Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’


If a woman is looked upon as an object, without feelings, life, soul, or thoughts, then it is easy to ingest images of her that defy her humanity. She is not a woman — a living creature with human attributes. She is merely a body, a vacant, empty, vessel intended to contain the needs of others — preferably men — and her body, which is the most desired aspect of her existence, perfect, lithe, smooth and hair-free, is open for interpretation and domination.

-Marina DelVecchio, The New Agenda

In an era in which human beings claim to be ever more enlightened and concerned with justice, the manner in which violence against women is depicted on television, on the internet, and in movies has never been more graphic. In fact, our society has become so desensitized to this that it’s generally considered a normal part of our entertainment. We’re so accustomed to seeing women belittled, berated, beaten, raped, and murdered that we might feel nothing but a vague ambivalence as we watch our favorite shows, be they true crime, fantasy, sitcoms, reality, or comedy.

In 2014 a group from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology published a study, Contribution of Media to the Normalization and Perpetuation of Domestic Violence, in the Austin Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. They pointed out that domestic violence (DV) is “becoming more prevalent in social media as well as academic literature. Based on the astonishing prevalence rates of DV there are good reasons to consider this issue an epidemic.” The researchers go on to say that, “DV continues to be normalized through its comedic portrayal via news outlets, magazines, advertisements, and television shows.”

This study highlighted various contributing factors to the prevalence of DV in the media, including video games, cultural and family values, religious tradition, advertisements, and the news. In particular, they discussed how DV is portrayed through humor, and how this too desensitizes us to the seriousness of what is, truly, an epidemic. They offer statistics to illustrate just how vibrantly alive and well this violence is. Additionally, they make a fantastic point that all of this desensitization and joking leads to DV being underreported—and therefore victims are underserved.

Domestic violence can be portrayed as exciting, romantic, and sexy, with couples “needing” to fight so they can have passionate make-up sessions. Some TV channels targeted at particular cultures often portray teary-eyed, emotional women playing second fiddle to demanding macho men. This dynamic can also be seen in America’s long-running soap operas, with high drama ping-ponging between characters and constant tension and betrayal. As Lucy Lopez of the Sonoma State Star pointed out last year, the movie Suicide Squad (per the original comic) shows prison psychiatrist Harley Quinn being brutally tortured into becoming the Joker’s abused girlfriend.

Similarly, Dr. Wind Goodfriend’s 2011 Psychology Today blog post outlines how the Twilight series sets fans up for abusive relationships. It glorifies the awkward girl with low-esteem being enticed and isolated by a forbidden man. If you’ve ever read Sandra L. Brown’s Women Who Love Psychopaths or How to Spot a Dangerous Man, you’ll easily recognize how the Edward-Bella dynamic could be very dangerous in real live even if it does make for an intriguing story.

More recently, the HBO series Game of Thrones has made sexual violence even more mainstream, showcasing marital rape, incest, the gang rape of a minor, and other brutal sexual assaults. While the show’s creator points out that rape is just as much a part of history as war, even longtime fans of the show began to question the value of actually depicting and watching such acts. Over and over, women on this show have been viciously assaulted, causing some to label the series medieval rape porn.

As of mid-2015, Michelle Jaworski of The Daily Dot said that there were 50 rape acts and 29 rape victims in Game of Thrones to date. The books the show is based on contained 215 rapes and 117 rape victims. The recent Twin Peaks revival revisits the story of a teen raped by her father for years and then brutally murdered by him. Supposedly she was “too strong” for the evils that wanted to consume her, escaping them through death—as if that were her only out. Themes of incest, sex with minors, and other women’s murders are woven into the Twin Peaks mythology, which also contains likable, entertaining characters and storylines. Despite its selling points, it always seems like someone’s sick sexual fantasies are lurking underneath.

Back in 1985, five years before Twin Peaks debuted, The Center for Media Literacy and UCLA’s Neil Malamuth discussed the rise of sexual violence. They found that sexual violence had negative effects on a significant number of people, potentially increasing the likelihood of attacks and warping children’s sexuality. Thirty-two years later, we still debate whether ingesting violence via the media has any effect on our real world behavior as we deal with a whole new level of crime and terrorism including school shootings. Domestic violence in all forms is thriving. Presentations of it on the screen just get deeper, darker, and more disturbed.

When a program or movie portrays a story of an abused or assaulted woman getting revenge or seeking justice, we seem to accept vivid portrayals of her victimization as just part of the story. True crime shows often include these portrayals. Some call this crime porn; we don’t intend to watch pornography, but the depiction of the crime in the show might as well be. We also laugh along with countless sitcoms and adult cartoons that show dysfunctional relationships in which men and women often nitpick, threaten, and insult each other. Arguably most of our country believes this negativity is to be expected in a relationship.

PreventConnect has an amazing list, Movies, documentaries, and video clips related to Violence Against Women, that includes fictional movies on the topic and many educational shorts designed to prevent it. A quick look at this collection shows how glaring the problem of violence directed at women, including domestic violence, still is. I challenge you to watch at least one of these shorts every day for a week without altering your regular viewing schedule. The gruesome reality of how saturated our programming is with harming women will begin to stand out—even to those of us who already believe we have an acute awareness of the issue.


Originally written for a newsletter before the Weinstein scandal broke, but all the more relevant now.


©2017 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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We often feel that we get what we deserve. The basic law, “the wages of sin is death” is operating. We think that if we are not loved, it must be because we did not earn it. The truth is, we can’t earn love. It is just something that someone decides to feel toward us. We can earn approval, but not love. We don’t deserve it, we don’t not deserve it. Deserving and love are unrelated. –Henry Cloud

It starts when we’re children and we’re cut and bruised until we scar. We’re bullied at school. A parent takes their dissatisfaction with their own life out on us. Someone violates our trust. Some shallow person breaks our heart. So we grow up with a warped self-image, eventually, at least to some degree, succumbing to the abuse so that we believe no one could ever truly love us the way we want to be loved.

