Monthly Archives: February 2018

To Match the Blood – Part 1

Large bruise as a result of domestic violence, Author Jane Fox (CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

As a lawyer, I spoke from time to time with small groups of other lawyers or lay people about the law.  Several times such talks found me at a Philadelphia shelter for battered and abused women.   I was deeply moved by the experience, memorializing it this way to protect the identities of the women involved:

Initially, I did not know what to expect.  I assumed, if anything, that I would pity these women.  That was not, however, the case.  Instead, I was in awe.

The women, themselves, came in all colors, shapes and sizes.  Those I met ranged in age from their early twenties to mid-sixties.  Some were pretty and petite, others statuesque Amazons.

Some could barely make eye contact, were hesitant to speak.  Others had acquired a hardened demeanor or false bravura to hide their pain.  All were deeply concerned for the welfare and safety of their children.

We spoke about the fact that battered women constitute 25% of the women attempting suicide, and 23% of the women seeking prenatal care at any given time.  We spoke about the fact that children raised in abusive households are fifteen times more likely than normal to become abusive adults (or, themselves, become involved with abusive partners).

We spoke about the spiritual issues faced by domestic abuse victims, and the practical difficulties of making a new life.  We spoke about rebuilding self-esteem, and the lure of false hope that the abusive partner would “change.”

But above all, we spoke about the lives of these women.

They had been beaten, stabbed, burned, locked in, tied up, and chained down.  They had been criticized for being attractive and criticized for being unattractive, instructed what to wear, then punished for wearing it.  They had been struck by tire irons, and thrown out windows.  They had suffered broken hearts, broken dishes, and broken bones. Continue reading


Filed under domestic abuse, domestic violence, Justice, Law, Religion, Violence Against Women

View from the Crater

Gravity anomaly map of Chicxulub impact crater, Author USGS, Source (PD as work product of federal gov’t).

Beneath the foliage of the Yucatan peninsula and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico lies an ancient impact crater.  Scientists believe this is the site where a meteor the size of Mt. Everest struck the earth, resulting in extinction of the dinosaurs.  Sixty-five million years later, geologic evidence for that impact is still present.

It is not uncommon for abuse victims to view abuse as the central event in their lives, and to define themselves with reference to it.

As with the Chicxulub crater, evidence of the abuse is still present years later.  Forever after, that destructive event (or series of events) will be the dividing line in victims’ lives:  pre-abuse and post-abuse, the difference between innocence and innocence lost.

All too many women and children will die, as a result of abuse – some at the hands of a loved one, some by their own hand, years after the abuse has technically “ended”.  Those who survive the trauma are likely to suffer from permanent physical and psychological symptoms, impacting all aspects of their lives.

There is nothing positive to be said about abuse.  Because of its very magnitude, however, survivors may find that abuse serves as a kind of standard against which other events can be measured.  What are office politics, by comparison?  What are parking tickets, canceled flights, lost luggage, even stolen vehicles (so long as they do not generate more abuse)?

In a sense, we can draw strength from our bitter experience.  The abuse provides a unique perspective which puts many lesser things in their place.  We have lived through a meteor strike.  What are mere hurricanes to us?

Originally posted 2/9/14



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse


Voodoo dolls, Author Brendajos70, Source Flickr at (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

An outgrowth of the tribal religions of West Africa, Voodoo originated among Haitian slaves.  The religion varies from place to place, but generally combines belief in a chief god and many powerful spirits with ancestor worship [1][2].

Catholic saints and symbolism were superimposed on the Voodoo belief system, and Catholic hymns, prayers, relics, statues, and candles incorporated into Voodoo rituals.  Though many practitioners of Voodoo self-identify as Roman Catholic, Protestants for the most part consider Voodoo incompatible with Christianity [3].

Tragically, this attempt by slaves to cope with the cruelty and hardship to which they were subjected continues to create victims of its own.

Latarsha Sanders recently stabbed her 5 and 8 year old sons to death with a kitchen knife, subsequently telling Massachusetts police the violence was “Voodoo stuff” [4].  The older child was stabbed 50 times.  Sanders has no known history of mental illness.

Meanwhile, two sisters in a nearby community deliberately burned and scarred a 5 year old girl, and threatened to behead her 8 year old brother, in the course of a Voodoo ritual.

” ‘And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination…’ ” (Jer. 32: 35).

Many cultures have engaged in child sacrifice – the Canaanites, the Etruscans (predecessors of the Romans), the Carthaginians (contemporaries of the Romans), the Celts, the Maya, the Incas, and the Aztecs to name a few [5][6][7]. Continue reading


Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse, Religion

Not Just Victims

Baking utensils, Author Pfctdayelise (CC BY-SA 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0 Generic)

“And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes
On you moving.
And if they shout
Don’t let it change a thing
That you’re doing.

Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head high.”

–        “Hold Your Head Up”, C. White, R. Argent © Marquise Songs

A rock song from the ’70s by Argent has special relevance for abuse survivors.  Called “Hold Your Head Up” it is a reminder that we are more than just victims.

But abuse victims, by whatever name, are not known for valuing themselves highly.  To the contrary, we can barely raise our heads, let alone form a realistic view of ourselves.

The abuse to which we were subjected created a web of lies – that we were worthless, that we were undeserving of love or care.  Trapped in that web, we were denied hope, as the scars (our response to the pain) hardened around us.

Not everything we do, however, will stem from or relate to abuse.  If we focus on that aspect of our experience to the exclusion of all others, we will only enlarge the tragedy, allowing it to engulf our lives [1].

We have relationships, vocations, and beliefs:

  • We are sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. We are friends, lovers, and spouses. We are students, teachers, and mentors.
  • We are social workers, lab technicians, and police officers.  We are doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants.
  • We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

We have habits, preferences, interests, skills, and abilities.  Some of us are neat-freaks; others do not pick up their socks.  Some are dog lovers; others are “cat people”.  Some of us are musical; others cannot carry a tune. A few probably play the banjo. Continue reading


Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse