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Special stories or pieces that tug at the heart will be found on this page.

FREE TO BE

by:  Joyce A. Anthony

 

          I can’t stand half-open doors or the smell of Old Spice.  These things trigger a feeling of danger deep inside, an unbidden reaction to events of long ago. 

          My dad wanted  to play hide-and seek but there were special rules--if you were found, you had to take off your clothes.  I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want him to get mad---I knew what that belt felt like.  He hid behind a door and stripped. That first time, he made me touch him and he touched me.  He said if I told he would kill me---I believed him.  I was four.

          This  continued for over a year.   The abuse got worse as time went on and before long, he was raping me on a regular basis.  Even when other people were around, he’d find ways to touch me--and there was always the threat.  Eventually, he decided it was time to include my younger sister in “our game” and this gave me the courage to tell.   I had always protected my sisters from the yelling and beatings.  I’d keep them safe when our parents were fighting and I had to keep her safe now.

          My mother made him leave then--but let him come back to visit sometimes.  I couldn’t sleep those nights.  He didn’t touch me again, but I was so afraid.  When I was ten he remarried and his visits stopped.    My mother said he was gone and now I could “get over it”.  I felt like I was “bad” because I kept thinking about him hurting me.  I kept my thoughts and feelings inside and never mentioned it again.

          It was at that time I started going to the library every day.  I found books that talked about other people being hurt.  I found out I wasn’t the only one and I wasn’t bad.  I started to hate him.  I was so angry, yet I was scared.  I couldn’t talk to boys my age and I cried every time a man raised his voice in anger.    While other girls started dating, I hid in my books.  Boys would hurt me and make me do things that hurt. 

          At twenty-six, I finally allowed a man in my life. The relationship wasn’t a good one, but I learned a lot from it.  I started to realize that anger was okay--mine and other’s.  I learned that a relationship doesn’t have to hurt.  I started to open up and trust.  That relationship ended and I found myself more willing to enter another one eventually--then something wonderful happened.

          My hatred started to fade and forgiveness started to seep in.  I came to realize that this man was not evil, just sick. He was wrong, but in his mind he could not see it.  I could not hate someone who was sick--yet I couldn’t love a man who had hurt me so much.  As the hatred drained away, I became free.  I learned how wonderful it was to love and be loved.  For the first time in my life, I learned I was worthy of this love.

          I will probably always dislike half-open doors and Old Spice, but I am luckier than many who have been victims of someone else’s warped view of right and wrong.  Hatred kept me chained to him.  Allowing forgiveness to replace this has healed me--maybe not completely, but enough to be happy, enough to be loved, enough to be a woman of strength and not a child of fear.

How was your day?

Terre

I have a wonderful friend who came over for a visit. When my friend asked me, "How was your day?" I began to answer, then veered off the subject. I had been dealing with past memories and I didn’t think that would be very interesting. The question came again. "You were telling me about your day."

How many times do we ask that question and are relieved when the person answers us with a quick, "It was all right." Usually we don’t press for anymore than that.

Years ago, I hated it when anyone asked how I was, or what had happened.

I remember a purple dress. It was short and my husband loved it on me. He made me promise to wear it only when we could be together. The opportunity came up when he asked me to a concert. He said that he had the evening off and would not be working that night. I figured what better way to show him that I wanted to be with him, so I decided my purple dress would be perfect. Since we both worked at the same place, I changed from my work uniform into his favorite dress. I couldn’t wait to surprise him.

When he saw me, he was immediately angry. He had decided to stay on at work and did not have time to be with me. He didn’t care that he had promised to take the evening off and be with me. Once again, I was at fault. Apparently, I should have known he was going to change his mind.

I sat at a table with his brother and sister-in-law, because that’s where he wanted me to sit. After the concert, I watched the people coming and going while I waited for him to sign out of work.

I remember going home, feeling his anger. He stopped at the local liqueur store to buy some beer and a bottle of whiskey. When we got home, he already had some of the alcohol in his system, and he began to accuse me of adultery. That I broke my promise to wear that dress only for him. As he continued to drink, I went upstairs. I didn’t want an argument and he would probably pass out on the sofa anyway.

He didn’t. Later he came upstairs and cornered me as I had come into the hall.

His way of confronting me was to get as close as he could, and yell in my face. I had no place to go. He blocked the bedroom door, and I couldn’t get past to go downstairs. He kept yelling at me and accusing me of being unfaithful. While he ranted and raved, he poured some of his whiskey over my head. I remember the alcohol was running into my eyes, and with contact lenses, it caused them to burn as if they were on fire.