We feel unworthy. We’re vulnerable. We associate with people who injure us, but we’re so used to it we make excuses for the abuse and largely overlook it. When we inventory the internal hurts and wrongs along with our own bad or desperate choices, we decide to lower our expectations. We think that no one could ever love us if they truly knew us or if they knew what has been done to us. We settle.

Life goes on. We wash, rinse, repeat. We might be attracted to those who seem exciting and daring only to find that their lows are dangerously low and their highs are exhausting. We might try to turn off our emotions and just go have our fun only to realize that it rots our souls. Perhaps we finally escape. But in that solitude and freedom, those original feelings of rejection and unworthiness have a peculiar way of festering unless we truly begin to understand who our Creator made us to be.

When you’re alone, do the words that abusive people said to you come back? You’re not good enough. You’re too this. You’re too that. No wonder that happened to you. Who could ever love you? And you wonder… if someone ever really knew you, could they truly respect you? Could they understand? Could they overlook past transgressions or see beyond how you were wronged? What if they found out about that time? What if they disapproved of that decision?

Maybe you’re not willing to try again. Perhaps you just want to keep someone at arm’s length and stay at the fringes of a relationship. That’s up to you. You will know when you’re ready to try again and no one should deprive you of your free will. Good things can take time too. But the strong caution I want to issue tonight is this: do not let your past, even what happened yesterday, define your future. To do so could be to miss out on life and even your divine purpose.

As the author of the Boundaries books alludes to above, you should not reject love on the basis that you don’t “deserve” it. Love is a gift. You could try your entire earthly existence to rack up enough brownie points to “deserve” to be loved the way God intends you to be and not succeed. When the real deal comes knocking, open yourself to the possibility that the way you originally envisioned love is still possible. Don’t start counting all the reasons they shouldn’t love you; acknowledge that someone sees you as your Creator intended you.

You’ll know the real deal when it happens. It’s exactly that–real. Not phony, but raw, honest, and deeply desiring to get to know your whole person, strengths and weaknesses alike. There is a mutual give and take as the relationship develops, with truths and fears and hopes and dreams being woven into the developing tapestry. It’s work, yet it yields great rewards and deep intimacy. It can be terrifying to let another person into that part of yourself you’ve had locked off for so long. But once you crack the door, you’ll find that parts of yourself you thought were long dead start to come alive.

The real deal treats you with respect, doesn’t try to control your life, and builds you up instead of tearing you down. It acknowledges that there will be ups and downs, yet deals with them in an inside voice. It stands with you regardless of what life throws at you and stays with you through both tragedies and victories. The real deal wants to do life together as a team and together grow into the people God intends for you to be, realizing that you can accomplish more together than apart.

But, you say, but you don’t know my past. You don’t know what was done to me. You don’t know how I’ve suffered. You don’t know the choices I’ve made. You’re correct. I don’t. But I know that your Heavenly Father, Love Himself, paid for all of that one hellish day in 33 A.D. outside Jerusalem. Everything our race had ever done wrong, everything we would do, was carried on those bleeding shoulders. He gave us a blank slate.

Once we say, “yeah, I believe You are who you say You are, and I’m sorry for the wrongs I have committed” He gives us a fresh start. Why, then, do we keep crucifying ourselves for times gone by when it’s done, finished, over? That is a complex question and we each have our own reasons for playing the tapes of our past over and over in our hearts and heads, often unresolved trauma. We might need professional help working through that. There’s no shame in that and I recommend it.

In order to truly escape our abusers and demons though, we need to cut loose from the identities they assigned to us– the ones that say we’re ugly, stupid, unworthy, ridiculous, damaged, and all the other concepts they projected onto us when their real issues were with themselves. Think about it. Healthy people don’t take such delight in putting others down and trying to manipulate everything they do. Unhealthy people often torment others by blaming them for what’s wrong with themselves.

When you think of yourself as undeserving of love, you are choosing to live by those false identities, those forced masks that bullies made you wear. In a sense, you are even choosing to identify with your abusers. I’m not saying you don’t have issues to work on. Maybe you have some things to clean up before you can reciprocate and be an equal partner in the real deal. I am challenging anyone struggling with the idea of being loved to not allow voices from the past to dictate their future. You are a beloved, purposeful creation of God, unique and specially gifted to fulfill a purpose. You are a child of the King.

There will always be negative voices in life trying to tear you down. Shut them up. Shut them out. Look up. Keep your eyes on the One who made you, who knew every one of your days before you came into being. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us groveling in subservience to our former masters: fear, anger, loneliness, unkind words, hate, violence, jealousy, exploitation, betrayal, heartbreak. When we stay chained to those evils we fail to grow into true relationship with God and others. We feel unworthy. We stay vulnerable. We get hurt again. We lower our expectations. We settle…

Enough is enough. It’s time to say goodbye to the masks, chains, and voices. When they say hello, quote scripture to them because it is in the Manufacturer’s Handbook that we find our true identities: I am more than a conqueror. I am a light-bearer, not one who hides in the darkness. I was created to do good works. He said I will do even greater miracles than He did. I no longer have a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I am a victor, not a victim. I am empowered by the One who spoke the universe into being and designed to love deeply, fully, selflessly, passionately, with reckless abandon. I am not going to allow my yesterdays to dictate the way I love.

It takes practice. But the more you realize that you are who God says you are, the more able you are to give and receive genuine love. You are free to flex the muscles of your true self, the one you used to have to hide to keep the peace or survive. No more hiding. No more kowtowing, placating, or dumbing yourself down to try to please someone. As author John Eldredge said, let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.

You get one try here on earth, one chance to determine your station in eternity. Don’t waste it being who other people say you are; be the you that you’ve always known you are. The you that wanted to be an astronaut when you were four years old. The you that felt weak in the knees when she walked by your locker in middle school. The you that could see him kneeling in the drizzle under a golf umbrella as realize what he’s about to do. The you who heads up a team of relentless do-gooders making a difference in the world. Don’t you think these sensations and dreams were put there for a reason?

