This post is by a very talented writer and brave survivor, Courtney Queeney. We were moved by Courtney’s article in the New York Times “The View From the Victim Room” which detailed her experience of renewing an emergency protective order. Today, she shares with us how she saw domestic violence red flags in her past relationship.
After my ex-boyfriend punched, choked and kicked me one night, I spent a few days in shock. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten into such a relationship in the first place.
When I reflected on the span of our relationship, the red flags were glaring.
Red Flag: He pursued me for months before I eventually said yes, because after all, I’d met him through a mutual acquaintance and he was a certified yoga instructor. With those credentials he must have been safe, although I was uncomfortable as early as our second date, when he professed his love.
Red Flag: He isolated me from my friends, family, and favorite activities. At first, he was sad to see me go home; then I was staying away from him too long, depriving him of my company so I could write, look for jobs and feed my cat. If I went out with friends, he’d text during the night to tell me how much he missed me. He didn’t want me to have a job, because that would have subtracted from his time, and allowed me greater financial freedom.
Red Flag: He sulked when I didn’t want to sleep with him, like a child who had just been sent to bed without his dessert. Post-breakup, his objectification of women as sexual objects became even more disturbing in both his art and his writing. He’d written about a fantasy he had of flaying an ex so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the death threats he sent me involved him raping me, then attacking the body parts specifically identifying me as female; he didn’t, for example, want to kick me in the shins.)
Red Flag: The messages he sent after I broke up with him were even more transparently disturbing: I was clearly responsible for his behavior. Why did you provoke me? he wrote. (For the record, I had knocked on a bathroom door, worried he was going to pass out.) He wrote I’m sorry for the way things went down that night. He used the passive tense; he didn’t write: I hit you. Or: I was on drugs. Or: I choked you. Or: I kicked you. In the same message, he wrote: Can you somehow get beyond it? Please find a way to forgive me. Somehow, as a woman, it was my job to make the situation better for him.
Red Flag: He was irrationally jealous of my male friends. When I went to visit two of them for a week, he refused to get out of bed, texting me pitiful messages about how he couldn’t wait until I came home. He set his computer up so I had my own desktop, though I repeatedly told him not to bother. I later learned that monitoring someone’s computer and phone are classic red flags.
Red Flag: After he’d hurt me so badly my ER doctor kept looking at the scans of my face and repeating I can’t believe nothing is broken, I was still responsible for his weight loss, his family asking about my abrupt disappearance, his loneliness, his insomnia and panic attacks.
Red Flag: He repeatedly wrote that he couldn’t live without me. One night, he cut himself badly with a knife and couldn’t staunch the bleeding. When his incessant attempts to contact me suddenly stopped, I knew he’d acted on these threats, probably on my birthday. If he’d succeeded in his suicide attempt, it would have been the ultimate punishment: I would have to carry that guilt for the rest of my life. I don’t think he meant to succeed; it was a play for my sympathy.
I was lucky. I glossed over red flag after red flag, but when it was my relationship or my life, I chose life. I just wish I’d done it sooner.
About Our Contributor:
Courtney Queeney is the author of Filibuster to Delay a Kiss (Random House). She lives in Chicago.
One goal of our “How I See DV” campaign has been to show that people have unique views of domestic violence, specific to their community, their experiences and their own personal situation. We are proud of our many allies in the movement to end abuse, especially the work done by Casa de Esperanza, the National Latin@ Domestic Violence Resource Center whose mission is to mobilize Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence. Today we hear from Heidi Notario, Training & Technical Assistance Coordinator at Casa de Esperanza as she shares how she sees domestic violence.
I welcome each October as a great opportunity to highlight the work of culturally specific organizations in the context of ending violence against women. All of us in the anti-violence field hear about trauma-informed approaches and evidenced-based practices. These are the buzz words of our times. For some, these concepts seem new, intimidating, and out of their realm as advocates and survivors. “I’m not a researcher”- I hear time and time again.
And yet, many culturally specific organizations have historically provided services that are trauma-informed and carry strong evidence to support their efficacy. A key element to defining trauma- informed approaches relates to the way in which relationships are established between those in a supportive role, and those seeking support. These relationships are based on mutuality and respect. In these instances, helpers do not have the “expert” role as mere prescribers of services. Women and their families are not the “receivers” of such prescriptions in a passive manner. Rather, this is a fluid process where all are constantly learning from one another. In this context, supporting and fostering leadership skills among survivors is crucial in the work to end violence in Latin@ communities.
The work of the Líderes and promotoras/promotores are examples of culturally specific approaches to engage communities while utilizing their natural strength and shared wisdom. The impact of both approaches is long lasting and transformative. Both share the vision of maximizing community resources and supporting the development of leadership from within the communities.
Developed by Casa de Esperanza, the Líderes Program or the Latina Peer Education Initiative is a strategy that taps into the natural leadership among individuals, families and communities to share critical resources, build community and promote healthy relationships. The initiative is led by the women who serve as Líderes (Peer Educators). Líderes develop the trainings and tools that will be used in workshops; they recruit participants, and promote the workshops in the community. The goals of the project are accomplished by recruiting, training and supporting Latina Líderes to engage other individuals and families to acquire knowledge, skills and resources for immediate and long-term health and stability. This program has been adapted by a number of Latin@ organizations in the U.S.
Promotoras and Promotores are also community Líderes and their approach is equally effective. Promotoras started in Latin America as a way of reaching communities from within, on issues mostly related to health and wellness. Promotoras serve as liaisons between their community, health professionals, and others. As liaisons, they often play the roles of educator, mentor, outreach worker, advocate and role model. This approach has been very effective in Latin America and its strength is also evident in communities across the U.S.
What both approaches have in common is a deep recognition of the strengths of Latinas as community leaders, respect for their wisdom, and the belief that living with dignity is a birthright.
Watch: I am a leader- video. This inspiring 3 minutes and 49 seconds video describes the experiences of Latina women from Guatemala as they realized their inner leadership potential. This video is a great example of the strength of Latinas and Latin@ communities as resources for social change. Advocates from La Paz, a Latin@ organization in Chattanooga, TN, adapted the Líderes curriculum developed by Casa de Esperanza for this work. La Paz is an organization that works to empower and engage Chattanooga’s Latino population through advocacy, education and inclusion.
About Our Contributor
Heidi Notario, M.A. serves as the Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator of the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, a project of Casa de Esperanza. Prior to joining Casa’s team, Heidi was the Training Specialist at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV). She has advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities and Deaf individuals for more than ten years, working closely at the intersections of disabilities and violence against women. Heidi’s interests include a wide variety of issues related to the treatment afforded to survivors of violence with disabilities and Deaf survivors by the criminal justice system, service providers, and society at large. Heidi keeps on the forefront of her anti-oppression work the elimination of barriers that impact immigrant survivors and the LGBTQ community. Heidi views “accessibility” from a human rights framework and is committed to bringing this perspective into her work and personal life. Heidi is originally from Cuba and has resided in the U.S. since 1995. Heidi holds a Masters’ Degree in Sociology from Lehigh University.
As we near the end of October, we’re still going strong with our Domestic Violence Awareness Month “#SeeDV” campaign. This week we had three amazing guest blog posts to share with you all, and people all over continued to tell us how they “See DV.” Check out the highlights of this past week below.