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Her Name Was Susan Cox Powell

Her name was Susan Cox Powell.

We went to high school together.  Though we didn’t know one another very well, we had a lot of mutual friends.  I remember her as someone who was gracious, intelligent, and kind.  Susan had a beautiful smile.  She disappeared in 2009.  Interviews with Susan’s friends have shown that her relationship with her husband was abusive.  He shoved her, slapped her, wouldn’t allow her to buy groceries for the family, and locked her out of the house.   Her father-in-law had a disturbing obsession with her, and took voyeuristic photographs of her.  Susan left a will in a safe deposit box that said if she disappeared it “wouldn’t be an accident”.

Her sons’ names were Charlie and Braden.

They were taken on an impromptu “camping” trip at 12:30am, in the middle of a snowstorm, by their father, the night that Susan disappeared.  Three years later, Charlie and Braden had started talking about that night.  Braden drew a picture of a car with three occupants, and when he was asked about his drawing, he said “Mommy’s in the trunk”.  One year ago today, they were killed by their father, who took a hatchet to their tiny bodies before setting a fire that would ultimately kill all three.

I am convinced that Susan’s husband killed her.  I am convinced that we will likely never find her, her friends and family will probably never have closure.  I am convinced that we should learn from this, that we should be tireless advocates for those who are abused by their partners.

  • Intimate partner homicides account for 30% of all deaths of women.
  • Everyday, in the US, three women are murdered by their partner.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.

It is easy to think that you are smarter than a woman in an abusive relationship.  It is easy, to look at the situation, and think “she should have left him”.  In reality, it is incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you have children.  It is common for abusive partners to use children as a way to get their partner to stay in the abusive relationship.  According to her will, Susan’s husband told her that he would “destroy” her if she tried to leave him.

It is hard to be the friend or family member of someone who is in an abusive relationship.  It is hard not to have those thoughts.  It is hard to watch someone’s personality deteriorate in the face of abuse.  It is hard to be supportive, to lend an ear, to watch your friend or family member walk back into the home they share with their abusive partner.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some very helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship.

Since the National Domestic Violence Hotline was established, domestic violence and intimate partner homicide has taken a drastic downward turn.  The Hotline is funded by the Violence Against Women Act.  The VAWA is currently being debated by our nation’s elected leaders, and it may not be re-authorized.  This would be an unspeakable tragedy.  Please, write to your senator, write to your congressional representative.  Tell them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Her name was Susan Cox Powell.

Her sons were Charlie and Braden.

I am burning a candle in their memory today.

I am also emailing my representatives, in their memory, to try and make sure that other women in her situation have the resources necessary to leave abusive relationships.

 

Edit: For those of you who would like a form letter, please see the one I have drafted below.

Dear Senator/Representative/Congresswoman/Congressman   ,

I am writing you today in memory of  Susan Cox Powell, and her sons, Charlie and Braden, to urge you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

This act provides the funding necessary to assist women who are in domestic violence situations, and since its inception in 1994, the number of domestic violence incidences have decreased dramatically.

Decreasing domestic violence is not a partisan issue.

Sincerely,

Some Blogs I Follow

Good afternoon everyone!  I’ve been busy reading books to review for you all on Nice Girls, and I thought that in the meantime, I would share some of the fantastic blogs I follow.

For reading up on feminist issues, these are my top four:

Patriarchy Survivor.  This blog comes from a Facebook page I follow: No, I will NOT be quiet.  This blog has a lot of submitted personal stories, and some of them may be triggering to anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence.

Make Me a Sammich.  The author describes this as “a place to read and talk about being a woman in the USA in the 21st century.”  It’s a great description, and she recently started posting some pretty awesome fiction!

Another Angry Woman describes her blog as “Part anarchist. Part feminist. All angry.”

Damn Right I’m a Feminist has shorter posts, mostly about current news articles and some fantastic quotes.  Don’t miss her Sexist Song of the Day posts.

For some reading that is a little lighter in topic and tone (in other words, you’re much less likely to read something that will make you angry), check out these blogs.

Sex Lives of Moms has some occasionally hilarious posts, but offers advice and commiseration for those awesome moms who are struggling with regaining intimacy with significant others.

Online Dating – Why I’ll Soon Be a Crazy Cat Lady always cracks me up.  If you’ve ever tried to find the genuinely good guys in the cesspool that is online dating, you will probably recognize your experiences in her blog.

