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Home Security And Safety Modifications For Domestic Violence Survivors

Very important guest post by Nora Hood at Three Daily.

For many domestic violence survivors, finding a way to feel safe and move forward is especially difficult. It takes a lot of courage to leave an abusive situation, and even more to strike out on one’s own into a new living situation where they can feel safe and comfortable. In some cities, there are support groups and shelters that will help a victim of abuse during that transition period, but they can be overcrowded or extremely short-term.

Untitled         Photo via Pixabay by Stux

If you or a loved one have recently left a violent situation and will be living alone (or are the sole caregiver for children), it’s important to take steps that will facilitate safety and a feeling of security. Whether the residence is a home or an apartment, there are several things you can do to make sure the new place is as safe as possible.

Here are a few tips on how to get started.

Let technology work for you

Technology has come a long way in the past decade, enabling the use of advanced features such as surveillance in a private home. Where home security in the past might only have consisted of a motion sensor, according to Angie’s List, “Today’s home security systems are far more advanced, and homeowners can now choose from a wide range of security options such as around-the-clock monitoring and video surveillance.” Taking into consideration your budget, do some research to find the best security option for your needs.

Pile on the locks

If you live in an apartment building, there may only be so much you can do to deter an intruder. One of the most important steps is making sure the locks on your door are secure; if it makes you feel safer, add a couple more, or reinforce the door with a steel chain. Remember to show sliding patio doors some attention; a sturdy broomhandle or steel pipe laid in the track will prevent the door from opening on the outside. If you live on the ground floor, ask the landlord if you can plant thorny bushes beneath your windows to prevent someone from getting too close.

Location is everything

If possible, do some research before you move. You want a home or apartment that is not isolated and has at least one neighbor. Moving too far away from town could be a mistake, especially if the area isn’t well populated. When moving into an apartment complex, talk to the landlords about not having your name on the mailbox, and let them know that you don’t want any strangers to have information about you.

Have an escape route planned

No domestic violence survivor wants to think about the worst possible scenario, but it’s important to be prepared in case an abuser does find out where you live. Have an escape route planned; keep your cell phone charged at all times and in a place where you can easily reach it, along with your car keys. Talk to your children about what you’ll do in the event of an emergency so they’ll know exactly how to react.

It’s always difficult to think about taking safety precautions, because it brings up unpleasant memories. It’s imperative to make sure you feel safe and secure, however, and the best way to feel in control is to make sure your home is a place where you can relax. Garner support from friends and family, if possible, or consider joining a support group where you can get help should you need it. Remember that you are not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes.

Upsetting the Status Quo

51AAuLof0GLNot Just A Girl: A Lesbian Romance
by Judy Folger.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

What happens in Royal’s life, in Not Just A Girl, has been experienced by many men and women. Living up to society’s expectations, not wanting to “overturn the cart”, let alone acknowledge there own feelings, they do what they’re “supposed to do”. In this case, it is Royal marrying a man not long after high school, while still being in love with her best friend, Mackenzie. Such circumstances were especially prevalent up to the beginning of this century, and still continues for some.

When Royal talks to her gay sister-in-law, Avery, she becomes acutely aware of herself, and how she’s been living to please others.

The words shot out of Royal’s mouth before she could stop them. ‘When a woman decides to make her own happiness, she upsets the status quo!’

‘Yes!’ Avery shot back, smiling, ‘Everyone else’s status quo…’

She reflected for a moment. ‘Oh. Oh, I see.'”

The youngest of four siblings, with three older brothers, Royal is told by them, and her parents, that she is “just a girl”. Which, in their eyes, means she should get married, have children, and take care of everyone else. Once her children are teenagers, and her husband (Jim) takes extended time away from the family, Royal begins to tentatively look at what she wants, and who she is. With the help of her friend at work (Claudia), a professor from her college days (Professor Belkin), and Avery, she slowly begins to acknowledge who she is and what she wants.

