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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Touchdown! Goodell Scores with NFL’s New Domestic Violence Policy

According to Fox News, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced stiffer penalties for players found guilty of domestic violence. A paradigm shift of this magnitude has the potential to change history literary and family advocates across the country are singing his praise. This is truly one of those small steps for man and giant leaps for mankind. Fox News reported that Goodell made a commitment to take steps that “Properly reflect our values…Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."
I have been a family advocate for 30 years; and have championed for the rights of children who witness the interpersonal violence their parents inflict upon one another and Goodell’s new stance is music to my ears. I founded a nonprofit organization called CHANCE (Changing How Adults Nurture Children’s Egos) and our mission is to put families’ worlds back together piece by peace. Victims and perpetrators in our programs change their unhealthy behaviors when given more appropriate tools that give them control over their lives. When supported in a non-judging way they want to do the right thing for their families but it starts with zero tolerance. Goodell’s proposed plan allows players to make a choice to have a promising future or to maintain their commitment to violence. Money talks and ignorance walks. When expectations are clearly lined out and implemented correctly, people will change for the prestige of being a professional athlete. If particular athletes don’t want to play by the rules then they should go and not let the locker door hit them in the @$$. Football is a privilege and the sport deserves to not be marred with blemishes from those few spotty players who feel entitled to bully others.
The consequences of stopping violence and strengthening healthy behaviors promote wellness for society as a whole. Kids need role models who show them how to live well. The exponential impact is far-reaching and the national football league's new perspective is a catalyst that starts a wave of peace. Behavioral professionals claim it takes approximately three generations of natural selection to prune unhealthy behaviors and reinforce new healthy ones. This means today’s football players can eradicate violence for their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s children simply by adding integrity and honor back into the game.

Goodell isn’t letting his players drop the ball anymore and I hope we can create a social media challenge that sweeps the nation and allows other professional leagues to pick up the ball and run with it. Thanks NFL you have a new fan!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Intimate Terrorists

A discussion on the talk show Outnumbered and an online article from the HuffPost reported research claiming women’s aggression is just as violent as that of men. I'm perplexed as to why we want to continue finding someone to be the villain. Courts already struggle with calling it domestic violence because of the implications and consequences that label brings. We are at an impasse; our heels are dug in so deeply that fault has become the objective. I once spoke on a panel where men were cheering the praises of research with findings very similar to these. One audience participant proudly announced, “It’s terrific to finally know that men are right!” I retorted, “Why do we have to be right, why can’t we just make it right?” I knocked him off the blaming bandwagon and it was hard for anyone to argue my suggestion as it made sense.

Nevertheless, it seems someone has to be wrong, which creates a lose/lose situation in which nobody can really win. Family violence is everybody’s business and responsibility to thwart...everyone deserves to feel safe regardless of gender. We would be foolish to pretend that society doesn’t endorse violence whether is patriarchal, matriarchal, racially motivated or from affluenza (a disease sparked by wealth and privilege)…we see it everyday. Perhaps the difference now is that women’s aggressive behavior is being glamorized, promoting more violence. The study also noted that women are most aggressive toward men, while men are more aggressive toward other men. So what? Violence is violence no matter how it's packaged. We have bred protective instincts out of our DNA by rationalizing that couples fight, relationships are hard or finding a damsel in distress is good for the soul. It’s not. Let’s recognize the word stress in distress and stop minimizing poor communication skills by writing them off as bad days. Behavior is progressive and gets worse over time when people aren't given boundaries and limitations. The study also focused on young people in their late teens and early 20s. This is a time when hormones are raging and the brain's frontal lobe is not fully developed. These young adults aren't always capable of recognizing consequences. They don’t have a voice yet. They haven’t fully emancipated from their parents to develop healthy coping skills. They haven’t matured or discovered who they are yet. Is it fair to research an under-developed population and treat them as representative of stereotypical behavior or to make blanket statements that one sex is more aggressive or controlling than another? What’s the point? We need solutions not more problems. The money used for this study can have been better allocated to programs that teach resiliency, protective factors or assertiveness training.

