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Why didn’t she leave?

Why wasn’t there an arrest?

We didn’t see anything wrong; they seemed like the perfect couple.

These are the statements people often make when they learn about an abusive relationship, especially when one ends in homicide. Assumptions about domestic violence are rife in modern society. We tend to armchair quarterback others’ relationships instead of taking the time to understand the dynamics of and patterns within domestic violence.

Jane Monckton Smith, a Professor of Public Protection in the UK, has written In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder. You may have seen Professor Monckton Smith being interviewed on crime shows or have read her other books. This book, however, should be required reading for humanity.

Monckton Smith takes readers through eight easy-to-understand stages of how domestic violence progresses to homicide. She offers examples from her own career that are relatable and straightforward. Many can see their own tendencies, or that of someone they know, in the people she has studied and interviewed.

By the end of this book, you might be stunned by how simple, how logical, how obvious these eight stages are. Using the eight stages as a template, you can set that template on nearly any deadly domestic situation and see how closely it fits. All of us, with rare exception, are very familiar with deadly relationships thanks to the media, so this can be used as a tool to understand what has actually happened.

I firmly agree with Monckton Smith that people don’t “just lose it,” one of the premises of this book. That is a myth. The “crime of passion” theory, that someone was murdered in the heat of the moment, is a convenient go-to explanation, sometimes used so that we don’t have to deal with the gruesome reality of the buildup and outcome. As she explains, long before the murder there is a devaluing of the victim and decisions are made by the killer that culminate in the taking of a human life.

Monckton Smith is also wise to point out the erroneous judgments society makes against the victims. She has great empathy for why victims are trapped in dangerous relationships and why they can’t usually “just leave.” We always seem to ask this after someone is hurt or dead, “why didn’t she just leave?” At one point in the book she asks, “why didn’t he leave?” He (or she) had the freedom to leave at any time: they had the means, the freedom, the income, the ability to exit safely, not the victim.

This statement– why didn’t he leave– nails what domestic violence is all about: power and control. Abusers don’t want to give up power and control. This is why the risk of homicide goes up so dramatically when a victim tries to leave an abusive relationship; the abuser still wants control. Some abusers are so desperate to retain control that they are willing to kill their partner, spouse, and even their own children so that they “win.”

The author features interviews with actual murderers in this book to show that power and control takes different forms. Others may see the “nice guy,” the “quiet recluse,” the “violent drunk,” or the “jilted lover.” These killers may present as something entirely opposite of who they are. Thanks to her experiences in policing in particular, she looks deeper, finding that yes, regardless of how different these killers are, they still progressed through the stages that lead to homicide.

Beneath different personalities, beneath different MOs, beneath different situations and circumstances, Monckton Smith identifies an often insidious progression that leads from alleged love to cold, calculated death. Its presence in so many different cases is eerie and unsettling. Yet if we would simply educate people about it, it would be so much more obvious to all when it occurs. We would be able to stop the fatal progression and save lives.

We should be educating children about domestic violence. Teens should absolutely know the warning signs of a controlling relationship. They should also know how and where to get help. Imagine if we made In Control required reading in high schools, if we actually sent young people into adulthood with a functional knowledge of what constitutes a healthy relationship and what does not. Many of us had no clue. But with a book like this, there are no more excuses.

As a side note, there are references in this book to the UK’s legal system and police forces that Americans may be unfamiliar with. You should be able to figure them out quickly, and Monckton Smith does explain some of them.

Overall, please consider sharing In Control with your local schools, shelters, advocates, police forces, libraries, and especially churches. Churches sometimes have a particular naivete about this progression to death, blaming and shaming victims instead. It’s time that we all know this, we all use this, and we stop letting these eight stages run their course until they culminate in murder.

No more excuses. There aren’t any more excuses with a book like this available.


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com

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Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Washington State needs an update to its stalking laws.

To date I can’t get any state legislator I’ve contacted to respond. I first reached out about this in October of 2021.

As I’ve told the legislative committee that should take this forward, this is a non-partisan issue and the RCW is in desperate need of a logical, compassionate update. 

In my original email (with one minor edit), I said:


You are already familiar with RCW 9A.46.110, which addresses the crime of stalking. It specifically requires that a person be placed in fear and feels fear:

(b) The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or of another person. The feeling of fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances; and

(c) The stalker either:

(i) Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or

(ii) Knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person.

As a woman who has faced several different stalking situations, I can attest to how life-disrupting and alarming this can be. But not everyone feels fear. In time fear can also turn to other emotions like frustration and anger.

Stalking should be illegal, period. Its legal definition in the RCW should not include “placed in fear.” That is archaic, myopic, and discriminatory even if it means well. As Jennifer Gatewood Owens said in A Gender-Biased Definition: Unintended Impacts of the Fear Requirement in Stalking Victimization, “Arguably, the fear requirement present in most states’ definitions of stalking is inherently gender-biased and should be removed, as no other type of crime is defined by an emotional response.” It’s also bizarre that the RCW places such an emphasis on the reaction of the victim instead of the offender’s behavior.

I am asking that you sponsor legislation to eliminate the condition of “fear” as other states have done. It’s time to modernize this. It needs to be more inclusive and equitable.


What are you willing to do in order to see our state laws updated? Please start by signing the Update Washington State’s Stalking Law petition. Critics say these petitions are just a feel good gesture, but when you have enough signatures, your cause starts receiving the attention it needs to create powerful change. Thank you!


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Scooby Doo Unmask

Mr. Baffleberg? My cousin’s longtime piano teacher?!

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Yellow teeth bared, he raised the knife in a jerky automaton-like flourish as putrid sweat dripped from his stringy reddish black hair…

Is this what you think of when you picture a sociopath? If so, you’re not alone. This is how pop culture often portrays dangerous and dishonest people– in hockey masks, dragging one leg heavily behind them, brandishing weapons, unkempt, socially inept loners who drive noisy ’70s vehicles with human bones dangling from the rear view mirror– and the list goes on. (more…)

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Embezzlement

In the past day I’ve seen at least three news stories in which employees of government agencies or nonprofits have ripped those entities off to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. And by entities I mean that ultimately you and I as taxpayers and donors have been used.

All three stories are on The Herald’s front page:

YWCA– $300,000

(more…)

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To celebrate the release of renowned domestic violence advocate Susan Murphy Milano’s biography,  Holding My Hand Through Hell, Imagine Publicity has announced a virtual book tour featuring a number of writers who will share their thoughts on this tenacious woman’s memoir.

To learn more about the book, and to view the schedule, please visit: http://imaginepublicity.com/2012/10/07/holding-my-hand-through-hell-virtual-book-tour/.

Not only is this a great way to honor the work of a trailblazer in the domestic violence victims advocacy arena, it will help generate awareness of the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.

The EAA is a tool that everyone dealing with domestic violence– in any capacity– should know about and utilize (http://documenttheabuse.com/index.html).

Thanks, and feel free to spread the word!

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In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. –C.S. Lewis

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©2012 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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Burglar

A headline on KOMO News reads Prolific burglar nabs 10 years in prison: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Prolific-burglar-nabs-10-years-in-prison-167390475.html.

Here’s the article:

SEATTLE — A man responsible for a string of burglaries across North Seattle and a robber in the University District was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday.

Maxfield Dare, 18, had pleaded guilty to several charges, including burglary, car theft, assault, and selling stolen property.

“Punishment or rehabilitation have no meaning for him,” victim Richard Fuhr said in court. “Nothing. It’s way too late for that.” (more…)

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Barry Goldwater once said that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. As I sat down to type out my thoughts on Colton Harris-Moore’s sentencing today, that is the quote that comes to mind.

I am not disappointed that a miscreant of this magnitude has been sentenced to seven years in prison and has yet to be sentenced for federal charges. What I am disappointed in is how easily the public and our legal system can be manipulated into believing that a serial criminal is a victim. (more…)

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Today KING 5 reported that Pam Kohler, Colton Harris-Moore’s mother, has asked for production on a movie about his exploits to be stopped until she gets $300,000: http://www.king5.com/news/local/Colton-Harris-Moores-mom-reacts-to-plea-deal-Report-124439864.html.

Kohler says that she was promised $300,000 and is taking legal action to make sure she gets it. If there is a legally binding agreement that ensures she gets the money, she obviously has a right to do this. But it makes me sick, just sick, that she is still behaving so casually about her son’s crimes and can profit from them. She encouraged some of them, remember. (more…)

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Purple Ribbon DV

In August of 2008 I was taken aback by a letter to the editor in a local paper regarding a domestic violence-driven murder-suicide. The letter writer scoffed at the suggestion that handcuffs and hardcore porn found in the suspect’s possession had anything to do with the murder. They claimed that such “sensationalist journalism” would start a witch hunt for people who enjoy porn. Ignorance about crime and domestic violence needs to be solved, even in the form of one letter to the editor at a time… (more…)

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