There are a number of family scenes with parents, and in-laws, which were all too familiar. For example, the Thanksgiving dinners found the men and women playing all the stereotyped roles of men watching football, and the women cooking and providing. It takes Royal half her life to start believing in herself, and break out of these roles. Ms. Folger has created an insightful, heart-felt story of one woman deciding to set herself free and find happiness. Not Just A Girl is not just a book, it’s an inner journey of discovery brought to the page for all to see.

A Torturous Affair

The Glass Mask: Monsters Lurk Beneath by E. L. DuBois.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

516I5azkDzLThe Glass Mask is a painful book to read. It is an important book to read. It is a well written story about partner abuse, and the intimate torture that often takes place in abusive relationships. If you’ve experienced anything remotely similar in your own life, you will identify with the protagonist, called “Beauty”. If you’ve been fortunate to not have gone through any such trauma, you will be rooting for her survival, and insight into how to escape “The Beast” that threatens to destroy everything she loves, and life itself.

Ms. DuBois notes in the beginning that, “It was Hell. Let me reiterate… a living Hell. Nothing was sure then, except fear. Life was uncertain, death always loomed, and instability was the norm.” She is not exaggerating. It is apparent that the author has lived through many of the scenes described herein, and they are conveyed with honesty, agonizing detail, and perspective. All the mental and emotional things victims believe, and tell themselves (which are reinforced by the abuser), make sense and come to light.

The chapter headings also match well with the contents of that section. For example, “I knew who I was this morning… But I have changed a few times since then.” Happiness is displaced by despair and fear. Loving acts hide brutal retaliation and control at all costs. Someone believing they “own” you, and can do whatever they want with you, are not a fantasy, but too often a reality. Beauty’s boyfriend is aptly named The Beast, and his sister (The Drama Queen). Beauty’s daughter is appropriately known as The Princess.

Anything awful you can think of happening to another human being, is inflicted on Beauty. When you think that there is no way she can keep going, she meets a man (Mr. Knight). Thus, some light returns. Or does it? Not everyone is able to escape, let alone meet a supportive, loving person to help. It is possible, but rare. Many people are killed, or reduced to ruble before they are set free. Others take solace in drugs, or other numbing acts. You’ll have to read The Glass Mask to find out what happens to Beauty.

P.S. A similar book you may find of interest is Kellsey, by Stacy Kells. The primary difference is that Stacy’s is nonfiction, and The Glass Mask is fiction. At times, it is difficult to tell them apart. Read my review of Kellsey. It’s called A Gradual Awakening.

When You’ve Had Enough

When You’ve Had Enough: How to Leave a Violent Home Behind
Excellent and vital guest post by Nora Hood.

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One in four women and one in seven men will be a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to HuffPost. Many others will be sexually or physically abused by a family member, such as a parent, sibling, or aunt or uncle. Regardless of the abuser, everyone has the right to leave and go somewhere they feel safe. However, fear and the very real possibility of being “punished” by the abuser for trying to escape leaves far too many people in dangerous situations. If you or someone you love is ready to break the cycle of abuse, keep reading for tips on how to do so safely.

Acknowledge That the Abuse Exists

It’s not uncommon for abuse victims to downplay the situation. Psych Central explains that there are many forms of abuse, including emotional and psychological. Just because you haven’t landed in the hospital doesn’t mean you aren’t being abused.

Ask for Help

As the victim of domestic violence, physical abuse, or sexual assault, you have rights, and even if you’ve been forced to ostracize your friends and family, there is a network of people who are willing, ready, and able to help you make your exit. Pewitt Law, a Washington-based legal firm that specializes in domestic violence, notes that most law enforcement agencies provide civil standby. This is a process by which one or more officers arrive to deter violence and keep the peace. These officers can be there to protect you as you leave the home.

Other forms of assistance include crime victim compensation. Some states provide financial advisory services as well as benefits to help pay for medical expenses, food and shelter, and counseling for domestic abuse survivors.

Don’t Instigate

While you are not to blame for your situation, there are certain actions you should avoid when you’re planning to leave, as they could trigger a violent reaction from your abuser. Try to act as normal as possible while you make your exit strategy. Do not tell your abuser that you plan to leave. When researching your assistance options, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, take steps to ensure your internet history remains private. You can do this by opening up an “incognito” or “private” tab through your browser. Popular Science cautions, however, that even in private browsing mode, you may leave digital clues behind, which a tech-savvy (and paranoid) abuser may be able to trace. A better option is to use a prepaid smart device, paid with cash, which can be turned off and hidden. These “burner phones” can be picked up anywhere, from Walmart to your local gas station.