Practicing Good Law or Playing the Devil’s Advocate? You decide!

A miscarriage of justice and humanity seems to have happened once again in the recent trial about Travis Alexander's murder. What has our country come to when defense attorneys are permitted to guilt and blame jury members by suggesting to them that deciding on the death penalty would make them responsible for a convicted murders' demise? Isn't Jodi responsible for the heinous slaughter of Travis Alexander? Isn't Jodi responsible for being convicted of first degree murder? Wouldn't Jodi be responsible if the jury decided on a death penalty verdict? Unfortunately, the American legal system has created loopholes and “protections” of rights that provide the opportunity for such a twisted placing of blame on the jury. If this were the exception and not the rule I would just say this case has bad form. But unfortunately, there is a pattern of behavior that shows numerous other instances where cold-blooded murderers are forgiven and – sometimes even set free – because their defense attorneys twisted the law, skewed the truth and used emotional extortion to win their cases. Our justice system appears to no longer be about fair trials, but rather who can use the law and bend the evidence to keep clients out of prison and, in the end, keep abusers on the street. Is it any wonder why men, women and children of family violence are killed, maimed, scarred and psychologically tortured in droves? Don't we blame victims by judging them and asking why they stay in these abusive relationships? One thing is clear: we collectively tolerate family violence and abuse. We don't have tough laws against abusers and we don't enforce those we already have on the books. When we finally decide we want to put an end to this barbaric practice, things will change. Not before.
Laws that were intended to ensure defendants were not unjustly accused show that loopholes now help set murderers free. Judicial dog and pony shows minimize domestic murder and crime making such rulings a joke. What is more disturbing is the aftermath and the decisions made now ensure that it will be even more difficult for victims to flee safely because no one believes them or even cares about them. The resounding message sent to terror victims is that even with a preponderance of evidence that proves premeditated murder, you cannot win against your abusers—even in death. You cannot fight back. You can only die or stay in the abusive relationship and silently suffer for the rest of your life.

Every behavior has a consequence. Do the defense attorneys' efforts to save their clients sacrifice and jeopardize others? What happens when clients are set free as a result of these types of legitimized and tolerated maneuvers? Have we gone too far to protect the rights of the accused? Or do we need these types of safety nets? Will murderers kill again if they are set free? Who do we hold accountable if they do kill again? If blaming the jury is invoked to save a convict's life, who is to blame when the same convict is eventually released and kills again? What do defendants learn when they are allowed to blame others for their actions? Is it right for jurys to be manipulated by defendants and attorneys dressing alike – diffusing guilt of the client through paired association? Should victims be the brunt of character assassination and false accusations when they cannot be proven and the victim can't defend their reputation? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I question whether the tactics used reflect a good legal defense or being an advocate for The Devil. In any case, I am sick—sick for all the victims in the future that will be impacted by what took place on May 23, 2013 and the preceding 141 days. May peace come to all victims and their families who have lost love ones to violence; I’m truly sorry for their losses.

Perpetrating Parents: They’ll Make You Crazy

There comes a point when victims leave their abusers because they have finally recognized the significant and damaging impact the emotional and physical violence has had on their children. Often when victims are asked why they stay with their abusers, they say because of the kids. But when asked why they left their abusers, ironically, they admit for the same reason—because of the kids. Abusers controlled their families during the relationship but after the victims have fled with their kids, the batterers must find ways to forces the victims to return. This is when abusers exploit, recruit or threaten some type of harm toward the kids. The abusers’ escalating deviant behaviors becomes so outrageous that the average person cannot imagine the hell these victims face. Victims try to report the atrocities but they are minimized, ignored and even told they are crazy. The persistent negative reinforcement by society creates confusion for the victims and they start to believe that they are the problem.

