Domestic Violence and Victim-Blaming

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[Note: This describes people I know, but I have excluded their names. This account will be familiar to many who have witnessed or heard anecdotes of domestic violence incidents. What I witnessed (and continue to witness) is sadly not unusual.]

This has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  In two days everyone will forget and this will be relegated to the recesses of our minds until some other big-name celebrity or athlete is in the news for abusing his significant other. A local car dealer is donating money and has said he had no idea ‘this was going on’ until he saw it recently in the news.

The old me can understand. We just can’t wrap our heads around someone we care about being violent towards us. Unfortunately, abuse is more than physical. It can be emotional, verbal, economical, sexual.

I usually broach this subject in May on the anniversary of the murder of a friend of mine by her ex. In the months after that, I learned a great deal about domestic violence. For one thing, most people I spoke to were unaware of it as a common problem. But with one in three women as victims, it is nearly impossible not to know someone who’s been abused.

When my friend went to court to get approval to reside in her own house with her ex-partner and the only other option was homelessness, I thought she must have had other choices. Even before she died, I was guilty of victim-blaming, and since her death, while I’ve learned better, there are many others who continue to blame her and other victims like her.

Why couldn’t she live with her parents? Not an option.

Why couldn’t she get a job and an apartment on her own? She already had three jobs.

Why couldn’t she leave her ex alone; it was his house? It was their house. Her name was on the mortgage even though he illegally removed her from the deed.

Why did she need to sue him for money? It was her money; money she had earned working alongside her ex in their business.

If she were in real danger, the police would have intervened, wouldn’t they? Not in my experience. In fact, the police were at the home the night before the murders; less than twenty-hours before.

Anything that puts the responsibility on the victim is victim-blaming. No exceptions.

As seconds ticked to very few minutes, three people were dead; one of them the murderer and another man’s life was changed forever. Regardless of living or dying, there is no escape from an occurrence of domestic violence.

There is only one person to blame – the abuser with the gun; the murderer. He didn’t snap. He killed people because his ex asserted her independence; because she stood up for herself. She would have been free in six weeks.

Instead, three years later, more often than not she is blamed for her own death because of her choices. Her choices.  Her choices which weren’t really choices at all.

That is victim-blaming and it needs to end; more importantly, the domestic violence needs to end.

Do you know what’s so awesome about Cracker Barrel?

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I had a little cash left over from my retreat week.
CB has a lunch special for less money than going to McDonald’s. (And the bathroom is way cleaner)
CB also has no WiFi.
I can stay there pretty much as long as I like
CB also has so much white noise that it gives you just enough distraction not to be distracted (I wrote two full pieces!)
And they will refill your soda an obscene amount of times plus give you a to-go cup for one more refill on your way out

My First Anointing Mass

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Last week I attended my first Anointing Mass. I actually considered not going. My sick doesn’t seem as serious as other people’s sick. I have chronic health problems and a new one that has cropped up recently; something I need to think on, talk about, weigh pros and cons, and make decisions on, but because it has all of those steps it feels more like a business decision or planning a vacation rather than an illness.

I don’t know at what point I dismissed that as bullshit. That ridiculous my problems aren’t worth mentioning that so many of us do without thinking. We should not need to be beat over the head to take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically.

The anointing mass is for anyone who wants G-d’s help with whatever medical problem they’re having.

Even before I became as religious as I am now, I understood how important positive thinking is for health and curing illness. Studies have shown that even patients who didn’t know that they were being prayed for still did better than those that weren’t prayed for. Certainly, even non-believers can’t argue that prayer couldn’t hurt.

Still, it was very last minute that I decided to go. I needed to sign up since there would be lunch following the mass and they needed a head count.

Everyone I spoke to had told me how spiritual, how lovely, how beautiful this mass was. It hadn’t prepared me for the truly comforting feelings that the mass held and filled me with.

It was very similar to a Sunday Mass with the music ministry in attendance. However, we were seated in every other pew. People were helped to their seats so I ended up sitting with people I’d never met before. There were many elderly and wheelchair bound in attendance, several coming from the two nearby nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. There were many people from different parishes who come solely for this healing mass.

The Father went around the entire chapel and greeted everyone already sitting. He asked the woman next to me if they came with me to which we both replied, no, we’ve just met.

There were special readings that were incredibly moving. There wasn’t so much a homily as an encouragement to rely on G-d and to trust that all will be well. He quoted that from Julian of Norwich, and I found the simple words a necessary mantra for the rest of my week:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”

It didn’t take long that I discovered why we were seated in alternating rows. That way, we didn’t need to leave our seats to receive the anointing and the Eucharist. It was a very kind gesture for so many of the attendees would have had trouble processing to the altar for the traditional communion.

First, one Father came through the aisle in front of us. He anointed our foreheads with the cross (similar to receiving ashes) and then also the palms of our hands. He spoke quietly and despite saying the same blessing to everyone, it sounded personal and more meaningful than I’d expected.

I didn’t feel better per se, although of course, I hadn’t expected to, but I did feel as if I’d received a shield; an additional protection, not only for the illness, but for the ability to make the decisions to move towards wellness.

After everyone was anointed and after the Eucharist was prepared, the second Father came to our side to give us the body of Christ with a Eucharistic minister following with the blood. I received a large pizza shaped piece and I carefully broke it, ate a piece, broke it again, ate a second piece, and placed the last piece on my tongue when I was offered the cup. I like to keep a bit of host in my mouth and swirl the wine with it. There’s no real reason for this – the host practically melts on your tongue, but I think, for me, there is something sacred about combining the body and blood and as it glides down my throat, there is a warm feeling. It is not a burning, but it remains and fades slowly as I meditate or pray while the host is replaced in the tabernacle.

