How violence influences our lives
Recently, I had an opportunity to participate in a Writers Forum hosted by the Palm Beach County Library System. Along with other local authors, I spoke to the audience about my books… The Cat Leigh and Marci Welles crime novel series and a standalone crime novel, Private Hell. As I explained to those in attendance, I know what it’s like to be the victim of violence. I know what it’s like to have someone you love survive a violent crime.
Having experienced violence on a personal level, I feel compelled to share what I have learned in order to keep people safe in an ever increasingly dangerous world. I’m hoping my books will teach the need for personal responsibility. I’m hoping to educate through entertainment the ways to avoid becoming a victim.
Allow me to explain why helping others is a passion for me. The first 25 years of my life were spent in hell on earth. At the time hell was located in Hudson County, New Jersey. It might still be there.
After an intensely dysfunctional childhood, I married my high school sweetheart; a man I thought as my knight in shining armor. Like so many women, I thought wrong. What I perceived as an escape to a better life was, in reality, incarceration in a prison far worse than the one I already knew. Very quickly, his armor tarnished. He was, eventually, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and a latent homosexual. Needless to say, I am lucky to be alive and even luckier to have met my present husband of 41 years, who understood then and continues to understand now that healing is a lifelong journey.
Having gone through the horrors of physical and emotional abuse for so long, I thought nothing worse could happen in my life. Then, in 2007 my daughter joined a long list of women who, because of their gender, became a victim. As every parent will tell you, no knife cuts as deep as the pain of watching their child suffer. My advocacy work began the moment I saw my daughter beaten beyond recognition.
For 10 years - ever since the day my daughter was raped by a maintenance man with a master key and a machete - I have been advocating in both the spoken and written word on behalf of victims of violent crime.
As a result of her experience, I’ve become more adamant about the need for change in the way we view anatomy specific assault (a.k.a. sexual assault) and domestic abuse. Not just legislative change. Societal change as well.
I want to stress that neither my daughter nor I regret the traumas we have undergone in our lives. We choose instead to use those incidents as lesson plans. If talking about what happened to us can prevent one other woman from suffering the same fate, we are willing to shout it from the rooftops.
Our experiences have made us much more aware of what we could have done – should always do – to protect ourselves from violent crime. The number one way to stay safe is to think before we act!
Everyone remembers where they were when a life-changing event happened. Consider 9/11. For me, the wee hours of the morning of July 1, 2007, are equally as chilling. I can still hear my daughter’s voice on the phone crying “Mommy, help me! I’ve been raped.” At first, I was confused. Then fear set in. Eventually, anger replaced every other emotion.
I’m angry that rape is placed in a box labeled sex crime and treated differently than muggings and murders. I’m angry that some members of the judicial system punish rapists less severely than they do other criminals. I’m angry so few people are willing to speak the truth about rape.
Rape is a violent crime and deserves to be recognized as such in a court of law. By not doing so, we force survivors to hide in the shadows – ashamed to report the crime, and often, not getting the help they desperately need.
Rape survivors are like soldiers who have gone off to war. A woman who has been sexually assaulted has been in a battle – a battle for her life. Survivors should be lauded as heroes – especially those who come forward and prosecute their attackers.
My goal in writing is to bring awareness to the complexity of rape. This is a crime that affects the victim on many, many levels and those effects are long… No, they are life lasting.
Many women have gotten angry with me because I’ve said that they need to take responsibility for their own security. That reaction always baffles me. Responsibility is a part of life. Eating healthy, dressing properly in different climates, wearing a seat belt, buying insurance… these are but a few of the ways we protect ourselves from potential danger.
Why, then, is asking women to do the same in social situations such a terrible request. If you are going out for the evening, go in a group. Don’t walk alone on a dark street. Recently, a rash of rapes has been committed as a result of “meet-ups” planned through social media sites. It is imperative that women of every age understand that not all friend requests come from friends or friends of friends.
When addressing the subject of safety, I tell women to use the same precautions taking the trash to the curb as they would (should) entering a deserted subway station. I am always surprised by the frequency with which I am accused of trying to take away personal freedoms. Danger is everywhere.
Many years ago, I was employed in Manhattan. This was at the time when women first began wearing sneakers to work. I thought they looked foolish. Now, I think every woman should carry a comfortable pair of running shoes that she can slip into when the work day or a night on the town is over. No matter how outlandish Nikes look with a sequined dress, survival is never a fashion faux pas.
As a society we must accept that rapists cannot be cured – not with behavioral modification therapy, not with medication – not by religion. Only the strong bars of a prison cell can stop another attack. We must remember that rapists are the human chameleon. They have the ability to blend in perfectly with every segment of society.
If ever there was a club no woman aspired to join, survivors of rape is it. Those who are forced onto its roster need to hold strong against anyone who would undermine their progress. That includes judges and politicians who consider anatomy specific assault no big deal.
As a result of being sexually assaulted, my daughter has a very deep scar on her left wrist – put there by the zip ties used to bind her hands. Over that scar, she now has a teal blue ribbon tattoo – the symbol of a rape survivor.
When asked in court why she had gotten the tattoo, Jessica told the jury, “If I have to remember what happened for the rest of my life, I want to remember that I survived.”
Guaranteeing that no other woman shares that memory is why I write.