In this series I will share stories of outrageous violent behavior in hopes that knowledge of perpetrator behavior may assist families trying to escape the madness. The first case involves an abusive mother who wanted her ex-husband to pay for “abandoning” her. She started threatening her children and telling them that their father would stop loving them like he stopped loving her. She didn’t like that her children were close to their stepmother so she inflicted high levels of guilt on them saying she carried them in her womb for 9-months, that she was their mother and that the kids owed her. She accused them of caring more about having fun than being loyal. After months and months of emotionally beating her children up, they decided it would be best to live with her so maybe she would stop being so angry and vengeful. She recruited her children to lie and make excuses for not wanting to visit their dad. She threatened to expose them for saying bad things about their stepmother stating that their father would hate them. Their fear of being completely abandoned by their dad dissuaded them from engaging with him and his new wife. The children were forced to suffer in silence.

She wanted to punish her victim financially, so she refused to let the kids see him and she was able to demonstrate to the court that she had them more overnights than he did. Not only did his lawyer (and hers) rewarded her for being a bully, but worse, they claimed that he was being irresponsible as a father and that his children needed to stand up to their mother and stop being sissies if they didn't like their situation. The system disregarded her accountability and left the victims feeling helpless and alone. The victim reported that this abuser stalked, harassed and emotionally abused those around her but they ignored his pleas. 

Moving from Survivor to Thriver

I was given the most amazing honor to publish this letter from a woman who has moved beyond violence and is learning to live again. She identified herself as a survivor, but after more careful examination I would elevate her to a “thriver” as her words show just how strong her constitution is and, in my humble opinion, she is on her way to greatness. To thrive means to grow vigorously and healthily and to be successful. This compelling letter touched me and is truly representative of those who no longer want to identify with being victims. At the end of her message I will add a commentary to assist others who desire to move beyond their past.

Survivor – one who lives through affliction?
Survivor – one who survives in spite of adversity

To survive is to – remain alive or in existence. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; and to persevere; to live and persist; to cope with trauma and remain alive in existence; to continue to function and withstand.

I, Andrea, am a survivor. I have the ability to withstand the abuse.

I withstood your abuse. I withstood your abuse even after fleeing from you physically.

I conquered (to gain mastery over or win by overcoming obstacles or opposition, to overcome by mental or moral power) my fear – YOU. I prevailed over your abuse.

I reached the top of the mountain and overcame the rough rocky journey. I prevailed through all the cuts, bruises, falling down, and sexual, physical and mental pain.

I prevailed over years of abuse and continued abuse through the courts, your words and actions.

I have strength (the quality or state of being strong – capacity for exertion or endurance).

I have a strong attribute – the ability to withstand. I have the capacity to endure much. I resisted attack – beat down after beat down – I resisted the death!! I resisted the death of my soul and spirit. I resisted the death of myself – only to live again but now with much more faith and love and beauty and strength.

I have great physical strength – I have great physical power to endure beat down after beat down – kick after kick, slap after slap, bruise after bruise, batter after batter – I am still standing – all physically in one piece I had the physical power to endure all that and more and not strike back.

I am tenacious – I have showed the power to resist and endure stress, pain and mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, sexual and physical abuse.

I have a strong determination of spirit to make a better life for my kids than living in fear and walking on egg shells, being controlled by guilt and fear. Being told I never did anything right; to have or feel any kind of love was conditional on whether I was doing things HIS way and HIS way only. I have the strong determination of spirit for my kids to be happy and healthy. To be loved unconditionally and to feel secure in whom they are and what they do. To feel secure enough to speak their mind and have their own feelings and not live each minute because of guilt or fear. I have the strong determination of spirit to stop the cycle of domestic violence and addiction. I have set a higher standard of self-worth for my children and to strive for and know the best.

I am resilient to all the attacks and beat downs you may aim at me and have aimed at me. I am a strong, resilient, intelligent, capable, loving, lovable, outgoing, fearless-of-you woman. I can and have endured many nightmares, many blows to my head, heart and spirit! But look at me – I am still standing strong and even stronger than before. My kids are beautiful, my life is beautiful and the joy radiates from their hearts because I, Andrea, AM A SURVIVOR. This is what I have given myself and my kids: the tenacity to endure when the mountain gets too steep and keep on climbing because after all the hard work, sweat, heartache and tears – I have overcome, I have reached to top of the mountain and the air is clean, the sun is shining ever so beautiful and I am FREE – I AM FREE. My heart is open and I can breath – I can feel and I can smile – I am FREE I am FREE. I have endured! I have with stood and I have overcome….I am a strong survivor.

Andrea, your words strongly resonated with me and I’m sure they will with others who have traveled on similar paths. The picture you paint demonstrates the journey you have taken. As I felt your words, I could visualize the peak of the mountain and could see you taking another trail down on the other side. Taking this new route makes it possible for you to recognize new unfamiliar beauty that has not been seen before. Each scenic view is exciting and fresh but most importantly the breathtaking views have no reminders of your past. Thrivers truly have moved forward when they stop letting abusers rent space in their heads. Thrivers really have left the relationship—not just physically but emotionally as well. They no longer replay the horrific snippets of their history but rather they chose to move forward and strong. Thrivers hit the delete button and only allow positive thoughts to consume them. They have stopped asking why they were abused because there is no why. Andrea, you have survived and I believe you are also thriving on many days. An old Chinese proverb suggests that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. You are well on your way. Thank you for your strength and inspiration!

Jodi Arias Trial Part IV: Questions for the Expert

Continuation of Jodi Arias Trial Part III: Questions for the Expert

Jodi Arias Trial – Questions for the Expert

Isn't it true that isolation is the primary root to domestic terrorism that forces victims into murder? Victimization occurs through indoctrination, which requires isolation. In order to control a victim's mind, no other input can be available so that the perpetrators can promote their propaganda. In this case, it doesn’t appear that any lifelines had been severed. Ms Arias had complete freedom to come and go as she wished as was evident by her trips between California and Arizona. Without isolation, it is highly improbable for her to have become a victim of this type of terrorism. Nor is it possible that any gaslighting was going on here. In the final analysis, victims who murder do so because they are cornered and have no other way out.

Isn't it true that victims leave and go back to their perpetrator several times over the course of the relationship? Isn't it possible that a victim might call or go on vacation with their perpetrator during one of those times, even if the victim was fearful? Yes and yes! Victims leave an abusive relationship an average of seven times before they terminate completely. Many times victims go back because they are promised that things will change; at first perpetrators may demonstrate good behavior and infuse the rekindled relationship with positive experiences such as good sex and wonderful vacations in an effort to make the relationship better. The victims will then rationalize that this time it will be different. They think that maybe the couple just needs to get away from the stress in their lives. But the good feelings are temporary and the abuse resumes, often with a new heightened level of escalation. Sadly, during post-relationship treatment, victims often report that they cannot believe how stupid they were. As discussed earlier, victims take full responsibility for the abuse instead of blaming the perpetrators for their actions. Notably, Jodi Arias has never taken responsibility for her alleged abuse.

How would you describe expert witness bias? A therapist is never supposed to say that a client feels this way or that way. They are supposed to make assessments using verbiage such as, “The client appeared to be fearful as was evidenced by…” Nobody can determine what another person feels or thinks and a therapist is supposed to back everything up with concrete behavioral responses that might support that feeling. Because other people were not thoroughly questioned to challenge the reports of abuse, the DV expert's opinion is inappropriate. It is unethical for an expert witness who is assessing guilt or innocence to act as a defendants’ therapist. Giving books and magazines to assist accused so they can formulate a story to excuse murder is a gross miscarriage of justice. When someone fulfilling an expert witness role provides therapy to the clients it is referred to as a dual relationship and, in Colorado anyway, the expert/therapist would be grieved and sanctioned by the regulatory agency for misconduct. Giving how-to manuals to murder suspects is like giving a bomb making kit with instructions to a terrorist. Knowledge is power and in this case, textbook examples are being used to defame, discredit and dehumanize the murder victim. Finally, in my opinion, it is a moral and ethical obligation of any professional to adequately prepare for the job they are being paid to do. By not reviewing all available sources and questioning eyewitnesses to case issues, the expert appears to have turned a blind-eye toward the defendant and placed the finger of blame squarely on the murder victim.

