Recent Blog Posts

Recent Posts

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

April brings spring flowers and is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse is under-reported and is a hidden epidemic. Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members—almost five a day. Nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and eleven times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year. The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations. The highest rate of child abuse is in children under one year old—24.2% per 1,000. Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic and educational levels, religions, ethnic and cultural groups. According to Prevent Child Abuse America, domestic violence often occurs alongside child abuse and neglect. Domestic violence constitutes the single greatest precursor for child maltreatment fatalities. Collaboration between child abuse and domestic violence organizations and intervention programs is essential.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie is beaten by her famous plastic surgeon husband in front of her three-year-old daughter, Rose. Rose is Katie’s only witness and screams at her father, “Don’t hurt my Mommy,” and tries to stop the battering. She is only able to comfort Katie after the fact as she lay on the floor. This life-threatening incident gives Katie the strength to organize a plan and eventually leave her abuser husband taking Rose with her. Rose refers to her father’s facial expression as a “monster face,” and Katie reassures Rose over and over that it wasn’t her fault and that now she’s safe. Katie is very supportive and gives lots of love and affection to Rose. She also finds professional help for both of them through her close friend Gillian.

Let’s speak out to help end this hidden epidemic of domestic violence and child abuse.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

White Ribbon Day

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Last Thursday State leaders in Massachusetts launched the White Ribbon Day campaign to end domestic violence. Thousands of men and boys took the pledge to end violence against women and promote safety and respect. The pledge reads, “From this day forward, I promise to be part of the solution in ending violence against women and all gender-based violence.” According to Jane Doe Inc., 28 people died from domestic violence related issues in Massachusetts last year. The group is taking a stand to prevent these tragedies in the future by changing societal attitudes through the campaign. People will wear white ribbons throughout the month of March to show support for the movement.

“The widespread prevalence of sexual harassment, sexual and domestic violence of epic proportions is not new; it’s just being exposed and called out, mostly by very courageous survivors who are saying, ‘no more,’” Jane Doe Inc. Executive Director Debra Robbin said. The campaign is also using social media to raise awareness through the hashtag #ReimagineManhood promoting values including healthy masculinity, gender equity and racial justice. States across the nation are also participating in the movement against domestic violence.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR that takes place in the 1990s, there are no men wearing white ribbons—quite the opposite—they would have laughed at the idea and said those people were crazy and overreacting. Katie is told this by her husband Claude who beats her mentally and physically and by her parents when Katie tells them she wants to leave. “There must be something you are doing wrong. Try harder. It’s your responsibility. Go back and fix it,” they told her. If there had been more awareness about domestic violence and what Katie was going through, maybe she would have had more support and less suffering.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Rob Porter And Discrediting Some Of The Myths Of Domestic Violence

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

The Rob Porter scandal in the White House has brought the domestic violence issue into the spotlight with the opportunity of once again debunking some of the myths. Why don’t the victims just leave? How can a high-profile, hardworking, friendly, successful man be a wife beater? On the surface, it makes no sense. But often this is the case, and under these circumstances, when the wife seeks help, there is none. One misconception is that all perpetrators are monsters when in fact they can be charming and seductive. Porter was described as a man so decent because of his performance in the workplace that he couldn’t have possibly beaten his wives and girlfriend. This point of view makes it very difficult for the victim to leave. Porter’s second ex-wife said, “When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career. And so I kept my mouth shut and stayed. I was told, yes, he was deeply flawed, but then again so was I. And so I worked on myself and stayed. If he was a monster all the time, perhaps it would have been easier to leave. But he could be kind and sensitive. And so I stayed…”

In my novel, SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie is married to a famous plastic surgeon who brutalizes her physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. The outside world tells her how lucky she is to be married to him, and that she should appreciate it more than she does. Her parents also support this view and offer no support. He’s talented, handsome, charming and seductive. Her parents picked him for her to marry and don’t want anything to disrupt the union. They tell her if there is a problem in the marriage, it’s her responsibility it fix it. She spends too much time blaming herself and trying to please until she decides she has to get out.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

The Cycle Of Abuse

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

The cycle of abuse will continue over and over until the abused one stops it. There’s a script domestic violence follows with the abuser rigidly in control. The survivors develop a script of their own and repeat the same lines over and over to themselves, friends and family—It will never happen again, he says he’s sorry, it’s my fault I made him angry, I should do a better job then it wouldn’t happen, he’s under so much stress right now, he’s only controlling me because he loves me so much.

This is the cycle of abuse, and it has four stages:

First, tensions build and the survivor becomes fearful and does whatever she can to placate the abuser.

Second, there is an incident that can be verbal, emotional, psychological or physical mixed with threats, anger and intimidation.

