OOP Survivor Blog

Four women and five children die every day in the U.S. due to domestic violence. Read President Barack Obama's Presidential Proclamation announcing his commitment to reducing the prevalence of domestic violence in our country.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Check out this free anti-violence iPhone app

I've just heard about a really cool, new, anti-violence app for the iPhone that is free. Users who feel threatened by possible abuse can quickly connect to a circle of trusted friends and online resources that can help that person avoid or escape from the abuse.

You can find more info on this app and how to download it by clicking here.

I really wish technology like this had been around back when I needed it. Please help spread the word that this free app exists. You never know who might be in need...with 1 in 4 American women suffering from domestic violence each year, at some point it might just be you.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CDC's latest report: 1 in 4 women were violently attacked by a husband or boyfriend

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) yesterday, based on a telephone survey conducted in 2010. Results show that "on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States." You can find details of the report here, as well as a fact sheet and toolkit.

One in 4 women in the U.S. say they were violently attacked by a husband or boyfriend. NPR calls this a "startling" number. NPR reports that as many as 1 in 3 women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.

Personally, as a women's health advocate, I'm not at all surprised. As I read through the comments from government officials and others who seem truly shocked by the results, I'm relieved that the CDC's report will help spread awareness of this ugly part of our society that has remained hidden for far too long. It's time for us to take notice and take action. Thankfully, the CDC has begun a new annual project in this area....it will be interesting to see how the agency proceeds to tackle this major public health issue.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What has evolution got to do with it?

Two U.S. researchers are trying to connect domestic violence to ancient origins while attempting to provide an evolutionary explanation for the root cause of violence. For example, they say that domestic violence "carries a selective advantage tied with reproductive success," and "jealousy is an adaptation to keep couples together."

I'm not sure I buy this research - their study results seem very simplistic and don't really achieve anything of great value when it comes to determining who might and might not commit acts of domestic violence, or what the root cause of such violence is.

The article announcing this research appeared yesterday in New Scientist. Critics are saying that this perspective will only serve to give people an excuse to commit violence. (Evolution made me do it!)

As someone who has experienced first hand the horrors of domestic violence, I don't think I'm all that interested in evolutionary biology to provide an explanation for why I experienced what I did. I don't believe that science particularly plays much of a role in the degradation, destruction, seemingly endless pain, gripping terror and emotional paralysis that domestic violence causes. As far as what causes domestic violence....that's completely out of the scope of a couple of evolutionary scientists.....

Monday, June 6, 2011

One woman dies every 20 minutes: Help spread awareness of female genocide in India

Rita Banerji of the 50 Million Missing Campaign visited my blog and left a heartbreaking comment on my previous post, sharing the story of a woman who was abused in horrific ways by her husband and in-laws. At one point, they force-fed her acid. I can't even imagine her suffering. And yet, mainly due to cultural reasons, she chose to stay with her abusive husband. That kind of story makes my heart ache.

Rita also shared with me this stunning statistic...every 20 minutes, one married woman in India dies at the hands of her husband and/or in-laws.

So what is the 50 Million Missing Campaign? Here's what the organization's website says: "The 50 Million Missing is a global campaign to stop India’s female genocide. In three generations more than 50 million women have been selectively eliminated from India’s population through practices like female feticide, infanticide, intentional starvation of girls, and dowry related murders. This is the largest, ongoing genocide in human history, and it is occurring across all sections of Indian society, irrespective of class, education, economics, religion and community."

This international campaign is powerful and far-reaching, and yet needs many more voices to help spread its message and bring an end to India's female genocide. To learn more, please visit http://50millionmissing.wordpress.com or contact the organization at 50millionmissing@gmail.com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Crusading for a cause; After suffering personal losses, women reach out to help others

Wow! How cool to appear in a magazine article along with Deborah Morosini, Christopher's Reeve's sister-in-law, and other women advocates!! It's humbling to be in an article alongside such amazing women who are doing incredible work to help others.

So many have known hardship, have somehow overcome it and then went on to speak out and advocate for others, ...and that's a beautiful thing.

You can find the article by clicking here and going to page 24-25.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Charlene Rubush, a great source of inspiration, kindly visited my blog

Charlene Rubush visited my blog recently and I was so touched by the comment she left behind that I thought I'd post it (below) along with a link to her awesome blog. Charlene is a freelance writer who specializes in women's issues as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her blog, Win Over PTSD, is incredibly well done and contains a wealth of resources and information, especially for combat veterans and their families. She has also written a book, found by clicking here.

I'm very touched by Charlene's communication with me in the past, and most recently, and continue to admire her work.

Hello again Kristin,

I just "stopped by" again, and am touched by your response to my latest comment- You are such an inspiration to me!

I understand your thoughts about not posting as often in order to "move on." But I will look forward to the times when you do post, as all your readers will be interested in your progress and recovery.

I haven't been posting as often on my blog about combat-related PTSD. I had to take a mini-break too. -But I'm always compelled to come back to it, as I know the need for my experience and knowledge is out there.