Jodi Arias Trial Part III: Questions for the Expert

Prosecutor Juan Martinez challenged the domestic violence (DV) expert witness in the Jodi Arias trial this week and, in my opinion, was able to blow many holes into her theories. After listening to the cross examination, it seems to me there were a few more questions that could have been asked to finish off the discrediting Mr. Martinez had already started. I will address profiling components regarding some victim and perpetrator behaviors that were not mentioned in an effort to cast a reasonable doubt about who the real victim was in this case.

Can a person have a fight AND flight response during the same episode? The DV expert testified that immediately prior to the murder, Ms. Arias had a Fight or Flight response. Jodi Arias' testimony indicated that she initially ran, stopped to retrieve the gun, then shot Travis Alexander. According to her version, after the gun failed to stop Mr. Alexander, she again fled and retrieved a knife and stabbed him to death. This run, shoot, run, stab, slash sequence is impossible as determined by the fight or flight response. The Fight or Flight response occurs when a stressful event invokes fear and the reptilian brain forces us to make a split-second decision as to whether we are capable of fighting off an assailant—or we can’t. In this response, stress hormones then flood our extremities and permit us to fight to the death or run like hell. If a person’s reptilian brain determined that the best course of action were to run, then a Forrest Gump-style sprint would have ensued and the runner could have gained an amazing head start back to Yreka before the other person was able to put his britches on. However, the brain – particularly the reptilian brain – is not physically designed to tell us to run, then stop, do an about face to go back and fight. The decision is EITHER to Fight OR Flight, not to Flight AND Fight.

Are DV victims really silent about their abuse? This expert claimed at one point that victims try to change their perpetrators’ behavior. This is absolutely false. Victims are groomed from the very beginning to believe that they are the problem and the consequence for them is that are berated, put down, chastised, humiliated and beaten into submission. Victims desperately look for ways to change their own behavior because their perpetrators tell them that it’s the victims’ fault they were abused. The true dynamic is that abusers want victims to change—not the other way around. Victims only want to appease their perpetrators in order to stop the abuse. So victims often reach out for answers—to “fix” their own inadequacies and modify their behaviors so they can end the abuse. Victims are groomed to believe they caused the violence and, as a result, victims assume ownership of the abuse. Perpetrators are pessimists and their negative opinions keep their victims from placating them. The victims simply can't successfully stem the tide of abuse because the perpetrators are not looking for resolutions—they are looking for blame. No matter what victims do, perpetrators twist and distort reality, leaving victims defeated and helpless. This is commonly referred to as “Gaslighting” and it is a high-level form of manipulation because perpetrators can lie far better than their victims can tell the truth. Victims will discuss their abuse, but not by complaining about the perpetrator; rather by explaining and minimizing their partner's culpability or seeking a way fix themselves. Silence doesn't become the rule for victims until their support system starts telling them they are being mistreated and that it isn’t their fault. Victims then defend their perpetrators say things like others don’t understand what their partners have been through.

Would a victim try to protect a perpetrator's reputation, even after they commited murder? Here’s a glaring problem I see with the Jodi Arias as DV victim scenario: the murder victim’s body was seemingly posed in the shower naked with legs spread for the entire world to see. His reputation was then smeared by accusations of pedophilia and wanting his playmate to wear braids and dress up in Spiderman underwear. Every behavior – and I mean every behavior – is motivated by an intention. Real victims of domestic violence genuinely love their partners, even if the world doesn’t understand why. Before victims resort to lethality they have doubt, reservation, hesitation and remorse. Therefore, even in death, victims will protect their abusers. A real victim would have covered their perpetrator's body to protect his/her reputation. Given Travis Alexander's reputation in his community, exposing him as Ms Arias did was the ultimate humiliation...a classic treatment of a perpetrators towards their victims.

