The terrible events in Canadensis, PA – the fatal shooting of one state trooper and the wounding of another – and the Ray Rice scandal brought back a lot of memories.
You see, a shooting like the one in Canadensis – although not of state troopers but of his neighbors – was an unspoken ambition of my ex-husband. Unspoken to anyone but me.
I had grown up in the Pocono Mountains, and that’s where I returned – as Cam does in Dirty Politics, and for the same reason. It had been home to me, a refuge. Much of the events in both Dirty Politics and The Last Resort were inspired by real events in my life.
That refuge would be tarnished.
Like many victims of domestic violence, I was young – just twenty – and I had already been a victim of another act of violence. When I met the man who would become my ex-husband, he promised that no one else would ever hurt me.
No one but him, that is.
To look at him, no one would have pegged him as an abuser. He was handsome, with thick, dark hair
and blue eyes. His best friend was on the local police force – which many would be shocked to find is disturbingly common. It’s difficult for the victim of domestic violence to go to the local police when one of them is your spouse’s best friend. A claim of battering would all too likely have been met by disbelief.
If it came down to it, my ex’s plan was to walk down the street shooting. This despite the fact that he claimed to truly like one of the neighbors – an elderly black woman who had always been kind to him. (Closet racism was alive and well then as now.) If cornered he would go out in a blaze of glory. Death by cop.
In those days, domestic violence was just rising to the national awareness thanks to movies like ‘The Burning Bed’ and The Facts of Life actress Nancy McKeon’s A Cry for Help. Or the Julia Roberts movie Sleeping with the Enemy – which showed that socioeconomic status wasn’t an indicator of domestic violence. It’s not just poor or middle class women who deal with it – as Ray Rice’s new wife proves.
Having survived domestic violence, I had high hopes, but over time – and certainly over the last few years – I’ve grown cynical. That was the reason why I had written both The Last Resort and Dirty Politics. I wanted to raise awareness, but even more, I wanted to bring a sense of hope to women who had been through domestic violence. I wanted them to know that they hadn’t been forgotten, and that they still had a chance to find happily ever after with the right person. I didn’t want to write the usual ‘victim’ story – and so I wrote The Last Resort – as an entertaining way to help people understand that domestic violence is…complicated.
One of my least favorite questions about that time – and one of the reasons I don’t talk about it much – is this one… “How did someone like you….?” The assumption being that an intelligent woman wouldn’t have found herself in that situation. As if all abusers came with a big red “A” tattooed on their forehead, rather than many being charming, if subtly controlling.
I’ve learned not to talk about it for another reason – the inevitable comment that follows any domestic violence discussion. “Why do they go back?”
The answer to that question is as myriad as the women who wore Ray Rice jerseys to football games.
First, of course, is an entire culture that caters to the idea that women need to be protected rather than learning to protect themselves, and that bad boys will be reformed by the ‘right’ woman. That only happens in fiction. It’s one of the reasons I dislike both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, for perpetuating that myth.
The reality is that bad boys don’t reform, that if he lies to you once, he’ll lie whenever it’s convenient. As far as going back? What choice do victims have, really?
In most cases, their spouses controlled the money. As bad as the situation is, going to a shelter can seem worse over time. The victim has no income. They’re not just poor, they’re destitute. They uprooted their children. They not only lost their home, but they may have left their pets behind. A pet the ex can threaten.
And where can they go? Home to their parents, where their spouse can find them?
That spouse can also claim visitation rights.
Most shelters help victims fill out protection from abuse orders, but any cop will tell you that those orders are only worth the paper they’re written on. The only purpose for filing them is to have a record of the claim. If they’re lucky, that order is used to keep the abuser away. If they’re unlucky, it identifies the victim’s killer. How many times have you seen that in the news? The victim left, but they still weren’t safe. In one case locally, the victim got remarried to a police officer. Her ex broke into the house and shot them both.
The abuse may be bad, but living is a persuasive argument.
Even the abuser’s situation is complicated. Even police officers abuse their spouses. It’s a question of money and power.
In cases like Ray Rice’s, there’s the whole football culture. Growing up, I remember that there was a status to being a star player. I also remember the warnings. Only cheerleaders had the status to date the quarter or running backs. And even the cheerleaders were taking their chances. So is it any surprise when you take a talented and handsome young man, give him a lot of money, and women throwing themselves at his feet, that he thinks he’s on top of the world? Look at Justin Bieber.