Deep down, you know that you are called to greatness. Even deeper, somewhere in the infinite depths of your heart, you know that you still desire that forever love, that fusion with an equally flawed human being who just has that undefinable, intangible something… Yes… it’s still there. Despite all your efforts to board up the windows and barricade the doors, there is still a spark, a kernel of hope, a seed waiting for the flood.

It’s your choice. It’s always your choice. No one can take that from you. There are benefits to being single and there are benefits to being part of a team. But that spark, that kernel, that seed was planted for a reason. And when the rains come, will you push it even farther down or will you slowly open up your arms and give it a chance to flourish? Will you acknowledge that this is not about what’s been done to you or what you deserve but that someone loves you for who you are? That it is a gift, not a contest?

My friends, do not let dark forces and selfish, insecure humans rob you of love the way God meant for it to be experienced. Do not live your life in slavery to the past. The debt has been paid.

Tonight, as you sit in your chair and for the millionth time run through all the reasons that you keep your heart in a box on the shelf, consider the possibility that all of those reasons are now irrelevant. You are free. Real love will enhance that freedom and respect and protect you. It will help you become the you God has intended for you to be all along.

Then it hits you. You breathe in sharply. Could it be…? 


Other than heaven, the only place where one’s heart is completely safe from the dangers of love is hell. –C.S. Lewis


©2016 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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We Are Safe

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What do you plan to do about it?

Here’s one option. Ask your church or faith-based community organization to take the pledge to become a Safe Faith Community. The team behind Document the Abuse has unveiled this new initiative at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month to encourage faith-based organizations to be a safe place for domestic violence victims.

For years I’ve said that the church should be the first place domestic violence victims should go for help, yet it is often the last place they’ll go because of the legalism, judgment, and condemnation they might face. Many churches don’t know how to connect victims with resources in their communities either. In addition, those in the ministry who don’t understand the dynamics of domestic violence can provide misinformed and even dangerous counsel.

Too often victims are told that if they would just improve their own behavior or be more attractive their abuser wouldn’t be so inclined to hurt them, be that physically, financially, sexually, or psychologically. Abuse takes many forms. I call this the “just put a bow in your hair, act like nothing’s wrong, and make a nice casserole” syndrome. Victims are frequently guilted into staying in unhealthy and unsafe situations with the Bible erroneously used as justification for why they should endure. Power and control is at the root of this evil. The victim is not causing it and they cannot make their abuser change.

The church’s first concern should be whether the victims are safe, not how to reconcile the relationship, not to treat the victim as an equally guilty party who needs marriage counseling, not telling them God will punish them if they get a divorce in order to keep themselves or their children safe. Churches can become havens for abusers and predators when more concern is given to the possibility that they might make things right with God than to the immediate and even life-threatening matters their victims are facing. Churches too have pathological personalities like narcissists and sociopaths who might have no interest in improving their behavior but have obsessive interests in controlling or stalking their victims.

Statistically, domestic violence is just as prevalent in the church as it is in the rest of the world. It’s probably the single biggest issue facing church families, but the least talked about. It’s high time for churches to start showing domestic violence victims the grace of God more generously and to speak out with one voice against this atrocity. It’s all around us. If we believe in a higher moral authority, why then are we not more interested in living according to that law rather than our own selfish and immature desires that cause others pain? What point is there in believing in Him if our behavior is no different than those without that hope?

Purple Ribbon DV

The Safe Faith Community Project is asking faith leaders to make these promises:

1. Learn to recognize the signs of domestic violence.

2. Stand with victims of domestic violence as they desire and seek healing and wholeness.

3. Never coerce or require a victim of domestic violence to reconcile with their abuser.

4. Share at least one sermon each October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) about the epidemic of domestic violence and how the church can respond.

5. Connect with a domestic violence shelter in our city/town.

6. Show that our faith community is a designated safe place by prominently placing Safe Faith Community decal on your site or social media.

7. Offer the Evidentiary Affidavit of Abuse (training optional for staff or selected individuals), found at documenttheabuse.com or at the Apple Store, and a copy of the book, “Time’s Up,” to each victim of domestic violence we encounter.

This is going to challenge churches to get out of their comfort zone and walk the walk! I already sense that some will have a problem with #3. I’ve known people and churches who treat divorce as if it’s the unforgivable sin, so counsel victims to remain with dangerous and unstable people. I was so weighed down by such legalism (man-made rules on top of God’s) that I nearly waited too long to get out of a marriage rife with death threats. Some believers try to convince victims that they’ll go to hell if they marry again.

Really? God’s grace does not extend to victims of abuse? It is His will that they spend the rest of their lives in submission to godless individuals who do the enemy’s work instead of His? That’s like having a curse put on you that supposedly not even God Himself can lift. It’s like being in a macabre fairy tale where someone is changed into a beast or put into a deep sleep, but the prince or rescuer never comes.

Note a tool mentioned in this pledge called the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, or EAA. It is a way of documenting abuse so that the victim can speak for themselves in court if they are missing, incapacitated, or dead. By gathering certain documents and photos and using templates in the Time’s Up book, the victim can videotape their testimony and have it notarized and stored in the cloud where their abuser can’t get to it. This is intended to get around the hearsay rule in court—this is unaltered testimony coming straight from the victim. See Document the Abuse for more information.

Join the movement. Share this website with your church leadership and dare them to step out in faith on behalf of those affected by domestic violence. This is not a partisan or a denominational issue; domestic violence affects people of all faiths and creeds.

This will become a nationwide, if not worldwide, movement. Faith communities need to focus on eliminating domestic violence rather than enabling it. This is a great first step. Will you pass it on?

Safefaithcommunity.com. See also the Document the Abuse Facebook page.