Jodi Arias Trial Part II: Victim or Abuser?

Following up Tuesday's post about Travis Alexander and some of the predictors that could have revealed impending violence, today we look at factors to be considered when determining whether Jodi Arias was a victim or an abuser.

Factor 1: Before victims come to the agonizing conclusion that murder is their only option, most will exhaust every possible means to avoid the abuse and make every effort to fix their relationships. This is supported by volumes of research data and has been confirmed by my professional experience. Sadly, victims will do just about anything to make things right with their perpetrators because they have been conditioned and groomed to take ownership of the abuse. The duration and severity of the psychological torment that accompanies domestic violence leaves most victims desperate and fearful. Victims who have been cornered and trapped psychologically truly believe there is no other way out but murder. Many of these will have suffered in silence and been severely abused for years before they reach the point of lethality. Yet, contrary to common opinion, domestic violence victims have a great deal of resiliency that they build up over time – this is how they endure abusive relationships for so long. Early in relationships, victims are able to manage the psychological and emotional abuse that prepared them for eventual physical assault by their partners. Victims overcompensate to prevent abuse, yet they can often anticipate the next psychological blow. They make every effort to thwart the attacks—always assuming they can control the violent outbursts. Unfortunately, time and lack of accountability move abusers from subtle or implied threats to physical assault. Battered women’s syndrome is a process not a single event. It's not about the electric bill or someone not taking out the trash. Victims are groomed and isolated so abusers can indoctrinate them.

Factor 2: Battered victims who resort to lethality have doubt, reservation, hesitation and remorse. Based on interviews, news clips, and testimony, the behaviors in this case do not demonstrate that any of these conflicted feelings existed. Jodi indicated in her testimony that she had lied to preserve Travis’ reputation. I believe every behavior is motivated by an intention. Jodi's stated concern for Travis' reputation appears to contradict her leaving Travis naked and exposed after his murder. In my opinion, extreme humiliationnot preservation of reputationwould be the likely result of leaving him this way. Because most victims truly love their abusers, most would have covered up the perpetrator after committing murder to protect and preserve the victim's dignity.

Factor 3: Perpetrators meticulously maneuver to strip victims of their income, friends, family and resources to distort the victims’ perceptions. Most abuse recipients are not permitted to control their own lives; this manipulation by perpetrators is rooted in their deep fear of loss and abandonment. Therefore to launch a successful assault, abusers must control the propaganda to achieve and maintain brainwashing. It doesn’t appear that Jodi experienced any captivity—she was free to come and go as she pleased. She still had external input, access to money, a safe physical distance and a support system that she could depend upon.

Factor 4: Perpetrators don’t physically abuse until they feel they have to, and only after they interpret they have lost emotional control. A repetitive cycle of tension, explosion and relief occurs. In the early stages of abuse, remorse for bad behavior often accompanies the assaults where the perpetrator begs for forgiveness. The perpetrators’ tender regrets confuse the victims because the words and the actions don’t match and victims start feeling as if they're crazy. Perpetrators can lie much better than victims can tell the truth. Eventually a psychological break occurs and the victims become convinced they are the problem. The cycle then mutates and escalates up to tension and explosion—the honeymoon is over. When pleas for apologies become insincere in the victims’ eyes and their abusers know it, that is when the abusers feel the need to strike. While the cycle is different for everyone, in cases of physically battered personsespecially those experiencing syndrome patterns of behavioremotional assaults are rampant long before a hand is ever raised. This does not mean that if you are emotionally abused you will be physically abuse, but it does mean if you are physically abused, the psychological blows came first.