I commend you for helping that woman overseas. Awesome!! You shine a bright light of hope for all of us who have "been there." I wish you peace, joy and love. Words cannot really express how much I admire you, as a woman, and as a courageous, compassionate human being.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Re-visiting the traits of a sociopath with input from a concerned woman

A woman recently emailed me about a new relationship that she is in that has her concerned. She's been dating a guy for a couple of months now and is wondering if he might perhaps be a sociopath. Although I posted the below info from Lovefraud.com in a blog post back in June, she commented on it and shared her current experience (in red). So I'm posting it here. I'm grateful that she took the time to go through the list of sociopathic traits because I think there are probably a lot of women out there who can relate. It's so important to be able to recognize the traits of a sociopath. Although it's estimated that only 4-5 percent of our population are sociopaths, they're still out there, and that number may actually be on the low side.

10 Signs that you’re dating a sociopath

If your new romantic interest exhibits all or most of the following behaviors, be careful.
He or she might be a sociopath.

1. Charisma and charm. They’re smooth talkers, always have an answer, never miss a beat. They seem to be very exciting. He's a bit shy actually. But he is also good at talking and joking around when alone with me.

2. Enormous ego. They act like the smartest, richest or most successful people around. They may actually come out and tell you that. Also rather shy, but he did manage to tell me that he belongs to Mensa and has a high IQ. He did manage to tell me of lofty plans to have his own business and make a million. Kind of pie in the sky talk.

3. Overly attentive. They call, text and e-mail constantly. They want to be with you
every moment. They resent time you spend with your family and friends. YEP YEP YEP many many texts, wants to know what I do during the day, one night when I dropped a call and didn't text a while asked "where did you go" seemed to be annoyed that I dropped out of range for a couple of hours.

4. Jekyll and Hyde personality. One minute they love you; the next minute they hate
you. Their personality changes like flipping a switch. Never toward ME yet. But I saw the flip as he felt slighted by someone's comment and as waiters in restaurants ignored him. He took it personally and got very grim and sullen. Very unpleasant and persistent mood. Made me feel actually alarmed and scared.

5. Blame others. Nothing is ever their fault. They always have an excuse. Someone else causes their problems. Not yet. Except in talking about three ex wives. It's kind of all their fault. I wish I could talk to them.

6. Lies and gaps in the story. You ask questions, and the answers are vague. They tell stupid lies. They tell outrageous lies. They lie when they’d make out better telling the truth.

7. Intense eye contact. Call it the predatory stare. If you get a chill down your spine when they look at you, pay attention.

8. Move fast. They quickly proclaim that you’re their true love and soul mate. They want to move in together or get married quickly. YES!!!!

Wants me to meet his parents.
Said he was in love with me.
Said he doesn't want anyone else to touch me!
Mentioned in passing, this would be his commute to work from MY HOUSE. We live 2 hrs apart. He is hinting he'd want to live with me and drive to work from my house. I made no comment. He said it again on the drive. Very weird.

9. Pity play. They appeal to your sympathy. They want you to feel sorry for their abusive childhood, psychotic ex, incurable disease or financial setbacks. He wants to fix his anger problem he says but hopes I will UNDRSTAND him. That is a pity thing.

10. Sexual magnetism. If you feel intense attraction, if your physical relationship is
unbelievable, it may be their excess testosterone. I've never felt this in my marriage. That's why I am an easy target.
Sex was unbelievable. He got to me emotionally bec of it.
Ive never felt so desired or loved with my husband...and I constantly want sex with him, and way too soon. And I believed it was LOVE making rather than sex, and he called it that.

Now I feel that maybe I was even just used for sex? I don't know. He said he was in love with me before we were intimate, but we did get intimate very soon. Ironically he couldn't perfrom the first tiem he was so nervous but it was totally fine later.

I don't know what to do.

I think he is a sociopath, but I 'm not sure.

It sounds to me like this guy truly could be a sociopath - there are certainly enough red flags here to raise concern. And the fact that she is concerned is reason enough for her to end it with him....

(For more information on the traits of sociopaths, visit Lovefraud.com. The site was created by freelance writer and book author Donna Andersen, after her own experience being married to a sociopath.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Letting the Venom Fly: The Marking of a Crazy Anniversary

Today, February 5th, marks the one-year anniversary of the terrifying evening when I actually had to call the police to keep me safe from my then-husband, Neil Zucconi. This was a turning point for me, when I realized that my short-lived marriage to my second husband was definitely, absolutely, undeniably over. And when I realized how far, far, far down he had brought me - down to the point where I had to dial 911 for the very first time in my life and ask for police intervention. (Yes, my house became known in the neighborhood as "the" house where the police came due to domestic violence, thanks to Neil.)

Even though I've worked my way through the overwhelming shock, denial, pain, grief, anger, and every other emotion that wreaked havoc on my mind during the hellish 10 months that I was married to Neil, I'm going to give myself permission on this one day - this one-year anniversary marking a nightmarish evening - to LET THE VENOM FLY.

And yes, I repeat, I HAD TO CALL THE POLICE TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM MY H-U-S-B-A-N-D. How pathetic is that?!? What kind of man would terrify his wife to the point where she had to call the police to have him removed from her house - a house that he did not even own?? (Yes, obviously a rhetorical question.) But still.....let's explore this question, rhetorical or not....

