Dear Dr. Archer,
I was a police officer for 16 years, (the past 11 as a criminal investigator in LA), and my live in boyfriend is now a police Lt. He was very abusive (verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually). Three years ago I finally got the courage to call the police and report the abuse (despite his threats that he would kill me if I did).
Since "coming out", I have been on been on an amazing journey of self discovery and awareness of the effects my childhood had to do with the choices I made as an adult (relationships, profession, etc)...
Here is "my story":
On August 17, 2008 I FINALLY did the "right" thing and sent S the "right" message after he abused me for the last time.
The Police responded and while their actions (arresting S) hurt me in part because I was still in that place where I wanted to protect him from the consequences of his criminal actions. I still "loved" him, AND I knew that if he lost his job, he would kill me. They did the "right" thing and sent the "right" message.
"Coming out" with the abuse I sustained from him (verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual) was EXTREMELY embarrassing, humiliating, and painful for me.
Over the 2 years following his arrest, I sought counseling and attended (still do on occasion) a weekly DV (domestic violence) group meeting to find the answers to all the questions, "Why did you stay?", "Why call him just to allow him to threaten and hurt you more?", "Why didn't you call the police before?", "Why do you "love" him?" and many other painful questions that I didn't have the answers to.
I found the answers. I learned. I grew, and in doing so found a new purpose for my life. I have ALWAYS believed in God and in his purpose for us all. My years of abuse were no exception, in fact, I am greatly humbled that not only did God know I would "survive" the abuse, he also knew I would reach back to help those who had not or sadly never did.
Once the case was submitted it didn't occur to me that the DA's office wouldn't prosecute him. A man who abused me and the other women in his life for the past 23 years. By not "doing the right thing" the DA's office empowered S even more than I or any of his exes did.
With this empowerment and his extreme narcissism he moved forward attempting to retaliate against me. He threatened me saying "no one can make you talk" and "depending on what you say I may sue you too", "I'm going to get a copy of that interview with the DA's office and you better hope you didn't say anything about the f***ing sex stuff Shande", "keep your f***ing mouth shut", etc.
He began to come to the gym I attend, at the times he knows that I went in an attempt to intimidate and cause me great fear (in an effort to silence me like he had done for so many years).
I learned that the DA's office ONLY prosecutes 3-4% of DV cases sent to them for review. I learned that, "We believe you, but one juror could think that you were at his house voluntarily so WE could lose".
I found myself thinking, "what defines a "win" to you? Because if 11 people send the message to S that what he did was against the law, then that's a "win" for me and sends the RIGHT message to all abusers: "You abuse another person, and you WILL be held accountable".
After all, isn't the system there to protect the victims? To hold someone who commits a crime accountable? The DA's office chooses to file only the cases they believe with all certainty that they will "win". Imagine never playing a game because you might not "win", never getting married because you may get divorced, never flying in an airplane because it may crash.
It appears that for the DA's office, filing charges isn't about protecting victims of crimes, nor is it about doing the "right thing". It is ALL about "Will I win?" It's about them, their egos and politics vs. protecting those that are victimized and holding those that victimize accountable.
Unfortunately, many women have been killed by men who abused them AFTER the DA's office failed to file charges against their abuser. Who "won" in those cases?
Simply not trying because you can't be assured of a "win", means you've already lost in my book. No one "wins" when "doing the right thing" takes a back seat to "how will I look if I don't win?", or "What if one juror says "not guilty"?" It seems to me the focus is on the wrong person. The focus should be on the "victim" and seeking justice/protection.
I will NEVER forget being told by the DA, "S is a police Lt, he's attractive, dresses impeccable, and answers the phone, "Lt. S, can I help you?". Honestly, I thought, "wow, and that means what?", that he can't possibly be an abuser? Ironically a year and a half later I was subpoenaed to be deposed by his attorney.
I hired an attorney to represent me at the deposition and prior to the deposition he stated, "Don't wear any make up or lip gloss, or open toed shoes and (he motioned at my chest area) we need to de-emphasize that and your appearance." He felt I was too attractive to be a victim.
All I could think was, "Wow, really? You have to be kidding, I need to ugly up so I LOOK LIKE A VICTIM. I promptly informed him that I would be wearing make up AND lip gloss, and that naturally I would dress appropriately.
I will never forget how it felt to be with and abused by S during our relationship. I once asked my counselor, who happens to be a 27 year retired Police Captain, "When will I stop having nightmares and flashbacks? When will I stop crying? When will it stop hurting?"
He replied, "when you heal." I will heal, I have no idea when, however, I won't stop trying until I do. Denial and burying the pain helped me survive all forms of abuse; speaking out will help me heal.
As I use my voice and continue my efforts to heal, I will help others use their voice, report the abuse and leave their abuser. I will do whatever I can do to bring attention to all forms of abuse and help society understand who an abuser is and isn't, who a "victim" is and isn't.
I'm reminded of the first night I attended a DV group counseling session. I stood outside the door and as I grabbed for the door knob. I thought to myself, "This is dumb, I'm not like "these women", I have a career, a nice house", I walked in the room, looked around, listened to women talking, and realized I am them.
It was extremely painful and costly breaking my silence. It cost me thousands and thousands of dollars because once the DA's office didn't file charges, S came after me with a new sense of empowerment and vengeance. He wanted to get back at me for calling the police and not dropping the charges, and for not remaining silent as he instructed me to do.