From http://beckerimpact.blogspot.com/2012/10/joining-million-voices.html*************************************************************************************

Change starts when someone sees the next step. –William Drayton


©2015 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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Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Be protective of your sheep because the wolves are coming.

-Jimmy Meeks, police officer, minister, and owner of Sheepdog Seminars

Five days ago a 21 year-old walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine people. He reloaded his weapon five times during his killing spree. Friends say Dylan Roof wanted to shoot up a nearby university but couldn’t get past security, so he decided on the likely gun-free church instead, taking advantage of their warm welcome and inclusiveness.

As is always the case when a mass shooting happens, there were red flags ahead of time. Roof had told friends of his hatred toward black Americans and about some of his plans at least a week before. He posed in pictures highlighting his bigoted interests that were shared online. His aspirations were not a secret. In a move that is atypical of related acts of violence, he spent an hour in the church before opening fire, which could be another indication of advance planning.

Is America a free country? Yes. So reporting everyone who has biases or passionate opinions to the authorities isn’t called for. We are a land of diverse beliefs and freedom of speech is protected by our Constitution. But if someone you know is threatening to go kill others, discuss it with the authorities. Who knows what horrors you might prevent if they take it seriously. See how this killing spree was averted by an alert father, Father Tips Off Police to Son’s Alleged ISIS Sympathies, Authorities Say.

A common response to this tragedy has been, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!” I understand the feelings of shock, horror, and disbelief. No one wants to believe this could happen to them, or their family, or in their church. Start believing it. This is the world we live in.

Hundreds of people have lost their lives in church violence in America and Christian persecution is rampant around the world. This is not by any means the first time this has happened, and it is far from being the last. Given the volatile state of our planet, and increasing animosity towards Christians and Jews, I expect to see more of the same and worse.

For some graphic examples of what is happening to Christians in other countries, see the Gatestone Institute’s recent report Jihad on Christians. Some will protest that I’m drawing a parallel to Islamic terrorism, but reality is that this rabid intolerance of other belief systems is universal. There are millions upon millions of human beings today who think they are justified in violating and killing others because they’re different.

Going back to, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!”, this is a wake up call to all churches in America. You should have a security committee. You should have a security plan. You should be ready for natural disasters and emergencies. The church should be the most prepared private entity in any given community as community members will look to you in times of crisis. You’re also responsible for the well-being of a lot of those same people. Stop worrying about being nice and start thinking of how to save lives.

Jimmy Meeks again, from Church security: need highlighted by S.C. shooting:

“The biggest obstacle for churches is just not believing that [a violent attack] could happen at their churches,” said Jimmy Meeks, a Southern Baptist police officer in Hurst, Texas, who presents church security seminars across America. People “don’t listen to what needs to be done until they believe it needs to be done.”

The popular WWJD campaign years ago always depicted Jesus as doing “something sweet” and often overlooked Christ’s cautious or protective actions, Meeks said. “What about John 2:24b-25 — Jesus ‘knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man’? What’s wrong with not trusting people you don’t know? Be watchful of them.”

Some church leaders say, “we don’t have the money!” You can increase security and be better prepared without money. You just need to start with a few good men and women willing to sit down and develop some standard operating procedures. Ask the obvious questions–what if there’s a fire? Active shooter? Earthquake? Tornado? Controversial guest speaker? Bomb threat? Kidnapping? Domestic abuser who keeps showing up at the church threatening his ex-wife?

Discuss how you would ideally handle such events and draw up a plan. Consider that some of the biggest threats might come from or have to do with your church family itself. Domestic violence often becomes workplace violence– similarly, an abuser usually knows where their ex goes to church and might want to take her out among others in a blaze of glory. A noncustodial parent might try to remove their child from a nursery. Protesters could show up and try to disrupt an event.

Brainstorm. Take notes. Don’t consider any question or scenario too outrageous or unlikely. Consider all events at the church, not just large services. Involve your local law enforcement agency to get their insights. They will often do security assessments or consultations. Some offer security training for churches. There are also private security firms who provide these services. Obtain copies of plans other congregations or agencies have written up and work from them. Train your staff members and volunteers in basic emergency protocols. Got CERTs? Got parishioners who carry firearms? Got first responders? Know your assets. Don’t require people to disclose, just ask for volunteers.

This mass murder has caused the age-old debate about firearms to flare up again. I’ve reviewed countless news articles about this story and people are either saying, “This is why we should ban firearms!” or “We need to increase armed security in church.” If your church already has one or more uniformed police officers on hand during Sunday services, then you already know the value of meeting any threat with an appropriate level of force. You acknowledge the value of having someone with certain training and skills standing by.

The fastest way to take down an active shooter and keep him from reloading five times can be an armed good guy. The use of firearms in a crowded room is obviously risky, but chances are not many people, on zero notice, are going to want to rush a gunman even though statistical chances of surviving such an incident are greater the more quickly the threat can be neutralized. Let’s not forget what one armed off duty cop was able to do in Colorado, Colorado Springs vs. Charleston: The Church Massacre That Ended Differently.

There is intense interest in church security right now, particularly in the presence of guns in churches. Time just featured Why Some Pastors Bring Their Guns to the Pulpit. This church in Colorado has 100 volunteers trained as security guards. In North Carolina, one pastor had good reason to assemble an armed volunteer security team known as the Watchmen (a nod to the story of Nehemiah). Pulse O2DA Firearms Training, Inc. is hosting a free webinar, Five Immediate Steps To Enhance Church Security, on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 12:00 CDT.

How each church protects itself is up to its leaders. Some leaders are not anti-gun but are concerned about what might happen if uniformed police officers run into a building and see “regular” people with guns drawn– they don’t know who the criminal is. No matter how you feel about guns, now is the time to learn, to prepare, to train. A storm is coming and there is no reason to be caught unprepared. Churches, unfortunately, are for the most part soft targets, or to put it another way, sitting ducks. They have all sorts of unsecured entrances and exits and windows and activities, and most people present will have their backs to the myriad ingress and egress points. Those who don’t, like priests, rabbis, and pastors, will be absorbed in their duties. People often have their eyes closed. Consider limiting ways into the building once services start.

