Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: Ditch That Jerk, by Pamela Jayne

This book was recommended by a student.  She had left her abusive husband about a year earlier, and since then has been reading everything she could get her hands on about domestic violence.  Not only does she strongly recommend this book, she's bought multiple copies and given them to friends who she thinks need to read it.

Really, everybody should read this book. Consider this: over 25% of all women have been, are, or will be involved with an abusive partner sometime in their lives.  Even if that person is not you, it was, is, or will be someone you know.  I often ask students if they've know anyone who's experienced abuse. Most of the time most students raise their hands. Sometimes only half the class raises their hands.  Sometimes everyone raises their hands. Even in classes for teen girls, most of them already have a friend who's experienced dating violence.

Pamela Jayne clearly depicts what abuse is, and how it is distinguished from other normal human behaviors that may be immature, petty, selfish, stubborn, or disagreeable. She points out the early warning signs, or "red flags," of abuse. She goes into great detail, with lots of real examples, of the various ploys and manipulations used by abusive men to justify, deny, or blame someone else for what they've done. And she is clear that in order for an abuser to change, they need to take full responsibility for their behavior and really want to change.

Jayne divides the world of abusive men into three camps: the potentially good, the bad, and the hopeless. While they do have a lot in common, there are several important differences that predict whether or not any given abuser may change his abusive ways. This is an important part of the book, since so many women stay with their abuser because they believe they can change him, or if only they were better girlfriends or wives he wouldn't be abusive, or even that it's their obligation to stay and not abandon him. Jayne is clear that change is very hard, the abuser has to be willing to put in a lot of work and face some very unpleasant facets of his approach to life, and that not many will change. All the willpower and good intentions and love of the wife or girlfriend won't make someone else change.

The potentially good man (who is less likely to use physical violence and usually does not have an alcohol/drug problem) may change if he realizes the emotional costs of his behavior and its impact on people he cares about, and takes responsibility for his own actions. However, those men who seem to constantly swim in chaos, who have trouble holding a job, who have substance abuse issues, and who believe they are life's victims are unlikely to change.  And those who totally lack empathy, who use violence freely, chronically lie whenever it's in his interest, and is routinely manipulative, are deemed hopeless. (Other authors, such as Martha Stout, have labeled those who fit this "hopeless" category as sociopaths.)

Ditch That Jerk is well written and easily comprehended. It is a fairly short book, and can be read thoroughly in a weekend (or several weeknights). It's very suitable for young women, including those in their late teens, who may be less certain what abuse is or what their rights in a relationship are. I highly recommend this book, whether you believe you need it or not.

What Happens When You Tackle More Than You Can Handle

You may get a broken nose.

That's what happened to this wanna-be assailant when he tackled a woman on a jogging trail.  She fought back, and he fled. Read all about it here:  http://www.10news.com/news/22074629/detail.html

A common question in my classes is what to do if you're attacked in a relatively isolated area. Many people believe that these potential assailants are a special breed of super-being who have the strength and tenacity of Wolverine with the diabolical malevolence of Freddie Kruger.

Fortunately, most assailants occupy mere mortal human bodies.  They have vulnerable points.  They are often focused on their attacks and (particularly if their target is female) not expecting you to fight back. In most cases, fighting back will succeed in driving him off. As they did here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Make Friends and Influence the State Budget

Participate in King County's Domestic Violence Lobby Day on Thursday, February 4.   Three weeks ago Governor Gregoire released her proposed budget for 2010. The good new is that funding for core DV and SA services is intact; the bad news is that there are huge cuts to many critical services that low income people, including many battered women and their children, depend on for their survival.  Come to Domestic Violence Lobby Day in Olympia and share your voice!

Lobby day begins with a briefing at 9:30am with staff from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who will give detailed information about this year's DV legislative priorities, pending legislation, talking points, and informational handouts.  They will provide packets tailored for your legislative district and include information about your legislators. WSCADV will provide a free lunch at noon. The afternoon is spent meeting with your legislators. These meetings will likely be in small groups with other DV advocates, survivors and allies who also live in your district.  Most groups wrap up their meetings with legislators between 3-4pm. (If you are unable to attend on February 4, 2010, the STATEWIDE lobby day is February 26, 2010.   Check www.wscadv.org for more information.)

HOW TO REGISTER: Register on-line at  www.wscadv.org/publicpolicy.cfm by JANUARY 18, 2010.  You MUST provide your name, legislative district, and email and phone number.