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Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

Shattered_Mirror_2_by_wolfrain319

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.

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

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©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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angel-1

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…? 

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

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©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

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©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?

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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.

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©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.

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

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©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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Stalking 9

“He’s a sadistic stalker who preys on their childhood traumas,” mutters the sublimely cool male detective from behind self-important sunglasses as he surveys the scene. He immediately gives a detailed suspect profile as the fourth button on his tailored button-up shirt strains at the stress of his notable pecs. He continues to saunter as his flawless observation skills take in every detail. 

“There was a struggle. Notice the position of the bedside lamp.” His female partner sashays around the room in heels with her unisex-type button-up shirt similarly seeming to be two sizes too small. She speaks in flat, subdued tones, as if true detectives all have a blunted affect. “Judging from this chunk of caliche in the left shoe print, he recently returned from a week in one of four specific industrial areas in Las Vegas.”

They exchange knowing glances laced with a hint of “how you doin’?” The female investigator tosses her head and they continue to circle around the stylishly furnished, abnormally clean apartment. 

This is the general vibe I get from the new CBS show Stalker. Actually, a lot of crime shows give off this ultra-cool, uber-chill oversexed world of law enforcement vibe. While I’m glad to see a major network take on the very serious and widespread problem of stalking in America, I’m concerned that it might reinforce many of the myths and stereotypes that surround this topic. This TV show is ultimately about making money even if its producers are drawing attention to a critical issue, so episodes do go for shock value.

Traditionally stalking is viewed through a narrow lens, as if “real” stalkers are only isolated, disordered individuals who fixate on a romantic interest and hide in the shadows as they follow them through their daily routine. That can be stalking, yes. But there are different types of stalkers (see also Stalking Risk Profile) and different ways of classifying those types. If you’re concerned that you’re being stalked, don’t worry about that. You don’t need to agonize through a classification you might be unqualified to make before taking the crime seriously. What’s important is that you seek help.

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Back in 2010, I wrote a paper on stalking that began:

Stalking is an increasingly popular social phenomenon that touches many lives. Its protean nature frequently allows for it to be misdiagnosed or minimized. Definitions of stalking vary from source to source. Some definitions focus primarily on the physical acts or propinquity of stalking, which is usually the type of stalking showcased in the media. Many people’s understanding of stalking derives from celebrity stalking cases in which the targets have been assaulted or had their homes broken into. Reality is that stalking also includes unwanted surveillance, contact, and communications that can be conducted from a distance.

One of the most comprehensive definitions of stalking in modern academic literature is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated physical or visual proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats sufficient to cause fear in a reasonable person” (Bartol and Bartol 291, citing Tjaden 1997). Referring to stalking as a course of conduct is important because a stalker repeatedly intrudes upon another (McEwan, MacKenzie, and Ogloff 1469). Stalking is not an isolated incident but a pattern of actions that usually becomes more aggressive with time (Robinson 188, Dietz and Martin 750).

Stalking is an obsessional pursuit of another person that is willful,  malicious, and threatens the target’s safety. Stalkers usually believe that they have a meaningful personal relationship with the victim whether the victim believes that or not (Miller 5, Kamphuis and Emmelkamp 795). Because stalking is a crime of power and control that is frequently an extension of domestic violence, it utilizes harassment and intimidation to keep the victim’s focus on the stalker (Sexual Harassment Support, Miller 5, 6). Ultimately, the stalker is looking for attention (Stalkingvictims.com).

Stalking is repeated and intrusive and can cause significant fear or distress in victims. For those reasons,  it has been called “emotional rape” and “psychological terrorism” (Lamberg 520). Such possessive, disturbing behavior, however, is not a mental disorder in and of itself. Stalking expert Paul Mullen says that stalking is a behavior to which mental disorders contribute, and that only a few stalkers have a true obsessional disorder (Lamberg 522).

