Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Chris Brown - You've got a long way to go. If you think this is any way a private matter, you are stuck back in 1965. Rihanna acknowledges and you must too, that EVERYONE is watching and learning by your actions, your choices, and your words.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The point is we've got to deliver. It isn't enough to look good, or think about being good, or even pray about being good - we actually to do something to be good. We can't ask "why" without asking "how can I help?" Certainly, we cannot help every person or every situation. But, we all can help someone and we can take a make a difference somewhere.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
So, my point, on a personal note, I had no idea. On a professional note, the best thing is to just talk about it. As Brene Brown says, the anectode to shame is empathy.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
In seperateness lies the world's great misery, in compassion lies the world's true strength.
I was in court observing a domestic violence homicide case. I had consulted with the prosecutor about this case, but had not worked with the victim's family, so they didn't know who I was.
I often bring my laptop with me when I observe trials. I can work during the downtimes. Real trials are not like on TV. There is a lot of downtime: the lawyers make arguments outside the presence of the jury, the court has to conduct other business, there are breaks, etc.
So, I was working on my laptop during one the downtimes in this trial. The jury stepped out for a short break and the victim's brother turned to me and asked if I was a reporter. (Normally, I introduce myself to the family if I haven't already met them, but I hadn't yet introduced myself.)
It was a profoundly sad moment. The brother, kind of scruffy-looking dressed in jeans and a nice shirt, looked at me hopefully. I really wanted to say, "Why yes, and I have been sent to cover this important case." Of course didn't say that. I told him that I was a social worker who worked at the DA's Office. I told him I wanted to be at the trial, but I also had to keep up with my other work, so I was trying to do both. He laughed and said he understood.
The jury came back and the trial started back up just after we spoke and the next witness started talking about where and how the victim's body was found. The brother put his face in his hands and I put my hand on his back and whispered, "I'm sorry." He nodded briefly, his eyes brimming with tears.
In a smaller place - not Houston - they probably do cover all the domestic violence murder cases. Here in Houston, we have an average of 1 person killed every 10 to 14 days due to domestic violence. There's just too many murders. They are too commonplace to make the news on a regular basis.
I've noticed over the years that the domestic violence homicides only get covered if there is something unusual - like when Timothy Shepherd burned up his girlfriend's body in his bar-b-que grill after he killed her, or when dentist Clara Harris ran over her husband with her Mercedes and killed him.
For our commonplace murders - your regular folk - people who work for UPS, or K-Mart - the SOPs of domestic violence homicides - I suppose we're just too used to these or maybe "this story has already been done." Maybe it is just the same story with different names, the same facts, the same ending - you know - un newsworthy.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
- Mother Teresa
She sat across from me, crying, telling me she just didn't know what to do, just knew she couldn't "live like this" anymore. My 76 year old client wasn't talking about a husband or boyfriend. She was talking about her 49 year old son.
I know when we are about the last stop when a mother comes to our office about a grown child. The scenario is almost always the same: untreated mental health issues, substance abuse, been stealing/cajoling mom for money, turned violent when she wouldn't give in anymore. Mom tries to put up limits, but gives in when her son asks for help. Us mothers can't but see them as 2 year olds holding up their little arms begging to be cuddled. If only we could comfort them now, like we could then.
For all we say about romantic love, and we say a lot, we can always find another partner. Most of my clients are or have been in intimate partner domestic violence relationships. There's always another fish. But, not so for children. No matter how cruel, how bad, how humiliating, a mother's heart forgives. And breaks. And forgives again.
This mom, like my other moms in her situation, doesn't really want a protective order. She doesn't really want him not to be able to come to her home. She just wants the drug-abusing, violent, mean son to stop coming. She wants her sweet little boy back. She wants the never-before-existed successful, happy good son. She is grieving not only the pain her son has caused her, but also for the son who never was.
I tell her that just because her son doesn't have limits, doesn't mean she shouldn't. She isn't being a bad mother because she says "enough." In fact, she could even help him by not making it easy for him. She can't fix this - only he can. She can - and will - love him always.
He either will stop what he's doing or he won't.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
One of the most difficult parts of my job is working on homicide cases. Most all death is devastating, unexpected death often more so. It brings a particular type of loss, grief, and guilt. Most everyone feels they “should have done more.”
Saturday, August 8, 2009
She had another man around my kids.
If I can’t have you, no one will (cliché, but true).
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I met with a woman in her mid-50s who was leaving a 30 year abusive marriage. She was nervous and had trouble making eye contact with me. I suspected she has having difficulty because she told me things she had kept hidden for years and years. This was a professional woman, who raised children, went to church, did all the things many of us do – all the while burying deep inside of her the pain and shame of being abused at home. There had been no police reports in all these years. She had not taken photos of her injuries. There were no shelter, medical or counselor records. All these years, she lived in two worlds – our world and her own 2nd level of hell.