Would this kind of man be:

1) An absolute jerk?
2) A man without even a half an ounce of pride?
3) Maybe some kind of psycho?(ie: see my blog post dated January 14)
4) Merely another law enforcement dude with a seriously major ego that keeps him feeling he's above the law?
5) All of the above? None of the above? I'm open to suggestions because I honestly cannot figure out what someone like that could possibly be thinking.

What I do know without a doubt is that I'd never been more terrified than I was on that night of February 5, 2010. I have the 7-minute 911 tape to prove it. And that call came after roughly 40 minutes or so (it seemed like hours) of drama, when Neil had spent time pacing through my house talking incoherently and at times angrily, his eyes flashing. And he wouldn't leave. (Again, I ask: What kind of man...?!?....hmm. See #4 above)

At one point, he and I were standing in the laundry room, in between the cat litter box and the back door to the garage. Yes, ironically,...we were very near a box containing shit. (See my post dated October 8, A Shit Hole of a Marriage.) And I was hoping that he would suddenly, magically, leave through the door so that I would never have to see him again. But, instead, he turned to me and said that I should give him a blow job. Really, Neil?!? Nice. (And what kind of man...?!...See #1 above.)

The fear that had started as a ball in my stomach the minute he'd forced his way through my front door earlier that evening, swiftly rose up to my throat at that point and I somehow made it to the phone in the next room, managing through the wave of nausea to then run into my bathroom where I felt safe enough to dial 911. He obviously knew that I was calling for help (my house isn't that big), and yet he still refused to leave and continued pacing through my house, from the kitchen to my bedroom to my closet and back, at times yelling at me. (What kind of man does this?!?....See #3 above.) As I clutched the phone, crying and shaking and trying to listen to the 911 operator, I wondered if he was going to pull one of his guns on me. I wondered if I would see my children again.

So... back to the present, one year later, when I occasionally look back on that night, incredulous that it even happened to me. Still somewhat stunned that I actually had a man like that in my life at all. A man who not only terrified me on that night and on other occasions as well, but who also had an affair with a married woman the entire time he was with me. So....what kind of man would DO something like that?!? (See #2 above.)

And, yes, this blog post is not my typical - yes, it is spewing anger and not at all pretty - but you know, it's all indicative of that horrible, hellish, nightmare of an evening when I was frightened to death by a SHIT of a man who doesn't deserve the above analysis or even another millisecond of my time and brain energy. You've just got to get angry, scream out and let the venom fly in order to release it all and move on.

So I'm done here. I've expressed what I wanted to mark this insane anniversary, and for the rest of my life I won't give it another thought, other than to use my story to help advocate for others who may find themselves in a similar situation. Because as much as I'd like to believe that there are no other bad men in the world, I know well that there are other men like Neil out there who are frightening and abusing women -- simply because they can.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Family Court System Is Broken - this blog rocks!!

There is a fabulous and very helpful blog called Family Court System Is Broken that was started by a woman who was fed up with the many fallacies of family court. It is crucial that domestic violence victims and their advocates know about the flaws that exist in family court, as well as the differences between family court and criminal court systems.

One issue that struck me while I was reading a post on this blog entitled What You Need to Know About Divorce if You Have Been in an Abusive Marriage is the fact that many abuse victims are so caught up in the hellish cycle of abuse that they don't know which end is up. An abused woman may not know if/when her abusive husband is lying, and even when she suspects that he is lying, she still hopes that he isn't. It's that awful fog of denial that prevents many abuse victims from seeing and comprehending what is actually happening to them. By the time it's apparent that a divorce is on the horizon, the abuse victim is often so incredibly exhausted, emotionally drained and terrified about her finances, that she's willing to do just about anything to avoid a nightmarish divorce process.

But when an abusive husband tells his wife that he wants an "amicable" divorce, she can't afford to believe him for a second. Even though it may sound tempting and easy. The truth is, there is no such thing as an amicable divorce with an abusive spouse. It's just not going to happen, and the abuse victim will most likely end up being victimized all over again in the court system.

There are some great tips as well as helpful links throughout this blog - it's well worth checking out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How do you trust again?

I recently received an email from an incredibly insightful woman who is on her own journey of recovery and healing where she hopes to regain the ability to love again. She asked me how my experience of being in an abusive relationship has shaped my actions and perceptions of men.

I thought this was a great question and it really made me stop and think. I know I've gone through stages over the past year where I've felt a total lack of faith in ever being able to have an honest and loving relationship again. Men seemed like the enemy. I was so blown away by all of the overwhelming deceit and the horrific abuse that I experienced while married to Neil Zucconi, that it was difficult to look beyond it all and envision myself dating again.

Fortunately, I happen to have some really good men in my life who have helped me tremendously through their friendship as I've gradually gathered my strength and my faith back. My first husband has been my steadfast best friend through thick and thin over the past 25 years. And I also have some fantastic friendships with men whom I've known since elementary school, as well as colleagues, family friends and neighbors, who have all helped me shift my perception and renew my faith in the fact that only a very small percentage of men out there are bad eggs. I just happened to pick one, but it was through no fault of my own.