Factor 5: Comparing her physical size to his, Jodi had to have caught Travis off guard in order to overpower him. Victims who have a gun would most likely lock their fingers on the trigger and rapid fire to ensure their assailant was stopped. The distance gives them the advantage to overtake their assailants. When there’s a pointed gun and the threat, “Stop or I’ll shoot” most people would comply. However, it seems more likely that Travis was trapped in the shower fighting for his life. Multiple stab wounds to the back, head and heart indicated a close-in attack.

Factor 6: Travis cherished his position in the community and most likely would have allowed Jodi to run out of the house, had she felt threatened, to preserve his flawless reputation. Based on friends’ comments and Travis' own statements, it could be argued that his community standing was more important to him than she was. Travis' behavior strongly suggests that he welcomed Jodi's departure from his life on many occasions, yet is not indicative of an abuser. He would not have wanted to risk the embarrassment of such exposure.

Factor 7: Jodi indicated that she experienced shaking like a Chihuahua when verbally confronted by people like Travis or prosecutor Juan Martinez. This textbook depiction is how many battered women describe their nervousness during domestic violence episodes. However, when retelling their stories, victims typically reenact the violence through their body language, tone and facial expressions. Jodi's observable body language during testimony and while making statements outside of court displayed no evidence of a personal and emotional recounting of traumatic events. 

Jodi Arias Trial Part I - Predictors of Violence

The world has been captivated by the Jodi Arias trial for months and the defendant’s accusations regarding her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, have been cataclysmic and have come at a huge price for victims of domestic violence around the world. This post is going to attempt to explain why I believe that significant damage has been done to the victims across our nation. The woman on trial says she was abused and claims to be suffering from “battered women’s syndrome” (BWS). The word syndrome by definition is a pattern of symptoms indicative of some disorder. Battered persons who have endured the isolation, indoctrination, demoralization and the pain inflicted upon them develop these patterns of behavior – observed as symptoms – in order to survive. When people without observed or documented symptoms use this defense it minimizes the plight of abused persons around the globe. There are numerous features that constitute BWS and if Jodi truly does not meet those criteria, the results of this trial could be catastrophic to battered women everywhere and undo the legal successes of those that have suffered at the hands of an intimate partner. If she does not meet the established BWS criteria, a verdict less than premeditated murder has the potential to ignite and repeat threats that occurred for months after the verdict was announce in the Nicole Brown-Simpson murder. The damage from that verdict was felt by many victims of domestic abuse: a number of my clients reported that their perpetrators threatened them with variations of “You better watch yourself or I’ll give you some OJ with your breakfast.” While Jodi's defense team’s attempt at saving their client’s life may be successful, they potentially risk the safety for thousands of people unquestionably suffering from BWS. After evaluating the testimony and the evidence presented, along with my work in the trenches with victims of domestic violence, I’ve concluded that this is indeed a domestic violence case. Unfortunately, based on the information publicly available, my belief is that the wrong person is getting all the attention as the victim. Travis, a strong and powerful man, became a victim long before his murder was committed. With this in mind, I am going to share my conclusions about how this tragedy could – and should – have been predicted, based on my professional knowledge and the information presented prior to and during the trial.

Part I will look at predictors of violence from Travis' perspective and share how future victims could learn from this tragedy.

Predictor 1: Travis and his friends knew that something wasn’t right with this relationship. According to interviews with friends, many tried to warn him after his tires were slashed multiple times. They all believed they knew who was responsible, yet no police reports were ever filed. Destruction of personal property is against the law and is punishable so you may ask why he didn’t follow through. Simple: society tells men they need to put on their big boy boxers and man-up when put in this kind of position. Victims – especially male victims – should just write off their partner's bad behavior and assume the temper tantrum will end soon.