So the dialogue about domestic violence begins again – after the law that funded it has been gutted. Abused spouses are flooding hot lines, the NFL is pouring money into help centers, and hopefully into shelters and training programs.
More importantly, though, we need to end the culture of blame for both victim and abuser, to get them the help they need – the spouses to redevelop their self-esteem, and for the abusers to learn better ways to express their anger.
Then, and only then, will domestic violence come to an end. At least the NFL is stepping up, but we need Congress as well, and that’s not going to happen.
20% of all proceeds from the sale of The Last Resort will go to domestic violence shelters.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-last-resort-19
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005318DNW
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dirty-politics-2
Three women a day are murdered in this country by an intimate partner, and gun ownership by an abuser increases a woman’s chances of being murdered. Read More »
Are tropes too trite?
For those of you who don’t know, a literary trope is the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works. For a time, old 70-80s TV programs had a list of standard tropes – the identical twin to one of the heroes, one of the heroes (there were only heroes then) goes blind, or develops amnesia.
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In fantasy one of the tropes is the young hero on a quest or becoming the savior of the world. In mystery novels it’s the lead characters problem with alcohol or love of esoteric music (especially jazz), and the uptight woman who melts for him but turns out to be the murderess. There’s also the Sherlock type hero, or the brilliant psychopath as the enemy.
In romance it’s the HEA or HFN (happily ever after or happy for now) ending, and the ‘misunderstanding’ or
downright deceptive hero who doesn’t tell the heroine something important.
That’s where I’m at right now. In my current WIP it just happens that the hero has a good reason for withholding information from the heroine… but it’s a commonly used trope, but it works for the book.
But has that trope been overused?
The problem with ‘message’ novels is that – unless they’re actually non-fiction – they can be a exactly that, all about the message. There are people who like to read them. Not me. Boooring. Depressing.
Or they can be the stuff of romance novels, movies or TV shows, like Sleeping with the Enemy, or countless detective stories. Not exactly accurate. It goes in fads, and lately its been about domestic violence.
After all, you’ve got this charming, sexy, good-looking guy who would give the shirt off his back to someone who needs it. He’s protective – maybe a little over-protective, but what’s wrong with that? If there’s an argument, he’s apologetic, bringing flowers or other little gifts. It’s straight out of Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. If he pulls away a little, though, it’s understandable, if a little unsettling, but like Bella or Ana it’s internalized. It’s their fault for upsetting him. It becomes more and more about self-worth and self-esteem, his need to feel strong and manly, in control, and hers to be considered loved and lovable. Consciously or unconsciously, he uses that. Little things start to set him off more and more quickly.
Oh, you didn’t realize that we weren’t talking about the hero…
Recently a new friend called me about getting together for coffee, then mentioned that she’d invited an old boyfriend over…and during the conversation added that he’d once given her a concussion. He was sorry, he said, he’d changed. Something happened though to give her second thoughts, though, and she told him to leave, finally having to resort to threatening to call the cops. She was done with him, she declared.
I was relieved, but a little stunned and even a little angry that she’d brought him back into her life.
I get it, though. It’s tough going it alone. Even if you have good friends, it’s not the same. Women still define themselves more by their relationships than their accomplishments. And, you get lonely. You want someone in your life. Someone who will help carry the load, too.
As accomplished as we are, we also want to know we’re capable of being loved.
It’s even more difficult for women with children.
That one in three? Somewhere I read that one in three people know someone who is the victim of domestic violence.
So when I decided to write my ‘message’ novel, I wanted to make it entertaining, informative and accurate. Talking of accuracy, there’s Sleeping with the Enemy. First, where did she get the money to run? The first thing married abusers do is take control of the finances. Second, almost every woman who runs goes home. Where else is she going to go? And it’s the first place that an abuser is going to go to find her. It’s also the most dangerous time for most women – when they leave. There’s countless tales of women who’ve fled and been killed by their ex-spouse – with others as collateral damage. Here in Ohio a woman took a friend with her to meet her ex in a public parking lot. He shot the friend, and then himself. Another married a police officer after escaping her abusive spouse – who then broke into the house to shoot and kill them both. Not all abusers are stalkers, although many are. And most don’t look like the sleazy guy from a cop show. In fact, you may have had one in your home as a guest.
