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.