I accept my responsibility for being abused by S because I chose to stay, year after year. I was so afraid of him, and still am, but I loved him to the extent that I knew what "love" was.
As painful as it was to finally call the police and do the right thing, it was equally painful to be "re-victimized" by a "system" that I thought was there to protect "victims" and prosecute those that abused them.
The system is flawed and men, women, and children are dying at the hands of abusers who are not being held accountable for their actions. I will do whatever I can to help mend the "system" because I don't want to see anyone else have to go through what I have.
I know what happened on August 17, 2008 and my version of the events never changed, the truth never does. HOWEVER, I NEVER GOT "MY DAY IN COURT".
Victims are afraid to come forward, they are afraid of their abuser and what he/she will do to them for calling the police or trying to leave them. They are afraid the system won't hold the abuser accountable, they are ashamed and embarrassed for staying with their abuser.
Sadly many children, women, and men live silently with the abuse because they are afraid, not just of their abuser, but of a system that turns on the victim in abuse cases.
This flawed system is partly responsible for the huge increase of abuse. Abusers are NOT being held accountable for their actions, hence, there is no need for them to stop abusing because there are no consequences.
First the victims say, "It's okay, I'll cover for and stay with you", then IF they get the strength to do the "right" thing, the system doesn't help them.
Yet the victims are asked "Why didn't you call and report the abuse? "Really?" Don't think for a minute that victims of abuse (be it physical, sexual - molest/rape) aren't receiving the same message abusers are, so why should they get the abuser even more angry.
Why embarrass themselves by inviting others into their personal life/hell? So others can judge them for staying and the system can walk away leaving them more vulnerable then before... again, "Really"?
Victims are beaten down, torn down and afraid of their abusers. They feel embarrassed, humiliated, stupid for staying with their abuser. Then one day, they take that brave and courageous step and call the police. THEN the DA's office steps in and begins the mission of asking them why they stayed?
We can fill in the rest of that,"....stupid idiot", "Who stays with someone who abuses them? Our abusers called us stupid and honestly, I suspect most are like me and they believed it. After all, I stayed. So, sorry we thought it before you pointed it out, but thanks!
The DA investigator asks what I did or said, as if somehow we deserved the abuse. Then society and even family and friends judge with statements like, "Why would you stay with him/her?" I didn't have an answer for that back then. I felt so incredibly judged.
DV relationships are as addictive as smoking cigarettes, eating to excess, drinking to excess, using heroin, etc, the only difference is the drug.
WE KNOW he (or she) shouldn't be hitting us or sexually abusing us, WE KNOW it hurts us terribly, BUT we need it and until WE hit rock bottom we will never figure out why we stayed, so don't ask. It sounds very judgmental and that's the LAST thing we need after we finally get the courage to call the police.
I am moving forward, recognizing that everything in life is purposeful, I am 3/4 the way done with my book, "No Longer Silent" (It will be published). I purchased the website "NoLongerSilent.com" (which will be an interactive website to help other victims, and abusers break their silence, get help, and stop the cycle of abuse. There will be links, stories, laws, etc.
I was silent for FAR TOO MANY YEARS, I will NEVER be silenced again. Now it's time for me to give back and work for the greater good for abuse victims.
If we are ever to see abuse come to an end then we MUST stop all abuse of children, for they become the next generation of abusers or victims.
We MUST hold those that abuse accountable for their actions, and we must seek to understand why abuse happens, who abusers and victims are WITHOUT JUDGMENTS that only serve to keep people confined in a house of pain and silence, and WE MUST USE OUR VOICES AND BREAK THE SILENCE.
Our system MUST stop turning abuse crimes onto the victims. STOP asking children who have been molested if they know the difference between a lie and the truth? To a child, that question feels like you think they are lying.
STOP asking the woman who has been raped, "What were you wearing?", "Did you drink alcohol?" These questions make her feel like she got what she deserved. STOP asking the victim of abuse, "What did you do or say to make him or her abuse you?", "Why did you stay?", etc.
Would anyone ask the man who reports that his home had been burglarized and his TV and computer stolen if he left his door unlocked? Implying, "Well, what did you think would happen?", like it's his fault he was the victim of a crime.
Would you ask the man who was robbed at the ATM machine if he held his money in plain view so the robber could see his cash, implying that it was his fault he was robbed because he let the robber see he had cash?
WE NEED TO STOP TURNING CRIMES OF ABUSE AGAINST THE VICTIMS.
If my coming out and breaking the silence helps even one person break their silence, then the abuse I sustained will have been worth it.
Dear Shand'e, I could not agree with you more. DV (domestic violence) is a huge problem, and it seems to be getting worse. Unfortunately, your story is not unique. I am aware of women who have been physically threatened to the point of death, and yet the DA's office made the decision not to prosecute.
It is so unfortunate, but until lawmakers take this as a serious threat to society, we will continue to hear horror stories like the one I received from Andria in "The Face Of Domestic Violence".
These stories are repeated all too often; unfortunately they are not out of the ordinary. Women and men alike can be traumatized by domestic violence.
I applaud you for your courage, Shand'e. You're a survivor, as I describe in "The Power Of Hope"
. Never be silent, never.
Best luck on your book; it's one that needs to be read by everyone. You are truly a success story, please keep me posted.