From First Coast News, Pastors consider beefing up church security:

“There are lot of critics that feel that pastors or even parishioners don’t need to have certain protection in places,” said Jefferson. “That is totally wrong.”

The former Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer is a member of the security detail at Impact church. He said he has served in that capacity 13 years.

“You have to have eyes that are watching people as the come in,” he said. “Watching their body language, watching what they’re carrying.”

Jefferson alludes to a practice that has kept the Israelis safe for years, behavioral profiling. Ushers, greeters, and others can be trained to watch for and report suspicious behavior. The sergeant quoted here says that everybody’s responsible for church security– “We train our members that if something looks suspicious, it is.” At his church they have an aptly-named Ministry of Defense. 

As I told callers to the police department for many years, we’d rather have you report something and have it turn out to be nothing than not do anything and have it be something. Everyone at church should be comfortable reporting things and should know who to report those to. People also need to know it’s okay to call 911 in emergencies– you’d be amazed at how many people call places other than police and fire dispatch because they “didn’t think it was important enough.” Then they’ll call 911 to ask what time it is.

In today’s world, it’s madness not to prepare for acts of violence and other emergencies. They happen to someone, somewhere, every day, and the more we talk about what could possibly happen, the more likely it is that we will be able to respond to these events rather than react. So have an emergency plan like school districts do. Take advantage of Community Emergency Response Team training. FEMA recently had a webinar titled Preparing Houses of Worship for Emergencies. They have other relevant webinars archived, and other great material about preparedness. You can have code words to put the church on lockdown, install security cameras and alarm systems, change your cash-handling procedures– there are many actions you can take to improve security right now.

This video was recommended to me by a trusted friend in law enforcement, Run. Hide. Fight. You can easily find other online videos and resources, like church security expert Carl Chinn’s website. It’s packed with useful information. In western Washington, the ADTA, Armed Defense Training Association, is an excellent place to learn practical self-defense and firearms skills. Again, tap your local police and fire departments for pointers and plans.

As an aside, please do not limit your security committees and security team members to uniformed personnel. There are members with other valuable skills and insights, and women in particular can often contribute a different perspective than the sometimes black and white thinking of professionally trained men. Psychologists and teachers and nurses are just some of the people who can enhance your committees and teams.

Again, a storm is coming. Around the world, terrorists and zealots and criminals and bigots are storming the house of God. We can and should pray for peace and divine protection, but God also requires us to do the best we can with what we have to protect our brothers and sisters. Last March in Pakistan, suicide bombers attempted to murder Christians in church but were stopped by volunteer security guards who were killed in the explosions.There would have been many more deaths if it weren’t for their preparedness. As I regularly review reports of Christian persecution and church security issues from around the world, I become increasingly impressed that the churches usually doing the most to protect their people are the ones with the fewest resources.

As a survivor of domestic violence that involved specific firearms threats, for years I considered that I might be endangering others simply by going to church. In that time I learned to consider all the angles of how a possible attack would take place and have become passionate about teaching others to– and please listen to my words carefully here– be prepared, not paranoid. We are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We should not be “nice” about looming threats against the church and human life and be overly concerned about what the rest of the world thinks. We should take a bold stand knowing an infinite power is behind us, and by protecting each other we are fully in line with His principles and character.

There is something each of us can do to improve church security. The “I can’t believe this could happen to us” and “we hadn’t really thought about security” mentalities have to go. Watch. Pray. Volunteer. Give. We are a body. We should function as a body. It’s time for that body to put on the armor of God and take a stand against the forces that come to rob and destroy. We need some literal armor too, whatever form that takes. Don’t be caught naked and helpless when the wolves come to your church. They might already be inside.


The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. –Albert Einstein


This is a hot topic right now so I want to add some more thoughts:

-Some churches say “we have a security guard outside.” Okay, so who do you have inside? Having a visible off-duty officer is great, but it’s time to think about recruiting and training some not so obvious church members who will be in the services. There might be no communication between the person outside and the people inside. Something bad could happen inside before the person outside would ever know or be able to respond. Security should not only be roaming the perimeter, but mingling.

-An interesting suggestion from a few articles I’ve perused: Once the service begins, limit the number of doors that can be opened from the outside so you can keep a definite eye on the one or few doors still open. The point is limiting access to the building once people are inside, absorbed in the service, with their backs to the door.

FEMA Webinar Library – someone needs to update the page’s content in places, but you will some both older and newer material on here

-Some pastors are being very open that their churches won’t be messed with and trying to harm others there would be a very dumb thing to do. Don’t be a soft target. While you don’t want to show all your cards, it’s not a bad idea to brief the congregation on what to do in an emergency (like don’t all run out the same door) and make it known your church takes security seriously.

-In Fiji, they include churches in their National Security Strategy.

-Don’t forget about all the other events that go on during the week besides your main services– Bible studies, classes, kids’ events, piano lessons, weddings, the average workdays for the pastoral staff. Be prepared all the time, not just for your big services or events. Some criminals or terrorists strike when they’re least expected or will meet the least resistance. They might want to target a specific individual and attempt to harm them when there’s few to no one else around.

-There are security systems that can be viewed from smartphones at all times and other useful technology. It’s not a substitute for a security team, but it can be a major asset.

-Keep someone on the perimeter. Watch the parking lot. Watch the outside. Don’t let problems get in to begin with.


©2015 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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Purple Candle 2

This week the trial of Alan Smith began in Snohomish County Superior Court. Smith is accused of murdering his children’s mother and estranged spouse Susann Smith in February of 2013. News coverage has been sparse so far, but the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter  has followed the case all along and will continue to post updates. Matt Phelps and crew– thank you for keeping this in the public eye.