One of the most sinister aspects of stalking that can make it difficult to recognize and deal with is that stalking is illegal,  but it can involve actions that are legal (Sexual Harassment Support). Acts like following the victim, keeping the victim under surveillance, loitering nearby, and sending unwanted gifts may be obvious manifestations of stalking. But calling on the phone, gathering information on their victim, sending emails, and showing up at the same public places are not so obvious, and can leave the victim wondering if they are actually being stalked. Unfortunately, all of these actions and others can escalate to physical assault, most commonly punching, kicking, and shoving, sexual assault, and even murder (Stalkinghelp.org, Sexual Harassment Support, McEwan et al. 1469).

To avoid being plagiarized, I’m not going to post the whole paper here. Word thieves should duly note the copyright notice at the bottom.

Stalking 1

What did you just absorb from that excerpt? I hope it’s that we Americans tend to have a dangerously myopic view of the definition of stalking because the cases we hear about the most tend to be the most blatant and outrageous. If the Hollywood it girl of the month has some obsessed fan living in her ceiling, then your ex who’s been sending you unnecessary, foul-mouthed texts for years isn’t stalking you, right? Wrong. That may well be stalking under your state’s anti-stalking laws. You need to find out and take steps to protect yourself.

In Washington State, our stalking law reads as follows. I have a huge problem with fear being a criteria for stalking but it’s very common. Some people being targeted feel righteously angry, not afraid. Others feel harassed but don’t develop significant feelings of fear. Victims of stalking react differently and I hope this will be reflected in future laws. Stalking laws should not focus on how the victim is responding, but on what the suspect is doing. You can read the full text of RCW 9A.46.110 here.

(1) A person commits the crime of stalking if, without lawful authority and under circumstances not amounting to a felony attempt of another crime:

(a) He or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person; and

(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.

The statute goes on to say that it doesn’t matter if the stalker wasn’t put on notice to discontinue the behavior, and it also doesn’t matter if the stalker says they didn’t intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person. Someone who stalks another person in Washington State is generally guilty of a gross misdemeanor, but they might be found guilty of a class B felony under certain circumstances. These include the stalking of certain types of public employees, stalking someone when a protection order is already in place, and a prior conviction for stalking the victim or their family members.

You can see in this statute that stalking is not just following someone. The stalker could be harassing the person in a number of other ways. RCW 10.14.020 defines harassment as:

(1) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. “Course of conduct” includes, in addition to any other form of communication, contact, or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication, but does not include constitutionally protected free speech. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”

(2) “Unlawful harassment” means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. The course of conduct shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner, or, when the course of conduct would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well-being of their child.

Stalking 6

If you’re unfamiliar with the legal definition of stalking, or weren’t sure if what’s happening to you is, this sheds some light on things, doesn’t it? You already know in your gut that what’s happening to you is wrong. Trust that gut feeling– it doesn’t lie. Reading this, you might realize that you are indeed being targeted by someone who makes repeated attempts to intimidate, annoy, bother, and/or frighten you for no good reason. In Washington, that’s stalking. We have laws that address cyberstalking as well (a discussion of cyberstalking could fill another post).

As you take action to shut down your tormentor, note that your stalker might end up being charged with additional crimes as well– assault, malicious mischief, or a sex crime perhaps? Right now you might not be aware of how far their fixation on you goes. There might be obvious behaviors like harassing you with noise, showing up in online forums, or trying to be seen and heard by you.

But what if they have a camera in your bathroom ceiling or listening devices in the wall? I don’t say that to make you paranoid and that might only be true in a fraction of cases. I’m simply pointing out that you don’t know everything they’re doing. The behaviors you do know about might just be the tip of the iceberg, and many stalkers escalate.

In my experiences with stalking– experiences plural– with one exception the perpetrators were either sociopathic narcissists or likely had borderline personality disorder. Some experts refer to borderpaths, noting a blending of characteristics between these types of people. Whatever they are, none of them were psychologically normal and all of them were dangerous, whether in an emotional way or in a flat-out life threatening way. Fixating on another person as the cause of all your problems or the solution to them is never a healthy or stable place to be.

Narcissists are their own gods and believe that only their rules or worldview matter. Their workplace’s or residence’s or society’s rules simply don’t apply to them because they’re “special” and “enlightened.” They don’t believe they should have to change anything for anyone else’s sake; only they, as supreme rulers of their little realms, get to decide what’s best for everyone else. They are entitled, abhorrently selfish, and emotionally underdeveloped. They often come across as spoiled toddlers who scream until they get their way, but note that their tantrums as a grown person can cost lives.

