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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Take the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence's Relationship Quiz - Find Out if You're Being Abused

I think the most difficult thing for a woman in an abusive relationship is to actually come to the realization that she's being abused. When you're being abused, whether physically or verbally (and, yes, both are forms of domestic violence), it can be nearly impossible to recognize abuse for what it truly is. And that's for several reasons. For one, it's really easy to get stuck in a state of denial. I mean this person who is abusing you supposedly loves you - at least that's what you believe - so how can someone who loves you possibly abuse you?? It makes absolutely no sense, and sometimes it's easier just to deny what's happening or to believe that your abuser will change.

And your life around you becomes even more distorted if your abuser is into playing mind games and tries to get you to believe that the abuse is your fault.

So often abusers deny being abusive. ("I would never call you names. I love you.")
Or they deflect it. ("But you called me 'stupid.'")
Or they downplay it. ("So what if I called you a f*cking bitch, that's no big deal. People say that kind of thing all the time.")
Or attempt to rationalize it. ("All couples have problems. We're just having a rough patch.")

There's actually an easy online quiz you can take to find out if you're in an abusive relationship. It's on the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence web site, and is a list of 14 questions. If you check even just one question, then you're in an abusive relationship. I just took it out of curiosity, based on my previous abusive relationship, and I checked off 7 questions. Seven. Unbelievable. And yet it took me months to come to the realization that I was in an abusive relationship. Maybe if I'd taken the quiz back when I was with my abuser, it would have been a wake-up call for me.

Take the quiz. Even if you don't suspect abuse. It can't hurt.

But abuse can.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adam Khan's "common everyday sociopaths'

I've stumbled upon an interesting blog that contains the best piece on sociopaths that I've read so far. In fact the blog author, Adam Khan, has had so many comments on this particular blog post that he created an entire blog just to field the comments.

What amazes me is that there are a lot more sociopaths walking around out there than most people realize, and the main reason for this is due to the fact that sociopaths are master manipulators. They have an uncanny ability to lie convincingly in order to get what they want. I've seen different statistics on just how many sociopaths exist within our population, and the figures tend to vary from 1 to 5%. On Khan's blog, 2% is offered as an estimate, which represents 1 in 50 people. When you think about it, that's pretty scary. Most likely we all know at least one sociopath, if not more, and we may not even realize it.

Another point brought up in the post is that sociopathy is a kind of a spectrum disorder. There may be different degrees of sociopathy. I hadn't thought of that, but if true, it explains a lot. Someone might be slightly sociopathic, enough to hurt others with their lack of remorse or conscience, and yet easily able to fit into society.

To learn more about people who lack a conscience, what motivates them, how to identify them and deal with them, visit Adam Khan's blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mel Gibson's Abusive Audio Tapes Released on Radaronline.com

There has been an incredible amount of online banter throughout the day after the 6th or 7th (I've lost count) audio tape of Mel Gibson verbally abusing Oksana Grigorieva hit the wires this morning.

Sadly, the vile audio recording sounds very familiar to me. And I'm guessing to anyone who's been verbally abused.

At one point, Mel yells at Oksana: “I’m not giving you my house and you can rot unless you crawl back, s*ck my cock and say you’re sorry, in that order! Do you understand me? You f*cking offend my f*cking maleness, my masculinity, my being, my soul!”


So many are attempting to dissect the conversation, amid the "he said, she said" allegations, and I've found some of the online comments to be even more interesting than the tape itself. Mostly, people are pointing to the horrendous verbal abuse on the part of Mel. But, there are those who believe that Oksana is just as unstable, coercive and abusive as he is. Regardless, I think the fact that Oksana felt compelled to record their conversation says a lot.

I reached that point with my ex before I filed the Order of Protection against him. I think for me, I was recording our phone conversations not so much to use as future evidence against him (I wasn't even to that point mentally/emotionally yet), but to be able to re-play the conversations to myself and use them as a wake-up call. Crazy enough, even when I told my ex that I was recording our phone conversations (while recording them, of course), he didn't even seem to care.