Murder trial begins for Bothell man accused of killing estranged wife

In May of 2013 I wrote the post below, Murdering Susann Smith, which has hundreds of comments attached. I didn’t know when I penned it that it would become a gathering spot for people wanting more information about the case and to share what they knew. The neighborhood where this happened was concerned about their safety and disgusted by what went on at the Smith house after her murder.

For a long time, the primary suspect in the case was free and making a very public affair of his relationship with his new girlfriend, who later committed suicide after giving birth to their child. I still have trouble typing that, especially in light of what he allegedly did to Susann. He treated both women as disposable, as if he was God and had every right to hurt them and then get rid of them. Eventually the police had enough evidence and arrested him.

The brutality of Susann’s death does not resemble a burglary gone wrong as the defense claims. It was targeted, personal, and intended to inflict maximum damage. It shows wicked rage and a deep, seething hatred that had built up like a volcano. I’m surprised that the defense is going with that, that a burglar did it and Alan was at home asleep with his kids when this happened. My knee jerk reaction was, “you’re kidding me.” That is not the angle I thought they’d take, especially in light of the advance planning the police said went on and the evidence.

Returning to what I said in the first paragraph, the media hasn’t taken much of an interest in Susann’s murder. Stories about Alan having sex in his front yard after her murder were read around the world, so the original horror got lost in mankind’s voyeuristic attraction to the sleaze of it all. Imagine if every person who read the public sex story or commented on it in a public forum gave just one dollar to an agency that helps domestic violence victims. Millions of dollars could have been raised.

I’d like to provoke some coverage in the interest of raising awareness of domestic violence and related homicide. Susann Smith was one of 29 victims of domestic violence homicide in Washington State in 2013 and one of two in Snohomish County. This is not rare; it has happened many times before and will happen again. But there is a lot we can do to stop it, and I encourage you to visit some of the domestic violence-related links on the right sidebar to learn more about what you can do to help.

Susann was a beautiful woman who was devoted to her children and I suspect that I would have really liked Susann if I’d met her. But news outlets go for the money making stories, and this case didn’t involve a 21 year-old with perfectly curled hair extensions, false lashes, selfies of her drinking with her girlfriends on Facebook, and a bunch of sordid sexual drama in the marriage. Despite Susann originally being from Germany, I didn’t see this murder case get much international coverage until Alan Smith made sure everyone was seeing how cool he thinks he is by exploiting a woman with mental illness.

Perhaps Susann’s family hasn’t wanted the coverage and just wants to make life as normal for her children as they can. This has undoubtedly been traumatic for both sides of the children’s family and more media coverage might twist all sorts of facts and sensationalize particular elements of the case. But I want people to know that there are many more out there like the man who killed Susann, narcissists who think they’re too smart to get caught and who present a life-threatening danger to their victims. I’ve said it many times before, but men and women alike should be intimately familiar with Sandra L. Brown‘s books How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.

Within a few weeks, a female judge will be deciding Alan Smith’s fate, and I expect that any conviction will be followed by appeals. If you’re a praying person, now is the time to pray. Pray for the Susann’s family. Pray for her children. Pray for the suspect’s family and for Love Thai’s family and little boy, that he would grow up unaffected by all of this sorrow.

Prayer opens windows, inviting God in to comfort the grieving and achieve justice. A trial like this can be like putting the victim’s family through her murder all over again, and this time it might be even worse because some have traveled from another country to be in the courtroom. It might be the first time they’ve been that close to the evidence.

Many people are murdered every year. The utter brutality in this case, which is so blatantly personal, is what’s stood out to me all along. It doesn’t surprise me that the Reporter has noted that Alan Smith has looked blank much of the time. If I am correct about his psychological inclinations, he’s a human shark. He won’t feel remorse or regret over Susann’s death except to the extent that it affects him. He’s not beyond God’s reach or redemption, but that’s between him and God and not something anyone else can work out for him.

Whatever comes of this trial– and I pray that justice would come crashing down like fire from heaven so that no one else can be hurt by this guy– I am reminded that the Creator is keeping score. Yes, Alan is innocent until proven guilty. But his outrageous behavior after Susann’s death, including moving back into the house where her blood had soaked the floors and walls– and planning to move his children in there– has not shouted “shaken father trying to normalize his life.” It’s been more like a chest-beating victory cry to the world, and he only has himself to blame for that. No one did this to him. No one did this for him. No one made him do it. And if he’s guilty, he will have to live– or, if the judge sees fit– die knowing that.

This might come across as judgmental. Perhaps. But I’m a woman who’s spent a lifetime up close and personal with narcissists and sociopaths who are willing to badger, belittle, abuse, exploit, and even want to kill women who stand up for themselves. I have experienced various levels of this in my personal life and in the workplace and have two related degrees. There are elements of this case that resonate with me, and ultimately I don’t see “awesome” or “criminal mastermind.” I see cowardice. I see someone who couldn’t own their feelings or actions and robbed two beautiful children of their mother in some sort of demonic act of vengeance.

It’s in God’s hands. And if I were an abuser, or someone who exploits others, or a killer, I’d be at least a little concerned about what He’s going to say when He asks for an account of my life. Who will have the guts to say, “she deserved it” or “it was coming to her?” In light of my belief that what we do in this life determines our station in eternity, that this is the testing ground for what comes next, “oh God, what have I done?” is a much more realistic answer. And the sooner those words are spoken, the more likely it will be that the person saying them won’t choose a forever separate from God’s love.

I can’t provide up to the minute news coverage of this trial but will post things as they’re sent to me or as I come across them. I will approve comments as soon as I can. I don’t make a dime from blogging so you know this isn’t financially motivated. This is about keeping the spotlight on domestic violence, achieving justice for those involved, and remembering a woman who was put through the worst kind of hell for having the courage to move on.

The next Susann Smith could be in the same room with you– what are you doing to help them to safety?


Please take the time to become familiar with the Document the Abuse website and the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit featured there. If you are affected by domestic violence, make it impossible for your abuser to get away with it no matter what happens.