Sociopaths act without conscience. They could care less about what happens to you. You’re a means to an end. You’re a toy. You’re something to use at their leisure and discard when they’re done. They instinctively know how to worm their way into your life through sympathy ploys and by mirroring your own dreams and desires. But ultimately they’re just human sharks, empty-eyed shells with holes in their souls. They need God far more than they need a psychologist.

Borderline personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions (thank you Psych Central). My interactions with borderline types have involved high drama, unreasonable demands for attention, irrational fear of abandonment, and them feeling grievously wronged or rejected when any adult boundaries are put into place. It’s like being in the ocean with a drowning person who keeps panicking and pulling you under. If you don’t do exactly what the borderline personality thinks is right, they will punish you.

Stalking 2

These are some of the types I’ve encountered. They don’t necessarily fit neatly into a little diagnosis box or have been officially diagnosed. A stalker doesn’t have to be diagnosed with anything for their behavior to be stalking although many are suspected of having mental disorders. They could be a very angry person who feels slighted by you. They might be someone who thinks they’re in competition with you and has to win. They could be jealous of your successes or current relationships. Perhaps they’re a stranger who thinks they’ll gain something by being close to you or a neighbor with easy access who’s devoured by the need to try and control your living environment.

Whoever they are, whatever there problem is, as Sandra L. Brown says, the why of their situation is not as important as what you’re going to do about it. Be aware that stalkers sometimes have accomplices and allies who will also harass or hurt you, making it all the more important to seek help. Some stalkers, particularly those skilled in domestic violence, might enlist their partner or family members to participate in the stalking.

Some partners and family members might not have a choice because they’ll be subjected to violence or rejection if they don’t follow along. Sometimes misery loves company and there are many who thrive on sadism, bullying, and drama, especially when it’s a team effort. The stalker might try to communicate with you through coworkers or neighbors too. Stalking by proxy is becoming more and more of a problem– by some estimates, 50 percent of stalking cases involve stalking by proxy.

Many of the most seasoned and skilled stalkers are the ones most likely to pull the “who, me?” bit with law enforcement. They’ll have a boatload of justification for their actions ready– I didn’t mean it personally. It has nothing to do with her. I can’t control what my family does. We live so close we can’t avoid contact. I have a medical issue that causes me to do that. I’m allowed to live my life. She was making eyes at me. I’m allowed to communicate with him because of our child in common. I just had a question. They’ve been lying about and harassing me for years. They’re a troubled person who’s overly sensitive because of their past. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. I’m the real victim here!

Stalking 5

This list could fill volumes. And they’ll say it all with such slick, smarmy ease, lies and alibis flowing like melted butter. To me these people are transparent because I’ve dealt with so many of their type. Unfortunately they can be very convincing to parties who are not directly experiencing the terror of stalking. I often think back to 14 year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, Jeffrey Dahmer’s victim who escaped from his apartment only to be returned to him by the police. Dahmer told them they were having a lover’s quarrel and officers brought him, naked, bleeding, and drugged, back to Dahmer’s apartment where he was violated and murdered. If officers had bothered to do a background check, they would have found that Dahmer was a registered sex offender who’d done time for molesting Sinthasomphone’s brother.

That seems like an extreme example, but stalking victims experience similar “oh, it can’t be that bad” attitudes all the time. They’re not taken seriously to begin with and might never be until they’re physically harmed or even murdered. I know of a recent case in which the victim’s pet was killed after years of trying to get the police to take the stalker’s behavior seriously, and still, nothing happened. They had to keep going back to civil court about the stalking and ultimately were forced to move. I can name other cases in which the powers that be, whether private or public, could have taken steps to protect alleged stalking victims and did not. If we’re ever going to put a stop to the spreading wildfire that is stalking, we must start by believing, not wait until there’s medical proof of a crime.

Stalkers employ all kinds of tactics to stay on your radar screen or to try and keep you off balance and frightened. They might be in the same place at the same time, send notes, or vandalize your property. They might be very obvious, thinking they’re simply too smart for charges to stick, or they might do those insidious little things that they can easily claim were not directed towards you or are just normal actions in the course of their day. Stalkers who employ noise as their weapon of choice can and will use that defense. There will always be a reason they feel entitled to live at a loud volume. They’ll also frequently deploy their noise when they think there are no witnesses or keep their noise level high enough to harass you, but low enough that they won’t be cited for it.

Some stalkers love picking on targets they believe will have a difficult time proving that what they’re doing is illegal. They also love fixating on people they believe are unlikely to fight back. They enjoy harassing singles, including single mothers, prior victims of violence and trauma, those with medical issues, and people who live alone. It is a sublime high to them to know that their victim might struggle to find witnesses (document, document, document, record, report!). Some stalkers like focusing on people who are accomplished in a particular field or are well-known; it’s like cocaine to them to think that they’re controlling that person’s behavior or well-being in any way. There are various reasons stalkers attach themselves.

Stalking 3

One universal behavior of stalkers, again, is that as soon as they’re called on their behavior by the authorities, they will kick into professional victim mode. They will try to convince the police, or the courts, or anyone who’s paying attention that they’re the real victim. They can and will throw the victim and any witnesses under the bus as crazy, vindictive, unbalanced, obsessed, dishonest, greedy, or attention-seeking. They will lie, cheat, slander, terrorize, coerce, steal, and might even kill to maintain their facade of innocence. Some will even go to the authorities to report stalking by the victim before the true victim has a chance to realize what’s happening or report it themselves.

The attempted role reversal is why it’s so important to seek out specialized help if possible. The average patrol officer responding to your call might not be well-versed in the dynamics of stalking (or domestic violence, for that matter). In an attempt to be objective they might treat the situation as a mutual conflict or civil issue, or just tell the victim that what’s happening to them doesn’t rise to the level of harassment and/or stalking.

A well-trained officer, or better yet, a detective who specializes in such cases will recognize the red flags and hopefully put you in touch with an advocate to walk you through safety planning, obtaining any relevant court orders, and any criminal case that’s filed. Some nonprofit agencies also have excellent advocates who don’t need to be convinced that what’s happening to you is illegal. As they listen they’ll start to connect the dots and realize that you need assistance.

In my research, whether personal or academic, I tell others that if they’re being harassed or stalked, you can bet that someone, somewhere has experienced much of the same. It’s not likely to be the stalker’s first dance. Many police and court records are public, and many courts have archived their records online. While it might sound like reverse stalking to dig into their past, you’re doing it to protect yourself, not to harass or harm them. If you doubt how far you should go, consult an attorney or run it by the police when you report the stalking.

While the FBI doesn’t offer a comprehensive national background check, many state law enforcement agencies will check for criminal history in their state. In Washington, you can do this online for $10. Note that it only reveals convictions. If they were arrested and not convicted, it won’t be on there. It also won’t include records that might be held at local police agencies, like field interview reports, dispatch notes, or reports that document other happenings from suspicious activity to full-blown felonies.

Stalking 7

A seasoned investigator will usually run down such history when preparing to charge a stalker. It is sometimes possible to piece together a previous pattern of behavior, or even just hints of it, by requesting records from various agencies (not just law enforcement). The point is that there are often at least whispers of anger problems, infatuations, domestic violence, inappropriate sexual behavior, harassment, neighbor issues, nuisance behavior, or maybe far more. In my nonprofessional opinion, chances are there will be cookie crumbs.

There are times, however, that there might be nothing at all. Previous targets might not have filed a report or could still be psychologically held hostage by the stalker. The victim might have been able to move on with their life. But the stalker might have been so crafty or skilled that other victims could never prove that what was happening was illegal. This underscores the importance of keeping your own paper trail– document, document, document, record, take pictures, tell trusted people, store it all in a safe place (not where the stalker can get to it or destroy it– some choose secure online storage). You will be asked for proof. You will be asked for examples. Be ready to demonstrate a course of conduct.

If you know or suspect that you are being stalked, don’t allow other people to downplay or minimize your concerns. They aren’t experiencing it. You are. You know best what is or might be going on. You need to speak to an advocacy agency or the police. While you are taking steps to protect yourself, don’t allow others to pressure or guilt you into believing that you need to continue to allow that person access to your life.

I was horrified to learn of a case in which a teenage girl’s stalker was encouraged to keep attending church in spite of his obsession. That kept her squarely in his sights at least one day a week, feeding his fixation and lust. Yes that man needs Jesus, but he can go find spiritual nourishment somewhere else. The highest priority when dealing with stalking is to ensure the victim’s safety. The danger that the victim could be abducted, raped, assaulted, murdered, or harmed in any way should be minimized as soon as possible. The stalker should be prohibited from physical proximity to their target whenever possible. Don’t make it easy for them. You should engage in safety planning. You might need to obtain a court order so there are consequences for their actions.

If you’re being stalked, it’s time to take your life back. Below are resources that I strongly encourage you to peruse and utilize. It might not be easy and resolution could take years. But the longer you wait, the longer the stalking might go on. The bottom line is that what is happening to you could well be illegal, and you won’t know until you connect with an expert to share your experiences and documentation.

Stalking 10

There is no law in this country, no commandment in the Bible, no unwritten mandate in the cosmos that says you have to sit there and take this. It is a violation. Time for your stalker to reap what they’ve sowed and be shut down for good.

Times Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships

Document the Abuse  – learn more about a valuable legal tool for victims called the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit here

Stalking Resource Center

OutrageUs

Love Is Respect

National Stalking Awareness Month

Investigation Discovery’s Stalked

Stalking Victims Sanctuary

RAINN

The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education

End Revenge Porn

Time’s Up Blog

Norton’s Cyberstalking page

Privacy Right’s Clearinghouse’s Stalking page

There are other links, specifically pertaining to domestic violence, on the right sidebar and at the bottom of my previous post Why Didn’t You Just Leave?.

Bringing this full circle, CBS’s Stalker might sensationalize the crime of stalking and help keep us trapped in our belief that only the extreme cases are truly stalking. It also has the obligatory doses of sleaze and hookups between major characters that dominate just about every show nowadays. But there is one aspect I find intriguing despite the cheese factor…

Dylan McDermott’s character Detective Jack Larsen is a stalker. He works in an elite unit dedicated to stopping stalking, but moved to L.A. from New York seemingly to keep tabs on his ex and their son. He dons a black hoodie (another stereotype) and jogs over to peer at them through the bushes (so predictable). He also has photos of them that he’s taken on his forays taped to his wall (because stalkers NEVER store photos in an organized fashion on their laptops or phones, you know– they use 8 X 10s and strings and things). Maggie Q’s character, Lieutenant Beth Davis– and oh, “Beth Davis” isn’t her real name, we learn– is a reserved and mysterious woman who’s dealt with some sort of horrific stalking in the past.

Why this intrigues me is that domestic violence occurs at a higher rate among law enforcement personnel than in the general population. It follows that stalking is also prevalent, and I’m personally aware of a number of examples. So the idea of an obsessed cop who appears as a good guy/star stalking investigator to the public isn’t at all far-fetched. I’ve known female detectives who have experienced very serious domestic domestic and stalking. Some have turned their misery into their ministry and now work to stop the same types of perpetrators who once harmed them. So even though these two fictional characters were designed to be provocative, there is some truth there.

Let’s hope Stalker’s producers realize that they have a powerful opportunity to highlight more common types of stalking cases, not just the ones that will stun audiences into tuning in for more gross-out, fringe behavior. I also hope they’ll consider including links to websites and resources in or after the show. They could at least balance the money-making, gasp-inducing racy plots with a higher dose of benevolent reality.

Stalking is a real crime. It has real victims. And every one of those victims needs to know that their case is important and they deserve justice.

Stalking 8

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From the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

Summary Findings

  • During a 12-month period an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking
  • About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
  • The risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000 individuals.
  • Women were at greater risk than men for stalking victimization; however, women and men were equally likely to experience harassment.
  • Male (37%) and female (41%) stalking victimizations were equally likely to be reported to the police.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
  • 46% of stalking victims felt fear of not knowing what would happen next.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.
  • More than half of stalking victims lost 5 or more days from work.

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©2014 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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