The cloak of silence surrounding intimate partner fatalities is nearly impenetrable. Details are buried with the victims. Family members deny evidence of abuse before their very eyes. But partners who have survived and healed provide a window on the methods and complexity of power wielded by their abusers.
What follows are stories told by women who could be your sister, mother, neighbor, or boss. These women came together in October at Charlottesville's Shelter for Help in Emergency to share their lives; to try to explain and describe how they were bound to their abusers, how they left, and how they continue to suffer though the healing process. Looking at them you would never know what is inside or be able to distinguish them from the staff at the Shelter. These are striking women who you know but who live secret parallel existences; hidden even from themselves.
The stories that follow are at once different and the same. One striking aspect of these is that the methods the abusers employ are from the same kit familiar to anyone who has studied child or elder abuse or, for that matter, financial exploitation of the wealthy in Ponzi schemes. They are just applied in different variations depending upon the situation and prey. If we recognize the tools in the toolkit, then maybe observing them being applied is the red flag to defend ourselves and others. This, as suggested in A Journey Into Intimate Power and Abuse, provides a perspective that hints a "healthy cynicism" is the necessary defense against any form of nefarious advantage.
All of these women were and are like any of us, reaching to achieve their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. What makes us vulnerable is how and when we assign trust. That vulnerability is an aspect of human commerce as is trust. Sociopaths leverage an intuition crafted from their own experiences to recognize prey and know how to "close the sale."
Note: The posters featured here line the walls of the conference room at the Charlottesville Shelter office. Like the stories that follow, there are no names displayed out of respect for the privacy and security of these survivors. (click to embiggen)
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, December 17. Also, check out the video of President Obama announcing his "action to protect one of America's greatest natural treasures by signing a Presidential Memorandum to protect Bristol Bay." Good news!
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, October 27. Also, check out the photo of Sen. Mark Warner and Fairfax County Dems Chair Sue Langley, from a "meet-and-greet" yesterday.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, October 23. Also check out the NewsHour story, which explains that it's by far and away non-Ebola diseases (e.g., the flu, measles, whooping cough, antibiotic-resistant bacteria) which pose the real health threat to the American public when it comes to infectious diseases.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, October 22. Also see the video of Sen. Tim Kaine at the Richmond Times-Dispatch's "Public Square" on war powers.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, October 19. By the way, just click on that image if you want to tell the fossil fuel industry and corporate shills at the Virginia State Corporation Commission what you think about their wildly false, dishonest, disgraceful "report" on the impacts of EPA's Clean Power Plan on Virginia.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, October 17. The photo is from last night's 8th CD Democratic Kennedy-King Dinner, saluting Rep. Jim Moran for his many years of service.
Like his discredited predecessor and kowtowing to the fossil fuel sector, Governor McAuliffe has embraced an "all of the above" energy plan that begrudgingly mentions renewable energy. Tomorrow he'll foist it at the Science Museum of Virginia. Some of the people he avoided in Charlottesville will be inside to greet him.
Climate change activists, including Richmond Resistance have organized an assembly that is drawing participants from across Virginia. While access to the event inside the museum is at capacity, some activists who oppose the Dominion natural gas pipeline did obtain entry and will be there. They do not intend to disrupt the event, but will wear shirts that show solidarity with those picketing outside.
The Sierra Club commended the McAuliffe plan for promoting renewables "to jump start our lagging clean energy business sector."
On the other hand, the club's Virginia director, Glen Besa, said in a statement that McAuliffe's support "for offshore drilling, and expanding gas pipelines and coal technology exports seriously undercuts his intentions to address climate change." --Associated Press via Seattlepi.com
Talk about faint praise.
And the Sierra Club understates the main objection. This plan egregiously ignores the impact of the "strategy" on climate change. Between the lines is a pragmatic acceptance of fracking and the resulting threat to aquifers and the atmosphere; just to mention a couple of things vital to the environment.
There appears no serious investment in wind and solar energy contained in the 461 page plan. The Governor's continued pragmatism on climate change and other issues may do more to suppress Virginia's Democratic vote in 2016 than any Republican scheme, much to the chagrin of a close and personal friend.
Probably not. Yesterday a 17 year old girl, Malala Yousafzai, shared the Nobel Peace Prize; the winners cited "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education." How many girls in America struggle? Far too many.
"Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights" - United Nations Resolution 66/170
A simple truth is that gender inequality begins at conception. Is it simply culture? No, I don't believe so...it is rooted in physiological differences and procreation roles; these are natural facts that have influenced the paths of social Darwinism. Where there has been philosophical advancement, social enlightenment has neglected the value and role of women for the sole purpose of maintaining a dominance that serves the interests of the "haves." Somehow, somewhere, long, long ago, women became chattel. And the luster of that property is diminished by the exercise of "ownership rights" by men.
Women are diminished by patriarchal attempts to protect that ownership. These are clearly manifest in laws restricting women's sovereignty over their own bodies. This would be comical if it were not so tragic. While those who would protect the status quo focus on the emotional issue of abortion, they refuse to effectively ameliorate the more pervasive crimes and trespasses against girls and women, most of which create the circumstances that force the tragic choice they would not allow.
That the abuses of girls and women in other cultures and countries are often far worse than the general condition in America does not excuse their social position and condition here.
I've known Paul Reagan for fifteen years, as an official for Mark Warner, Jim Webb and now Terry McAuliffe. (Back in the 90′s, he also served on the Consumer Protection Commission, where I used to appear as an attorney). I regard him as one of the most honest and reputable people I've met in Virginia. Nothing he said or suggested with Senator Puckett has changed my opinion. I'll leave it at that.
