Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. October is a great month for celebrating things that kill women.
DV is like alcohol abuse. Everyone knows someone who has the problem. You may not realize it right now, but lift the cover and you will get a whiff of stink left on a victim by an abuser.
For some reason one year, a whole bunch of women I know began coming out.
First a neighbor called me at midnight. Could she come over with her kids and stay till morning. Her husband was on a rampage and he had shot his .357 magnum through the living room ceiling. The room above belonged to one of their sons. She spent the night and went back home. They got divorced. A former school principal, he's now in a homeless shelter. She remarried a nice guy.
Then the teenaged daughter of the family next door sought refuge from her abusive father. I think hitting was just the tip of the iceberg. She moved away to be with her biological mother.
Someone I worked with also called me at midnight -- I think midnight is the magic hour for DV. Whaddya think honey, should we have sex or should I beat you up? Heads it's sex, tails you're a punching bag.
Her husband had thrown her around, but made extra sure he avoided hurting her face. This was 15 years ago. They're still together. It helps that every Monday he gets on a plane to work in another city for five days. So they only have to negotiate the weekend.
Alcohol fuels a lot of these events. But I was trained that the alcohol only exacerbates the violence, it doesn't cause it.
Talk about splitting hairs. If the only time he beats you up he's drunk, I'd say the alcohol is pretty instrumental wouldn't you?
My other favorite is the feminist position on abuse. Sorry, but we don't come to the rescue of battered women. They have to be willing to leave on their own. Three kids, no money, no car, no job. And we won't lift a finger until they're willing to crawl on their bellies and beg us for help.
Another girlfriend was married to man who liked to swing. You know, wife swap with other consenting adults. Only she was coerced. He was a chemist. She, a very successful pharmaceutical rep. She has left me shaking my head over the stories of the parties they attended. Once in awhile she'd point out someone at the healthclub who had been the "star" of a recent gathering. The stuff they did was degrading to animals. She got divorced ten years ago. But I know she still misses the creep.
After I got trained as a crisis line worker for battered women, another woman I know called to tell me about a problem with her live-in boyfriend. This was a man I'd known for years. Worked for him. Dated his old roommate after my divorce. You'd think they could find room for each other in a 12,000 square foot house.
She announced she was leaving him and he told her she couldn't leave until he said she could leave. This was after telling her to get out for months. She described what was going on and I told her she was in danger. He had several signs of a guy going over the edge. And he had never touched her before. So I told her to leave or be ready to call the police.
The next night romeo beat her up. She called the cops and they were fantastic. Put him in jail. Gave her all the information she needed to get an order of protection and the address of a shelter if it came to that. They hooked her up with an advocate to walk her through the court proceedings. Took her to the hospital. I can't remember all the stuff they had in place to help her. But it was extensive.
To show appreciation for their efforts, I had a hugecake made and dropped it off at the station. It wasn't much, but I had to do something to acknowledge the thankless task they had embarked on.
Because loverboy threatened not to pay the $100,000 he owed her if she didn't drop the charges. I told her his threat was extortion and she should go after him, but she didn't want him to be angry at her. WTF?
She dropped the charges.
And therein lies the biggest problem. The chickenbleep women. I used to say I understood how battered women would go back to their abusers -- the psychology of victimization, blah blah blah. Now I have no patience. Especially when there are children involved.
Get out of there and stay out of there.
We do need more safehouses. The kind that aren't just glorified homeless shelters. We need financial aid and training to help women starting over. And counseling for the women and their children to keep them from going back.
I can understand a woman going back when she has three kids, no job and no prospects. It doesn't mean she should go back, but I can understand.
It's the women who have a career and financial freedom I will never get.
So I stopped working the crisis lines. I got too cynical.
I created an event instead. Every October First, volunteers hike out to the beach here in Chicago and light 3000 luminaria. Each light acknowledges one woman killed nationally by domestic violence each year.
It's a very pretty sight. It gets coverage for a difficult problem.
And I don't have to sit on the hotline and listen to the countless stories of women returning to their abusers until they die.