So, I didn’t write your standard domestic violence novel. First, I did my research. No case is ‘typical’, although there are similarities. Years ago I read a newspaper article about a woman who ran a group that rescued domestic violence victims and I filed the thought away. So that became part of the story. Also, I didn’t want to do the usual ‘poor-pitiful-me’ or ‘rescue-me’ novel. That last because it so rarely happens, and when it does, someone else gets hurt as well. I also wanted to show someone who was empowered, capable and a survivor. There’s romance, too, healthy and real.
By the way, count yourself as one of those three now. The reason I know so much? I was a victim, too.
20% of all proceeds from the book – after costs – will be donated to domestic violence shelters.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6 Read More »
Review of Cooking Class by V.J. Devereaux Aka Valerie Douglas
Cooking Class by V.J. Devereaux Aka Valerie Douglas
Lily Cavanaugh is a Master Chef, Restaurant Owner, Cookbook Author. She has worked very hard to get to this point. Her one regret is Master Chef Evan Taylor. She worked in his restaurant,fell in love with him, dealt with his temper tantrums till one day he went to far. Lily walked and took her heart with her. She has never forgotten him or the heat she felt. One night while teaching a cooking class in walks Evan and his director of his new TV show, Dylan Bryant. Lily finds herself attracted to Dylan as much as she is to Evan. They have an offer or 2 that she can not pass up.
This book is Sizzling Hot!! The story line and characters draw you in and wham you are hooked. Lets not forget the(fans self)sex scenes, wonderfully written and stays right with the plot of this book. V.J. Devereaux aka Valerie Douglas is a Readers Dream Author, she writes so realistically that you can see every detail she vividly describes also feel what the characters feel. She never ceases to amaze me with what ever genre she writes!
I Highly Recommend this Erotic M/F/M Book, you will not be disappointed!
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Of all my books, perhaps The Last Resort is the most conflicted. It’s also the book one of my beta readers swears is the best I’ve ever written. It’s the book that nearly won a contest, but won one of the judges’ hearts – she asked to be notified if it ever reached print. (It has!) It’s also the book that receives the most mixed reviews – primarily a complaint that too much is going on. Which I have to admit makes me laugh even as I struggle with it.
Because life is messy, and complicated, and so much of events of The Last Resort are based on reality. Events that took place almost exactly as they happen in the book, and at the same time. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Or innocent. I have to admit to being tempted to hold a contest asking readers to tell me which characters in The Last Resort are real…and which aren’t. I’m also grateful that some of the participants in those events are probably dead by now although I doubt they’d recognize themselves. People never do.
One reviewer even commented on the level of detail, objecting to a mention of the heroine raking leaves. Yet that rake shows up in a later scene. As a writer I had to explain why it was so conveniently placed there. I had to make it real.
Even the ‘rescue rangers’ are based in truth. Some time ago, I read about a woman who had organized a group of retired cops and ex-service people to help battered women escape their abusers. It was difficult and dangerous work, as they and any police officer could tell you.
I sometimes wonder if people have just seen too many Lifetime movies where the victim escapes into the arms of the one man who will love her, who will fight for her, and in the end save her from her abuser.
In real life, that just doesn’t happen. Most women who escape run to their families (where their batterers frequently find them) or live in shelters on subsistence. They have no money because their abusers made sure they had no access to any. Most are ashamed.
When they do call for help, they frequently panic immediately afterward. Many times cops become caught between the abuser and the victim, because the victim is all too aware that the laws don’t really protect her. In all likelihood her abuser will be back out on the street within hours. And looking for her. Unless she finds a shelter – most counties don’t have domestic violence shelters – he’ll very likely find her. A protection from abuse order is worth the paper it’s written on, it’s a formality that must be part of the record…but one that is almost guaranteed to infuriate the abuser – who never considers himself the bad guy. It’s shaming, and inflaming for them.
Leaving is the most dangerous time for most women, and the time when most die. One to three women in the United States daily.
So I wrote The Last Resort from my own experience, and it translated fairly easily. All the events in the book took place around the same time.