I was in a corner, no where to go, so I got down to the floor, and tried to be small. My hands covered my face so he couldn’t hurt me there. That’s when he began to kick me. He kicked me and kicked me, while accusing me of everything and anything that came to his mind. I soon lost count of the number of times his foot struck me. I just wanted it to end.

Finally, he did quit. I lay on the floor, crying, as he walked away. Willing my body to move, but there was so much pain. Somehow, I managed to make it to bed. Too drained to cry anymore, I lay there, wishing I never had that purple dress. I wanted things to be right between us, but I always messed up. Did the wrong things, said the wrong things. God, I thought, I wish I was dead.

The next morning when I woke, I couldn’t move my leg without a lot of pain. I limped to the kitchen for some aspirin, hoping to avoid him, but instead he was there, drinking his coffee.

When he saw me, he asked, "What happened to you?"

"Don’t you remember?" I asked. "You did this."

Of course, he didn’t remember. He was drunk. And yes, he said he was sorry. Then he told me that I should not have worn that dress in the first place. That I should have known better.

Because I couldn’t walk very well, I needed to take a few days off work. Without thinking, I stupidly wore shorts and the big bruise spot showed. My boss asked me what happened and of course I told her that I ran into something.

She said it must have been pretty big and I must have hit it really hard for it to leave a mark like that. I agreed and quickly limped out of her office. I couldn’t admit what happened. I felt shame, guilt and fear.

Years have passed since then and we have gone our separate ways. Thank God. To date, I have a purple night shirt that I wear to bed. It’s longer then my dress, but sometimes it takes me back to that time in my thoughts.

The song by P.O.D., Alive, is what runs through my mind now and if I close my eyes, I can see the video. The words flow through my mind, "I feel so alive for the very first time. I can’t deny, You. I feel so alive for the very first time and I think I could fly."

Music is my safe house. When those thoughts and memories come, I crank up the Christian Rock music and allow it to take me away. The beginning of the song states it best, "Every day is a new day, I’m thankful for every breath I take. I won’t take You for granted, so I learn from my mistakes. It’s beyond my control, sometimes I got to let go, whatever happens in my life time."

That is what I strive to do each day. I owe this group, P.O.D or Payable on Death, so much. If it wasn’t for their words and music, I don’t know where my life might be. I wonder if they know how many lives they have reached or touched? Sometime, I would like to meet them, to tell them my story.

If it doesn’t happen in this lifetime, then in the next they will know.

This man and I are no longer together. I gave three years of my life to live with him, and about that many more during our separation. Things would get good between us, then they would take five steps back. He would give me money, then ask for it back. I got fed up and one night I called out to God for an answer. I told Him that I wanted a sign.

"You tell me if You want this marriage to continue. Tell me if he’s ever going to change. And make it so clear to me, that I will never doubt what you show me or ask You again."

That was what I told God and in return, God showed me hell. This guy showed up at my house. I had curtains separating my bedroom from the living room and they were closed. When he saw that, he walked right past the kids, almost ripping the curtains down from where they hung. He then went from that room to the next, until every room in my house had been searched. Then he came back and asked, "Where are the kids?" I told him that he walked right past them when he came in. I asked him if he was looking for a man and he said that he was.

But my story, or sign, doesn’t quit there. God made His answer clear.

This man told me that he would kill anyone he saw or found talking to me. I told him that most of my neighbors were old and married. Was he going to kill them as well? He replied that I never said hi to anyone before, why would I do it now. And yes, he would kill them.

Right then, I knew that God had given me the sign I’d asked for. It was never going to get better. He was never going to change.

I knew God was going to protect me, and He has never disappointed me. The Father God has taken me through many trials and fires, but I know I can trust Him and I am never alone.

      The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is so much finer than people care to think.  People abuse animals for the same reasons they abuse people. Often cruelty to animals is a precursor to cruelty to humans.

                Now consider those that are being abused and having to witness abuse/cruelty to their family pets.  Every year 2 million women, conservatively, are abused.  Many of these women have pets and are sometimes forced to watch their beloved pet physically or sexually abused.  The pet is used to manipulate the women’s emotions.  She may stay in the situation longer due to her concern for her pet or pets.  The pet may be the only source of emotional support or unconditional love that the abused gets.

                There are shelters for the women and children but no safe place for the animals.  In Eugene , OR the Greenhill Humane Society started a program in 1997.  A domestic violence survivor approached them regarding the fact that she stayed in an abusive marriage for 2 years because she had no safe place for her cats.  This lady went to the Director who was also looking for a way to help abuse victims and their pets.  From this meeting a program was developed that is rather extensive.  Any size pet is accepted, even horses.

