No, The Suffering Isn’t Over For Us Yet

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I struggled with putting this out in a public forum, yet I think it is important to validate my family’s feelings during a tragic ending to a terrible ordeal. My sister’s ex-husband committed suicide Friday morning. He had stalked her and my Niece for several years. Nobody believed he was really dead at first, because he has both threatened and faked his suicide in the past. His ex-girlfriend notified my 17 year old Niece of his passing in a text message.

His Facebook is full of condolences from people who barely knew him, or only knew his side of the story. Most of them have no idea what he put our family through. Thankfully, my Niece has family and friends who love and support her; those who are well-aware of the trauma he caused her and her Mother. We are relieved that the nightmare is over, yet saddened by the pain she is suffering because of his actions. We are angry at the foolish people who are now praising him as a great guy – the same people who did nothing to intervene. Many of these buddies were the ones who played an active part in his addictions.

A single Mother and baby were brutally slain just a few blocks away from their home right after my ex-brother-in-law began stalking his family. I heard about it on the radio news while driving to work, and immediately thought it was them. This was just the first of many, many terrifying incidents that my family experienced. I started Human Rights Vs. Stalkers because of the suffering my sister and niece endured at their abuser’s hands. It was the only way I could do something to keep my feelings of powerlessness at bay.

My Niece has struggled with loving vs. hating her Father, and had terminated telephone contact with him several months ago. He chose not to attend supervised visits with her during these past five years. After he publicly humiliated her on his Facebook and she found out about it, she announced on her own account that she wished he would die; words spoken in haste by a young girl who was tired of being controlled and shamed instead of loved. She had just recently changed her mind, and was trying to contact him and her Grandfather over the past few weeks. Neither would answer, nor return her calls. Now it is too late, and she is absolutely devastated.

Nobody can possibly understand the terror our family, including my elderly parents have felt during this time. We have all been taunted, degraded, and threatened. It did not have to end this way, but it did because of the choices HE made. He is not some lonely, unloved martyr whose family abruptly abandoned him for no reason. Opportunities for him to grow and change were available at every stage of his life. We all did our best to help him during the 17 year marriage to my sister, but he did not want anybody’s help.

His “friends,” who are so stunned at this outcome, could have acted like real friends, and encouraged him to stop making excuses for his poor behavior, or to get some mental help, instead of helping him to hide his secrets. His law enforcement colleagues could have set him straight by holding him accountable for his actions, and confronting him with the truth, instead of encouraging his delusions. His family could have opened their eyes to the abuse he was inflicting, instead of enabling it. They could have tried to protect my Niece and her Mother.

My Niece’s first words to me after she found out were, “I don’t know if I should feel glad or sad after all he put Me and Mom through, but I miss him so much.” She is going to suffer from his abuses for years to come. Her half-siblings were not even mentioned in the obituary; one of whom she never met, and has only learned existed after her parents’ divorce. Today my Niece is trying to access her Father’s Facebook to put her own message of grief on it. She deserves to have her voice heard. She also wants to retrieve a few recent pictures of him from his page. Unfortunately, he had blocked her from viewing it, so this is proving to be difficult.

My sister told me people are saying to her that they are unsure whether to offer condolences or congratulations. Her Ex-Father-in-Law finally spoke to my Niece yesterday. Being a staunch Baptist man, he wanted to know if her Mom was still single. He, as many others did, has judged her for the heart wrenching decision she made to leave the abuse. Many other busybodies now want the latest updates on her side of the story. The truth is, my sister refuses to feel guilty for the suicide, because she did nothing to contribute to it. Our entire family is feeling many mixed emotions: relief, sadness, anger…just to name a few. We would like to finally have some peace and we deserve to be heard too.

What about this type of assault?

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I have always believed that emotional trauma IS also physical trauma. It has similar long-term effects to physical trauma. It really is an assault upon the entire nervous system. Most survivors have experienced polytrauma, and it would be nice to see courts begin to use the data that backs up the long-term effects of abuse during deliberations and sentencing.

What are your thoughts about this?

A Unifying Voice

20140401_1840481I don’t know about you, but I get so frustrated with our government, and with people in general these days. It seems that nothing gets done about the serious issues facing our world. I just had a conversation with a co-worker this morning regarding the violence our grandchildren will grow up with. Fraught with waste and corruption, government funded agencies have become ineffective at solving the exploding social problems facing us today. Is it too late to change our culture of violence? I don’t believe that.

We are facing a crisis of competent leadership in this time of social change and uncertainty. It seems that most people “in charge” make decisions based on self-interest rather than social benefit. Today’s leaders lack a passion for trailblazing positive social change, particularly when they could be met with resistance from the public, or when it requires a great deal of extra efforts. Too many so-called leaders are driven by the fear of failure, and by the possibility of losing those highly coveted political perks that they have been accustomed to.

At the same time, I am encouraged by the number of emerging grassroots activists who carry a passion for people. They work tirelessly to enact change and to make our world a better place in which to live. Unfortunately, too many activists tend to be followers and pawns of politicians, rather than leaders for positive change. They are often unorganized and  untrained in effective outreach strategies. Having little or no resources for education and advocacy, they are often unable to produce sustained results.

How then, should we make use of rising social advocacy in light of dwindling leadership and resources? I feel that the answer lies in coalition building, where knowledge and resources are shared throughout all levels of each involved organization. The Joyful Heart Foundation, in partnership with the Avon Foundation for Women, the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, and a multitude of other organizations, has succeeded  in doing this. Together they have built a comprehensive platform to end violence against women and provided a unifying voice for advocates; a voice that says, “NO MORE” abuse of any kind is going to be tolerated.

The phrase “NO MORE” sums up the message that women have had enough destruction in our families, and we refuse to accept the violence against our gender, the silence of our peers, and the excuses of society. The unifying  symbol, a chunky, teal “O,” is the banner that tells the world we matter, and our children matter. It is a reminder that we intend to improve the circumstances through which our lives pass. No more means we are taking control of our family’s future in order to bring peace back into our homes.

I’m encouraged by the men supporting us in this endeavor. Men with a progressive voice reject the form of masculinity that destroys lives, choosing instead to be men of integrity in their own homes – men who serve their families more than self-interest. They realize the destructive path that our present society has paved, and the lies they have believed, which have been handed down from fathers to sons throughout the generations. These men are brave enough to make necessary changes in their own lives, and to challenge their peers to do the same.

Supporters of the no more campaign are advocates who work tirelessly at sending our message out to the masses, challenging people to stop feeding what many call a “rape culture.” We encourage people to reject the entitlement mindset, which tells us we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, regardless of whom we hurt. We ask people to view women and children as valuable assets to society rather than as objects of self-gratification. It is our hope to transform our culture into one that has no use for aggression to satisfy our basic needs.

This movement has already met with a great deal of resistance from the men’s rights movement, evangelical churches, and the Republican Party. Misinformation spread within these circles erroneously convinces people that we are conspiring to tear down the traditional American family, when in fact, we only wish to rebuild and strengthen it. We don’t hate men, nor do we wish to eject them from our families. We do however, require a better life for our sons, empowering them, so they might become respected fathers within their own families one day. It is truly our hope that men will realize how this movement is about improving the lives of all men as well as all women. We courage men to become involved in the positive masculinity groups which are popping up across the country. These groups celebrate masculinity, fatherhood and the family bond.

I feel confident that individual engagement and family harmony will lead to social peace in every sector of our society. Imagine what can be accomplished with positive collaborations in government, health, and human services. Unification campaigns like “NO MORE” can bring renewal to all aspects of societal development. Today, we fight for women; tomorrow, we will save the world!