Tag Archives: domestic violence

Eight Calls to the Police Couldn’t Prevent Her Murder

Via San Francisco Chronicle.

From the evening of October 9, 2014 to the early morning of October 10, 35-year-old Cecilia Lam called the police eight times to report that an ex-boyfriend named Cedric Young, Jr. was harassing her. Officers showed up at Lam’s apartment multiple times but ultimately were unable to stop Young from killing Lam and turning the gun on himself. Why? In the San Francisco Chronicle, Vivian Ho investigates what happened during the nine hours that led to Lam’s senseless death:

At 8:37 p.m., Cecilia made her first call to 911.

“My boyfriend and I, we’re pretty much fighting right now and I’m asking him to leave my home,” she told the dispatcher. “And he will not leave. … It’s starting to escalate.”

Young had been drinking all day, she said, then quickly added, “He’s actually leaving now.”

“Do you want me to send the police?” the dispatcher asked.

“No,” Cecilia responded. “I think we’re OK.”

But by 9:14, she was on the phone to 911 again, and then again at 9:33 p.m., describing an “escalating domestic violence issue.” Young was back and ringing the doorbell, over and over again.

“I’m getting more scared,” Cecilia said in the third call. “I don’t know if he’s going to break in.”

Ramirez dialed 911 around the same time. “I’m calling to straight up say this guy is insane and he’s trying to get inside,” he reported.

Dispatchers flagged the incident as a “418 DV,” a domestic violence dispute. As Lam made her third call to 911, Officers Adam Lobsinger and Chhungmeng Tov from Southern Station pulled up to the building. They began talking with Young, who had halted his frenzied attempts to get into the apartment.

Lobsinger would write in his report that Young seemed calm and “in good spirits.” Young told him “it was nothing more than couples arguing.”

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Men Explain Sylvia Plath’s Suffering to Us

Photo by Freddie Phillips via Flickr Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Newly unearthed letters from Sylvia Plath to her therapist — apparently validating her accounts of abuse at her husband Ted Hughes’s hand — inspire Emily Van Duyne to raise the question of why many in the literary world cast doubt over Plath’s allegations, or treat them lightly.

At LitHub, Van Dyune looks at the way men like Peter K. Steinberg — co-editor of The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 1: 1940-1956, a collection of Plath’s unpublished letters forthcoming from Faber in October — characterize her accounts of being beaten, in one case to the point of miscarrying her second child with Hughes. Steinberg is quoted in a Guardian article she refers to as saying the unpublished letters promise to be “tantalising” — a disturbing choice of words for domestic violence.

I don’t write this to argue that there is some kind of conspiracy or cover-up of Hughes’s behavior, or even that there is a single thread of golden truth about their marriage that these new letters, or any new document (oh, for those torched last journals!) will suddenly, gloriously reveal, allowing us closure on Plath’s biography. Instead, I want to point out the cultural bias against women’s voices and the domestic truths of women’s lives and the deep role this has played in painting Plath as both a pathetic victim and a Cassandra-like, genius freak. It is only in a culture where these two things be claimed simultaneously that Hughes, a known philanderer and violent partner, can spend forty years botching the editing of, or outright destroying, his estranged, now dead wife’s work, then win every conceivable literary prize and be knighted by the Queen. It is only in this culture that Plath can tell of his abuse, in print, for the better part of the same 40 years, only to have the same reports in a handful of letters recognized as “shocking.” And it is only in this culture that unseen letters detailing abuses as dreadful as a miscarriage induced by beating, and the expressed desire that one’s wife was dead, be described, without irony, as “tantalising.”

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My Parents Said I Bruised Easily

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Jessica Berger Gross | Estranged: Leaving Family and Finding Home | Scribner | July 2017 | 13 minutes (3,194 words)

For a good 20 years now, I’ve been working on various versions of a memoir. Some of what’s been taking me so long is that I’m conflicted about sharing certain parts of my family’s story, and my own.

Last year I managed to write and perform a fairly vague monologue about my home life in my teen years, during six of which my mother was married to her second husband, an angry, miserable human being. In the monologue, I rattled off some behavior of his that would easily be categorized as domestic violence, but which we, in our suburban middle class Jewish home, filed under under the more tidy, less shameful euphemism, “He has a temper.”

That’s what we called it when he threw a glass serving bowl filled with spaghetti at his son’s head, leaving him with a concussion; when he threw a wine glass at my mother and it shattered on the floor after bouncing off the side of her face. That’s what we called it when he dragged my thirteen-year-old sister down the stairs by her hair, when he gripped his hands around her throat and violently shook her, leaving marks. That’s what we called it when we sought refuge at my mother’s friend’s house; when my mother went back, begging his forgiveness for having left; when someone — probably my mother’s friend — anonymously called Child Protective Services, and a social worker showed up at our house.

“He has a temper.” That’s what we called it when he threw my ceramic piggy bank at me one evening while I was sitting on my bed, doing my homework. He burst into my room waving a legal pad with numbers scratched in pencil, fuming that I wasn’t willing to call my father and ask him to pay more in child support. I ducked just in time. The piggy bank hit the wall, smashing to pieces.