Also, check out Susan Murphy Milano’s Times Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships. Susan was our fearless leader at the Time’s Up crime victims advocacy blog until she passed away a couple of years ago. We continue our crusade for justice in her memory.


©2015 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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From Acacia Memorial Park's Dignity Memorial site

Susann Smith. From Acacia Memorial Park’s Dignity Memorial site.

Originally posted May 12th, 2013.

On February 12th of this year, Bothell, Washington resident Susann Smith didn’t show up for work. She was found bludgeoned to death–and stabbed– in the bathtub of her home. This murder set the community on edge and to date a suspect has not been arrested.

Smith had primary custody of her three and six year-old children. Her estranged husband, Allan Smith, saw them on evenings and weekends. They were getting a divorce and Susann had allegedly threatened to take the children back to her native Germany.

Allan has been named as a person of interest and the media has reported that he’d done an online search about countries without extradition treaties. The police are also investigating purchases he made including a bicycle that might have been used in the murder. To put it bluntly, all signs are pointing to the estranged ex-husband, who lived just two miles away. (more…)

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Peachtree City

On New Year’s Day just after 4 A.M., the police chief of Peachtree City, Georgia called 911 to say he’d accidentally shot his wife.

Admittedly, the first thing I thought of was the Brame homicide from 2003. Domestic violence occurs at a higher rate in law enforcement families than the general population, twenty to fifty percent of them depending on which study you’re referencing.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released the 911 tape, and while I don’t think the public should be listening to the victim’s cries of agony, comments all over the web are addressing the chief’s rather detached demeanor as he speaks to the dispatcher.

How law enforcement agencies in Georgia respond to this incident is critical at a time when cops are being executed in America’s streets. This is a time at which objectivity must prevail and there can be no hint of the wagons circling to protect a member of the law enforcement profession. To preserve or restore people’s faith in policing, this police chief should not get any special treatment.

This what I sincerely wish the unions that back officers no matter how dark their deeds and government officials would keep in mind– if you make exceptions for your uniformed personnel, you are stirring up public distrust and endangering the lives of your officers, including your decent ones. Murderous thugs and terrorists do not differentiate; they just see a faceless body in a uniform. They don’t see a dad or a brother or a daughter or fellow human being– they see a target.

Do we know what happened on January 1st in the McCollums’ bedroom? No. We can’t instantly condemn this man as the next David Brame or Drew Peterson. That’s not right. But do I understand why so many people were instantly suspicious that the shooting was not accidental? Yes. As a survivor of police officer-involved domestic violence that involved repeated firearms threats, including in bed, who went on to study OIDV as the focus of my M.A., I get it.

According to some unverified information I found, Chief McCollum has been married four times and twice to his current wife. He’s been a police officer for about 30 years and is or has been a firearms instructor. I do not know if there are any previous allegations of domestic violence, and it’s not unusual for cops to be married multiple times. He’d only been the chief of police in his town for a short time. Please correct me if you’ve heard otherwise.

Given his professional qualifications, I have a hard time with the claim that he accidentally shot his wife in the back in bed while he was moving the gun. That violates basic firearms safety rules that he was well-acquainted with. Even if this is determined to be an accident, he could still face charges for his negligence, especially if there was alcohol or drugs involved.

Listening to the 911 call, initial information seems to indicate that the victim was shot twice, which was widely reported in the media. McCollum does say, “yes” when the dispatcher asks him if the victim was shot twice. Later the record was set straight– Margaret McCollum was shot once.

While he claims they were asleep when this happened and said, “the gun went off in the middle of the night,” he tells the dispatcher his wife is alert after first asking, “are you having trouble breathing, dear?” (My knee jerk reaction when I heard that was, “dude, who asks someone gasping and crying that after they’ve just been shot, and calls them dear instead of by their first name?”)

McCollum had to be told by the dispatcher to put direct pressure on the wound, something he should already know. He could be in shock and not thinking– many of us are quick to criticize until we’re in that situation. Trauma can easily stun us. Also, people respond to emergencies in different ways, especially when it involves family members. I’ve been in a family situation in which I immediately called 911 and began first aid before a first responder present acted.

On that note, if this were me I hope my first aid training would kick in and I’d already be applying direct pressure to that wound as I’m on the phone with 911. Personally I tend to slip into Army general mode in certain emergencies as well– you do this, you do that, do it now. Again, we’re all different, yet I find the chief’s robotic responses odd, like he’s just standing there looking at his wife instead of helping her. It could be shock. I also considered that it could be satisfaction or gloating over her suffering.

Here’s where the public is going to need assurance that GBI is doing their best– it would be very easy for a well-liked, high ranking police official to claim that this was an accident. This wouldn’t by any means be the first time that a law enforcement officer has claimed his spouse was shot accidentally, or with his/her service weapon. Cops, unfortunately, do sometimes try to hide behind their badges when committing acts of violence against family members.This makes conditions arguably more dangerous for the victims of OIDV than other victims.

Reports say that Chief McCollum has been at his wife’s bedside as she lies in critical condition. Some citizens are asking whether, if he were just a regular guy, he’d be locked up. I don’t know how they do that in Georgia. As for me, I’m thinking that if this was domestic violence and/or attempted murder, how utterly horrific for Margaret McCollum that he’s right there with her, monitoring everything she might be able to say.

I think back to another situation in which the victim was doped up after the alleged accident and passed away without being able to communicate. It happened at an extremely questionable time and was one of a string of incidents with a Munchausen syndome by proxy (technically Factitious disorder imposed on another) flavor. In that case I’d told others for years that their life was in danger, but so far, it’s still considered an accident. It can be difficult to prove otherwise.

Any investigator worth their salt will look into not only the suspect’s history but also the victim’s. Had there been hints of abuse before, in any form? Abuse escalates; it might start as verbal or financial and in time become physical. What’s the victim’s relationship history? Was he/she attracted to a certain type? Had their been other accidents in their life and the lives of others associated with the suspect? In this case, why was this the second time they’ve been married and why were they divorced before? That one’s a red flag. 