It sounds like Mel didn't really care either. The guy's life has become such a spectacle that it's truly pathetic. Hopefully he'll get some kind of help, but for him, I wonder if it's too late.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lovefraud Women Take Issue with Dear Abby's Advice to an Abuse Victim

I know I recently posted about a Dear Abby column, but today there was yet another one that was causing a lot of online conversation, specifically on the Lovefraud blog. This particular Dear Abby piece is about a woman who is divorcing her abusive/controlling husband after 15 years of marriage, and she's worried about how others will perceive her since everyone else seems to think that he's such a nice guy. Abby responded to her that she should gossip with her girlfriends about his abusive behavior so that the "truth will spread like wildfire."

Needless to say, many women commenting on the Lovefraud blog today took issue with Abby's response. In fact there are over 50 comments.

Not only was it a little 1950's (Really? Like all women do is gossip??), but gossip is most likely the last thing this woman needs in her life as she goes through a divorce. One of the blog commenters believes that the "truth" is never actually realized; she believes that when abuse survivors attempt to speak out, others criticize her for being bitter and not moving on with her life.

Donna Andersen, on the other hand, commented that the only person who accused her of being bitter was her ex-husband. And she also says that she launched Lovefraud after her divorce for 2 reasons:

"1. It enabled me to learn about sociopaths, so I could talk intelligently about the personality disorder that explained what happened to me.

2. It enabled me to heal, so that I could talk about what happened to me without the anger and pain that I felt in the beginning. This makes it much easier for the listener to receive the message."

Kudos to Donna. Personally, I think she has done an amazing job of turning around her horrible experience with a sociopath into something positive that is helping other women find a community of other abuse survivors and heal through writing. Lovefraud.com offers a solid resource for women who are in an abusive relationship, getting out of one, or simply curious about the percentage of people in our society who lack remorse and have no problem abusing others to get their needs met.

So I guess I'm not all that enchanted with Dear Abby's take on how to handle abusive relationships - I think the column should focus on fluffier topics instead.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Irene Conlan's Fabulous Blog on Relationships amd Self Esteem

Here's a fabulous blog post that I just have to share here. It's optimistic and filled with wise thoughts on relationships and how to build one the right way.

The blog is written by Irene Conlan who has a master’s degree in nursing, with a major in nursing administration and a minor in psychiatric nursing. She taught nursing at Arizona State University, served as Director of Nursing Administration at St. Luke’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services for the Division of Health Care Facilities and Emergency Medical Services. She's also a fantastic writer.

I only wish I'd read her list about a year and a half ago... The part where Conlan writes, “Often, in a romantic relationship, passion prevails and, we think we know a person well, when actually we know very little,” basically sums up the big mistake I made when I allowed myself to be swept up into the whirlwind, passionate relationship that ended up in a disastrous and brief marriage (and an Order of Protection) after only six months of dating.

I'm definitely holding onto her list as I cautiously re-enter the world of dating.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Why I Decided to Have My Order of Protection Dismissed

As I've written in previous posts, my journey to have my Order of Protection upheld in court was not an easy one. I was not at all surprised that my ex-husband requested a court hearing. It is difficult for someone who works in law enforcement to have an Order of Protection on his record, apparently.

In any case, in a strange turn of events, the commissioner who was presiding over our court hearing did not make a decision, which I'm guessing is due to the fact that she was new in her position and inexperienced with Order of Protection cases. Instead of making a decision, she granted a continuance. So following the hearing, my order remained in place and I was faced with having to return to court for a continuation of the hearing and to once again have to be in the same room with my ex-husband. Which of course was not a pleasant thing to look forward to. More like absolutely devastating. I'd assumed that I would never have to see him again after that day, especially since he lives out of state in California.

In the meantime, my ex-husband's attorney was attempting to bring a settlement offer to the table. In fact her emails were quite desperate. And at first I wanted nothing to do with a settlement. I was purely focused on having the commissioner uphold my Order of Protection. I was living in fear and felt that I needed police enforceable protection for myself and my children. However, as the weeks went by, I realized that I would be able to obtain much longer lasting protection with an option other than the Order of Protection. And that option ended up being in the form of an addition to our divorce decree.