I told the story aloud at a Domestic Violence Awareness Month event, in the context of a 2014 TMI Project writing workshop I had co-led for women living in a domestic violence shelter in Poughkeepsie. Hearing the women share their stories struck a nerve in me. It unearthed truths and shame I’d forgotten I’d long ago buried — my shame, my mother’s, my family’s. It was almost unbearable, and I nearly quit the workshop. Somehow, though, I found the fortitude to not only stick with it, but to also tell my story to the participants. And not just the story about my step-father, but also the one about the occasionally violent boyfriend I once had a bad habit of going back to, again and again.

Letting them know that I had witnessed and experienced some degree of what they had was an instant ground-leveler. I stopped being the nice, middle-class-writing-instructor-lady with no problems coming to help them, and became one of them. They comforted me as I had been comforting them, and I was reminded of why it’s so important to overcome shame and tell the hard truth — how telling the hard truth is an important antidote to our own shame, and more broadly to the stigma associated with the things we attach shame to. It occurred to me that it’s unfair to tuck these kinds of secrets behind facades of exceptionalism and superiority, and that maybe we have an obligation to others to be more forthcoming. It starts with the painful task of being honest with ourselves, when no one around us really wants us to be.

In certain communities, we’re raised to believe we’re immune to particular experiences and behaviors, that we’re above them. That domestic violence, for instance, is low-class. That it’s just not something us middle class suburban Jews on Long Island engage in. That he’s not an abuser — he has a temper.

But it’s not true, and author Jessica Berger Gross is here to back me up on that. In her moving, fearless memoir, Estranged: Leaving Family and Finding Home, she tells the story of growing up in a middle class suburban Jewish home on Long Island just about a 10-minute drive from my own — one where her father was violent, and her mother was his silent enabler. And she tells the story of bravely deciding, at 28, to preserve her wellbeing and sanity by cutting her parents and her brothers out of her life.

I so admire her courage in revealing all the ugly truth of her upbringing, while being fair, and not casting her parents as monsters. And I appreciate her standing up and dispelling the insidious myth that domestic violence doesn’t occur in the nice houses in the nice neighborhoods.

What follows is an excerpt. — Sari Botton, Longreads Essays Editor

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Am I in an Abusive Relationship? ‘I knew if I had to ask I already knew the answer.’

Photo by Carolina Ödman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this installment of the Survival Skills column at Hazlitt, Katherine Laidlaw recalls an abusive relationship in which her boyfriend threatened her with a boxcutter. In examining why she stayed as long as she did, she observes how the emotional scars affect her thinking and perception in what should be a new, exciting relationship — to the point where “Everything now — a flicker of tone, a sideways glance, a distant voice on the end of the phone — is a sign, a flag, a warning.”

It’s hard to know what to do when someone says, “this is the knife I was going to use to kill you.” On a cold day in January, he holds a box cutter up to my face, runs it in front of my neck, his expression placid as flat water, and then walks calmly back over to a cardboard box that sits on the other side of the room waiting to be sliced open.

It’s hard to know what to do when that same person, later, says he loves you.

For women who are raised to believe they are strong, agency is complex. Privilege makes you reckless. I remember the moment I chose to buy into the interesting situation I could sense unfolding. It happened one morning, maybe around 4 a.m., when I couldn’t sleep—I usually couldn’t sleep when I slept over. We almost always went to bed angry and I almost never knew why. There is something insidious about love built by two brittle hearts. I made a choice and chose wrong. How naive I was, to have thought that when someone hurts you, the polite response is to ask him to stop.

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Eve Ensler on Abusive Fathers and the Culture That Protects Them

In a short essay for Time, playwright and activist Eve Ensler writes about simultaneously understanding many women’s difficulty calling out abusive fathers—like her own and alleged rapist Bill Cosby—and being frustrated with a culture that protects beloved, powerful patriarchs while vilifying and portraying as liars the women who speak out against them:

I think of my own silence early on, and maybe it was disbelief that stopped my outrage. Or protection of a daddy I desperately needed. Or fear of exclusion, exile, loss. Or the horror and heartbreak of experiencing the death of the hero. My hero. Or making a decision early on that the rare moment of love was worth the nightmares….

… could my mother or I, both dependent on my father for money and resources, speak out against his terror? More than forty women have now described their experiences with Bill Cosby, allegedly coaxed into his drug lair early in their careers. How could they speak out and smear and embarrass the moral cuddly king of television, be the slayers of our collective fantasy, and what would that have done to their fledgling careers and lives?…

…It is up to everyone to call out the behavior of perpetrators whether they be famous or not. We must, regardless of their status or fame or wealth or talent hold them to the same standards. We must, as a community, break through our own fear and need to sustain and protect our daddy heroes while we sacrifice our women.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a ‘Failure of Accountability’

He sometimes barks when asked to bend his principles, the ones he learned from his late father, a U.S. senator. He gets enraged when someone, even an owner, tarnishes the integrity of the game or challenges his judgment. Many players and union leaders talk about his failure of accountability. “Right now the league office and commissioner Goodell have little to no credibility with players,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in December. Sixty-one percent of active players said they disapprove of the overall job Goodell is doing, according to a January USA Today poll of 300 players.

From Don Van Natta Jr.’s 2013 ESPN profile of Roger Goodell.

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Photo: west_point, Flickr

“Escape.” Natasha Gardner, 5280 Magazine