I had worked with many women just like her over the years. Like many of these women, she self-medicated her pain and shame. In addition to hiding the abuse, she was also hiding alcohol dependence. It makes perfect sense. We are not made to live like this. However, we are made to survive.
Part of surviving is our body and brain makes sure we keep going, making adjustments as needed. For instance, if someone is being strangled, they will find that their arms and legs won’t work. That is because the body is taking care of the vital organs – the heart, lungs, renal system, and brain. When we’re exposed to trauma, our body finds a way to adjust. We do that by disconnecting and medicating. Disconnecting allows trauma victims to live in two worlds, as my client was. Disconnecting separates emotions from reality. People who are new to this field are amazed that a domestic violence survivor can look them straight in the eye and tell them the most amazing lies – “no, he isn’t violent…he’s a great dad…I’m the one with the problems…” Self-medication includes both legal and illegal substance use – alcohol, xanax, valium, anti-depressants, marijuana, etc.
Once the crisis is passed for survivors, I strongly encourage them to go to counseling to reconnect and heal. I explain about all the emotions that will resurfance once they are no longer living a day-to-day existence.
This woman wouldn’t talk with me anymore after we met. That isn’t surprising. It is disconcerting to tell these long-hidden shameful secrets. The response is often to have “disclosure remorse” – it was just too scary to open THAT box. But, telling someone is a huge step. Sometimes people start with that and don’t make any other changes for a while. Sometimes they call the police and tell them. By the time we talk to them, the secret is buried once again.
So if someone tells you a secret like this, it is important to recognize how hard it was to tell. That person needs to hear: I’m glad you told me. You’re doing the right thing by talking about it. It wasn’t your fault. There is help when you are ready. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship. You don’t deserve to be abused. I’m so sorry you went through that. You can be safe.
This is a journey, a process. I tell my clients it usually took a while to get to where they are when I meet them. So, it might take a while to get reset. I’m honored to be one of the people who can help them.
Friday, July 3, 2009
What they need includes a heck of a lot of stuff. What they need includes an effective and safe working environment, proper office tools, continuing education, emotional support, a good salary, kudos, guidance, and sometimes just an ear to listen. They must know that I have their backs – and I do. They have mine as well.
I am so proud to work with all of them. They are all dedicated, smart, and hard-working. We don’t have any slackers at our workplace because the work is so demanding, it isn’t actually possible to slack. We’ve been called the “ER of Social Work." So apt a description has never been made. We are all crisis, all the time.
We meet as a group once per week for about 1 ½ hours. Just us, no prosecutors or other staff members. We really don’t have the time for such a luxury, but I figure we have to make it. If we sit around a table and talk to each other at least once a week, not only do we solve mundane issues (like agreeing on work protocols), we can also solve and prevent the bigger issues. Sometimes we even fight and have been known to cry and pout a time or two. Sometimes we talk about prosecutors we really like, and those we really don’t. Whatever it is, it gets put on the table.
We do a lot of supporting each other and we use a lot of humor. Sometimes when things hit home too much, we just sometimes listen and nod our heads – we’ve all been there.
So – my job as a supervisor – I am truly honored to serve these people. That’s why they aren’t “my-staff.” They are my heroes.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
My client was a middle-aged man who came to our office to ask for a protective order – except there wasn’t any domestic violence. Like some folks, he thought a protective order was kind of like the first step in a divorce.
So, since he was there, I talked with him to see if I could at least give in an ear for a bit and steer him in the right direction. The man actually didn’t know what he wanted. He was trying to decide whether to end a twenty-five year marriage with several kids involved. Tough decision.
We talked for a while and I realized that what he wanted was a good marriage. However, based on what he was telling me, that hadn’t been going on for them in a very LONG time. And – based on both of their recent choices, it wasn’t likely to happen.
After we ripped the scab off the never-healing sore that is their marriage he said, “Well, maybe we can just work on things.” Really. OK –I’ll just put it out there. My response: “Wishes and hopes won’t fix anything.” He looked at me very sadly, “I know.” I compared him to the proverbial gerbil spinning around his little wheel and wondering why no matter how fast he runs, the scenery never changes. I challenged him: What are YOU getting out of this relationship now? What can YOU do that is different? He kept talking about all the things she could do to make things better. I kept focusing him back on his choices. And the painful reality: If things are not different, then what? He has to decide.
In the end, I hope I helped him some. I encouraged him to consider going to counseling to get some clarity and insight on his situation. I could tell he was one of those people who thinks counseling is for “crazy” people, so I kept focusing on his kids and saying he could bring them (as they are embroiled no doubt in all the tension and turmoil of the parents). We even looked up some counselors in his area.
I know what it feels like to be stuck. Maybe not exactly like he is. But, sometimes it is easier to stay in the mess that you know, rather than expend the energy and face the fears of the unknown.