Had there been any recent financial or insurance changes? Do they make more money or have a higher paying job than the suspect? Were they considering a breakup or divorce? Had they ever tried to tell anyone that things weren’t right in the relationship? Did they feel marginalized or controlled? You have to build a complete picture of everyone involved in order to prove guilt or innocence.

Too often in cases that involve public figures we focus on whether the general perception of people in their world consider them “a great guy.” Many are quick to rush to defend those with fame or titles, acting like there’s no way that person could be capable of a crime because of their fame or title. Others want to instantly blame the victim for being “crazy” or provoking the incident.This is thinking with emotion rather than reason.

Instead, I would ask who involved in any given case had something to gain and something to lose, and ask who benefits. I also harp on the concept of “start by believing,” in which you take an allegation of abuse, sexual assault, stalking, etc. seriously and investigate objectively. You must always think beyond the obvious and consider all angles, whether or not they jive with your education and experiences.

It also helps, in incidents involving LEOs, to pay attention to those who aren’t so high-ranking or in the limelight. Rank and file officers, as well as civilian employees, often know a great deal about their department’s inner workings, politics, and secrets, yet aren’t called upon for their input. Investigators often go right to those at the top for information and leave it at that. This only allows those proverbial wagons to circle even tighter if it’s the type of agency that has wagons. And the faith of lower ranking officers in their agency’s leadership can falter mightily when the higher ups take care of their own.

So what really happened here? The GBI will have to find out. They have some notable talent, and it is prudent and necessary to have an agency at that level investigate. Too often departments get to investigate their own employees or themselves, or have a neighboring agency with a circle the wagons culture do it. I don’t know if this is SOP in Georgia but it was a good call. It’s also good that they’re not giving opinions one way or the other about what happened. They did not instantly defend Chief McCollum or talk about what a notable relationship he has with their agency that I’ve seen.

Was this just a terrible accident, a duty weapon “going off” in the middle of the night when being moved? Or was it someone who’s high on the power they’ve been entrusted with showing the victim of their wrath who’s boss? There are other possibilities as well, but my initial observations are that I won’t be surprised at all if it is domestic violence-related. We’ve seen it happen too many times before not to consider that might be the case (like in this case involving a former officer whose department wisely cut him loose long before). If it is a reckless accident, then the professionals will deal with it accordingly. Either way, us praying people should be praying for everyone involved.

Additionally, many of us have strong suspicions about accidental shootings that anyone commits. Yes, sometimes they happen, but generally not in bed during the high stress holiday season when domestic violence tends to peak. I used to do ride alongs on holidays, and inevitably there would be domestic violence call after domestic violence call. Family politics, finances, future plans, football loyalties, and more can work their way into a furious froth around Christmas and New Year’s.

Ultimately, this is an opportunity for this department and the GBI to show the public how just such an investigation is done. If the man is guilty, he needs to be held to the same standards as anyone else. Period. He is subject to the same laws. If he is innocent, then damage control needs to be done so that the anarchists and angry mobs with pitchforks don’t unjustly take their ire out on him and his family. The media already put their house and address on the news. No matter what he is, his wife should be afforded all the precautions, protections, and advocates necessary. No one should be assuming that she’s safe.

Frankly stated, the police in general need to be transparent when investigating members of their profession. This does not mean releasing all information on the victim. It does mean communicating with the outside world in bullet points while the investigation is going on and not being secretive about the rationale behind the findings. It does mean that department leadership must conduct itself in a way that commands respect from its officers and other employees. It does mean that the public should be confident that everything possible was done to protect the victim and seek justice. After all, the police are public servants.

Without increased doses of this transparency, integrity, and impartiality, widespread hatred of cops will continue to grow. Millions see them as a secretive brotherhood who always protect their own and believe they’re exempt from the rules everyone else is expected to live by. Not all are like this, but this is the lens many people see them through. Even a few bad apples can make the whole bunch appear rotten when they’re not.

This has to change. Officers are being painted with a broad brush even when they don’t deserve it. I’ll say it again– leaders who allow otherwise are putting their officers in danger. They are also making it very difficult for honest cops to stay safe and employed. I have people in that line of work– please do not make it more difficult for my people. One already lost his job when the wagons circled to protect a buddy of the higher ups. Years later some modicum of justice was achieved in court, but the costs to him and his family were catastrophic.

This is not the time or place in history to be causing your officers to face more threats than they already do. We have a world filled with terrorists and nut jobs and criminals who’d gladly take out an officer if it means not getting caught. It seems like we hear about another officer down every day. Leaders also must be accountable to the public. This is not optional. This is where many departments need help, and why I invite the participation of much-dreaded public review boards.

As I was writing this I thought about Frank Serpico, a former New York officer who paid a terrible price for speaking out against corruption in that department in the early 1970s. More than 40 years later, he still gets hate mail and death threats. In October he penned a piece for Politico called The Police Are Still Out of Control: I should know.

Whether or not you agree with his assertions– I value his insights and candid take even when I don’t see eye to eye on certain incidents or issues– he has a list of what the police should be doing towards the end of the article. Numbers four, five, and six are as follows, and I heartily agree with all six:

4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;

5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;

6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

Number four is obviously relevant to this situation in Peachtree City, Georgia. Now is the time for investigators in this incident to shine and so far they seem to be doing a great job. Even if this turns out to be a terrible and embarrassing accident, they can do a fantastic job proving it and cause others to be confident in their findings.

Overall, the curious case of Chief William McCollum is somewhat of a litmus test in police response during a very dangerous time for cops. If ever there was a time for the law enforcement profession to sincerely improve its image– regardless of how good a certain agency already is, and I know some good ones along with some amazing officers– it’s now.


Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both. -Horace Mann


©2015 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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