Domestic Violence and Abuse


Nine years ago today, my friend was murdered by her ex. Up until that point, I was mostly unaware of the enormous domestic violence problem we have in this country.

I was unawware that 1 in 3 people are abused in their relationships.

I was unaware that women go to jail more for defending themselves against their partners than their partners do for abusing them.

I was unaware that I was part of the problem by not believing my friend when she did talk about her experiences in our mutual friend circles.

I was unaware.

We can no longer live in the darkness of ignorance; of platitudes; of living in our own bubbles.

If you know someone who is being abused, reach out. They may not accept your overtures, but they’ll know that you will be there when they are ready.

If you are being abused, there is help.

Contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-700-7233 or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

or online at The Hotline

In New York State, there are new options available related to an uptick (30% higher in this past April than in April 2019) in the domestic abuse incidents and reports since our pandemic related isolation began.

Coronavirus and Domestic Violence (NY Times)

New Yorkers in Need of Help or Assistance Can Text 844-997-2121 

or Can Go to the New Confidential Online Site to Reach a Professional on

Office of Prevention of Domestic Violence in NY

May: Reflection


​Domestic violence awareness month happens in October. Maybe that’s because it’s getting closer to the holidays, and that’s a prime time for tempers to flare, control to be lost, and violence to erupt. Domestic violence impacts 1 in 3 women. That is a huge number of victims. In addition, there is a double standard when it comes to defending one’s self against domestic violence: women are more likely to go to jail for defending themselves than men are for the initial attack. Men murder their partner, and they go to jail for maybe a few years. Women killing their partners in self-defense after years of abuse will often get sentenced into the decades.

This isn’t about statistics, though.

About now, some of you may be wondering, if domestic violence awareness month is in October, why am I bringing this up in May. A week and a day ago was the seventh anniversary of my friend’s murder by her ex. She was murdered while washing out a tea kettle in the bathroom. One of her roommates was also killed. I am sad and embarrassed to say that I was in the ranks of being a victim-blamer, and I take every May to reevaluate her situation, realize how little I was able to see from my vantage point, and promise to do better when I see things in the future.

I made assumptions based on the little I knew, not realizing that there was an iceberg hidden that I was only seeing a very small, tiny bit of. That tiny bit gave me a false sense of security as well as superiority. Hubris.

It took me a long time to come to grips with my part as something of an enabler by dismissing what I was hearing as nonsense; by ignoring the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I’ve prayed. I’ve journaled. I, along with other friends, did an anniversary/memorial tea tasting meditation ceremony (not sure how else to describe it.) It brought me closer to my friend and closer to closure for myself.

Leaving an abusive situation is not as simple as walking out of the door. There are emotional factors. There are economic factors. The one thing I learned is that it’s easy to judge someone from the outside. It’s easy to know the “right” call to make when you’re not the one who has to make it.

I wasn’t close enough to the situation to have stopped her murder, but I could have been less judgmental. I could have been more patient with her idiosyncrasies that in hindsight made sense even if they didn’t at the time. I could have been more supportive.

If you are, or someone you know is living in an abusive situation, ask what you can do to help. Offer options and solutions. Don’t tell the person what they “should” be doing or what you would be doing differently if you were in that situation.

The number to call for help is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

This is a tree I used to sit across from in my car and think about my friend. I just sat and stared at this nearly daily. It belongs to the church I now attend, so I see it fairly regularly. It both gives me sadness and peace. (c)2018

Domestic Violence Should Not Be Politics as Usual


​Sunday will be the sixth anniversary of my friend’s death. She was murdered by her ex while simply living her own life, washing a tea kettle out when he came up behind her and ended her life. For all of us who are touched by domestic violence and abuse, we ask if there was something we could have done, something we should have been aware of. I participated in my own share of victim blaming until I saw the larger picture of having your finances and only home tied up with someone who is threatening. 

I think we all like to believe the best of people, and if we’re wrong, we just pick up and walk away. Everyone has friends they can rely on, but how true is that really? Can a mom, the mom who seems to have all the problems, is never on time, offering flimsy excuses with the two kids, both in diapers – can she crash on your sofa or spare room indefinitely? Are you friends with her domestic partner? Who will you believe?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, and it takes on a variety of forms. Some, though not many, don’t realize they’re abusive; it’s the way they were raised, and they think it’s “normal” to slap your wife and kids or grab her or slam doors and drink a little too much. Others seem like the perfect couple, family, etc, and no one knows what’s going on inside someone else’s home?

For B, my friend, when she had nowhere to live, she arranged to live in her house. Her house, that she paid for, contributed to the down payment of, was responsible on the deed for, but also on the property where her ex lived. I thought that was crazy. However, what else could she do?

He threatened her, but people say things they don’t mean all the time.

Why didn’t she call the police? Well, she did, several times. In fact, the police paid a visit to their house the night before she was murdered. They didn’t believe there was a problem; not a real one. Don’t set him off, though.

I didn’t understand.

Now, in Congress, in the House of Representatives yesterday, a bill was passed that will now go on to the Senate to be voted on. If it passes the Senate, I have no doubt that President Trump will sign it. He signs whatever he’s told to.

This new bill, that might become a law, which by the way also exempts members of Congress from its new rules and changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as affecting private insurance and employer insurance along with Medicaid and Medicare, defines pre-existing conditions in horrific ways and will affect someone you know.

They say that pre-exisiting conditions will be covered, but that depends on the state you’re in, and legal access to health care doesn’t mean that everyone will have it or be able to afford it.

For example, four of the pre-existing conditions mentioned specifically are: domestic violence, sexual assault, c-section, and post-partum depression. What do these four things have in common? In addition to being completely and arbitrarily unpredictable and randomly occuring, they also only happen to women. The first two – domestic violence and sexual assault – are perpetuated by men onto women, but as is the case in many instances, women pay the brunt of the violence against them.

This is one of the most blatant and disgusting and obvious moments of victim-blaming.

They’re looking at getting rid of well visits and preventative care, maternity leave, and pre-natal care as well.

I’m appalled.

In today’s Congress, had my friend survived her gunshot to the head she would be blamed for it as a victim of domestic violence. It would be considered a pre-existing condition and not covered under the Republican’s repeal and regress health care plan.

They’ve had eight years to come up with something, and they’ve failed. However, they continue to punish women for their failure.

Do not let this Republican controlled Congress and White House continue to abuse women and their families.

If you or someone you know are in danger or in a domestic abuse relationship or situation, contact the The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They can help you and find resources for you wherever you are.

If you or someone you know are an LGBT+ youth and in an abusive situation, contact The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. They can put you in touch with someone who can help you.

You are not alone.

May 7th, 2011


In memoir class, our most recent prompt was Anticipation. Besides Carly Simon and Tim Curry, anticipation is one of those ill-defined things or maybe it’s too much of a word to be definable in a real linear way. I do know that anticipation is a good thing. It is a thing, or event, or something that is expected with bated breath, fun or happiness are just around the corner, and it’s I can’t quite touch it, but it’s almost here, and the closer it gets, the more the heart races and the breath quickens, and it could be as simple as the bloom of a lilac tree or something as monumental as a wedding day or the birth of a child. Or a great vacation.

This week was full of those expectations, anticipations of special days and family fun. Memoir class, Ascension Mass, Cinco de Mayo, May the Fourth, Captain America: Civil War movie, Free Comic Book Day, Mother’s Day, even a sleepover and meeting my son’s girlfriend.

The other side of the coin of anticipation is that waiting, that expectation of, the bad, the b-side of anticipation that we assign a different moniker to: Dread.

Dread. The anticipation of something not so good. Still heart racing, breath quickening, but in all the bad ways. Waiting for test results, the waiting room of the dentist’s office, this year’s election (although I’m happy with my choice), and Saturday, May 7th for myself and a few people close to me and a few I will never meet.

Five years ago, May the 7th was also the first Saturday in May. It was also Free Comic Book Day. It was also the day before Mother’s Day. We were out going from comic book store to comic book store. That year, we went all the way to Greenfield Center to a comic store that is now on Broadway in Saratoga Springs just to see the Batmobile. My kids sat in it, and pretended to drive. This was especially thrilling to my middle son who is a real Batman aficionado.

We pulled into our driveway (sans Batmobile) for a moment to regroup and set our dinner plans when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but instead of ignoring the call and letting it go to voicemail, I got the feeling that I needed to answer this one. We all have those moments, that little moment of knowing but not knowing, that moment of dread. An unfamiliar tone of a familiar voice. A full name instead of a nickname. The serious voice that told me instinctively not to lead with where the hell have you been, I’ve been trying to reach you all day, and the sound of a hitched breath, of dread.

Continue reading

May 7th


As today dawned on the fourth anniversary of my friend’s death, I remember how she died. Why she died is never far from my memory of her, inexorably entwined with the sound of her name which is sad because she was much more than her murder.

Why then do I continue to talk about her death on this day in addition to her life? I read something recently that answered just that question.

“Finally, the scariest thing about abuse of any shape or form, is, in my opinion, not the abuse itself, but that if it continues it can begin to feel commonplace and eventually acceptable. Writing this book and knowing it will be discussed around the world is in some way insurance for me that my story will never be thought of as commonplace, never acceptable, and for that I thank my publishers and everyone involved with making it happen from the bottom of my heart.” – Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir

Continuing to talk about, continuing to bring her experiences to light lets people suffering now, tolerating now, afraid to get out now that there is help for them now. Regardless of what their family tells them is or isn’t abuse, regardless of what society tells them to put up with, to ignore, regardless and despite that, there are people who will listen; people there to help.

If Brittany’s death means anything, it is a reminder that domestic violence is often hidden from the neighbors. It is often ignored by the people closest to the victim. Victims should not be ashamed or silenced. We need to more reliably hold the abusers accountable and refuse the double standard that puts women in jail for defending themselves and blames them for their own abuse.

In 2013, Patrick Stewart said about his childhood, “I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it” and that is true. It is never the victim’s fault. We need to stand up and defend and support victims, offer them an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and know the resources for assistance, and to offer whatever kind of help we’re willing to provide.

Donate money and time to a battered women’s shelter. Be aware of all the forms that abuse takes: emotional, economical, sexual, verbal, physical.

Four years ago, I received a phone call that made me rethink many things, one of which was my ability to forgive myself for some of my poor reactions and choices in hearing about some of Brittany’s abuse before she was murdered. I wasn’t a close friend of hers; I didn’t witness Brittany’s abuse personally, but I was close enough that I should have supported her more than I did. That is something that I could have done. It was nearly too late when I had.

Why is this about me? This yearly anniversary is my redemption. I can learn from my mistakes and make others aware of the mistakes they may be making by “minding their own business.” It is my reminder to do better and to offer solutions rather than add to the troubles.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-273-8255

The Trevor Project  1-866-488-7386



Brittany, age 27 died instantly when she was shot by her ex-husband while she rinsed out a teapot. This was one of many headlines in the days that followed her murder.

That was May 7, 2011, but before she died that day, she was born. Today is that day. She would have been thirty-one today. I knew her only a short time, but in that time she taught me things.



For my part, skeptically.

She showed me things about myself, things I didn’t like, things I regret, but I managed to come through them, and I couldn’t have done that without her help in the weeks before she died and for the year after, as I mourned her.

I learned.




Less judgment.

Help for no reason but to help.

Yes, even if you’re angry.



She was there when no one else was at a moment that it mattered. One moment, but it was an important one, and it mattered.

And so did she.

Happy Birthday, Brittany. I know your spirit is soaring; I can hear the flutter in the air.

Recs – A Collection of Articles


I’ve been saving these and thought this snowy week when many are snowbound was a perfect time to share them:

These 48 Trans Women and Men Changed the World

LGBTQ Children in Catholic Families: A Deacon’s View on Holy Family Sunday

8 Ways to Get Rid of Paper Clutter

9 Lists to Keep Updated, And Keep Handy

52 Things, Ideas for Writers 2015

The Playboy Conversation: Patton Oswalt and Wil Wheaton

A Writer’s Toolbox

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Wartime Secrets of the Female Codebreakers of Bletchley Park

Transgender Man has Private Audience with Pope Francis

Most Important Thing on TV this year is this Super Bowl PSA

Simeon, Anna, and Phil and The Many Facets of the Second of February

SCOTUS Decides Vaccine Debate (110 Years Ago)

Domestic Violence and Victim-Blaming


[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.

May 7


It was three years ago today that I was introduced to Domestic Violence Awareness. I hadn’t thought much about it before. What I did have in my head (If they really wanted to leave, they would), was the simplistic, naïve, victim-blaming misinformation continues to appease our collective consciences.

Even before May 7, 2011, I questioned the motives behind many actions that I did not understand at the time, often cynical, always having the answer that for some reason the others in the situation couldn’t see. I still can’t believe this was my thinking.

I won’t ask the questions, but I will give you the answers:

All of my earnings were banked jointly.

I worked for my marital partner. He didn’t always pay me.

I sold my car because I couldn’t afford to fix it.

Do I sleep on the street or in the house that I own?

These are just the tip of the pull yourself up by your bootstraps domestic violence skeptics’ iceberg used to justify scorn against the victim. Below the water is the big part; the unseen danger, hidden away from the public eye, shared only if you trusted the person. And after years of abuse from someone you had trusted, how many more people can you safely let in?

Three years ago today at 5:30pm EST (2:30pm PST), I received a phone call from my friend. He was at the hospital with a bullet in his ankle. He said he didn’t know about Brittany and that he’d call me later. In retrospect, I think he did know, but he wasn’t ready to say it out loud and I certainly wasn’t ready to hear it. I couldn’t blame him for that.