 

Tomorrow’s post will be a review of Sex at Dawn!

Grace’s Diary

Thanks to a tip from one of my dear friends, I found out about Grace’s Diary, a beautifully drawn point and click game.  But this isn’t your ordinary game.

Grace’s Diary is a visual novel with easy gameplay, but this game has a purpose.  Grace is concerned about her friend Natalie and Natalie’s relationship with her boyfriend, Ken.  Grace has decided that she should call Natalie and voice her concerns, but Grace needs to write down the behaviors that concerned her.

As Grace, you explore your own room for reminders of times that Ken or Natalie have acted in strange ways.  If you find all of the evidence, and you navigate your conversation with Natalie successfully, there is a happy ending.

Although I think some of the gameplay is a little clunky (there is one piece that is particularly difficult to find, and I had to use a walkthrough to find it) and some of the dialogue could use some work,  there is no doubt that Grace’s Diary is a great game.  You can find Grace’s Diary on the Amazon App store here, and it is free.

Don’t Cover it Up

Take a moment and watch the video embedded above.  Go ahead.  I’ll be right here when you’re done. Read the rest of this entry

I am a Feminist. Are You?

Oooh, that scary F-word.  It breaks my heart to hear women say something supporting women’s rights, and then say “oh, but I’m not a feminist”, or, even worse “but don’t get me wrong, I’m not a feminazi”.  There is a misconception that being a feminist means that you preemptively hate all men, that you are angry about feminist issues all the time, that you want to scream to the heavens as you burn your bra and declare that all sex between men and women is rape.

I don’t hate men.  On the contrary, between my dad, boyfriend, and some of the lovely men I have the privilege to call my friends, I think that it can safely be said that I love men.  I have surrounded myself with shining examples of men who are loving, kind, and treat everyone with the respect they deserve.

I am a feminist because

  • I believe that I deserve to be paid the same amount as a man who has been doing the same job as I have for the same period of time.
  • I believe that I deserve access to medically accurate information regarding my sexual health.
  • I believe that I deserve to have my contraception covered by my health insurance, just like I deserve to have a broken bone covered.
  • I believe that I have the ability to decide my own sexual partner or partners, and that derogatory terms for my sexuality qualify as verbal assault.
  • I believe that I and my partner are the only ones who are responsible for deciding when I have a child, if ever.
  • I believe that I deserve to walk down the street without being harassed.
  • I believe that I have the right to decide my place in society.  If I and my partner decide that I should be a housewife, then that should be acceptable and supported.  If I decide to be the CEO of an international corporation and earn that title, then that should be accepted and supported.
  • I believe that teaching women how to “not get raped” instead of teaching everyone “don’t rape” is a failure of our society.
  • I believe that women and men are raped, abused, and exploited.  I believe that this is a tragedy that is also a failure of our society.
  • I believe that “look at what she was wearing”, “how much alcohol did she drink?”, and “well, she should take responsibility for putting herself in a bad situation”, are classic examples of rape culture, and these phrases should be removed from any discourse.
  • I believe that books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey normalize and romanticize abusive and controlling relationships.  I believe that holding these up as “romantic ideals” for young women creates a generation of victims.
  • I believe that the cult of virginity is toxic.
  • I believe that I have the right to expect that I am treated with respect, and that my stated boundaries are honored.
  • I believe that everyone should have the right to get married, no matter what their sexual orientation may be.

These are just a few of the reasons that I am a feminist.  Do you consider yourself a feminist?  Do you agree with my reasons, or have a few of your own to add?

Ten Dirty Little Secrets: A Response

One of my favorite fellow bloggers had a recent post titled “Ten Dirty Little Secrets She’s Not Telling You“.  Carolina was responding to male bloggers claims of how “deceitful” women are in relationships, by claiming that yes, women are deceitful and are hiding things from you or outright lying to their partners.

While her generalizations are true for a lot of young women, once you reach 25 or so, these really should no longer apply to you.  Most of these are more about a lack of maturity than anything else.  I am going to respond to these, line by line.

1.  She tells her girlfriends everything, including what you’re like in bed, and how big you are. You would cringe if you knew the juicy personal details about you she’s blabbing everywhere she goes.