I guess I got to a point a few months ago when I made a decision not to let what my ex did to me affect my inherent trusting self. I've always been a very trusting and open person. And I'm not going to let a monster change that. Because that's part of who I am. And I won't let a person or a life event strip part of me away. I feel good about dating now. I've got myself back - my confidence, my sense of humor, my happiness, my tremendous appreciation of my life....and I'm happy to share it with someone else.

I know that I'll find more heartache and struggle and I proceed through life. I don't bother with having faith or trusting that I won't. That's futile. Because it's going to happen. But.... I also know that I'll get through it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sudden violence and a face that says a thousand words

I took a little hiatus from this blog over the holidays and can't say that I really missed this topic much at all. I obviously started this blog for a reason - to express myself and heal during an inordinately stressful time in my life - and over time it has morphed into more of an advocacy piece that hopefully will help others find help and heal as well. Even as positive as that is, it's still hard to be in this realm because of the memories of the past year that get stirred up. So the past few weeks have been a good break for me.

But, as it happens, the tragic shooting six days ago in Tucson somehow, in a weird way, drew me back here.

At first it was just the shock of the sudden violence that got to me. It hasn't been all that long since I experienced the shock of violence in my own life, and I guess I'm still slightly sensitive. Maybe my PTSD symptoms are still holding out just under the surface, waiting to strike too quickly. Plus it hasn't been easy seeing this absolutely evil-looking, bald man staring me down from every newspaper I've picked up over the past few days. That has been enough to make my stomach drop. When one of my friends called me to say that the accused Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, reminded her of a photo she had once seen of my ex-abuser, that totally gave me the chills.

Another thing that freaked me out was a segment on Channel 3 News that provided insights into Loughner's face. Yes, his face. A professional "face reader" who has worked with the police on various investigations was asked to "read" Loughner's face and provide info on his character. The two photos below are both of Loughner: the one on the left shows the left side of his face paired with its mirror image, and the photo on the right shows the right side of his face with its mirror image. How wild that this is the same person! The face reader said that he obviously is a sick person because the two sides of his face are so completely different. Apparently this is common among people with....issues. Especially those who try really hard to portray a certain persona to others when, in reality, inside they are completely different.

I also just happened upon an interesting article in The Washington Post today about schizophrenia. Again, I got the chills. The author pointed to the discussions raging in the media on whether or not we should blame politics or mental illness on Loughner's turn to horrific violence. And of course the old debate of whether Loughner's apparent schizophrenia is innate or due to external factors has provoked thoughtful discussion as well.

I guess a similar debate could go on with regards to domestic violence. Does a person become an abuser due to outside influence or is abuse simply part of that person's biological makeup from the get-go just waiting to rear its ugly head?

When it comes to schizophrenia, according to the author's research, external factors such as politics or violent media have no connection whatsoever to the illness. And, sadly, schizophrenics also apparently suffer from anosognosia, which means the inability to have insight into or knowledge of one's own illness. So someone like Loughner doesn't believe that he is ill. So therefore he most likely can't be helped. Hmm.....sounds like someone I knew.

I swear, those photos of Loughner truly give me the creeps. Especially those strikingly menacing eyebrows on the left image. Yikes. If you're interested in watching the "face reading" segment on Channel 3, click here. It is fascinating. Even if it does kinda make you want to hurl....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Standing strong and looking ahead to 2011

Before we know it, 2010 will come to a close, and I am so ready to start a new year and put this one behind me. I know my family is too. We have been through absolute hell and back, and yet we're still standing. And even stronger than before.

So even a bully, of the scariest and most devious kind, who attempted to have so much power over me, actually in the end ... didn't.

Unbelievably, over the past year, I passed through the realms of being an abused, grief-stricken, terrorized victim who was brought to her knees... to a survivor who gradually gained her strength back enough to stand up again. It was not easy, though, and at times I was knocked back down... like when I learned that this horrible, abusive bully had an affair with a married woman while he was married to me. He terrorized her while attempting to persuade her to leave her husband for him. Knowing that I had actually married such an animal, and wondering how many other women he'd hurt, was extremely difficult to deal with.

Speaking out and trying to spread awareness of domestic violence has been incredibly empowering (one of my TV interviews can be viewed by clicking here) and I've met some amazing advocates along the way.

The healing part has definitely been a process. Yeah, I've got my groove back and I'm back on my feet, but I'm still learning.

In the meantime, I'm so very grateful for my amazing family and extraordinary friends who always have my back and were there for me when I needed a hand up. The father of my kids has been my best friend for the last 25 years through thick and thin, and his unwavering emotional support over the last year has been a godsend.

My kids taught me how strong I truly am, even when I felt my weakest. My strength was reflected in their eyes whenever they encouraged me along the way. They also showed me how steadfast their faith is, how superhuman their resilience is, and how gracefully they look to the future with hope. No matter what other horrible monsters they may encounter in life, I know the kids will be fine.

So as 2011 approaches, I look forward to starting afresh, taking a deep breath and looking ahead while 2010 slips far, far behind me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Seniors dealing with domestic violence are often overlooked

Many people think of domestic violence victims as being young women, and most likely young women who are not all that bright or experienced, etc. There's definitely a stereotype, which only makes it that much harder for many women who are being abused to come forward and seek help. Especially if they're seniors. Older women who are dealing with domestic violence often suffer in silence, and when they do speak out or seek help they find that there is no help for them.