                The LINK Coalition is sponsored by the SPCA of Texas and they seek to educate the public on how to recognize the cycle of abuse and how to report it.  The SPCA also sponsors Pet Haven which assists families victimized by domestic violence and also those disrupted by natural disasters.

                20 years ago there were no shelters for battered women and today there are over 2,000 programs designed to assist victims of domestic violence.  With increased public awareness of the connection between abuse of people and abuse of animals, perhaps more of these types of programs will be able to extend their protection to include the pets of these families in turmoil.

 

                There is also a program called PAWS (Pets and Women to Safety) which is an in-shelter program that uses volunteer homes temporarily to foster pets for victims in the shelter. This is in Maine and they have an Animal Welfare Society that is doing something about the abuse in their county. It is made up of organizations that help prevent and alleviate violence in some form.  This issue will not go away until we all actively start preventing it.

                According to their website (www.animalwelfaresociety.org) animals are abused in 88% of the families where violence is an issue. Violence and neglect is a worldwide concern and all of us need to be concerned with resolving or preventing the problem in the first place.

                We need to speak for the victims that can’t or are too afraid to speak for themselves. This issue should make us angry and make us want to shout from the rooftops that we will not tolerate any more abuse of  our fellow human beings or animals!!

 

                Maine is the first in the nation to consider pets in domestic abuse cases. Per a newspaper report on April 11, 2006 and spurred by the growing evidence of a link between domestic violence and animal abuse, Maine has enacted a first-in-the-nation law that allows judges to include pets in protection orders for spouses leaving abusive relationships.  In helping the pets involved, advocates are hoping to help those that aren’t willing to abandon their animals to get out.

                The legislators cited a study that found that 71% of pet-owning women in a Utah shelter said their abusers had either harmed, killed or threatened their pets.   Maine ’s new law may be unique but other states have statutes that reflect the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.  There are currently laws in California , Connecticut , Louisiana , Nebraska , Ohio and Tennessee that encourage cross-reporting among all agencies involved in law enforcement, domestic violence, child protection and animal control.

                From this is where the growing trend for safe havens for families and pets is coming from.  These havens cover all animals from cats and dogs to farm animals and exotic birds.

 

                According to a study done by Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D. of Utah State University , originally published in Journal of Emotional Abuse , Vol. 1 (1) 1998, 71% of the women with pets reported that their male partner had threatened to kill or hurt and/or actually killed or hurt one or more of their pets.  Examples include threats to put a kitten in the blender, bury a cat up to its head and “mow” over it, starve a dog, and shoot and kill a cat. Actual harm or killing of animals was reported by 57% of the women with pets and included acts of omission but most often acts of violence.  Examples included slapping, shaking, throwing, or shooting cats and dogs, drowning a cat in the bathtub, and pouring lighter fluid on a kitten and igniting it. 

                18% of the women with pets reported concern for their animals’ welfare had prevented them from coming to the shelter sooner.  Their concerns included worries for the animals’ safety, fear of relinquishing pets to find affordable housing, placing pets with neighbors, and abandoning a pet to keep it away from the partner.

                If this doesn’t make you mad and sick to your stomach I don’t know what will. This is an atrocity that should not be tolerated.  It makes me want to contact my local and state government and make them help us to put a stop to this unnecessary evil that we condone by remaining quiet. Just remember a saying I use often, “Silence is approval”.

 

Kris Barton

This is an article from the Naiser Network.Org Newsletter.
Wings would like to thank Mike (theauthormike), for this piece.
 
Violence Against Women Fueling Spread of HIV Worldwide,
Undermining Prevention Efforts, Advocates Say