Again, this is something that is typical of young women who are in their first few relationships.  I know that I did this for years.  I eventually realized that this undermines the intimacy of my relationship.  My girlfriends and I talk, but as I have positioned myself as a sexpert, I have kind of invited that into my life. We vent to each other only when we are not being heard by our partners, or we know that we’re talking about something trivial and don’t want to bother our partners with the fact that they put the toilet paper on the dispenser the wrong way. We feel better afterwards, but if any of us is having a real problem, then we talk about it with our partner, not our girl friends.

2.   She really doesn’t like to go camping, hiking, parachuting, bungee cord jumping, white water rafting, hunting, mountain climbing, etc. She only says she does to make you think you have things in common.

I absolutely love to go hiking and camping.  When you live in an urban environment, going out into nature feels almost magical, and is a welcome respite from the hustle, the bustle, the feeling that everything around you never stops.  Boyfriend loves to do these things too, but right now, his knee injury prevents us from doing a lot of these things.  At one point, I dated a guy who loved to do indoor rock climbing.  I went with him once, but I quickly figured out that it wasn’t for me, and declined further invitations to go climbing.  You should never feel pressure to lie about your interests so that you make yourself more appealing to a partner.  If you begin a relationship by lying to your partner about “shared” interests, you won’t be able to keep up the lie for long, and the relationship will end in resentment.

3.   She doesn’t like most sports—not to watch it—and certainly not to play it.

Again, I feel that this is a gross generalization.  I know of so many women who love to watch sports!  I have several girl friends who have season tickets to the SF Giants, or follow a particular sports team religiously.  I, personally, LOVE football.  I grew up in the Denver area, and my grandpa has amazing season tickets.  Going to see a Broncos game with my grandpa was a special treat, and it translated into a love for the game.  In fact, Boyfriend and I recently attended an arena football game (Go, Sabercats!), and he was completely unprepared for how excited and LOUD I became over the course of the game.  I played softball as a kid, and have considered joining a co-ed adult team here in San Francisco because of how much I enjoyed it as a kid.  It’s actually a little sexist to assume that all girls dislike sports.

4.   She doesn’t like giving BJs.

I certainly know quite a few women who hate performing fellatio.  For me, due to issues that I have with my jaw, it can actually be physically painful.  However, that is not to say that I hate pleasing a partner in that way.  In fact, it can make me feel kind of powerful, and I know that a lot of my girl friends feel the same way.  There’s almost a feeling of, “Look what I can make you do! *insert evil laugh*”.  It is sexy to feel that you are pleasing your partner.

5.   She’s all lovey-dovey with you, but when you’re not around she’s complaining about you–to everyone. (And it isn’t just family and friends. It’s hair stylists, manicurists, bank clerks, cashiers, that guy who works at Home Depot, neighbors, waitresses, co-workers, everyone.)

This is like the first item in the list, but it goes even further.  Complaining to strangers about your relationship exhibits some serious insecurity, and those strangers are probably thinking, “Wow, this person is completely unstable.”  Unless you have a previously established friendship with that person that includes sharing intimate details, then talking badly about your relationship to strangers shows a lack of respect for yourself, your partner, and your relationship.  If you are doing this with acquaintances, then they are probably wondering what you are saying about them behind their backs.

6.   She fakes it—a lot.

This is, of course, speaking about orgasms.  Ladies, if you are at a point where you are faking orgasms at all, then you are doing your partner a serious disservice.  Think of how betrayed and insecure he or she will feel to find out that even though they thought they were a great lover and a giving partner, they have not satisfied you in the least, and you felt the need to lie to them about it.  That’s really what faking an orgasm is, you know.  It is lying, pure and simple.  It is up to you to teach your partner the things that make you feel good, because no one is a mind-reader.  Learn to communicate your expectations and desires instead of expecting your partner to magically “know” what you like.  Unless your partner has some serious insecurity issues, he or she will be happy to oblige and may actually thank you for helping them become a better lover.

7.   She can’t stand your buddies, thinks they are a bad influence, and would like to remove them from your life.

This one is also disturbing to me.  Unless your partner’s friends are actively encouraging illegal behavior, or things that will undermine your relationship (like cheating), or they are disrespectful to you, then it is best to just accept that these people are a part of your partner’s life, and have helped shape them into the person you know and love.  If you don’t like particular people in your partner’s life, then excuse yourself from events that these people are going to attend.  But don’t try to change your partner’s friends.  That is controlling behavior and he or she will resent you for being so negative about people that are important to your partner.

8.   She got into the relationship with you for your potential. She thinks you need improving and she’s going to fix you.