Not only are they fighting against stereotypes, they are up against a system that is not prepared to help them. According to an article in today's Arizona Republic, "most domestic violence programs and shelters serve younger women with children." So what do you do when you're in your 60's or 70's and are desperate for help and support?

Fortunately, as covered in the article (pasted below), there is a local program here in Phoenix, DOVES, that helps older women escape domestic violence and get back on their feet. Without DOVES, these women would have no hope.

To learn more about the DOVES program and to watch a video about it, click here. DOVES is in need of donations, especially at this time of year, and can be reached at 602-264-4357.

Abused seniors turn to


by Brennan Smith - Dec. 8, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

C.J. suffered domestic abuse throughout her

45-year marriage.

In 2005, she fled her husband in Indiana

and came to the Valley.

The then-62-year-old seemed to have no

place to turn - most domestic-violence

programs and shelters serve younger

women with children.

C.J. lived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International

Airport and in downtown buildings while she

desperately sought assistance. She was

finally referred to the Area Agency on

Aging's DOVES program, which provides

services for older people who are victims of

domestic violence and have run out of


Alice Ghareib, director of DOVES (Domestic

Violence Does Not Respect Age), said older

women are not eligible for assistance

through organizations designed for younger

abused women with children.

"This population, there are no services for

them. There are no other options," Ghareib

said. "The issues of the older population are

unique. We need to be able to provide

services across the board no matter what

the age is."

DOVES helps about 150 senior domestic-

abuse victims yearly with transitional

housing and support groups, while also

raising awareness.

"Just because couples turn 50, it doesn't

mean domestic violence goes away," Ghareib


C.J., now 67, said she had endured abuse

most of her life as her husband mentally and

verbally belittled her. Her husband is now

dead, but The Republic is withholding her

full identity to protect her safety.

"Verbal abuse for me, being naive, started at

the beginning of the marriage, and as the

years went by, it got worse and worse," C.J.

said. "I thought I was worth nothing."

In August 2005, she said, her husband

pushed her up against the bathroom wall

and the sink. He began cursing her and

choking her. Finally, she got away to a

friend's house. She decided that night she

was leaving.

The next morning, she took a flight to

Arizona with $75 in her pocket and a bag of

clothes and arrived with nowhere to stay.

DOVES took her in. She was given temporary

housing and began attending support group meetings.

Victims also receive assistance applying for

public benefits, pursuing legal action and

purchasing basic necessities.

The program costs around $350,000

annually and is largely supported by

community and business donations, Ghareib


Season for Sharing has raised about

$30,000 for the program since 2007. It is

one of more than 130 agencies or programs

supported by the annual campaign, which

last year raised $2.86 million to assist

Arizonans in need.

"I can't say enough about the DOVES

program," C.J. said. "If it hadn't been for

them, I don't know where I would be right

now. I really don't."

Asked what advice she would give to a

woman who was suffering the same abuse

she went through, C.J. said she would tell the

woman that it isn't her fault.

"I don't care what you did or what you do,

abuse is never justified," C.J. said. "I would

tell them you have that right to leave, but

only you can make that decision."

Senior-abuse victims are encouraged to call

DOVES at 602-264-4357 for help.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blaming the victim instead of the sociopath

An interesting article was posted today on the Lovefraud blog. Apparently there is research on the traits of women who are most commonly targeted by sociopaths. These traits include: having a high level of compassion, tolerance and empathy as well as a willingness to compromise personal interests for the larger picture.

I've heard people say that if you just toughen up and refuse to be bullied, then you won't fall prey to a predator like a sociopath. But this seems to put all of the burden of blame on the victim rather than the abuser.

I think that no one really knows what makes a sociopath target a particular person. No one really knows how a sociopath's brain works, not even the top researchers. And that's frustrating for a survivor who is dealing with that lingering question of why she was targeted in the first place while hoping to avoid another sociopath at all costs. We all would like to be able to figure them out so that we can sense the red flags from the get-go.

So maybe we need more research into why these sociopaths, who have no self-esteem, no real identity or self control, actually do what they do. Why they take a woman's desire to invest in a relationship and manipulate it to fulfill their own needs. Enough of the research into why some women become victims -- that's beside the point. Absolutely anyone can become a victim. No one is immune. I still can't help but wonder how sociopaths can do the hurtful things they do and still live with themselves.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is my ex-boyfriend a sociopath or just a jerk?

I've just received an email from a blog reader who really wants to share her story and seek advice, so I'm posting it here. If anyone has an opinion or just wants to offer support to her, please feel free to comment below. It sounds like she's gone through a hellish dating experience, so I imagine that any words of support would be very welcome. Here's what she wrote me:

Kristin, I've been following your blog and I think it's great that you're sharing your story and helping to educate people about sociopaths. I just came out of a relationship and my head is spinning. I want to know if my ex-boyfriend is an actual sociopath or just wrapped up in himself and emotionally abusive as a result.

We had what I thought was a real connection and things moved very fast from the beginning. He kissed me only an hour after we met, and things went at light speed from there. I was so crazy about him - he seemed perfect for me and it all felt very comfortable. I've known jerks in the past, and I was looking for any red flags with him. There were none. He's divorced and has a couple of great kids and seems to be a loving dad. His life revolves around his kids, which impressed me.

We were at the point where we were getting very serious - he told me he loved me and that I was "the one" and that he could see himself spending the rest of his life with me.

Then we went to a Halloween costume party. It was awful. All these older 40-something couples were playing endless drinking games with beer (and no, believe it or not this wasn't a frat party) and getting really crazy. We were at the party for five hours. At one point during the party, the host (my ex's good friend) groped me when no one was around - he literally felt me up my dress and also pulled down the top of my dress and grabbed my breasts. He pulled his penis out of his pants and said he wanted to "f--k" me. I was so scared. I pushed him away and told him that I didn't think his wife would like it. I immediately got away from him and found my (ex)boyfriend and told him we needed to leave. As soon as we got in his car, I told him what had happened and his response was, "Oh, well, he was just drunk."

I couldn't believe his response. I felt so hurt that he didn't seem to care. To make it worse, a couple of days later my ex asked his friend about it as well as some of the other guys who had been at the party. He said he wanted to find out what "really" happened. Naturally, the guy who attacked me, and his friends, all told lies about me, like that I had come onto him, etc. So my ex basically blamed me for what had happened and believed I had caused it.

I was beside myself and completely devastated, so I broke up with him. Then just a few hours later he texted me that he had changed his mind and believed me. I told him if that was true, then I wanted to try to work things out. I still loved him so much. He said that he was very hurt that I'd broken up with him, but he thought there was still hope for us, and he would just need some time to get over the fact that I'd broken up with him. I told him that I was so sorry for breaking up with him, but I hoped he understood how upset I was when he said he didn't believe me.

A few days later we spent the night together and I really thought things were going to go back to the way they were and that we'd be able to move past what had happened at the party. The next morning as I was leaving his house, he said he'd call me. But he didn't. About a week went by. Before this, we were calling each other once or twice a day and texting dozens of times every day. I finally texted him and asked him why he hadn't called me and also asked if our relationship had all just been fake, made up of lies. He texted back, very angry, and said that he was completely offended that I would accuse him of such a thing. There was no additional communication and that was over a week ago. I basically wrote him off and was starting to get over him. Then he emailed me today out of the blue, apparently still very angry, saying that he can't believe that I would think that our relationship hadn't been real when he really had meant it when he said he loved me.

I just can't continue this drama. I don't know what he wants from me now. And I think it's so ironic because he's the one who told me repeatedly that he didn't want drama in his life. Is he just a jerk? I don't really think he's a sociopath because he seems to truly care for his kids and tries to do the best for them - I don't think a sociopath would care like that. I'm just trying to get a handle on what kind of personality type this is so I can avoid it in the future.

I'm grateful for any advice.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Purple Ribbon Council's Face of Hope

I'm so very honored to have been chosen by the Purple Ribbon Council as their Face of Hope. It has been less than a year when I was literally in the fetal position, unbelievably battered and without hope. I'm grateful to be able to share my story and to hopefully help other women who are suffering.

Purple Ribbon Council is an amazing organization founded in 2006 by Donna Bartos, an extraordinary woman who is a survivor of teen dating abuse. Her goal has been to create a national movement to help prevent domestic abuse before it starts and to interrupt the cycle before it is too late. I love the Purple Ribbon Council's vision statement: Break the Silence, Break the Cycle, Save Lives. That says it all.

Click here to go to Purple Ribbon Council's Facebook page and to find out more about this wonderful organization and how you can get involved in one of its upcoming events.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reese Witherspoon, cool jewelry and spreading awareness of domestic violence

Since 2004, the Avon Foundation has worked to fight against domestic violence by spreading awareness, funding women's shelters and developing education efforts and prevention programs. Reese Witherspoon serves as Avon's Global Ambassador and has traveled all over to spread word of the Avon Foundation's Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign. She works hard to let people know that one in three women are targets of domestic violence at one point in their lives.

Avon's fundraising efforts include a line of jewelry, and 100 percent of the proceeds goes to fund domestic violence shelters. Witherspoon herself wears an Empowerment Ring that is included in this special product line.

At a time when we're seeing so much pink for breast cancer awareness, it's good to know about the efforts that are being made to spread awareness of the other worthy cause that is promoted during the month of October ....National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Shit Hole of a Marriage

I do occasionally write fiction, so I guess you could take this blog post with a grain of salt.... ;)

On March 20, 2009, I married Neil Zucconi in front of a Justice of the Peace. My three beautiful children were our maid of honor, flower girl and ring bearer. They were so happy for me. Like me, they believed I was marrying a good man.

Fast forward to our honeymoon in Maui ... it's late at night, in our hotel room where my husband is pacing and yelling obscenities at me, calling me filthy names that I can't imagine anyone ever calling me.
Me: (sobbing, on the bed in the fetal position) I'm sorry I didn't eat ice cream for dessert with you. Please don't hurt me.

Back up to a few months before we married, when he is proudly telling my teenage son about the Criminal Law degree he got many years ago from a San Diego University.