In the end, we did settle, and to my terms. I refused to negotiate. This man had put me through hell. I would rather have gone back to court than to bend on any terms. My attorney and I put forth terms that I felt I could live with and that would protect me, my children and all other members of my family from any contact from my ex-husband for the rest of our lives. The terms were added to our divorce decree by way of an addendum. Included in the terms is the fact that he can never contact me or my children or any member of my family in any way. He also cannot enter the state where I am living for the next year. (This addendum is in the public domain, as is our divorce decree. Nothing was sealed, so all of the information is open to the public.)

The terms also included the fact that my ex-husband had to pay for my attorney's fees in the amount of $5,000. That included the $2,000 I paid to the attorney who handled my Order of Protection case, as well as the nearly $3,000 I paid to the attorney who handled our divorce. I felt that it was only fair that he pay the bills for all of the chaos that he caused.

All in all, this didn't end the way I'd ever expected. I had assumed that I would have the Order of Protection in place for the next year. But, in retrospect, this was a much better deal for me and for my family because this will always be in place. Plus it is considered a fully enforceable order of the court. So there will be immediate consequences should he choose to break any of the terms.

And....I'll never have to see my ex-husband again in court. That was one of the worst experiences to go through, but I guess a fitting final image of him. Seeing him in court just brought home all the reasons why I wish I'd never met him in the first place.

This was an extremely stressful, trying time, from the day I filed the Order of Protection to the day we settled -- the longest four months of my life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear Abby Helps Emotional Abuse Survivor

It's kind of wild how there have been two women writing in to Dear Abby about verbal and emotional abuse in just a handful of days. And the columnist dishes out fairly sage advice. Here's what I read this morning in my paper, The Arizona Republic:

Dear Abby: I am an 18-year-old woman and have been with my fiance for 2 1/2 years. I love him and can't picture my life without him. However, over the past six months he has become emotionally abusive. He's never wrong, gets made if I disagree with him about anything, and he yells at me over every little thing.

He used to treat me great, and now this. I miss how it used to be, and I cry almost every day. In the past I always told myself I would never put up with something like this, but I have been - and it gets harder every day. I know it's not physical, but emotional abuse counts for something, right? Or am I overreacting? Please give me advice. I need to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sad in Vegas

Dear Sad: You're not overreacting. What you are experiencing now is a preview of how the rest of your life will be if you stay with him. When a partner becomes controlling and emotionally abusive, in most cases it's only a matter of time until the physical abuse beings. If you're smart, you will put an end to this now. The "light at the end of the tunnel" is the sunshine you'll see once you exit this relationship and slam the door behind you.

Yes, Abby's got it right: SLAM that door behind you!! Then run. And fast. And never look back.

Of course, all this is sooo much easier said than done, but it sounds like "Sad in Vegas" may be on the right track because at least she's reaching out for advice. Once you're in an abusive relationship, your brain does this total warp trip where you get caught up and frozen in the cycle of abuse. And even when the abuse is absolutely horrific, you oddly feel more frightened to leave your abuser than you do to stay. Go figure. As crazy as it sounds, that part's absolutely true, whether you're beaten physically or emotionally. Beaten is beaten. After a while, the physical and emotional pain melds together and you don't know up from down. Or safe from danger. Or hope from terror.

But, at some point, whether it's 10 months into a relationship or 10 years, something snaps or clicks or hits you like an abrupt slap in the face, and you reach a place where you can actually turn away and leave. For me, it was my 8-year-old telling me that she wished that I would stop crying every day. And I had cried...every day...for nearly a year, but I didn't even realize it until her eyes, filled with fear, looked deep into mine. Then it hit me that I had cried every single day, sometimes more than once, for the entire 10 months of my marriage. Like "Sad in Vegas," I missed how it used to be. How he used to be. I missed the man who never really existed, who evaporated shortly after becoming my husband.