This kind of thinking is poisonous.  A person is not a project, and you should never decide to get into a relationship with the end goal of molding that person into some lofty ideal.  No one is perfect, and while it is good to encourage your partner, you should love them for who they are, not who you want them to be.

9.   She’s keeping a close eye on you. She uncovers intel on you with an efficiency that would
make James Bond envious. She snoops through your cell phone, email, glove compartment, Facebook, and anything else she can get her hands on. She will drive past your house late at night to make sure your car is there and someone else’s isn’t.

Oh, and her girlfriends are watching your ass, too, and they’re gonna rat you out.

This speaks more to your insecurity than anything else.  If you are snooping through your partner’s things, you are GROSSLY violating his or her privacy, and that is just not okay.  How would you feel if you found your partner looking through your text messages, or found out that he or she had figured out your passwords to your Facebook or email, and had gone through everything?  You would feel angry and violated.  If you are feeling the need to do this, then you need to spend some time with a therapist and figure out why you have trust issues, and why you feel that it is “okay” to completely violate personal space and boundaries.  Seriously, acting this way speaks of some serious issues, and you should see a professional about it.

10. She may be your sweet innocent angelic ‘lil Pookie Wookie Wookums. But, if you do her wrong—like lie your ass off or cheat—she’s going to turn into a snarling, fire-breathing, vengeance seeking handmaiden of Satan.

Yeah, pretty much.

Song Review: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you have heard the song “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. In case you haven’t yet heard the song, please listen to this cover version by Walk Off The Earth that I think is better than the original.

Once you’ve gotten over the wow factor of five people playing the same guitar simultaneously, take a second to think about the song. Did the lyrics disturb you a little? They certainly disturbed me. Here is my interpretation of the message of this song.

[Male]
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

In this verse, the male is reminiscing about a former relationship. It doesn’t sound like a happy one. When you have to tell yourself that this person is right for you, despite the fact that you don’t actually enjoy being around them, it definitely ISN’T love. I’ve also never heard anyone actually say “I’m so happy I could die” in a relationship, unless they were in the honeymoon stage of an abusive cycle.

[Male]
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over

Dude, you sound depressed. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but “We can still be friends” is generally a line that one partner tells another to soften the blow of the breakup. You probably will never actually go have a beer after work and discuss your current relationships. That isn’t how things work when a bad relationship ends.

[Male]
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Aha! Now we know the real reason you wrote this song. You are angry and hurt that the line “We can still be friends” didn’t actually mean still being friends. It is normal and healthy to put some distance between yourself and a former lover when the relationship ends. Treating you like a stranger also screams that the relationship probably wasn’t a healthy one. Asking a friend to pick up your possessions is normal, and it sounds like she was probably avoiding seeing you. But the real indicator here is that she changed her phone number. Speaking from experience, that generally only happens when someone is scared of stalking, or is being harassed. Gotye, are you an abusive stalker?

[Female]
Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
Part of me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

Here it is, straight from her. When you are in an abusive relationship, you are conditioned to believe that any argument, any fight, even your partner’s bad moods are somehow your fault. It is never because your partner has mental issues, it’s because YOU did something. You are also conditioned to listen closely to the words that your partner says, because you have to be on guard for any indication of an impending abusive episode, and though you try your best to defuse it, it never works. So she left him. He probably said something along the lines of “I’m better off without you, anyway!” In reality, she’s better off without him.

Could someone please explain to me how a song that is clearly about an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend has somehow become a hit single? And WHY nearly all of my female friends are so in love with this song?

Fifty Shades of Red Flags

 

The Fifty Shades trilogy has been at the top of the NYT Bestseller list for 10 weeks now.  I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have suggested I review these books.  I’m on vacation in the Outer Banks, North Carolina right now, and I figured they’d be good for reading on the plane.  I started reading the first book at 3:30am, and knew that I probably wasn’t going to like them, as I had started cracking up laughing at the terrible writing by 3:45am.  Warning, those who have been in an abusive relationship may be triggered by the following post. Read the rest of this entry

My Story: Part 3

Part 3 of my story will cover the three years I was with my ex-husband, Jason, and the period of our divorce. You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. Just as in previous posts, all names have been changed, except my ex-husband’s name. It is a very long post, because I want my readers to know exactly what I went through. Warning: the following story may be triggering to those who have suffered through an abusive relationship. Read the rest of this entry

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