Fast forward to six months into our marriage when things were very shaky, the verbal abuse had done nothing but escalate, and things got even shakier when we had this conversation:
Him - You love me, don't you? (sweet smile)
Me - Why? (holding my breath)
Him - (big sigh) I don't really have a college degree. I lied. I didn't want you to think I'm the stupid shit that I am.
Me - What are you saying?
Him - Really, I don't have a college degree. But I am taking this online class and I thought if I could get my degree online and just never tell you, then it wouldn't matter anyway because eventually I'd have my degree and it wouldn't be a lie anymore.
Me - So why are you telling me this now?
Him - Well, I'm failing this class (because I'm a stupid shit) and I need you to write my final paper for me so that I can pass. And then I can eventually get my degree and it won't matter that I lied to you about having a degree.
Me - So what else are you lying to me about?? For all I know, you could be having an affair.
Him - No, babe. I'd never do that. I love you too much. So ... would you write this paper for me? Come on, you're my wife. It's your duty if you love me.

Fast forward to September, 2010, when a woman discovers my blog and emails me to let me know that she had an affair with Neil the entire time he was dating me, engaged to me, and during the beginning of our marriage until she finally broke it off when his controlling and stalkish behavior started to scare her. She knew nothing of my existence until she found my blog.

Back up to February 9, 2010, when I went to court and filed divorce papers. I was terrified, beaten down by the abuse, beyond devastated, ashamed that I'd ever married him in the first place, (ashamed that I'd ever dated him, that I'd ever kissed him, that I'd ever given him 5 minutes of my time....) and still reeling from four days previous when I had to call 911 for the police to remove him from my home when I was terrified for my life. Shortly after filing for divorce, I filed an Order of Protection against Neil Zucconi.

This man brutally dragged me into the realm of domestic violence. This wasn't supposed to be my world. But since I am here, I am fighting back, sharing my story with any and all who will listen, and spreading awareness to help other women who deal with the insanity and chaos that exist in this realm. This shouldn't be their world either.

Please remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Twice as many women die from domestic violence than from breast cancer. Let's stop the violence.

Take what you want
Steal my pride
Build me up
Or cut me down to size
Shut me out
But I'll just scream
I'm only one voice in a million
But you ain't taking that from me, you ain't taking that from me ...
... Sometimes all it takes is one voice
"Strip Me" by Natasha Bedingfield

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's time to go purple

October is not just about going "pink." It's also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What most people don't realize is that domestic violence touches a lot more women's lives each year than breast cancer. One in three American women experience domestic abuse. Four women every day in the U.S. die from domestic violence.

The public assumes that we can control domestic violence, unlike breast cancer. But that's not true.

Domestic violence can seep into your life unannounced, catch you unaware and bring you to your knees before you can even catch your breath.

Just like a disease.

Domestic violence permeates into all aspects of a person's life. It controls, threatens, yells, beats, bruises, stings, scars, rapes, tortures, shames, rages, extorts, terrifies, degrades, defiles, sickens, horrifies, destroys....and kills.

Be aware. Spread awareness with the purple ribbon. It's time to go purple and end the violence.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Charlene Rubush provides excellent resources on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

I'm honored that Charlene Rubush visited my blog yesterday and kindly left a comment on my previous post (below). Charlene is a writer, researcher and former wife of a Vietnam Veteran who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and not only has she written a book on PTSD, but she also has a fantastic and extremely helpful blog, Win Over PTSD.

Charlene has an amazing range of resources on PTSD available on her blog, and I noticed some very interesting information on domestic violence and PTSD. One of her posts, dated April 7, 2010, covers an article that explored a study on the effects of war on men and how combat veterans are "more than four times as likely as other men to engage in domestic violence." This is a stunning statistic, but I'm really not all that surprised, based on what I've read about combat veterans and the challenges they face when they return to society.

Although my ex-husband has never experienced combat, he has served in the Marines and has been in the Army Reserves for nearly 17 years. I wonder if there have been studies on domestic violence and members of the military who have not actually spent time in combat. I'd be curious to know if those men would also have a higher likelihood to commit acts of domestic violence as compared to men who are not in the military. There may be something about the military environment itself that would contribute to domestic abuse.

I've always been proud to be the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran. However, now I definitely have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to the military simply because of my ex-husband. Shortly after I filed the Order of Protection against him, I was so relieved to pack up all of his Army uniforms, boots, hats, etc., and get that stuff out of my closet and out of my house and into a storage facility. It all represented nothing but violence to me. Because he wore it. Nothing to be proud of there.

It's true that military members and families have a great number of challenges to deal with, from PTSD to other mental health issues. Charlene Rubush's blog is absolutely worth checking out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Healing from the trauma and stress of domestic violence is not easy

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Martin Luther King (This quote is engraved on a wall at the base of the Statue of Liberty.)

Earlier today I was talking with a victim services advocate who works in New York City and does amazing work to help women recovering from abusive relationships. She mentioned a book that she often recommends to survivors of domestic violence. It's a workbook titled "Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence" by Edward S. Kubany, Mari A. McCaig and Janet R. Laconsay, and is for women who have left the relationship or marriage and are ready to heal and move on. Apparently, it's not as helpful for women who are still in an abusive relationship.