Predictor 2: Travis verbally forecasted his own death by warning his loved ones that if he didn’t show up then they would “know who to blame.” Many victims prepare for and express concern about their impending deaths. They often make wills, tell people how to take care of their kids, write goodbye letters or leave pictures of the abuse so their killers will eventually be caught. Travis expressed discomfort with what was happening; yet nobody acted on this or took the cues seriously. Was his discomfort because Jodi had demonstrated behaviors he thought were not-quite-right (NQR)? Perhaps, though we'll never know for sure. Notably, as a society we have normalized psychotic behavior by devaluing the word 'crazy.' I often hear generalizations such as, “Oh that Bitch is crazy!” When people hack into emails, voicemails and enter bedrooms without being invited, they should be considered dangerous and may indeed be insane—this type of intrusive, abnormal behavior could really be because a person is crazy.

Predictor 3: Travis began hiding his relationship with Jodi from others. He was meeting her secretively because his friends didn’t understand why he would keep seeing her. Victims often lose friends and loved ones when they refuse to abandon an intimate relationship; the friends feel distress and unease watching the abuse and simply remove themselves from their source of discomfort. So why would a battered person remain in an abusive relationship? Most people don’t understand that danger and love excite the same part of the brain. Although his internal alert system was partially functioning, Travis was likely confused by the exciting sex, the amazing weekend excursions and the thrill of secrecy. Abusive relationships involving male victims could figuratively be viewed much like the mating ritual of the praying mantis. The male knows there is an element of danger, but he risks his life anyway in order to mate. Sometimes he gets lucky and escapes; other times the female rips the male's head off and tears him apart limb-by-limb.

There is no “why”

Ripped from the headlines: murders are rampantly occurring throughout the world but rarely do the articles identify these atrocities as domestic or family violence. Just this morning there were four murders that I found at a quick glance: one of a mother who shot her children and herself, one was an adult son who murdered his aging mother two years after he assaulted his aging father, one was a cold case involving two sisters, and one was an adolescent who killed his sibling while in fostercare placement.

People don't see domestic and family violence as a serious problem because these cases are not presented in the most obvious light for people to become outraged. Often there are warning signs that tell us there is impending danger; many of these senseless deaths could have been prevented. Unfortunately, the subject is extremely uncomfortable and the average person cannot wrap their brain around the deviant thinking of the murderers. The perpetrator's cognitive distortions and their potential lethalities are dismissed. I hear repeatedly in the news that authorities don't know the motive. Here's the simple truth, there is no reason, there is no why. There is no rational explanation that we can accept for why a mother kills her kids, an adult son kills an aging parent, a prominent and success man kills his beautiful wife and successful sister-in-law, or a teen kills a precious little child. We're spending too much time addressing the problem rather than finding the solutions.

There are normally precursors to violence; far too often these get overlooked, minimized or dismissed as irrelevant. In each of these cases, it doesn't take a far stretch of the imagination to see that these murderers were boiling under the surface like a pressurized geyser ready to blow. My experience has shown me that pent up rage, in conjunction with poor coping skills, festers over time. Eventually, the perpetrators give themselves permission to take what they think is theirs and do what they want. It's also about entitlement and lack of accountability. They equate relationships with ownership.

My take is that anyone can change when they recognize they need help, but our society has to acknowledge that these maladaptive behaviors need to be adjusted . I work with a full range of clients from incarcerated substance abusers to convicted child abusers. In almost every case, the clients have experienced some type of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) or traumas. If you have an interest in traumatized people, I suggest reading the ACE Study – you'll find the reports amazing.

Another erroneous conclusion that many have subscribed to is that power and control are the problems. In my humble opinion, power and control are the solutions. My rational? When people have power and control over their lives they don't need power and control over others. When profiling perpetrators we need to see that they have been emotionally stripped of competence and confidence and what they are doing is referred to as learned helplessness, essentially “I'm going to get you before you get me.” They feel scared, defeated, worthless and vulnerable. The end result is consistent: hurt people hurt people—period!

We welcome your comments or questions.