Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday-Busting the myths of domestic violence

Everyone has been talking about the murder of Nikki Elias, who was shot to death by her ex-husband, who later shot himself after taking their children from Nikki’s Portland home. 

This week for Wonder Woman Wednesday, I want to talk about domestic violence.

Judge Amy Holmes Hehn, who was the judge in the Elias’ case wrote an editorial for the Oregonian talking about the case and the issue.  If you've ever followed a case like this you will see several similarities.

  • Everyone knows there’s a problem
  • Restraining and stalking orders are in place
  • The court is involved
  • In the end, the more an abusive narcissist loses, the more likely he is to kill his victim

All of these things were in place in the Elias’ case. 

Judge Amy Holmes Hehn
Hehn wrote this editorial in order to shatter the myths about domestic violence.  You can find the entire article here.  It happens too often.  To many people do nothing. 

Gavin De Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear, and world renowned expert wrote, “In (sad) fact, if a full jumbo jet crashed into a mountain killing everyone on board, and if that happened every month, month in and month out, the number of people killed still wouldn't equal the number of women murdered by their husbands and boyfriends each year.”

Wrap your brain around that for a little bit.  I can spout off Domestic violence statistics all day long, but they will never amount to the above statement. 

Recently, two of the girls on my team and I were out at a movie.  We left the movie and saw a man beating up his girl in the parking lot.  Dozens….DOZENS of people walked by and did nothing, not even looking at the man who was choking this woman up against a car.  Nobody did anything as she screamed when she wriggled free.  Nobody, until the three girls dressed like zombies (it was almost Halloween) jumped into action pulling out stun guns and pepper spray.  The fear on that man’s face was pretty darn amazing as he saw three bloody flesh eaters coming for him.  We were the only ones who did anything.

In her article, Holmes calls out the men of the world to start holding each other accountable.   If you see something, say something.

She also breeches the questions, ‘why does she stay’ and, ‘why does she go back’ and ‘why doesn't she just leave?’.  As a survivor, I can say that you will never understand unless you've been abused, but just asking that question feeds victim blaming.  It takes the focus off of the abuser and puts it on the victim.  The problem isn't with her.  Many abuse victims are very successful, intelligent, amazing people who get into a relationship with a person who slowly changes them, taking away their confidence, their zest for life, and their ability to think for themselves.  A domestic violence victim is always trapped in survival mode.  

If we were to look at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the first one is physiological.  This is survival mode, where you’re just worried about food, water, shelter, and warmth.  The next level is safety, and an abuse survivor never feels safe, so they can never progress past the physiological level.  Above safety comes belonging and love for your friends, family, spouse or lover.  Above that is self-esteem, where we achieve recognition and respect for the mastery of our skills.  The top of the pyramid is self-actualization, where we pursue inner talent and have creativity and fulfillment.  You cannot achieve the next level unless the one you are on is complete.  For those of you who are not victims of abuse or never have been, you have a pretty complete pyramid.  Imagine if your state was destroyed by a devastating natural disaster, and it wasn't safe for you to get out.  You would be trapped worrying about food, water, shelter, and warmth and you would not be pulling out your prize winning painting skills and creating a masterpiece.  Until you felt safe, you wouldn't even feel a sense of belonging and love.  Without that, you wouldn't care about self-esteem. 

In her article, Hehn says, “Everyone needs to educate themselves about domestic violence. “
Not just the people who deal with it.  Everyone. 

If you see something, call 911.  If you hear something, call 911. 

Domestic violence is a public health crisis.

I always say in my Damsel in Defense classes that if we do nothing, the only thing that will change is the statistics of violence against women will continue to rise. 

Judge Amy Holmes has been fighting against domestic violence for 27 years, first as a prosecutor, and now as a judge.  She wrote, “it’s hard not to give up in despair.  As a society, it’s tempting to throw up our hands and walk away saying, ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ That would be a mistake.  There’s a lot we can do.”

Because of her hard work and dedication to survivors in my own back yard, she receives this week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday award.  She is one woman I would love to have lunch with.

Thank you Judge Amy Holmes Hehn for all of your hard work.  The ripple of domestic violence awareness will not stop with you.  It will ring out and make a difference.  At Damsel in Defense, we take violence against women very seriously, and when we lose a woman to a violent partner, it hurts all of us.  

If you or someone you know is #fightingback and making a difference, and you believe she should be nominated for Wonder Woman Wednesday, please email me at

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