Her Body Betrays Her

By Penny Perry

prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hand of the man who shoved
her son against a wall,
still sets wild fires
up her spine.

She hates his words,
yet hungers for his tongue.

She prays: Take this longing
from my lips,
rip nerve ends from my buzzing
fingers.

Make my crotch as dry
as last night’s chicken bones.

Make my shoulders a shelter
for my son.

Make my nipples
yearn only
for the new baby’s mouth.

………………………………………………

About Penny Perry

PennyPerryKateHardingMugPenny Perry is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Lilith, Redbook, Earth’s Daughter, the Paterson Literary Review and the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Her first collection of poems, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage (Garden Oak Press, 2012) earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

She writes under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Photo credit: Jonas Tegnerud via a Creative Commons license.

 

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Why didn’t I just leave?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

This is a modified version of an essay originally published in October 2012 by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, Ms. Magazine Blog and San Diego Free Press.

Please join the Week of Action with National Network to End Domestic Violence
Oct 20 through 24.

 

2014DVmonth

Picture a sere summer night in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 1982.1

I lay on a crinkly table in a cluttered ER, joking with the doc, bribing him with a promise of homemade shortbread if he could fix my face without leaving scars, looking anywhere but in his eyes, and I noticed a police officer nearby.

When I was all stitched and tidied up, I went to the cop and heard a quavering voice tell him that I wanted to press charges against my husband for assault.

The cop looked across the waiting room at him, sitting with his face buried behind his bloodied hands, his tiny mother, herself a victim, standing next to his chair, her arm around him while she stroked his head and kissed his fevered brow.

The cop looked back at me and said, “You don’t want to do that. You’ll just make him angry all over again, and it’ll be worse the next time.”

I did eventually leave my husband, taking my battered self and VW bus and just enough money for gas from Phoenix back to LA, where I lived in a friend’s basement until I recovered.

Flash forward a decade or so, to a visit to the east coast.

On the graceful terrace of a lovely home, a cocktail party was reaching into the night with storytelling. I was puttering in the kitchen, fixing myself a drink, when someone’s words wafted through the window. They sounded something like this:

“Yeah, he beat the hell out of her. We couldn’t figure out why she didn’t just leave him.”

Forsaking my Southern social graces, I stormed outside and lambasted the speaker—in front of everyone—for telling a story that was not hers to tell, for telling it with such a damnably ignorant conclusion. Unseemly of me, I know, and she responded with her own tantrum, stormed off, and didn’t speak to me for some time.

But the question lingered in the summer breeze, flirting with the fireflies—why didn’t I just leave him? It took me years to be able to answer it, and now I know why.

Because I did, because I did leave him. And I stood at the pay phone at the corner of our city block in the winter night, shivering in the t-shirt I had on when he picked me up from the bed and threw me to the sidewalk outside our front door, and I discovered that the police wouldn’t do anything because I wasn’t injured (that time) and I could always stay at a motel or with friends.

But I had no money and I had no friends—because he didn’t want me to have them.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did. And I was wooed back into the relationship with the promise that he had been in counseling for six months and was no longer a batterer and would live only for my forgiveness.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did. And, with battered psyche in tow, I was shamed back to him with the blame for making him beat me, for ruining his life, for getting blood on his mother’s car upholstery.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did, I finally did. I left him when a skinny, exhausted mama in the ER, with a passel of runny-nosed kids, that woman who, through my battered but still-privileged lens appeared to need some help, that woman who wouldn’t stop staring at me as I talked to the cop, when she came over and said, “I know what’s going on. You don’t deserve it. Come home with me. You can sleep on the sofa.”