Here's an editorial review as provided on Amazon.com: "Second only to survivors of war and victims of rape, women who are severely assaulted by their husbands or partners are the group of trauma victims most likely to suffer from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Researchers estimate that as many as 80 percent of these women will manifest signs of the disorder in the months and years following an assault. Until now there has been no book specifically written to help these women deal with PTSD. This sensitive and compassionate book, at last, offers them hope."

That's a pretty powerful and eye-opening statement, regarding domestic violence survivors as being "second only to survivors of war and victims of rape." And, yes, I totally believe that, having been there myself. I've never in my life experienced anything more degrading or painful as the violent, verbal assaults that beat me down during the ten long months of my abusive marriage. In addition to the abuse, the fact that he cheated on me during all that time was simply further proof that I had married a truly disgusting and hurtful person with apparently no morals or conscience whatsoever.

The book was published in 2004, and I'm not sure what has come out on the topic of domestic violence survivors and PTSD since then, so I don't know if there might be anything better or more relevant out there. I plan to check it out myself to see if it would hold any relevance to my situation. I still deal with my own recovery practically daily. Although time heals, it's not enough. Recovery takes work as well as patience.

I've written quite a bit on a couple of national web sites about my recent nightmare, and thanks to the feedback from many of the very compassionate women on the sites, I've realized that I'm not alone in this. I think it's incredibly important to share resources like the book mentioned above so we can all help each other. Sadly, domestic violence touches the lives of far too many women - 1 in 4 reportedly - and I imagine there are even more women and children than we can even fathom simply due to the stigma and shame that are attached to domestic abuse. I still have a hard time admitting that I actually married an abuser.

I'm speaking out so that hopefully it will be easier for more women to speak out as well, and seek help.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Today's Article in The Arizona Republic on my police victim services advocate who went to amazing lengths to serve my ex with an Order of Protection

Kudos to The Arizona Republic for recognizing Betsy Jo Fairbrother's fabulous work in today's article while helping to spread awareness of domestic abuse!

Many people may not realize the wonderful, free services that a local police department provides to victims of domestic violence.

I know I didn't, and I was extremely grateful that my police department was there for me when I was going through my Order of Protection nightmare. My advocate, Betsy Jo, went to heroic lengths to have my then-husband served with the Order of Protection. It took a month of tireless work on her part, collaborating with numerous authorities from the National Guard to two different Sheriff departments to TSA's Internal Affairs, and more, before she tracked him down.

As reported in the article, I'm forever grateful to Betsy Jo for her extraordinary dedication to helping victims of domestic abuse.

I'm also grateful to the media, by the way, for giving the issue of domestic violence the media coverage that is so greatly needed to spread awareness and hopefully bring an end to this insidious aspect of our society. There will be more media coverage of my story in the coming days and weeks, including from the E. Coast, and I'll be posting links to an upcoming in-depth TV interview that is slated to air soon as well as a magazine article, and hopefully more....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why I'm speaking out

Someone recently asked me to write a summary of my story .... what I've been through over the past year and why I'm speaking out to spread awareness. So here is what I wrote:

I was married to a good man for 18 years, and we have three extraordinary children. Unfortunately, we had differences that we couldn't work out and divorced in April of 2008. He remains my good friend and is an excellent father to our children.

Only a few months after our divorce, I met a man who I thought was wonderful, and I quickly fell head over heels for him. An Air Marshal and Army Reservist, he had never married and had no kids. He seemed to love my kids, and when we married six months after we met, it felt natural and right.

But soon after we married, things didn't feel so natural and right. His facade began to crack, and lies started to show through. Such as the fact that he had told me and my children that he had a college degree in Criminal Law, but in reality he had never finished college.

When the verbal abuse started, I was not only horrified, but ashamed and embarrassed. It became apparent that I had made a terrible mistake, and yet I remained in a state of denial for several months as the wonderful man I thought I'd married simply faded away and I no longer recognized my husband through all of the degrading name calling and emotional manipulation. I cried nearly every day of the ten months we were married.

One night in February I called the police to remove him from my home because I was so completely terrified that he would physically hurt me or worse. When the police officers encouraged me to file an Order of Protection against him, that was the first time I'd heard those words.

I soon discovered that filing an Order of Protection against my husband was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was devastating to think that I had to go to that extreme measure to keep myself safe. Especially when I was trying to keep myself safe from the one person who I thought had my best interests at heart. Someone I trusted and opened my entire life to. Someone I believed in. To have to cope with the fact that my husband never really loved me at the same time when I was also dealing with having to file an Order of Protection against him was beyond devastating. It was also an extremely lonely place to be. Sadly, I discovered that for much of the time we were together, he was having an affair with a married woman (who actually provided me with written documentation of their affair). The combination of the abuse and the betrayal have been horrendous to deal with.

I am speaking out and sharing my story with the hopes that I can reach other women who may be hiding in the shadows with their own stories of abuse. The only way to eradicate domestic violence is to lean on each other, stand up, speak out and educate. The main thrust of my message is: you are not to blame and you are not alone.