Friday, September 22, 2006

North Carolina: Women killed by abusive husband

A man in North Carolina pushed his way into a domestic violence shelter earlier this week and shot his wife to death.

You can read about John "Woody" Woodring's murder of Bonnie Woodring in this article. Along with the news report, the Asheville Citizen-Times also includes good educational material on warning signs of domestic violence and a person's rights in a relationship. This is important information. I teach in Seattle, a city with one of the most highly-educated adult populations, and I still encounter students who conflate jealousy with love or rape with passion.

Woodring's criminal history contained other instances of domestic violence, which is a prime indicator of future violence. At this time, very few abusers are effectively rehabilitated.

One more item of interest. Woodring was in graduate school studying to become a counselor. That's particularly concerning. Abusers are very often great manipulators and readily learn how to work legal and social services to further their aims.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

I'd hoped to sleep in, I didn't have to be anywhere for hours, but the phone rang. My partner asked if I'd spoken with my father yet that morning. I routinely speak with Dad on Sunday mornings, and it was only Tuesday. Then she said a plane had flown into one of the World Trade towers. Dad still lived in Brooklyn--my home town--so she was concerned for his safety.

Still barely awake, I trundled downstairs and plopped myself in front of the TV. Over the next couple of hours I was stuck there, watching replay after replay of the still barely-understood events that had happened 3 hours earlier. I didn't have breakfast or even my mandatory morning coffee til noon. Two passenger jets had each slammed into the World Trade Towers, which soon totally imploded. Another jet had crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth, and last, was apparently interrupted by passengers who ended its flight in a Pennsylvanian field. The FAA ordered all planes to land immediately.

My brother's a frequent business flyer, and I phoned him in Chicago. His fiancee assured me that he was in town and OK, but there were fears for the Sears Tower and he was somewhere in the mass migration leaving the city. I knew one friend from college had an office in one of the towers, and found out a few days later from mutual friends that she hadn't been in the building and was also OK. I phoned Dad, and didn't get him for a while. When I finally spoke with him late that afternoon I was the one who broke it to him--so close, and he hadn't heard the news. Months later my brother said he'd gone over the list of names of those missing and dead, and recognized several he'd gone to high school or college with. I still haven't brought myself to look.

Still that morning, I walked into my front yard and listened. I live between the flight paths of both SeaTac International Airport and Boeing Field, so there's always the throbbing drone of the prop planes and helicopters, and the dull distant roar of jets. This morning was quiet. Maybe the birds seemed more rambunctious as they squabbled over the feeders and flowers. It was a warm and sunny fall day, and at that moment I would have traded anything to enjoy the silence.

Joanne Factor
Sept 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sound Safety Podcast

While this blog looks at news from the perspective of your safety, Strategic Living's podcasts are about our stories. Some are great and uplifting, a few have a not-so-happy ending. Here's the first one, recorded Sept 8, 2006. This is a QuickTime file on the Strategic Living blog. You can also listen on iTunes, and even subscribe: search for Safety in Seattle News!

Sound Safety 9-8-06

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Mental Illness and Violence?

Dr. Wayne Fenton of the National Institute of Mental Health was killed by a 19 year old patient over Labor Day weekend. You can read the Washington Post's article of Sept 5, 2006.

Over the last 50 years, the number of people who connect mental illness with violence, though still a minority, has increased. Some studies suggest that the rates of domestic violence involving mentally ill adults against their family caregivers is higher than the rate of general domestic violence; or that while the vast majority of the mentally ill are no more violent than the general population, a small subset are more likely to commit more violent assaults. The question is pushed to a more public light since--like the rest of the nation since Ronald Regan's presidency--so many of Seattle's homeless are mentally ill, and so many self-defense students see them as a threat.

One of Strategic Living's core tenents is the need for accurate information to assess your real safety risk. Students in my classes almost always express concern about assault from strangers as their biggest safety fear. In fact, most assaults on women are committed by people know to them, and the risk is exacerbated with substance abuse. The same seems to be true for mentally ill assailants.

Rather than focusing on a person's label, it is more productive to look at their behavior. Some behavior keys include violating your physical space, verbal abuse, unwanted touch or staring, or trying to isolate you. Substance abuse and a fascination with guns and violence are also red flags. More women in Seattle will be assaulted in their own homes by their husbands than by homeless strangers. Homeless women are even more likely to be assaulted, also most often by significant others and acquaintances.

On a National Public Radio report about Dr. Fenton's murder, colleague Dr. Thomas Insel made it a point to say that violent acts committed by the mentally ill is highly unusual, and what is more likely is the mentally ill becoming assault victims. You can hear the interview with Dr. Insel on NPR's website.

If you would like citations for the studies mentioned, please contact Strategic Living.