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.

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....