Because, as we all know, people with long and distinguished careers in public service never wreck those careers and self-destruct by breaking the law. No, that never happens.
The next "thought" Senator Petersen rolled out was this:
The Puckett investigation is a road to nowhere and we're slowly getting there. While Phil's actions in resigning just before a key vote were wrong (in my humble opinion), that is a matter between him and his friends. It does not involve the U.S. Attorney. This is not "McDonnell Part Deux." There is nothing illegal about resigning from a public office to take a better-paid position, either with the private sector or with state government. If it was, then you could lock up a lot of people in River City right now.
It's true enough that people often leave good jobs for better jobs. Indeed, that used to be the American dream, to build a career by taking a series of increasingly challenging jobs, succeeding in them, and moving on to better compensated opportunities. That's not what Phil Puckett did. Phil Puckett tried to trade control of the Virginia State Senate for not one, but two six figure jobs with the state judiciary and the state tobacco commission--the first for his daughter and the second for himself. There is a strong possibility that this attempted exchange of influence might be a violation of federal public corruption laws. It stretches credulity to suggest that Petersen--by all accounts a talented attorney--does not understand that.
Possibly only because Hannah Graham disappeared did we learn she was a victim of foul play. Statistically, 1,137 other American undergraduates were raped that day. Why aren't they in the headlines? Bet you if four UVA football players had gone missing in five years, those cases would have been solved.
There is every disincentive for victims of rape to report their assaults. When they do, they invariably become victimized again. The deck is stacked in favor of assailants. You'd think that in the enlightened environs of college campuses this would not be so. When will the discussion about violence against women change from women avoiding potential danger to men behaving with respect?
There is nothing positive about this to learn from the leadership on Virginia's campuses. And there seems no accountability for leadership failures. The President of James Madison University (JMU), at a minimum, provided cover for the malfeasance in his administration's handling the Sarah Butters sexual assault, deflecting blame onto the victim. Governor McAuliffe plastered over the scandal of Title IX investigations across Virginia by appointing a task force to conduct a "top-to-bottom" review of procedures for investigating sexual assaults and resolving complaints at public colleges and universities. You can conduct the tightest investigations in the universe and it won't prevent the next broken life. Nice try Governor, but this won't change the climate on campuses. You want Presidents of Virginia's universities and colleges to be invested? Fire one; start with JMU President Alger who allowed Sarah Butters' dignity to be trampled upon.
The overuse of football as a metaphor for life can be irritating but sadly in the area of leadership, some college coaches are way ahead of their "bosses." Last July after Coach Charlie Strong started kicking players off of his team for their behavior toward women, ESPN commentator Rod Gilmore was asked about football players' violence against women. Gilmore, a former Stanford football player, accomplished attorney, and ESPN analyst praised Strong for doing the right thing.
"He's one of the few people who takes a strong stand against violence against women. I mean he comes out on day one and says that if you don't treat women with respect, you cannot play for him. And he's new at Texas and he backed that up today. But seriously, across the landscape of college football, we don't take it seriously enough." - Rod Gilmore on ESPN
Governor McAuliffe, stung by legislative setbacks that he foresaw when he campaigned saying that he didn't want to be Governor if he faced a veto-proof General Assembly, is going to his advertised strong suit: jobs. It's a gamble. And he's playing a high profile hand with Stone Brewing.
Stone Brewing wants to expand East Coast sales. A brewery located on our side of the Mississippi expands presence and reduces shipping costs. The potential sites for the new brewery have been narrowed to Ohio and Virginia. Each state has its own transportation advantages with Ohio arguably better situated. But only Virginia allows sales of Stone Brewing's higher alcohol by volume (ABV) content brews.
There is something of an irony here. The competition is between Ohio and its Republican Governor, John Kasich and Virginia and our Democratic Governor. But it is Ohio's Republican legislature that stands in the way of Ohio's successful courtship of this employment plum.
"Stone Brewing expects to invest up to $60 million in its east coast brewery which will include a restaurant and retail area. The company anticipates 375 jobs would be created over 5 years." - WOSU Public Media
Last December, Ohio state Democratic Representative Dan Ramos introduced a bill that would adjust the allowed ABV content, removing that obstruction, if it really is one, from consideration. It had bipartisan support and an almost equal number of the 21 cosponsors from each party. But this will be familiar to Virginians: Ramos's House Bill (HB) 391 went to committee where it has since languished.
From what Stone Brewing has announced about the decision to locate, one can deduce that Ohio is the preferred location. The anticipated announcement allows time for Ohio legislative action on HB 391 but action has been slow coming. For once a Republican legislature may offer Governor McAuliffe an advantage. Sadly it isn't Virginia's.
As mentioned in a previous post, rapists are very often serial offenders. The current "person of interest" is 32 years old, so if he perpetrated a crime against Hannah Graham, it is very unlikely this is the first time he has struck. This is not an acquired taste.
What that means is that if indeed Jesse Matthew was involved in any misdeed leading to or resulting in the disappearance of Ms. Graham, this will not have been the first time. And that leads to one of the reasons rapists are able to be serial offenders: their victims don't report the crime(s) for personal reasons. This underlines the urgency for encouraging reporting and for pursuing any investigation into sexual assault and/or rape to a conclusion.
Therefore the investigators should be aggressively calling for any information from acquaintances of Matthew, including prior assaults, rapes and/or drugging, that has not been reported. Silence is an enemy to the liberty of everyone who comes in contact with persons who are able to commit these acts without regard to or fear of the consequences.
The courage to report such a demeaning victimization is essential to protecting literally the lives and liberty of many others. Anyone who has hidden any information about an interaction with this "person of interest" or any assailant should learn from this sad situation. Report, report, report. And not just about this case; and no matter how long ago.
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