Third is the excuse stage where the abuser apologizes, blames the survivor or denies the abuse occurred at all.

Finally, there is the calm stage where the incident has been forgiven or denied and things are back to normal or even better than before—“the honeymoon stage”—until it starts all over again.

The length of the cycle often diminishes bringing abusive incidents closer together. Many survivors are either too ashamed or too fearful to leave their abuser. Some think they are in love with their abuser and in time will be able to change them. Others just want it to go away and try harder to please the abuser in order to bring back the ‘good times.’

In my novel, SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie cycles through these four stages over and over again at the hands of her husband Claude a famous plastic surgeon until she realizes that it’s not her fault and in order to survive and have a different life free from abuse she has to get out with her daughter.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Perspecticide

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

I just read an article on Perspecticide and thought I would share some of the ideas about it. Perspecticide is the abuse-related incapacity to know what you know. It’s often part of a strategy of coercive control that may include manipulation, stalking, gaslighting and physical abuse.

Abusers often try to confuse and destabilize their partners, to increase their control through physical or psychological means. In my novel, Katie is battered repeatedly mentally and physically and does whatever she can to avoid the next one. She identifies with the aggressor instead of developing herself.

Abusers make their partners narrow their worlds. Once isolated, it is easy to lose one’s sense of self. Claude, Katie’s famous plastic surgeon husband, isolates her from her family and friends. She has lost her sense of self in him and focuses on taking care of her daughter, Rose.

Abusers insist on controlling minute aspects of their partners’ lives. Over time, victims internalize the rules and forget what life was like when they were freer to make their own choices. Claude makes lists of what Katie needs to accomplish each day and calls multiple times during the day to see what she has accomplished.

Abusers make their partners feel badly about themselves, and they begin to believe the negative descriptions of themselves and lose self-esteem. Claude constantly criticizes Katie’s physical appearance, wants to operate on her to improve her looks and tells her how stupid she is—can’t accomplish anything—the worst mother. Katie undresses in her closet.

Abusive partners demand certain acts as proof of love and over time the person being victimized gives in. Katie always gives into Claude whenever he wants sex—it’s easier and safer—she disassociates herself from the act and views it as something to take care of as quickly as possible—like washing the dishes.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

It’s 2018 and I hope the holidays well and have hope for this coming year. It’s important to have hope. Life is always changing.

At a recent party, I got into a conversation with another woman about my previous nursing career and the domestic violence issue, and she asked me in between sips of champagne, “I really don’t understand, Pris. Why don’t they just leave?” I explained that “just leaving” often was not an option. Some women are killed for leaving, some are afraid they or their children will be, and without financial resources they can’t make it. Often they do not have the support of their family and feel shamed and isolated. I suggested instead of asking, “Why don’t they leave?” that she ask, “How can I help?”

In my novel, Katie the heroine, married to the famous plastic surgeon Claude, deals with all these issues over time. When she met Claude through her parents, she was madly in love with him and wanted the perfect family. Marriage was forever until she realizes she can’t survive. She does not have the support of her family, and they tell her to fix the problems in her marriage—It’s her responsibility—and Claude blames her for not behaving. Katie keeps trying to please him to make it better, but nothing works. She is shamed and battered over and over, and Claude has isolated her from her friends. She is alone with her little girl Rose with no resources. Claude controls all the assets. She begins saving money from pocket change and putting it in books where he’ll never look—just leaving was not an option—she needed a secure plan. She keeps working on it hoping she reaches her goal before the next battering which she might not survive.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Surviving The Holidays

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

I hope your holidays were peaceful and that you are staying warm. The emergency room I worked in was busiest during the holidays. Alcohol and drug consumption, high expectations of families and close quarters over an extended period of time seemed to contribute to the rise in domestic violence.

In my novel, Katie gets her worst battering on Christmas night by her famous plastic surgeon husband, Claude, in front of their young daughter, Rose, while reading a bedtime story to her on her bed. What made him snap? Claude yells that Katie didn’t put Rose to bed on time and she’s a horrible mother. So he’s going to teach her how to behave—he’s doing her a favor. Rose is screaming for him to stop hurting her mother, but there’s no stopping the rage.

I saw this scenario over and over in the emergency room and tended to the victims wounds while listening to their accounts—some with broken jaws couldn’t talk—others lay in shocked silence. They never knew when the abuser was going to snap and tried to cover all the bases but never could.

