the behaviors both Clark and Diamond experienced as a couple. The adults and mentors in their lives most likely demonstrated that it’s okay to hurt of be hurt by someone you love.

Diamond Hurt indicated that her siblings were not involved in the domestic violence Frank Clark perpetrated against her, yet sources state the kids ran for help crying out, “He killed Diamond.” Children are literal and when they see someone being choked and knocked out, it’s easy to conclude that someone is dead; and, that one experience has lasting and devastating consequences. These young children are forever changed as a result of one drunken night when a professional football player felt justified to hurt another person in front of children. What he did wasn’t just domestic violence; it was family violence. His one moment of indiscretion changed the future of these children. In many states when someone inflicts violence against another person in front of kids, they are charged with child abuse and mandated into treatment. Unfortunately, we’ve made getting help a bad thing. Instead of trying to figure out who’s guilty let’s figure out how to make these families whole. My experience shows that at least 40% of convicted abusers were actually victims and since the “guilty” party is mandated into therapy, the real violator walks free. My grandfather once told me when something happened he’d consequence all eight of his kids because he didn’t have time to figure out who was wrong. He would say this way he knew he got the right one. In most cases of domestic violence regardless of who is charged, the relationship continues and sadly they maintain the status quo because when nothing changes, nothing changes.

If we want to see change, everyone in the family needs treatment. They’re called relationships. The litmus test is that when two people are together as two halves, do they make a whole or a hole? Are they left feeling completed or defeated? Without the information necessary to make informed choices, people don’t know what they don’t know. They can’t improve their relationships until each person acknowledges their part in the dysfunction. Frank Clark has potential on and off the field if his new team does the intervention necessary for him to recover. Clark and Hurt both need replacement skills to learn to communicate and operate differently. The children who witnessed this event will need help processing the trauma they experienced before they adopt the behaviors as normal. We have to break the cycle of intergenerational violence that’s being modeled and show families how to live well. We could eradicate violence simply by promoting healthy alternatives. Everyone would benefit from addressing how to make this right rather than focusing on being right. Let’s change the playbook and strive toward healthy outcomes. Football players and other professional athletes should be held to a higher standard because of their immense power to influence our youth. Let’s look at domestic violence training as an opportunity rather than a punishment. Let’s get everyone involved in the dysfunctional relationship, involved in treatment. This way they can make informed decisions based on their newfound knowledge. A college education isn’t considered a punishment; on-the-job training is not considered a punishment; and getting help to live well shouldn’t be either. I’m asking Roger Goodell to campaign for a cause—Healthy Habits, Happy Homes. 

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