What I didn’t want to write was just another domestic violence book. I didn’t want it to be primarily about domestic violence. I wanted to write something that would be entertaining as well. I wanted the book to balance what I frequently see as a culture of constant victim-hood, with women and those around them defining themselves always by this one event for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I wanted to write about someone who would give women hope, an example of someone who had broken the chains of domestic violence. I wanted to write a book about a woman who had not only survived, but thrived and grew stronger because of it. I also wanted to show that it was possible to love and be loved again, to have a healthy relationship.
Someone like me.
Twenty percent of all the proceeds of The Last Resort will go to charities benefiting the victims of domestic violence.
Available from Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6 Read More »
It’s always been hard for me to talk about it, at least partly because of the assumptions that are made about me. Because of the questions that are asked. You seem smart, how could I not have known? I know the judgments that are made…and they are made. Silently. Because they really don’t want to know. No one does. There’s a part of me that is curious to know what people make of the idea that I went back, since it’s so much a part of the pattern, and part of me is glad that I don’t.
Back to those assumptions.
How could I not know?
It wasn’t like he had a great big A tattooed on his forehead. He was handsome, with beautiful blue eyes. He was more romantic than almost any man I met, hearts and flowers. If he was a little jealous, well…when you’re nineteen it just seems sweet. After all, isn’t that what they show on TV and the movies, the guy who’s just a little bit jealous because he loves you so much? And if he’s just a little uncomfortable that other men are looking at you? At your clothes and how well they fit. He just doesn’t want to lose you. What’s more romantic than that…even if it’s a little overboard. That’s the first time that he gets a little too heated, though, and his anger is just a little disturbing. Frightening. But you forget, you let it go, because he loves you, and he’s so sorry. Until it happens again. But still, he’s loving, and there’s the flowers. And you’re nineteen, isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? That’s how they do it in books and movies. When he proposes, its on one knee, and it helps you forget that his temper and criticisms of your clothes are getting worse. You quit the job to make him happy. Maybe now it will be better. Except of course it isn’t and it doesn’t. It gets worse. Only now there’s no one to talk to, no one to tell. Every little thing can cause a temper tantrum. There are guns all over the house. And then one time he pulls the gun, spins the cylinder, and points it at your head.
I was lucky. I got out. But, like many, not the first time I tried.
Most domestic violence victims run to family the first time. It’s easy to track them down. They have no money – he controlled all that – so where else can they go? It was easy to track me down, but a neighbor got me out of the house. It was my pastor who betrayed me, under the guise of ‘trying to save my marriage.’ I told him I didn’t want to save my marriage, I wanted out. He said he’d help me convince my husband. I asked him if there would be other people there. He told me there would. What he didn’t tell me was that they would be in another part of the Church, and many wouldn’t even know we were there. What he didn’t know was that my ex-husband would show up with a gun. He’s lucky to be alive.
That’s what many women face, in addition to the rest. Even so, most don’t go back because of threats of violence, but because of poverty. For their children. Without jobs, battered women have no money to support themselves or their children – while their exes do. Child support doesn’t really kick in until after the divorce has been decided. Meanwhile the ex has the house, the children’s toys, their pets. Even if they can find a shelter – many counties don’t have one, in fact you’re more likely to find a dog shelter – they will live one family to a room and subsist on charity. For many of these women, returning to the abuse is better than living poor. Of seeing the judgment in eyes of others as they pull out the food stamps.
After being stalked for a time, I found shelter at one of the resorts, living on property where there would be no record of my residence.
For me it’s been a few decades, but one of the things I noticed when the discussion about domestic violence comes up among those who survive is the victim mentality.
So, being a writer, I wrote. The idea was to create an entertaining mystery novel about a victim of domestic violence who not only survives but thrives. I based the novel on real events taking place at that time. To my amusement the book has been criticized for having too much going on, and yet all of that was happening around the same time. Life is messy, it doesn’t always go predictably, and when you don’t have enough time, it throws even more at you. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and I’ll stand by that.
More than anything else, though, I want to stand for those women who want more than what society expects from them. I want to show them that it can be done, that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger and you can survive. You can even live happily ever after.
20% of all proceeds go to Domestic Violence charities. Read More »