July 2018

This month I have been pondering how misunderstood and marginalized DV victims are. Crimes against women are unique, as they are the only criminal acts for which the victims are consistently blamed, directly and indirectly. (Have you ever heard the victim of a holdup asked, “What were you wearing when he robbed you?”, “What did you do to provoke him?”, or “Were you ever robbed as a child?”) Women are routinely accused of provoking the crimes committed against them, especially those involving sexual or physical assault.  It makes the accusers feel smarter and safer in the world. In 2018, victim blaming is still very much part and parcel of our society’s response.  

Even when a woman is clearly a victim, society makes judgments about the ways in which she responds to the abuse and how it impacts her emotionally and psychologically.  She has no guidebook. Living under siege, in a chaotic culture of violence, she must adapt minute to minute to survive because “just leaving” safely is never an option. Walking on eggshells, taking protective measures and attempting to avoid conflict with the abuser, her actions may appear similar to those on the power and control wheel, but her motives are quite the opposite. While he acts out of desire for power and control, she responds out of fear and resentment. She is forced to do things she never would have done were she not being  abused – things like  sleeping with a knife under the pillow or buying a gun, hitting him back, striking the first blow to break the tension and “get it over with”, leaving him now and then, calling 911 for help, using drugs or alcohol to cope with the anxiety and depression, sleeping with the kids instead of him, attempting suicide (1 out of 4 victims), or maybe even meeting a nice man who treats her well and being unfaithful to her abuser (much less common). She may yell at him and call him names because it is the only weapon she has. (This does not constitute “emotional abuse”, by the way.) Although her reactions to abuse make sense to those of us who understand coercive control, harsh judgments are made about her by the public, her family and friends, the police, the courts, custody evaluators, pastors, judges, CPS workers and others. "She is such a mess! Such a drama queen. Poor guy. She pushes his buttons. Did you hear how she talks to him? She asks for it! I think she hits the kids. Did you notice she always smells like alcohol?  What a bitch. No wonder he beats her!"


Society gets it all backwards, not understanding that her behaviors are a REACTION  to abuse – a RESPONSE, a RESULT – not the cause of it. The graphic to the right is the “Survival Wheel”.  I have been using it to train police, DV advocates, counselors, and others (including victims and survivors themselves) about this since the 1990's. I don’t remember where I first got it, but it has always helped explain how victims unconsciously change and adapt to survive, much like prisoners-of-war do.  This is why I always say, “Batterers don’t have relationships. They take hostages.” 


“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens... It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. 

He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” 

~ Judith Herman, M.D., Trauma and Recovery


Paula Lucas.jpeg

Julie’s good friend Paula Lucas lived overseas for 14 years as an American expat. In 1999, she fled Dubai with her three young sons to escape domestic violence and child abuse. Back in the USA, her abuser stalked her, leaving her homeless, penniless and living on welfare. Despite her ordeal, Paula resolved to help other abused American women and children around the world.

She founded Pathways to Safety International in 1999 while living in a DV shelter. It is the only U.S. organization to provide multi-service, long-term assistance to American domestic violence and sexual assault victims overseas and has served thousands of Americans assaulted while studying, volunteering, working or vacationing abroad — victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual harassment and forced marriage. Spread the word to Americans you know who are, or will be, traveling, working or studying overseas. The 24/7/365, international toll-free hotline is 833-SAFE-833. Support is also available via e-mail or online chat.  https://pathwaystosafety.org/



  • The Boulder, Colorado City Council unanimously passed a ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump-stock devices.


  • The Duluth, Minnesota City Council passed an ordinance that would require all employers with 5 or more employees doing business in the city to provide paid time off for sick and safe time. 


  • New state law seeks to stop ‘stalking by way of the courts'. 




  • OVC On-line Directory of Crime Victim Services: Find nonemergency crime victim service agencies in the United States and abroad.
  • Make the Call: A new online toolkit for advocacy programs to implement advocacy-initiated response to DV crimes.
  • The RAVE Project (Religion And Violence E-learning): Free on-line training and resources that bring knowledge and social action together to assist families of faith impacted by abuse. 
  • Hot Peach Pages: International directory of domestic violence agencies, with materials and information in 110 languages