Instead of telling a woman in possession of nothing but a t-shirt to spend the night in a motel and call back when she’s really in trouble; instead of joking with a patient about injuries consistent with assault; instead of telling the complainant to be silent or she’ll make it worse the next time; instead of looking the other way; instead of blaming the victim; instead of accepting women’s excuses for black eyes and split lips, their lies about walking into doorways and tripping on coffee tables, their pleas that they must stay for the children; instead of all that, do this —

Say: Did somebody hurt you? You don’t deserve to be hit or kicked or strangled or thrown or belittled or terrorized. It is not your fault. It’s a crime. If somebody hurt you, let me help you. There are safe places to go and people who understand. Please let me help you.

Love,
K-B

Again, please join the Week of Action with National Network to End Domestic Violence, Oct 20 through 24.

For more information:

If you are a victim of violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Same-sex relationship violence counseling in San Diego

If you want to help, visit your local domestic violence prevention agency or Futures Without Violence.

2014 Presidential Proclamation – National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Intimate partner violence (IPV) statistics One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.


1 In 1982, there were few shelters for victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and little training for police. Today, there are significantly more resources, but still many law enforcement officers—and family and friends, victims and abusers—fail to treat IPV as the crime it is, and still it can be fatally difficult to leave an abusive relationship.

 

Till death do us part: Violence against women in So. Carolina

A Special Investigation from The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
By Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff

 

More than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse.

More than three times as many women have died here at the hands of current or former lovers than the number of Palmetto State soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

It’s a staggering toll that for more than 15 years has placed South Carolina among the top 10 states nationally in the rate of women killed by men. The state topped the list on three occasions, including this past year, when it posted a murder rate for women that was more than double the national rate.

Awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered, South Carolina is a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse, a Post and Courier investigation has found.

Couple this with deep-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage and the place of women in the home, and the vows “till death do us part” take on a sinister tone. …

Click here to read the series and watch related videos.

Women’s History Month: Women in Words

 

The Olive Tree

By Saloua Saidane

For most Tunisians, an olive tree is a source of food and energy. They wait each year for the harvest season to collect the olives and transform them into an extra virgin olive, a beautiful transparent golden oil with a light tint of green, almost as thick as honey. The precious olive oil is usually shared with family, friends and neighbors. People love their olive oil, a magical elixir, for many reasons. Some believe in its medicinal values and drink a gulp of it every morning for breakfast; others eat it by dipping freshly baked bread in it. Once in your mouth, the oil triggers all your senses with its nutty and slightly bitter flavor. A taste that grabs your attention and stays with you, that seduces your palate and makes you want more. A true pleasure, a gift from the gods since the early civilizations of the Mediterranean region.

OlivesTuscanyKBYou can see rows and rows of these beautiful ancient trees covering the arid land of central coastal Tunisia. Through centuries, they have witnessed all the caprices of nature and learned to be patient. Their trunks are cracked and twisted from the many winds, yet they stand firm and resilient. They are not needy. Their roots reach down through deep layers of soil, sucking the scarce drops of water they find. They are simple survivors, their only purpose, to produce each year in the winter season beautiful small fruits that become the magical olive oil.

The olive tree in my childhood yard was huge by olive trees standards. Its branches stood tall, reaching in all directions, giving the tree a perfect round shape. Its leaves were lush, long and oval. Their colors reminded me of jade, shiny green on the top and a darker dull green-grey underneath. The trunk of the tree was short and seemed sunken in the ground from the heavy weight of its branches. It was as if the trunk was hiding, encouraging the observer to enjoy the beauty of its lush crown.

Tucked in a corner of our garden only a few feet from the walls of the house, our tree was consistent and undemanding. Its roots squeezed under the foundation of the house. Nobody took care of it or gave it much attention, yet it managed to survive feeding on filthy waters that ran through a small drain and emptied a few feet from its trunk. Nothing deterred that tree from surviving and bearing the most beautiful, meaty olives each year. Great olives that nobody cared to harvest. Some of the olives that fell on the ground were collected and soaked in brine in a large jar stored on the roof of our house. I imagined these gorgeous olives begging for a better use. I was sure they would have preferred to be pressed into a precious extra virgin olive oil. But their destiny was different: They ended their journey in brine, with their flavor, color and shape altered; trapped in a jar with no fluidity, what a sad conclusion. But maybe it was better than the olives that were never collected. They ended up abandoned to the soil, drying slowly from despair and disappearing into nature.

When we were young kids, during the long summer days, the tree provided us shade as if inviting us to keep it company. We gathered under its branches, playing with stones or simply telling each other stories. My father managed to tie a rope on one of its tallest branches, and we used it as a swing. The tree seemed to enjoy our innocent giggles and laughter and joy.

But as we grew older, things changed in our house, and so did the destiny of our olive tree. There were too many children and not enough space to contain them. When my father felt the need to control his daughters, my sisters and me, he would get a branch from the tree. He would select the longest branch. He would cut it with the sharpest knife. He would pluck away its beautiful lush leaves. Leaves that for centuries were a symbol of peace, glory and abundance, were discarded, useless. If they could have talked, they would have told my father to stop, but how can you blame them, that they didn’t have a voice. Once the branch was bare, my father would test it by whipping it in the air. It had to be strong, flexible and noisy, a noise that was light as it whipped up and louder on its way down to the target. It was an alert sound, as if asking you to get out of its way because it didn’t want to hurt you, as if the branch was weeping, begging for forgiveness for the pain it would cause. If the sound was not loud and sharp enough, my father would toss the branch in the garden and cut another one. The longer it took to find the perfect branch, the longer the agony of the anticipated torture. These preparations were under the watch of all the children, mute and motionless.

When the branch was ready, some of the kids would start crying, but the others who were the cause of my father’s anger would simply wait defiantly for the anticipated lashes. The longer and louder the younger children cried, the more defiant the older ones were and the harder my father hit. It was like a symphony that reached toward a crescendo, louder and louder sounds mixing together until one of them gave up. Sometimes it was the branch that gave up and broke. Other times it was the defiant child who gave up and started crying. On rare occasions, my father would give up from exhaustion. And then there was total silence, the entire joy and happiness machine in the universe having come to a stop.

I often wonder what my father would have done if the tree had not been there. He would probably have used his belt. That is what belts are made for, to beat people as hard as their wearers can. I don’t blame belts, but I felt sorry for our tree. My father made it his accomplice in violence. I think the olive tree was probably sorry for being healthy, alive. It possibly felt guilty, and that was why it tried hard to produce the best olives it could, to make up for the sorrow it was causing. But nobody really cared. How sad was the destiny of this tree, to go from witnessing joy to becoming the symbol of violence, the source of pain and suffering, a tool used to tame and subdue.

When my father was angry and hitting his disobedient daughters, my mother would stand there, watching and cheering him on. She would say, yes please hit more and longer. They deserve it. They need a lesson. They need to know who is in control here. And when my father was done, my mother would look at her daughters crying and her motherly instinct would kick in. She would say, “Stop crying now and go wash your faces.” That was all she could say. That was all she could do. But then as these torture episodes increased, my mother became angry and the anger became hatred, hatred of the tree. She hated it so much that she decided to get rid of it. A tree that stood there for at least half a century had to go. She said that the tree was getting too big, that it was going to damage the house because of its big roots. We never saw the roots, but my mother kept talking about them as though they were an evil creature crawling underground and slowly destroying our house. It was a war between my mother and the evil roots that wouldn’t stop growing.

One beautiful spring day, four strong men used their saws to cut down our olive tree. It took them an entire day to cut through the trunk. It was a slow death that I imagined caused the tree a lot of pain. It took almost a week to chop the tree into large pieces of wood and dig out all the roots the men could reach. We stood there witnessing its death quietly, just as the tree on so many occasions stood there watching our torture.

To this day, that tree is the symbol of all of us sisters: resilient, consistent, undemanding, and often unappreciated. We are like the leaves, symbols of peace, glory and abundance, shiny and beautiful on the surface and dull green-gray underneath. We tried hard to be the best we could, yet our destiny lacked fluidity. But, unlike the tree, we survived, we are older now, and we own our destinies, despite the damage done to us. We stand tall, trying to set free the past and move on to a brighter future worthy of our strength, hope and inner beauty. In each her own way, we carry the soul of our olive tree; we keep it sacred and blessed in our hearts.

…………………

About Saloua Saidane, PhD

Saloua Saidane, PhD, is a full-time assistant professor at the Chemistry Department of Mesa College. Educated in Tunisia, France, and the United States, Dr. Saidane has a keen awareness of the joys and challenges of diversity, and she is dedicated to making effective education accessible to all.

 

Photo credit: ©2014 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Why didn’t she just leave?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Originally published in October 2012 by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, Ms. Magazine Blog and San Diego Free Press

 

Picture a sere summer night in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 1982.1

I lay on a crinkly table in a cluttered ER, joking with the doc, bribing him with a promise of homemade shortbread if he could fix my face without leaving scars, looking anywhere but in his eyes, and I noticed a police officer nearby.

When I was all stitched and tidied up, I went to the cop and heard a quavering voice tell him that I wanted to press charges against my husband for assault.

The cop looked across the waiting room at him, sitting with his face buried behind his bloodied hands, his tiny mother, herself a victim, standing next to his chair, her arm around him while she stroked his head and kissed his fevered brow.

The cop looked back at me and said, “You don’t want to do that. You’ll just make him angry all over again, and it’ll be worse the next time.”

I did eventually leave my husband, taking my battered self and VW bus and just enough money for gas from Phoenix back to LA, where I lived in a friend’s basement until I recovered.

Flash forward a decade or so, to a visit to the east coast.

On the graceful terrace of a lovely home, a cocktail party was reaching into the night with storytelling. I was puttering in the kitchen, fixing myself a drink, when someone’s words wafted through the window, and they sounded something like this:

“Yeah, he beat the hell out of her. We couldn’t figure out why she didn’t just leave him.”

Forsaking my Southern social graces, I stormed outside and lambasted the speaker—in front of everyone—for telling a story that was not hers to tell, for telling it with such a damnably ignorant conclusion. Unseemly of me, I know, and she responded with her own tantrum, stormed off, and didn’t speak to me for some time.

But the question lingered in the summer breeze, flirting with the fireflies—why didn’t I just leave him? It took me years to be able to answer it, and now I know why.

Because I did, because I did leave him. And I stood at the payphone at the corner of our city block in the winter night, shivering in the t-shirt I had on when he picked me up from the bed and threw me to the sidewalk outside our front door, and I discovered that the police wouldn’t do anything because I wasn’t injured (that time) and I could always stay at a motel or with friends.

But I had no money and I had no friends—because he didn’t want me to have them.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did. And I was wooed back into the relationship with the promise that he had been in counseling for six months and was no longer a batterer and would live only for my forgiveness.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did. And, with battered psyche in tow, I was shamed back to him with the blame for making him beat me, for ruining his life, for getting blood on his mother’s car upholstery.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did, I finally did. I left him when a skinny, exhausted mama in the ER, with a passel of runny-nosed kids, that woman who just wouldn’t stop staring at me as I talked to the cop, when she came over and said, “I know what’s going on. You don’t deserve it. Come home with me. You can sleep on the sofa.”

Instead of telling a woman in possession of nothing but a t-shirt to spend the night in a motel and call back when she’s really in trouble; instead of joking with a patient about injuries consistent with assault; instead of telling the complainant to be silent or she’ll make it worse the next time; instead of looking the other way; instead of blaming the victim; instead of accepting women’s excuses for black eyes and split lips, their lies about walking into doorways or tripping on coffee tables, their pleas that they must stay for the children; instead of all that, do this —

Say: Did somebody hurt you? You don’t deserve to be hit or kicked or strangled or thrown or belittled or terrorized. It is not your fault. It’s a crime. If somebody hurt you, let me help you. There are safe places to go and people who understand. Please let me help you.

Love,
K-B

For more information:

If you are a victim of violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Same-sex relationship violence counseling in San Diego

If you want to help, visit your local domestic violence prevention agency or Futures Without Violence.

Presidential Proclamation – National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2013

Intimate partner violence (IPV) statistics from the American Psychological Association

• More than one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced, rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
• On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.
• One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
• IPV is the leading cause of female homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy?

 


1 In 1982, there were few shelters for victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and little training for police. Today, there are significantly more resources, but still many law enforcement officers—and family and friends, victims and abusers—fail to treat IPV as the crime it is, and still it can be excruciatingly difficult to leave an abusive relationship.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven

Reviewed by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

TheMangoBrideMarivi Soliven, a San Diego-based author of short stories and essays, launched her debut novel this May. The Mango Bride (Penguin NAL, May 2013) is a brilliant depiction of gender and immigration issues, bound in the restrictions of family and class.

Writing from the informed position of a Filipina immigrant to the United States, Soliven tells the entwined stories of two Filipino families and their contemporary daughters, Amparo Guerrero, a child of privilege, and Beverly Obejas, of the servant class. Soliven deftly describes the figurative and literal landscapes of Manila as the two girls come of age in their distinct social strata and geographies.

Soliven’s descriptions of Manila scenes are vivid. She pulls us through the throngs who take over the city’s cemetery on All Soul’s Day, through the markets and eateries, the wealthy neighborhoods and high-end hotels, the slums of the city. The scenes are so effectively drawn, they serve as an armchair trip to the Philippines, a land we read as being as rich in culture as it is poor in opportunity to break the bonds of one’s inherited position, whether high or low.

Still, the possibility of change arises in circumstances that force each of the young women to immigrate to the United States. Amparo must leave to maintain her wealthy family’s crackled façade of respectability and Beverly, to pursue a better life unattainable in the Philippines. Inevitably, Amparo’s journey reveals even more of her family’s ugly underbelly and Beverly learns the futility of becoming a mail-order bride of a damaged U.S. veteran.

Marivi SolivenBut Soliven has written something more than a multigenerational family drama. She has incorporated compelling issues that humanize current news headlines as they help create vital characters. Immigration, gender and prejudice, class conflict, domestic violence—particularly its devastating effects on immigrants without U.S. citizenship—and the definition of family all drive the novel’s plot and the characters’ resolutions, both sorrowful and hopeful.

While The Mango Bride’s conclusion suggests that only the privileged can win the immigrant struggle for freedom, and the under classes are doomed to oppression and failed dreams, this disappointing notion is countered by Soliven’s insightful and sometimes lyrical rendering of the formidable social and economic structures that women must challenge to achieve their freedom.

Soliven will discuss The Mango Bride Tuesday, July 9, at the free, monthly Writers Read at Fallbrook Library, 124 S. Mission, in the Community Room. The reading begins at 6 p.m. with open mic for original poetry and prose, followed by Soliven’s reading, discussion and book signing.

For more information, contact K-B at kbgressitt@gmail.com or 760-522-1064.

Published by San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

V-Day – Until the Violence Stops

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.

Today, one billion people are rising up to demand an end to violence.

Because around the globe, 1 in 3 females will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

Demand an end to violence. Don’t ignore it. Don’t perpetrate it. Report it. Get help.

ABOUT ONE BILLION RISING

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 14 February 2013, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.

ONE BILLION RISING IS:

A global strike
An invitation to dance
A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
A new time and a new way of being

Helping domestic violence victims in Hurricane Sandy aftermath

From Feminist Peace Network:

As FPN has pointed out many times before, in the aftermath of any weather disaster, women often face different needs than men. In particular, people, mostly women and children, who are living in an abusive situation may be more vulnerable to violence because stress is often a trigger for acts of domestic violence as is feeling powerless as one might well feel if you have been flooded or burned out of your home, or you are cut off by water, no transit and no electricity. And if you are the primary caregiver for children or elder relatives, fleeing an abuser is all the more complicated.

Compounding the problem, shelters and other facilities that might normally be available to help may also be without electricity and phones or have been flooded or be short-staffed and unavailable or less available to help and police may have a harder time responding to calls if the victim even has a phone (which as I write this a great many people in New York and New Jersey still don’t have).

If you know people who may be particularly vulnerable to intimate violence in their lives and who have been affected by this horrendous storm, please do what you can to reach out to them and also, please consider making a donation to domestic violence shelters that may have been impacted as they may really be scrambling to provide additional services or rebuild.

And while we clean up here in the U.S. please be mindful that we were not the only country impacted by the storm and women in Haiti, still recovering from multiple weather disasters in the last few years, are very vulnerable, particularly in refuge camps, where rape and sexual assault have been serious problems and where access to such basics as food for infants and feminine hygiene products may be hard to get.

Why didn’t she just leave?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

Picture a sere summer night in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 1982.1

I lay on a crinkly table in a cluttered ER, joking with the doc, bribing him with a promise of homemade shortbread if he could fix my face without leaving scars, looking anywhere but in his eyes, and I noticed a police officer nearby.

When I was all stitched and tidied up, I went to the cop and heard a quavering voice tell him that I wanted to press charges against my husband for assault.

The cop looked across the waiting room at him, sitting with his face buried behind his bloodied hands, his tiny mother, herself a victim, standing next to his chair, her arm around him while she stroked his head and kissed his fevered brow.

The cop looked back at me and said, “You don’t want to do that. You’ll just make him angry all over again, and it’ll be worse the next time.”

I did eventually leave my husband, taking my battered self and VW bus and just enough money for gas from Phoenix back to LA, where I lived in a friend’s basement until I recovered.

Flash forward a decade or so, to a visit to the east coast.

On the graceful terrace of a lovely home, a cocktail party was reaching into the night with storytelling. I was puttering in the kitchen, fixing myself a drink, when someone’s words wafted through the window, and they sounded something like this:

“Yeah, he beat the hell out of her. We couldn’t figure out why she didn’t just leave him.”

Forsaking my Southern social graces, I stormed outside and lambasted the speaker—in front of everyone—for telling a story that was not hers to tell, for telling it with such a damnably ignorant conclusion. Unseemly of me, I know, and she responded with her own tantrum, stormed off, and didn’t speak to me for some time.

But the question lingered in the summer breeze, flirting with the fireflies—why didn’t I just leave him? It took me years to be able to answer it, and now I know why.

Because I did, because I did leave him. And I stood at the payphone at the corner of our block in the winter night, shivering in the t-shirt I had on when he picked me up from the bed and threw me to the sidewalk outside our front door, and I discovered that the police wouldn’t do anything because I wasn’t injured (that time) and I could always stay at a motel or with friends.

But I had no money and I had no friends—because he didn’t want me to have them.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did. And I was wooed back into the relationship with the promise that he had been in counseling for six months and was no longer a batterer and would live only for my forgiveness.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did. And, with battered psyche in tow, I was shamed back to him with the blame for making him beat me, for ruining his life, for getting blood on his mother’s car upholstery.

Why didn’t I leave him?

Because I did, I finally did. I left him when a skinny, exhausted mama in the ER, with a passel of runny-nosed kids, that woman who just wouldn’t stop staring at me as I talked to the cop, when she came over and said, “I know what’s going on. You don’t deserve it. Come home with me. You can sleep on the sofa. …”

Instead of telling a woman in possession of nothing but a t-shirt to spend the night in a motel and call back when she’s really in trouble; instead of joking with a patient about injuries consistent with assault; instead of telling the complainant to be silent or she’ll make it worse the next time; instead of looking the other way; instead of blaming the victim; instead of accepting women’s excuses for black eyes and split lips, their lies about walking into doorways or tripping on coffee tables, their pleas that they must stay for the children; instead of all that, do this —

Say: Did somebody hurt you? You don’t deserve to be hit or kicked or strangled or thrown or belittled or terrorized. It is not your fault. It’s a crime. If somebody hurt you, let me help you. There are safe places to go and people who understand. Please let me help you.

Love,
K-B

For more information:

If you are a victim of violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Same-sex relationship violence counseling in San Diego

If you want to help, visit your local domestic violence prevention agency or Futures Without Violence.

Presidential Proclamation – National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2012

Intimate partner violence (IPV) statistics from the American Psychological Association

• More than one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced, rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
• On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.
• One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
• IPV is the leading cause of female homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy?

 


1 In 1982, there were few shelters for victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and little training for police. Today, there are significantly more resources, but still many police officers—and family and friends of victims and abusers—fail to treat IPV as the crime it is, and still it is excruciatingly difficult to leave an abusive relationship.

Crossposted at Ms. Magazine BlogSan Diego Gay & Lesbian News and San Diego Free Press.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH:

The Other Side of the Wire

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

You’d think a survivor of an abusive relationship would lend one of the most empathic of ears to women incarcerated for charges related to domestic violence. Women who committed crimes because their abusers forced them to. Or women who, without the resources to leverage or buy a get-out-of-jail-free card, were caught up when the men who terrorized them broke the law and then skated off free. Or women who ultimately erupted in one excruciating moment of self-preservation, one violent demand for freedom, and killed their abusers.

Yes, you’d think someone who came close, but managed to avoid that final step, would be exquisitely understanding.

But I’m not. Or, to cut myself some slack, I wasn’t. I wasn’t at all understanding.

I once condemned women who committed or abetted crimes at their partners’ insistence. I rejected the defense of those who killed their abusers. And I reviled those who failed to protect their children from abusive partners. I had conveniently forgotten how grateful I was that I had no offspring with my abuser, how uncertain I was of what I might have done had I borne a baby into a violent family, how terrified I was that I might have taught a child how to submit, how to disappear into the background, how to cry silently, how to duck.

I, however, had gotten away from my abuser, rescued by a woman who didn’t even know me — “I know what’s going on,” she said. “Come home with me.” Despite her generous gift of freedom, though, I grew stingy with those who had none, who were paralyzed by the fear of the next assault, who could do no more than cower among smaller victims.

Instead of generosity, I offered criticism — perhaps to distance myself from the woman I once was, to deny I had ever been a victim “like that,” to refuse to acknowledge that they and I are one. I don’t know.

Then in 1988, I looked into the disfigured face of Hedda Nussbaum, read the evidence of her 12 years of horrifying abuse and utter degradation.   I listened to the testimony of her sitting on the bathroom floor with the dying child her partner had beaten. And I realized what an unconscionable act it was to blame her. To blame a brutalized victim for failing to behave like a good girl, like a good mother — as though no fist had ever silenced her, no fear had ever paralyzed her, no foot had ever kicked her, no words had ever cut her, no weapon had ever shattered her.

Then in 2011, I watched a new documentary called Sin By Silence, the story of the creation of Convicted Women Against Abuse — an organization formed inside the California Institute for Women to help educate the system about domestic violence (click here to find screenings). And I read a new book, Razor Wire Women, edited by Jodie Michelle Lawston and Ashley E. Lucas, a collection of stories, essays, poetry and art by abused, incarcerated women and those concerned for them. And then I knew at once that even though I was free, I was only one kind stranger away from the other side of the wire. There or in my grave.

And in that knowledge grows empathy.

Love,
K-B

Crossposted at San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

Koala at CSUSM rings in Domestic Violence Awareness Month touting rape, violence against women, racism, homophobia

 

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Warning: Adult content

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a designation first recognized in 1989. And it is still relevant. Despite the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Despite the growing understanding that battering one’s partner is a crime, not spousal privilege. Despite the vast number of people who think they don’t know anyone who has been harmed by an intimate partner.

Because they are wrong. National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) is still relevant because at least one in four women in the United States — LBTQ or straight — will be assaulted some time in her life.

Name four women you know. One of them likely was, is being, or will be punched, kicked, strangled, burned, stabbed, raped — physically harmed by an intimate.

That’s startling, isn’t it. That’s why this month is a welcome opportunity to focus on raising awareness of the ongoing severity of the problem and on educating people to help prevent domestic violence.

And how did The Koala welcome the month? Tabloid owner George Lee Liddle III, of San Diego, released the latest issue of The Koala at Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM), bearing the message that rape, violence, racism, homophobia, sodomy of minors and forced pornography are laughable entertainment.

Liddle and the students he manages at the three San Diego County public universities where The Koala is distributed call the tabloid satire, but their content makes clear that the publisher, writers and editors of The Koala don’t know satire from scripture. What they are doing is not funny; it fails as satire; it has no redeeming features. What they are doing is purveying violence, prejudice and hate. These predominantly white heterosexual men use these forms of violence to attract attention to The Koala and then giggle at the fear and outrage, the humiliation and damage that it causes. And they elicit these reactions from their victims with such content as the following (with The Koala‘s errors intact):

Top Five Phrases Never Heard at CSUSM 4. I’ve never been raped before

Women secretly want to be raped

Why do Mexicans classify themselves as people? THEY ARE A FUCKING SWARM OF BROWN SHIT.

Dear koala, Does drugging and raping my roommate make me gay?

Top Ten Advantages To Dating An Underage Girl: 4. They don’t know yet that ass to mouth isn’t acceptable; 6. If you knock her teeth out, they grow back

Top Five Signs Your Girlfriend is Dead: 2. She stopped struggling under the rope

… [W]hen you’re done appeasing our each and every obnoxious and whimsical demand, we’re still gonna fuck the old broad sweeping the stairs.

I couldn’t tell if the fishy smell was escaping fromt the fridge or if all these beautiful azian women had some of the stankiest pussys ever

To black guys: make your cocks smaller please.

To all the fat bitches out there: Suck a fart out of my ass, choke on it and die.

Dilcie, go to the top of the parking structure and jump…

And, in the recent CSUSM issue, Liddle published an image of a female student leader who was running for Homecoming King, Photoshopped into a pornographic scene, with the following headline and copy:

Please ask and do tell … and take pictures

Remember those fantasies of Homecoming you had back in high school? Imagining what it would be like to have a “lezzed-out” homecoming court. Wishing that the Jock who won the title of King were actually an exotic and stunning babe that could scissor the shit out of the queen?

In our rapidly changing times this dream has now become a reality. Thanks to the courageous and open-minded women who are running to be the Queen of King [student’s name redacted], we can all look forward to a Royal Fisting. The question remains, which princess will become the lucky Queen?

This is the product Liddle publishes and promotes on public university campuses, a product funded by commercial advertisers — and supported as a sanctioned student organization at University of California San Diego (UCSD).

And this is, statistics being what they are, what the 1,500 female students at CSUSM, the 3,675 at UCSD, and the 4,350 at SDSU who have been, are, or will be victims of domestic violence are subjected to each time The Koala is distributed.

Outrageous, eh? Are you outraged enough to do something about it?

Many of us at CSUSM are, and we are planning some actions that will protect First Amendment rights while attempting to protect students, faculty and staff from The Koala’s hate.

If you’d like to join us, visit www.CallOutTheKoala.com and subscribe to receive our updates or click the Call Out The Koala Facebook page Like button.

In the meantime, call The Koala advertisers and encourage them to stop funding hate. If you live in the same legislative district as UCSD, call your state legislators and ask them to help UCSD find a way to stop lending public support to a hate tabloid passing as a student organization.

Whatever you do…

Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.

—   Southern Poverty Law Center

Love,
K-B

Crossposted at East County Magazine and  San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.