Just a few minutes after Noon, California time, Brittany’s ex, who lived on the property, had shot and killed her while she was washing the kettle in the bathroom. He then shot and killed a second roommate and then shot a third (who survived) before killing himself.

Domestic violence awareness isn’t posters or slogans. It isn’t easy solutions or reconciling with your abuser because of children or money or shelter.

It is violent and brutal and needs not to be glorified in music or television or pop culture as it often is.

It is about getting them away from their abusers.

It is support.

It is blaming the guilty – the abuser, and in this case, the murderer.

It is about protecting and remembering the victims.

Brittany would have been thirty in March of this year. I now know her longer in death than in life. As much as I talk or write about the inspiration her spirit has given me. I would have preferred her presence and the positive impact she would have made on my life and the lives of those around her.

Domestic Violence Awareness is looking at a picture of Brittany, her timeless youth a reminder of all that was lost and all that we still must do to help the victims of domestic abuse and violence and continue helping and rescuing the victims. That is domestic violence awareness.

It is keeping others from having a May 7th.

If you or anyone you know is in need of advice or support, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at:


or visit them online:

Domestic Violence Affects Us All



Every month has something, and October is listed as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but for me that will always be in May.

Today to be precise.

May 7th.

Before that date, domestic violence was something that happened to someone else; someone on the news somewhere. Victims of domestic violence left their abuser and went to shelters and lived happily ever after, didn’t they? At least that was the myth I grew up with.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Most victims of domestic abuse never leave their abusers. Many blame themselves for their abuse. Women who fight back are more likely to be arrested and convicted and sent to jail than their abuser was for his offenses. You do not always see a victim of domestic abuse. Their bruises are not always on the outside. Some bruises are hidden. Or they’re “accident prone”. Or they’re emotionally and verbally abused. Or sexually. There is no way to know, but one in three is a victim of some sort of domestic abuse or violence. Despite restraining orders, many of those (mostly) women are murdered.

The last thing I expected when my phone rang on May 7th was to find out that my friend had been shot. He survived, but his other two roommates did not.

Brittany was twenty-seven years old in 2011 when she died from a gunshot. She and our mutual friend moved back into her house where her ex lived on the property. She had just lost her apartment and was in the process of suing him for money that he’d owed her from the house and their business. They hadn’t been in a relationship for the previous two years before that. Since it was her property, the judge said she could live there and they would need to get along.

It remained very tense and stressful. Nearly every time I called, there was some reference made to her ex and some violent display he’d exhibited including the night before the murders.

Before May 7th I wasn’t terribly worried. I was a little worried, but my two friends were leaving soon. In a few weeks, they’d be flying to meet up with another mutual friend and hike for the year and a half to two years on the other side of the world.

That day wasn’t going to come, though.

I received the phone call. A very serious voice on the other end of the phone, no time for chit-chat, I could hear that in his voice, just the facts, ma’am – that was the voice. Listen to me, this is important.

There’s a moment during one of these phone calls that you go deaf. The same thing happens on a television show. The camera pans the room, and begins to focus on the person holding the telephone. They’re not talking but everyone is talking around them; it’s probably a dinner party. The voices turn into a buzz and the sound effects people do a great job of lowering the conversation and raising the sound of the telephone in the person’s ear; the one we’re supposed to be focusing on, and pretty soon we can’t hear the crowd of people around her, and we’re not supposed to. The special effects and sound folks have done their job, and we hear what the person on the telephone hears and it is a very dramatic moment.

This is what happened. Except that it wasn’t a television show; it was really happening, and I didn’t notice it until after it was over. We were in the car – my husband, me, our three kids. It was very noisy. We just pulled into the driveway when the phone rang. I almost didn’t answer it. But for some reason I did, and while I listened to the words that I could barely comprehend, the sound in the car lowered and the buzzing began, and I couldn’t hear my kids or the engine anymore. All I could hear was my friend. And he was so serious.

I was calm in that maybe-it-will-go-away way.

He gave me the name of the hospital. He gave me the name of the officer whose desk he was at. I think he gave me a phone number; his phone had been confiscated for the time being.

And then he hung up.

We didn’t speak until later that night, and by then we both knew that Brittany was dead.

I was in shock.

Two years later, there are still some days I still am.


If you know anyone in an abusive situation, be it parental or spousal or any other; please give them the resources to get help and to get out. Here are some resources for you:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-7HELPLINE (743-5754)

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project: 24 hr. hotline: 1-800-832-1901

Domestic Violence International Resources:

Safehorizon – moves victims of violence from crisis to confidence (domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, child abuse & incest, stalking, anti-trafficking, others): 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 (for LGBT Youth)