But even though I realized that I needed to end our relationship, it was still a process. And a part of me still held onto hope that things would change. That the man I missed so desperately would suddenly reappear and life would go back to normal. Until I finally had to seek help from the police. That's when hope evaporated.

The only part about the columnist's advice to "Sad in Vegas" that I'm not so sure I agree with is the part where she writes "If you're smart, you will put an end to this now." Abby's obviously never been abused. ;)

In reality, it doesn't matter whether you have a GED or a PhD from an Ivy League. Abuse insidiously infiltrates every level of society. And it's just as challenging psychologically and emotionally to break free from it whether you're a CEO of a major corporation or a waitress in a coffee shop.

The good news is that you can break free.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Amy Shroff Goes to Police With Restraining Order, Seeking Protection, but Gets Arrested Instead

A story hit the wires shortly before the 4th of July weekend about an abused young woman who was wrongfully arrested by a police officer who either couldn't read English or didn't bother reading the restraining order she had against her husband. It's an unbelievable story on many levels, and yet apparently this kind of thing happens.

So this woman, Amy Shroff, went to the police to seek protection from her ex-husband who was following her in his truck and actually blocked her in after she parked in front of the police station. She went inside with her Order of Protection in her hand and gave it to police officer Frank Spellman. Spellman apparently "misinterpreted" the order and threw her in jail for the night. Nice, huh? (I guess he was confused over what the words petitioner and defendant mean?!?)

Shroff is a new mom and is breastfeeding her baby, but when she pleaded to be set free so that she could go home to feed her baby, her request was denied. The baby ended up having to take formula that night and became ill because of it.

Fortunately, in the end, Shroff was awarded $175,000 from the City of Denver due to this horrendous wrongful arrest. Personally, I think she deserved way more.

According to an article on CBS4Denver.com, Shroff's attorney David Lane had this to say: "When a woman, who is an abused woman, goes to the police for protection ends up in jail because the cop is too stupid or lazy to read the restraining order, I'm sorry, that is an outrage," Lane said.

You can find the story by clicking here.

You can also find another version that includes a photo of Shroff on kdvr.com.

My favorite comment attached to the kdvr.com story comes from someone in Ames, Iowa: "Stop accommodating abusers. Take restraint orders seriously. Back up the victims according to laws already in place. Quit doing everything you can to shut up women who have been victimized. And fire that cop. He didn't uphold the law - or the order."

My sentiments exactly.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Violence Against Women Act and the US Government's Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook

After President Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, many new programs were started and enhanced around the country to work towards ending domestic violence. One such program was the establishment of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE).

On the US Department of Agriculture web site, you can find an online Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook that's really quite helpful. I like the fact that domestic violence is clearly defined, and that the forms of domestic violence other than physical abuse are listed. Verbal abuse is so often misunderstood and not considered "real" domestic violence, even though it is just as insidious, and at times even more so, than physical abuse. The following is an excerpt from the handbook:

In an abusive relationship, the abuser may use a number of tactics other than physical violence in order to maintain power and control over his or her partner:

Emotional and verbal abuse:

Survivors of domestic violence recount stories of put-downs, public humiliation, name-calling, mind games and manipulation by their partners. Many say that the emotional abuse they have suffered has left the deepest scars.


It is common for an abuser to be extremely jealous, and insist that the victim not see her friends or family members. The resulting feeling of isolation may then be increased for the victim if she loses her job as a result of absenteeism or decreased productivity (which are often associated with people who are experiencing domestic violence).

Threats and Intimidation:

Threats -- including threats of violence, suicide, or of taking away the children -- are a very common tactic employed by the batterer.

The existence of emotional and verbal abuse, attempts to isolate, and threats and intimidation within a relationship may be an indication that physical abuse is to follow. Even if they are not accompanied by physical abuse, the effect of these incidents must not be minimized. Many of the resources listed in this book have information available for people who are involved with an emotionally abusive intimate partner.

To visit this site and read the handbook, click here.