Safety at Your New Home

When you finally have plans and make preparations to leave, keep yourself safe by maintaining a comfortable distance from your abuser. You should be able to utilize a civil standby when you collect your personal belongings. Other ways to keep yourself safe during and after your relocation include:

  • Hire a moving company to enter and exit your abuser’s home with you; request a rental truck, if possible, and that your movers do not wear clothing that would identify the service you are using.
  • Do not list your new address or telephone number on social media.
  • Outfit your new home with an alarm system, deadbolts on the front and back doors, and peepholes where you can see who is knocking before you unlock the door (HomeAdvisor offers more home security tips).
  • Change your work hours.

Don’t leave your safety to chance. Get help, get out, and get your life back on track. You are better than your abuse and don’t deserve to suffer.

Love the One You’re With

Jennifer’s Triad by Laura Ann Turner
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51PA33ULYsLA recent study of polyamory (being in a relationship with more than one person simultaneously) says, “By some estimates, there are now roughly a half-million polyamorous relationships in the U.S., though underreporting is common. Some sex researchers put the number even higher, at 4 to 5 percent of all adults, or 10 to 12 million people.” With the number being so high, especially among younger generations, why aren’t there more stories about people involved in such? Jennifer’s Triad is a good start. The usual romance about love, jealousy, and ever-after, is blown out of the water.

This novel is about a young rocker, just out of high school, named Jenny (Jen), who while in a relationship with Emilia (Emi), joins an all-girl (and lesbian) band called The Coldhearts. One of the band members is Nellie. It isn’t long until Jen begins having fantasies, attractions, and dreams about loving Nellie. She feels confused, because she also loves Emilia. It takes her quite awhile, and the help of band member Bette, before she acknowledges how she’s feeling and gets the nerve to talk to both Emi, and Nellie. She tries to tell Nellie that she doesn’t love her any less, but it doesn’t go well.

Jennifer’s Triad explores jealously and possessiveness with insight and realism. Without giving anything away, it is a hard road Jen takes when she is finally honest with herself and those she loves. The scenes with the band living, practicing, and playing together, is also a highlight and interspersed abundantly throughout the book. Jen describes a set playing before a crowd when it almost feels like they’re having sex on stage, because of the unison and high they are experiencing. There are also an abundance of erotic scenes (in Jen’s head, and with her awake body and girlfriends) that will wake your senses.

Ms. Turner’s tale takes place in several cities in Germany, including Hanover, where Jennifer lived and went to school until her mother kicked her out for being gay. All of the characters are well developed, and believable (Emilia, good friend Martin, her Dad, her Dad’s wife, Sabrina, and all the band members, especially Nellie). Jen is especially well written, which is vital, seeing that the story is told in the first person from her perspective. If you’re open to reading a love story that moves beyond girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl gets girl back, pick up Jennifer’s Triad.

 

 

 

Love, Loss, and Justice

41qJDuxS8fLAn Experiment In Emotions – A Short Story Collection by P.A. Priddey. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, jealousy, pleasure, helplessness, and rage. These are some of the feelings explored in An Experiment In Emotions, and an inkling of what readers’ may experience while reading these short stories. For the most part, these tales delve into relationships between men and women, and the misunderstandings that often occur. All, except one, involve couples breaking up, being torn apart, and/or finding a way to get back together. They are well written, and worth your time.

The collection includes a three parter, “The Dark Secret of Padwell”, which involves a strange “ritual” that is accepted by most people in the town, until Jack decides not to play by the rules, and refuses to marry Becky. In the beginning, the story reminded me of the film Indecent Proposal, with Robert Redford, when he offers a young couple a million dollars if he can sleep with the wife just one night, but it changes in the second act and takes on a much more sinister vibe. There are ten stories within this collection. My favorite was “The Vigilante, the Author, and Niblit”.

The Vigilante… had some nice touches, with the vigilante (Katie), Niblit (the cat), and Nick (the author), all coming into contact one night by chance, and sharing a secret that brings unwanted public attention, and the police, to their doors. Perhaps it is because the stories main characters include the author and a cat – one of which I am, and the other which I love – that toyed with my heart strings and made me partial to its telling. Without giving anything away, let me say that one of the three protagonists is actually a matchmaker in disguise, of which there are a number (disguises that is).

The next to last story in An Experiment in Emotions is called “The Monster”, and is one of the most unexpected. What is unexpected is who ends up helping whom, and how there motives and incentives change along the way. Stacy is pregnant, and her abusive husband, Carl, wants her to get rid of it. In the process, Stacy meets Jade Jones, and everything is turned upside down. For the first time in many years, Stacy begins to believe that she has choice, and experiences hope and acceptance. Though Mr. Priddey may not have experienced everything in this story, or the others in this collection, he definitely identifies with, and conveys, the emotions with insight and passion.

You’re In the Army Now

Private 101: One Lesbian’s Army Training by LJ Scarborough.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51ZJi1oNSZL._AC_US218_Though Ms. Scarborough states that characters, events and incidents in Private 101 are “either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner”, the book seems very autobiographical. Regardless of how much is real, or fictional, this is a very interesting read. There are no glossy, elaborate characterizations, or sub-plots, just a straightforward, insightful, adventure with a woman finding her way.

I enjoyed this story because it took me to a place, and situations, which I have not, and will never, experience. For those who have been in the service, especially the Army, this will feel very familiar, and I expect, will find it quite enjoyable as well. Last, but not least, for anyone considering volunteering for the Army, I suggest you read this first, as it gives a very good accounting. You may have second thoughts, or wish to jump right in.

After breaking up with her girlfriend, or I should say, after her girlfriend leaves her for another woman in Seattle, Evelyn MacCellan Jones decides to check out the armed services and ends up joining the Army reserve. Fresh out of college, with loans, and no job possibilities, she sees it as a positive new direction, and a way to pay off her student debt. She thinks she knows what she’s getting into. She sort of does, and doesn’t.

What transpires, is a detailed account of her time in basic training, her new friends (including lover Becky “Becks”), the rigors of boot camp, and everything she learns about herself along the way. In addition to an a-hole Sergeant (Sanders), she also meets other women and men who are attempting to do the best they can. There is frustration, loneliness, hope, self-doubt, humor, and pride.

Private 101 reads almost like a confessional, with nothing left out. It is as if the author wishes us to know first hand the reality of signing up, and going through basic training, without concluding that it is good or bad. It is what it is, and readers’ get to decide if it is something they would be personally interested in, or wish to stay away from, as far as possible. Ms. Scarborough writes well, with conviction, and clarity.

Learning to Love

41RQ8k1nItL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Transitioning into Womanhood: Journey to Self-Realization by Codisha R. Matthews. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Ms. Matthews, “There is a huge difference between the woman I am today and who I was five years ago. Today, my smile has depth, and I am confident in who I am and who I can be.” In Transitioning into Womanhood we discover not only what Codisha experienced, and learned from those experiences, but also a step by step guide on how to make that transition and become a kind, giving, loving, woman of principal. Though this is written by a woman, for women, every aspect of it’s insights and life-principals apply to both genders.

The depth to which the terms, concepts, and themes, are defined and explained, make it easy to understand and follow in one’s own life. For instance, everyone talks about “loving oneself”, but few tell us what that means, how to do it, or acknowledge the difficulty in doing so. “Loving oneself means caring for, taking responsibility for, respecting, and knowing ones self. Self-love sets the standard for how you are loved and treated by others.” Loving yourself includes honest self-reflection, self-respect, self-acceptance, responsibility, and self-empowerment. Being honest with one’s self is where we must all begin, and is often the most painful.

With chapters about personal morals and values, financial growth, maintaining relationships, managing stress, and love and sex, Ms. Matthews addresses each and every elephant in the room with clarity and honesty. Though she doesn’t prescribe her personal religious beliefs for anyone else, she clearly states what hers are and has an entire chapter called “Exploring the Spiritual You – Getting In Touch With God”. The epilogue does a good job of bringing every aspect of Transitioning into Womanhood into focus by reviewing the importance of believing in “something”, loving yourself, caring for your body, keep challenging yourself, the vital importance of relationships, celebrating others, and that every day is a new opportunity on the path to self-realization.

Lily’s Sexual Awakening

51p5FRVN5QLTea with Trina by Amber Skye
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This novella is a sweet treat and fun to eat (or better yet read). A nice afternoon delight, or nighttime rendezvous, to indulge your fantasies and romantic desires. Lily, who has just broken up with Jason, falls head over hills for Trina, and you will too. They are both caring people, who have experienced painful losses, and yet are unexpectedly confronted with love looking them right in the face (and elsewhere).

The scenes from Tea with Trina are a nice mix of generosity, emotion, thoughtfulness, and sex. There is a tenderness between the two women that is palpable and believable. Normally, it takes time for people to have a strong connection and sense of vulnerability with one another, yet it can happen all at once. Thus is the case within these pages. There is also a lovely erotic scene with Lily alone in the shower.

Expectations of what lies ahead (figuratively) are brimming from page to page. As Lilly approaches Trina’s room, “I walked slowly down the hall, holding my hands in front of me as I navigated the near darkness. A light shone through the little crack of a closed door at the end of the hallway. I tapped gently before entering, gasping at what appeared in front of me.”

I have written a few graphic lesbian love scenes, but none as good as those in Tea with Trina. You may want to have one hand free when reading Ms. Skye’s novella, or read it with your partner. If you’ve broken up with someone lately, had a loss in the past, or think you’ll never find love again, this book will give you hope, and wet your romantic whistle (figuratively and literally).

Whatever Works

41nM1xKgcaLLetting Go into Perfect Love: Discovering the Extraordinary After Abuse by Gwendolyn M. Plano. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

When you’ve been emotionally and physically abused in a 25-year marriage, it takes not only courage to get out, let alone heal, but also an array of support and resources. Ms. Plano provides not only the details of her childhood, adult life and abuse, but also explores what helped, and what didn’t. Adding insult to injury, she later discovers that her daughter was abused by a Catholic sister and several priests. 

The first part of this story is anything but “perfect love”, but its important to provide context and depth to the despair, isolation, and shame that was experienced. The support and realizations that come to the author are as varied and individual as was the abuse. From the instruction’s of a zen teacher, theological inquiries into Christianity and the bible, feeling the presence of an “angel”, and getting psychological support, to the love and care of a Franciscan priest, and a center for abuse survivors. Whatever worked for insight, growth, and healing, is what Ms. Plano reached for.

Two quotes really stood out. “Rather than seeing the controlling behavior for what it was, I focused on what must be wrong with me.” This is such a common, and understandable, feeling that many abuse survivors have echoed. The other was, “It was a delusion to imagine that I was alone, just as it was to imagine that I was unworthy of love.” Self-loathing, self-doubt, and internalizing abuse as one’s “fault”, is one of the most horrendous effects for survivors. The other is feeling isolation and having nowhere to turn.

Another insightful passage, which is seldom spoken of, is about why some people never get out of an abusive relationship. “Domestic violence is usually not reported, and this fact is often misunderstood. Certainly, victims do not report the violence because of the real possibility of retaliation, but there is a deeper reason for their silence. To report partner violence is to betray the partner, it is to forsake the dream of a happily-ever-after marriage, it is to contend with the real and imaginary voices of condemnation, and it is to destroy the family unit.”

Letting Go Into Perfect Love is a blow to the heart, that leaves the reader with a sense that it is possible to survive the unsurvivable. It is possible to acknowledge, confront, and walk away from perpetrators of violence. It is possible to find support – sometimes in the most unexpected places. There are no cliches in this memoir (thank Goddess). There is an honest look at what has, and is happening, to thousands of women across the globe, and how each can find their way to not only survive, but perhaps learn to love again.

 

 

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