Saturday, September 13, 2014
October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month
I hate political correctness, the freedoms it seeks to corral, and the "months" designated for this or that. Yet, even a broken watch is right, twice a day, and designating a month to raise awareness of Domestic Violence (D/V) sits well with me.
Susan Murphy Milano became a mentor, of sorts, for my work in helping (more than just advocating) for victims of D/V.
Susan was amphetamines on steroids rolled up into a super pit bull of energy all at once. Her bite was worse than her bark. People loved her or hated her, and those that hated her, respected her. If a "spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down", Susan had no time to stop off at the grocery store. She moved at the speed of sound, and then some. How cancer ever defeated her can only be explained by faith, as cancer, itself, should have feared Susan, as God knows, I did. Yet it must have been that Christ, Himself, said, 'I will be without Susan no longer' and summoned His dedicated messengers to yield her to Himself.
Susan fought the good fight.
Her last phone call haunts me still.
Working two jobs, raising a family, and donating time to D/V victims and Missing Persons cases, I knew that Susan wrongfully thought that everyone else had her ability to jump through hoops without hesitation, sleep, or thought. She needed me to:
a. Keep my full time investigatory job;
b. Keep my Statement Analysis jobs, including trainings
c. Fly to Chicago to help film a pilot episode for A&E
d. Go over "20/20" scripts
e. Edit her new book. (I did so, bawling my eyes out at each chapter)
f. and, oh, by the way, discern if so and so is lying to her. She knows he is, but she wants to make sure. (Susan was intuitively good at lie detection but could not sit still long enough for formal training. She should have taught it, instead).
g. Be on the Dr. Roth Show, another show, and still another...
She needed all of this done, one hour ago, yesterday.
Then, there was this woman she knows, who's boyfriend had blackened her eyes, and I needed to...
This was her dedication to victims of 'intimate partner violence', as she called it. The entire world was to stop to help a single victim plot her course of safety, and nothing was more important to Susan than the practical preparation for the victim. "Peter, she needs help now!"
Susan did not "protest" Domestic Violence, as if walking around in circles, carrying a sign saying, "We are against Domestic Violence" while people across the street walked in circles, carried signs that said, "We are for Domestic Violence" benefited anyone but a politician. She knew too much.
She was too sophisticated to buy into any political clap-trap that sounded like protection, but really only profited the politician who sought some nice publicity before women. "There oughta be a law!" somehow would benefit lawyers, and not women in need.
Susan was too busy getting the victim to find her birth certificate, medical records, toiletries, and other practicalities, to busy herself with self-seeking nonsense.
Victims of Domestic Violence generally do not live in day to day violence.
It isn't necessary.
Once violence occurs, the vicim soon learns how to avoid violence by walking on eggshells, and keeping the controlling abuser satisfied.
She learns to read his face and his body language, as necessity compels her instincts into overdrive.
Susan could spot that look on a woman's face and know. She knew.
I learned more from her than I wish I had, for, as Solomon said, 'with much knowledge comes much sadness.' As a husband and father of two daughters, the thought of a man putting his hands on either could drive me to violence. I was raised with 7 sisters, all successful professionals, and was taught how unmanly it was to ever use my strength against them. I know this is not taught in schools today, as we are all "equal protoplasmic explosions", but the honoring of women and the use of strength to protect, not harm, is so sorely missed today. My son in ice hockey will not hit a female, no matter the consequence. It was wrong in my grandfather's day, my father's day, my day, and in my son's day. It is the sacrifice of strength that character is seen, not its expenditure upon one who trusts will be loved and cherished.
The betrayal that a victim feels, experiencing violence, in the very place where safety is supposed to dwell, and by the very man of whom her heart has trusted in, is physically and psychologically traumatic, with consequences ranging from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, down to suppressed immune systems and wonderful women succumbing to diseases that perhaps, just perhaps, they might have been able to fight off had their immune systems not been taxed by sexual abuse or violence.
Only God knows. Maybe He will allow science to discover what these "ghosts from the nursery" do to our loved ones, even in childhood.
"I woke up, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and went to work..."
This was from a theft investigation, years ago. I noted from the brilliant teaching of Avinoam Sapir that when personal hygiene enters a statement, it is a signal of concealed information, often of a personal nature, which may be related to Domestic Violence.
Why is this?
It is this way because few people (less than 10%) feel it necessary to tell us, in a written statement, that she brushed her teeth. We all brush our teeth. (I like to believe this when I stand close to someone at work). Few of us feel the need to add it to our statements, even verbally when discussing our day's progress.
For the victim of Domestic Violence, life is out of control, living hour by hour on eggshells, carefully navigating the temper tantrums of the abuser, who does not need to be violent to control her.
Her life is not her own. It is his.
The feeling of losing control sets off a panic button in all of us, which is often seen in the surrendered shoulders of someone in handcuffs, especially shortly after a struggle. He is defeated. He cannot raise his arms to his face to protect his face, to cover his shame, or to even cover his tears. He is utterly without control of his arms (which is why some then use their feet to fight).
For the victim of Domestic Violence, her life is so out of control, that when she enters the bathroom and locks that door even for a few minutes, she feels control. It is a significant part of her day, therefore, it enters her language. In the above case, the victim did not steal, but had knowledge of theft: her boyfriend who interrupted the interview, shirtless, to give me the overcompensating handshake of a cowardly bully who fears his loss of control.
Even just the raising of awareness in the month of October helps.
Susan is no longer with us.
Some may feel that this is something that does not need to be said, but I think otherwise. I feel her presence, through her words and work, and must remind myself that while I am at my desk, feeling overwhelmed with too much work, the phone is not going to ring and I am not going to be ripped into by her for not calling her back immediately.
God, how I miss that.
What Susan stood for, and did so in a loud, boisterous way, was planning. Detailed planning goes far beyond holding a woman's hand and saying, "it will be alright."
No, it is not going to be alright unless we make it so. The moment that she eludes the control of the abuser, the clock ticks. The next 24 to 48 hours is when the domestic homicide is at its peak.
"See ya, Babe!" wrote one man who killed his girlfriend, in an email to her, after her death, thinking that it would be helpful as an alibi.
In fact, as he recalled their "fun" day together, the phrase, "See ya', Babe!" pinpointed her time of death. I told the reporter that it would match the coroner's report and it was highly likely that these are the last words the victim heard before he pulled the trigger.
We raise awareness and, true enough, it is lessening the fake "shame" some women feel, especially those who, as expected, walked in denial, attempted to "win" him back, blamed that "b****" of an ex wife, and made 101 excuses for him.
Yet, overcoming the instinct to nurture, heal and love, she can, and must, get free.
Careful planning is the key.
Awareness is helping, but advocacy must not stop with the Restraining Order.
It continues with careful planning, confidentiality, financial support, and, when necessary, protection in the dangerous days and weeks after.
Susan gave up on no one. No victim's denial could wear her down.
She, being dead, speaks to us today, as we seek to continue to carry the torch.
No need to search for heroes in our world, nor among the departed. They are living among us, infirmities and failures abounding, yet overcoming, and helping others regain the dignity they were born with.