After this, we all walked over the parish center together, steadying non-cane arms, pushing wheelchairs, holding doors open and lending a hand wherever needed. At first, I sat alone as I usually do when I know no one, but Anne Marie, the woman who was randomly put next to me for the mass came over and invited me to their table. I was glad for the company and even gladder that they were strangers. It made the day that much more distinct from the regular daily mass.

It was really a beautiful experience and if I need a boost of strength to carry on with my health decisions and getting well, I can think back on this day and reflect on it.

I have comfort in the prayers, in the fellowship of those of us joining together to combine our strengths and share them. It was very encouraging and I will rely on it in the upcoming months to support me in the trying times that are ahead.

Quotation

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Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes -with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.

-Michael Crichton

Kryptonite

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(This was one of my E4K writing prompts)

The television show, Shake it Up has a song, “Fashion is my kryptonite.” It got me thinking: What is my Kryptonite?

  1. Pocketbooks, wallets, briefcases
  2. Tumblr
  3. Symbolism – my triquetra for example
  4. Fancy pens although I’m better now
  5. A really good cantaloupe – I could eat a whole one if it’s amazing good.
  6. Bagpipes
  7. British accent – mostly Scottish. I could watch paint dry if it was being narrated by Alan Cumming or David Tennant
  8. Politics, although I’m better now 😉
  9. A really good, creative, but useful office
  10. That might be it

I would say #1 is my real Kryptonite. I love the different ways different bags are organized. I have yet to find the perfect bag. I like the cross body style of a messenger bag. I like the flap that keeps everything covered, but most of these don’t have a zipper to keep things secure. It keeps me from carrying my wallet in there. The one I’ve been using for my retreat has a front and a back zipper pocket on the outside, but putting my wallet in there will make the bag too lumpy. This bag also doesn’t have a drink holder for a water bottle. I actually prefer two of those – one for the water bottle or tea tumbler and one for the umbrella which, while usually unneeded was indispensable this wet, rainy week.

I do have an excellent wallet at the moment, but it’s really a phone case and often that’s too small to go it alone. I need a regular everyday pocketbook to be able to hold my Kindle in addition to the other absolutely-must-have-can’t-leave the house without it things. Lately, I’ve needed my camera and I always need my ginger candies.

I do carry too many notebooks now that I’ve compartmentalized them, one notebook for one function. One notebook goes with my content planner, which is a re-formed day planner. One notebook for my AW* tasks. One notebook for first drafts and lists and medical expenses and to-dos and to-don’ts and all of the crazy. Too many notebooks. Maybe pocketbooks, purses, and briefcases aren’t the problem; maybe notebooks are my kryptonite.

Like too many notebooks, I have too many ideas and not enough tangible use for them.

Write about what you know.

What happens when you know nothing?

Like kryptonite, pocketbooks do make me weak-kneed.

Like kryptonite, they are often green.

They don’t literally burn to the touch, but when the bill comes – ooh, ouch; that hurts.

Kids’ backpacks sometimes come with matching lunch boxes. I would like something like that. A green messenger bag with a matching detachable cross body bag/purse. Like those kangaroo things but with a zipper and a strap.

I’ve tried to make the perfect one but I can’t translate the idea to the concrete. I made a backpack once. It was okay for a while. It certainly served its designated purpose, but there are better ones floating around in my mind.

If I had the money to waste, I could buy four of my favorites and put them together, Frankenstein-style. I wonder if that would work. Hmm. It wouldn’t have the ethical controversy of creating new life, but it would give my bags new life and possibly fend off the effects of my kryptonite.

In the meantime, reinforce those straps. With everything I need to fit, they’re going to need to be sturdy. I just remembered – my mother had a friend who made quilted tote bags and the handles went all the way around and under the bag and they were made of seatbelt straps. Those held up really well, although I don’t know whatever became of those bags.

I still have two briefcases I don’t use, but that mean something to me. One was from my Grandmother when I began student teaching and one was from my mom’s friend, Barbara. It was leather and perfect with retractable handles and pockets. It was a hard leather though, and rough.

I think I like soft with a good frame and support. Well, now that sounds like a bra.

 

Week 42/14 and Week 43/14 Summaries

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Week 42/14

Prompt: What have you discovered about yourself that surprised you?

Photo: Perfect Day for Applepicking

Quotation: When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.” – Firefly, Episode 12, The Message

Rec: Mental Health Resources

Links:

REPOST: Breakdown

REBLOG: You Clean Up Good: 8 Hygiene Tricks for People with Body Issues

Donate a Photo

The Trevor Project

Crazy Mixed Up Soundbites Meet Pastoral Reality (reblog)

Let’s Make a Coping Skills Toolbox

October Recharge, 2014 (Summer Retreat Wrap-Up Also)

 

Week 43/14

Prompt:(None) Replaced with apologies and quotation: “All will be well, all will be well, in all manner of things, all will be well.” – Julian of Norwich

Prompt: Write about something you find sacred – like a personal talisman or inspirational item.

Photo: Local Eatery

Water from the Last Three Days

Quotation: There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” -Elie Wiesel

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” -Vincent Van Gogh

“As we journey, we do our best.” – Fr. J

“We can’t go back to our old lives. We’re not the same people.” – Sam Winchester, Wishful Thinking (S4,E8)

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Rec: My Retreat Resources (So Far)

Links:

Weekend Update (Plus Quotations!) (Reflection)

Weekend Update – Sunday (Reflection)

Ben Bradlee, 1921-2014

The Unexpected (Reflection)

The Train Station (Reflection)

Follow Me (My Personal Reflection on Mark 1:17)

Gospels Used During Retreat:

Mark 1:16-20

Luke 5:1-11