Violence against women worldwide is fueling the spread of HIV in
the population, and unwillingness among some governments to
acknowledge the issue will continue to undermine prevention and
education efforts, advocates said this week at the World Social Forum
in Nairobi, Kenya, Inter Press Service reports. "Violence is largely
a cause of HIV infection among many women; violence in the homes and
in the streets, violence everywhere," Ludfine Anyango, the national
HIV/AIDS coordinator at Action Kenya-International , said. Anyango
also discussed women's inability to negotiate condom use with their
partners, which puts them at an increased risk of HIV
transmission. "Many cannot ask their husbands to use a condom
because, in addition to being thought as unfaithful, they fear being
beaten," Anyango said, adding, "The woman then has no choice but to
continue having unprotected sex with her spouse." Violence against
commercial sex workers also is an issue, according to Ros Sokunthy of
the Cambodia-based Womyn's Agenda for Change, which promotes the
rights of women and female sex workers. "A sex worker negotiates with
one man," Sokunthy said, adding, "When she gets to the venue she
finds more than one man, and they all want to have sex with her. When
she refuses, she is beaten or raped." In addition, WSF participants
discussed how some husbands beat their wives if they discover that
they visited HIV/AIDS voluntary testing and counseling centers. "This
fear discourages many women from knowing their HIV status and thus
continue having unprotected sex with their spouses," Mary Watiti -- a
counselor at a testing clinic in Kibera, Kenya -- said. According to
Inter Press Service, these issues have renewed calls for laws to
address all forms of violence against women, as well as
implementation of laws in countries where such legislation exists.
Male involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS also is important,
advocates said. According to experts, men seem to fear HIV/AIDS
stigma more than women do and, as a result, avoid HIV testing
clinics. "As long as our men are not part of the war, then we should
forget about ending HIV/AIDS infection and the violence that comes
with it," Lilian Musang'u, a WSF participant from Malawi, said
(Mulama, Inter Press Service, 1/24).

EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ ALL OF THIS &
HAVE YOUR CHILDREN READ IT TOO!



After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to grab a snack and get on-line . She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. She checked her Buddy List and saw GoTo123 was on.
She sent him an instant message:

ByAngel213:
Hi. I'm glad you are on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!


GoTo123:
LOL You watch too much TV. Why would someone be following you? Don't you live in a safe
neighborhood?

ByAngel213:
Of course I do. LOL I guess it was my imagination cuz' I didn't see anybody when I looked out.

GoTo123:
Unless you gave your name out on-line. You haven't done that have you?

ByAngel213:
Of course not. I'm not stupid you know.

GoTo123:
Did you have a softball game after school today?

ByAngel213:
Yes and we won!!

GoTo123:
That's great! Who did you play?

ByAngel213:
We played the Hornets. LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They look like bees. LOL

GoTo123:
What is your team called?

ByAngel213:
We are the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They are really cool.

GoTo123:
Did you pitch?

ByAngel213:
No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me. Bye!

GoTo123:
Catch you later. Bye


Meanwhile... .

GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.

Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1985
Age: 13
State where she lived: North Carolina
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating & going to the mall. Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she had just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 p.m. every afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team, and the team was named the Canton Cats.

Her favorite number 7 was printed on her jersey.
He knew she was in the eighth grade at the Canton Jr. High School . She had told him all this in the conversations they had on- line. He had enough information to find her now.


Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ballpark that day. She didn't want them to make a scene & stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting & hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers & sisters, her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.

By Thursday, Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her. Her game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely.

He was leaning against the fence behind first base & he smiled when she looked at him. He didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the sudden fear she had felt.

After the game, he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she walked past him. He nodded & she smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had found her.

Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind her. It was only a few blocks to Shannon's home, & once he saw where she lived, he quickly returned to the park to get his car .

Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon's house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move..

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room.

"Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset & she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa.

"Sit down," her father began, "this man has just told us a most interesting story about you."

Shannon sat back. How could he tell her parents anything?
She had never seen him before today!

"Do you know who I am, Shannon?" the man asked..

"No," Shannon answered.

"I am a police officer and your online friend,
GoTo123."

Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! GoTo123 is a kid my age! He's 14 And he lives in Michigan!"

The man smiled. "I know I told you all that, but it wasn't true.
You see, Shannon, there are people on-line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to injure kids & hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to teach you how dangerous it is to talk to people on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. You named the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze."

Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan?"

He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn't it?"

She nodded.

"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky. The guy found her & murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line. The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and there on-line.
Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you've learned a lesson from this and won't do it again. Tell others about this so they will be safe too?"

"It's a promise!"

That night Shannon and her Dad and Mom all knelt down together and thanked God for protecting Shannon from what could have been a tragic situation.

There is an event designed for women to celebrate being out after dark. It's called 'Take Back the Night'. The following poem was written for that event.
 
 
Tonight is Take Back The Night, and I wanted to share somethign I
wrote in honor of the event:

Candle light illuminates the shadows.
Determination overrides fear.
Victims become survivors.
Smiles balance tears.
A message is made clear.

We will not be trapped in our houses by darkness or fear.
We will not be kept silent by threats or even violence.
We will not be kept isolated and alone.
We will join together- sharing our stories, pain and strength.
We will take back our freedom. We will take back the night.

Copyright 2007 by WINGS
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