Katie keeps trying to please Claude. She can’t figure out what she’s doing wrong to trigger him and waits in anticipation of the next time until she realizes she might not survive and her daughter would be left alone with him—a horrible fate. Claude keeps telling her it’s her—everything is her fault. If only she would listen to him and do what he says, then everything would be fine. The fact that Katie feels she won’t survive another battering and that Claude did it in front of her daughter, Rose, is a turning point. The child is traumatized, and Katie realizes she has to face reality, but she can’t just leave. She has no money and nowhere to go. Her parents will not support her breaking up this “perfect marriage.” She will find a way.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

The Abuser And Food

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Now that we’ve entered the holiday season, abuse seems to escalate in so many ways. Food is such an important part of enjoying the festivities along with certain customs and traditions connected with food and other pleasures. Sometimes the abusers decide to use food as a way to assert power and control limiting what their partner eats or shaming them for their food choices. Sometimes the abuser convinces her to break contact with her family, and she views this as being protective—especially when her childhood has been abusive. She thinks he’s going to take care of her instead of isolating her.

In my novel, Katie experiences both shaming and controlling what she eats by her husband, Claude, as seen in a restaurant with her friend Gillian and her husband when Katie tries to order what she wants—pasta—and Claude says it’s too fattening. He tells Katie to order the chicken paillard with salad instead. Gillian confronts Claude and says Katie has a right to order what she wants, but Katie caves into Claude to avoid confrontation. She undresses in her closet to avoid his criticism of her “fat body” even though she is a size 6. He’s obsessed with women gaining weight and hates Katie’s pregnant form. He seems to value the starving model figure of young females that in some ways resemble adolescent males over the feminine. He has also tried to isolate Katie from her parents and Gillian. Katie is happy to have distance from her parents and sees it as protective on Claude’s part.   She tries to separate from Gillian to stop her probing questions about Claude and his obscene remarks about Gillian, but Gillian will not give up. She keeps offering help, suggesting Katie report Claude for abuse, suggesting therapy and offering Katie and Rose a place to stay. Katie refuses. She doesn’t want to put Gillian in a difficult position professionally with her father and Claude, but Gillian’s support motivates Katie to make a plan to get out.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Sex And The Surgeon

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

My mother, who was an operating room nurse, inspired me to follow her into the nursing profession. She told many stories of surgeons misbehaving in and out of the operating room, and in the 1970s they got away with it. She saw surgeons grab nurses behinds and refer to them as “easy.” A quickie in the medication room in between cases or on the operating room table before the next patient often occurred. The reason given for this behavior was the need to satisfy the huge libido of the surgeon—that was the excuse—but it was imbalance of power and in some cases, fear of the nurse losing her job. One operating room nurse reported a well-known surgeon for sexual harassment. As he cut his patient open and moved his knife in deeper he kept referring to it as “like making love—the separation of the flesh, the penetration of the knife.” He kept on, and the nurse said she was offended and asked him to stop. He continued, and she reported him. She was fired.

In my novel, Dr. Callahan, Katie’s father, when operating on a patient, describes the process in a similar way to the surrounding doctors, Katie and audience. Gillian, his assistant and good friend of Katie’s, looks at her as if to say, “Is he kidding?” But it goes no further. Katie knows he’s not—she’s used to hearing that and much more. He refers to women as “girls,” beats his wife with a wooden stick and has picked Katie’s husband, his fellow Claude, for her with little room to say, “No.”

Recently there has been a focus on sexual harassment—verbal and physical—and rape. Let’s hope this is a new phase and that laws are changed so that the process for the victim is not only made easier but fair. We need to break the silence and speak out for change.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

 

 

 

 

Eating The Leftovers

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

I hope you were all safe over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Often domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse escalate during the holidays. When I worked in the emergency room, I saw it over and over. Drugs and alcohol played a part along with high expectations of family and disappointments. I remember a young woman who came in with a knife wound on her arm and said her boyfriend had cut her because she had embarrassed him in front of his friends. She spilt the leftovers she was holding to grab her bloodied arm, and he forced her to eat the food off the floor. “I’ll cut your throat if you don’t,” he said. “The worst part of it is that he did it in front of my three-year-old son,” she cried.

This scenario is all too frequent, and I wrote about it in my novel. Katie is battered by her famous plastic surgeon husband on Christmas night in her daughter Rose’s bedroom when she is putting Rose to bed. The child tries to stop it by screaming, “Stop! Don’t hurt my Mommy,” to no avail as Katie lies on the rug waiting for it to be over. This incident is the turning point for Katie—next time he could kill her— she decides to make a plan. She will never be able to change what her daughter saw or forget her screams, but she can try to never let it happen again. With no support from her family, no job and little money she begins to plan an escape—but it will take time to implement. Her husband controls all the finances, but she saves from her pocket money. An elderly woman offers her a part-time job with a flexible schedule, and Katie grabs it terrified that her husband will find out. Slowly step by step, she inches towards freedom.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO