Recent Blog Posts

Recent Posts

‘Coerced Debt’

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

‘Coerced Debt’ often follows domestic violence survivors and is another roadblock to building their future. Abusers use debt to trap their victims. Credit cards and loans taken out under two names, but never paid back, can cripple a survivor financially.

Angela Littwin, a law professor at the University of Texas, coined the term. She says there are two types of domestic violence: situational violence and coercive control where one partner seeks to control and diminish the other. “The abuser’s goal is essentially to undermine the victim’s free will,” Littwin says. “The abuser does that by making demands that the victim does something, and implying that there will be consequences for non-compliance.” Those demands often involve financial actions that the victim might otherwise not take, or that do harm to the victim’s financial situation.

A ruined credit report can cost an abuser more than the ability to obtain a credit card. “More than 60 percent of employers use credit checks for at least some jobs,” she says.

Joint credit accounts are another source of risk for those in abusive relationships. “If the victim is more financially stable… then the creditor is going to go after the victim.” Littwin says changing the situation for joint account holders is difficult. The survivor would need to show that their name had been added to the account fraudulently, or through coercion. This is difficult to do even though debt by coercion is unauthorized use under the law.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie has no credit standing. Her famous plastic surgeon husband, Claude, controls all the finances. He withdraws all the money from their joint checking account along with removing his name, leaving her nothing. He also sells a small fund of Katie’s and puts it in his name because the banker agreed to do it. Katie is trapped until she can save up enough money from pocket change and her “allowance”, and that takes time. She must be patient and stay much longer than she wants in her abusive marriage, until she reaches her goal.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

How Narcissistic Parents May Use Their Children

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Narcissistic parents tend to see their children as possessions and as extensions of themselves, as opposed to individuals in their own right. This can lead to the child growing up to develop serious identity issues. “Who am I?” and “Who can I trust?” are common questions asked.

Narcissistic parents also lack empathy for their child and view the child’s sole purpose in life as being to serve their needs. Two ways parents use and exploit their child is to treat her/him as both a source of emotional support and an emotional punching bag to vent their anger. Other reasons include keeping the child in her/his place and also to ensure that self-esteem and confidence remain low in order to control and manipulate. These parents also rely on the child to provide constant emotional support, resulting in the child becoming not only the parents emotional punching bag, but also their emotional caretaker, ‘parentifying’ the child.

Narcissistic parents tend to have a ‘black and white’ view oscillating between demonizing their child and idealizing her/him. They are incapable of empathy and love for their own children and for people in general, making it very difficult to correct this devastating behavior. For this reason, some adult children sever connections with their narcissistic parents while others try to reduce the dysfunctional relationship by setting up appropriate personal boundaries.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie is raised by two narcissistic parents, who use her as a punching bag and for emotional support. Right after graduating from college, they pick her husband for her, and Katie readily agrees to marry in order to please them and to separate from them. With little sense of self, she believes she can create a perfect life with her new husband. It takes her some time to realize that she has married an abusive narcissist and goes to her parents for help. They refuse. They don’t want to see the marriage they put together broken. It’s Katie’s fault and up to her to fix it.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Patrick Stewart Says Domestic Violence Is A Man’s Problem

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Another common perception is that domestic violence is a women’s issue, and therefore men don’t have to take responsibility. Often the victim is blamed for doing something to have caused it.

Patrick Stewart, the English actor, with a career spanning almost six decades, is challenging the idea that domestic violence is a women’s issue. As a young boy, Patrick Stewart would lie rigid in bed at night waiting to hear his father rage at his mother while bracing to throw himself between his parents to protect his mother.

At a panel event organized by the domestic violence charity Refuge, Patrick Stewart said the reason why he was speaking was “Because domestic violence is a man’s problem. We are the ones who are committing the offences, performing the cruel acts, controlling and denying. It’s the men.”

Unfortunately, the people listening are almost entirely women. At this panel, there were five men among the journalists, activists and supporters. Women run the charities and staff. When victims speak out, they tend to be women. But this should not give men reason to look away. Many don’t understand the problem and don’t come to listen and participate. Patrick Stewart and other men who are speaking out about domestic violence are changing that dynamic by encouraging the male population to get involved and support the victims.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie is has two male abusers—her father and husband. Both of them demand that she stay in a marriage where she is being physically, mentally, emotionally and financially abused. They tell her it’s her fault, and she needs to try harder—keep the family together at all costs. When she decides to go against them she is accused of being mentally unstable and is cut off by her father and husband with no support. She is a failed wife and mother. In spite of that, Katie fights them and struggles to gain her freedom with her daughter.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Myths Behind The Idea That Domestic Violence Is A ‘Personal Problem’

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

A common perception still today is that domestic violence is often considered a personal private problem and shouldn’t be exposed.

Some attitudes in the United States have changed over the past decades.
The 1994 Violence Against Women Act pushed justice systems across the country to take domestic violence seriously and treat it as a crime—a landmark victory making it easier for police officers and first responders to deal with intimate partner violence. But a survey of 500 elected U.S. sheriffs found many felt neutral or agreed with common myths about violence against women like why don’t they just leave?

Another myth is that abusers—especially the charismatic and respectable ones in public—suddenly snap when they hurt their partners. Research shows abuse is almost always a pattern of behavior. Abusers aren’t out of control; they use violence as a tool for control.

Often, violence goes unreported or hidden before becoming noticeable to either first responders or friends and family. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, between 2006 and 2015, an average of 600,000 incidents of domestic violence went unreported each year. Only 34 percent of people harmed by partners received medical attention for their injuries. Many victims keep silent out of fear of reprisal or escalation. Leaving the relationship is worse. Abusers typically get more violent when their victims leave. Separation is often called the most dangerous time for victims.

Intimate partner violence follows predictable patterns. It’s almost never a one-off incident. It’s not a matter of victims provoking their abusers or of abusers being out of control. The issue of who is at fault isn’t complicated. It’s always the abuser or abusers being out of control. The issue of who’s at fault isn’t complicated. It’s always the abuser. People are victimized by partners across race, class, gender, education and geographic lines—it isn’t a private family matter. It’s a major public health issue that affects close to 10 million Americans every year.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie must deal with the fact that her parents will not support her when she decides to leave her abusive husband Claude who controls all the finances. She has to find a way to freedom with her child without reporting it to the police. Claude, the famous plastic surgeon, would pay them off, and Katie would suffer further brutality with the fear she wouldn’t survive.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I read an article about why domestic violence awareness hasn’t caught up with the #MeToo movement and thought I’d share some of the findings.

After the #MeToo movement went viral, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence created its own hashtag, #SurvivorSpeaks to try to bring more attention to the issue, but it has not taken off the way #MeTo has. There is still a lot of stigma around domestic violence. There is the added layer of blaming the victim because the abuse happens over several months or years in what people view as a consenting adult relationship. “Why doesn’t she just leave?” is asked over and over without sympathy or understanding for the victim.

Another reason is the #MeToo movement has shown the strength of multiple accusations, but in most cases, men have not been held accountable until several women have spoken up together. This is difficult to replicate in domestic violence cases, where there is one victim in an isolated relationship who is unlikely to know about past abuse. Domestic violence victims usually speak up alone.

There is another element missing from the conversation surrounding domestic violence—public outrage. It often takes a high-profile celebrity case to start a cultural movement. When it happens to regular people no one seems to care. Victims haven’t seen others hold domestic abusers accountable. They are often afraid to speak out against their abuser because of dire consequences—even death. As a society we must decide to take seriously the issue of domestic violence and work towards eradicating it.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie is a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault at the hands of her famous plastic surgeon husband, Claude who has also controlled all the finances. Katie finds ways to save money in order to escape with her child but is hesitant to speak out or go to the authorities for fear of her life.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Can You Spot An Abusive Partner Before You Get Involved?

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Is it possible to spot an abusive partner before you get involved? It is difficult in many cases. Many abusers are highly intelligent, clever and charming. They use this technique to deceive and manipulate drawing the victim in. As survivors know, the transition from love to control to violence can be slow and unnoticeable—sometimes taking years.

Here are a number of factors that are suspected to contribute to someone becoming abusive. Recognizing these factors may help identify risks related to possible partners.

A history of abuse in one’s family or past
Being physically or sexually abused as a child
A lack of appropriate coping skills
Low self-esteem
Codependent behavior
Untreated mental illness
Drug or alcohol abuse

Abuse is not just physical violence. Usually it is foreshadowed by other forms of behavior and violence. Here are a few of them.

Calling someone names or putting someone down
Shouting and cursing
Making threats
Extreme jealousy and suspicion
Keeping someone away from their family and friends
Throwing things around the house or at another person in a violent manner
Controlling the finances

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie experiences many of these forms of abuse by her famous plastic surgeon husband, Claude. She came from an abusive family and was repeating history. He quacked like a duck at her body when she was pregnant, yelled profanities in her face, forced her to have sex, isolated her and controlled all the money. After the last battering, she realized she might not survive another one and wanted to protect her child. That was the beginning of Katie making a plan to escape.

If you need help, you can talk in confidence to a trained domestic violence advocate free of charge by contacting your local domestic violence shelter or advocacy group.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

What Survivors Can Collect For Evidence Of Abuse

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Here are some suggestions for collecting evidence of abuse. I hope they are helpful.
Any written rules imposed by the abuser
Information about abuse of previous partners
Proof that you are being financially marginalized
Records proving you provide most of the child care
Diary of physical and nonphysical incidents with dates, times and frequency
Video and Audio recordings of argument or conversations
Photos or video of any injuries of you or family members along with medical reports
Police reports
Screenshots of repeated calls, emails, texts or social media messages along with recordings of voicemails and phone conversations from abuser
Verbal accounts and testimony from any witnesses
Documentation showing workplace incidents where abuser stalked or harassed you
Photos or video of weapons used to harm or threaten you along with items damaged or destroyed.
Veterinary records of any pet abuse

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, set in the 1990s, Katie doesn’t have all the video, recording social media opportunities that are available today, but she keeps a diary and documents all the physical and nonphysical incidents that happen to her due to her husband Claude’s abuse. She also has written orders from Claude of what she is supposed to accomplish on a daily basis. She has proof that Claude controls all the finances and is forced to save for her escape from pocket money she collects. Katie is the primary caretaker of her daughter Rose. She refuses to go to the police because Claude, the famous plastic surgeon, would pay them off and that would be worse for her. Gillian who is Katie’s friend, has seen her bruises and encourages Katie to leave. Katie makes a plan to escape with Rose and eventually becomes free.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Statements Abusers Make To Control Their Victims

It’s almost summer, and I hope everyone had a pleasant Memorial Day Weekend. Often the holiday weekends bring on more violence and abuse instead of peaceful enjoyable interactions.

I wanted to share some of the statements abusers will make to keep their victims under control. These are only a handful but might be helpful in deciding whether you are in an abusive relationship or not.

1. You’re a dumb bitch.
2. You’d be more attractive if…
3. It didn’t hurt that much.
4. I love you and it will never happen again.
5. I’ll kill myself if you leave.
6. I don’t remember doing that.
7. You’re stupid.
8. You’re too sensitive.
9. You deserve it.
10. No one will ever want you.
11. I’m sorry.
12. No one is going to believe you.
13. You’re crazy.
14. Why do you make me hurt you?
15. You’re ugly and fat.
16. You’re cheating on me—you whore.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Claude, the famous plastic surgeon, uses mental abuse, in between his physical assaults on his wife, Katie, to control her. He tells her she’s fat and ugly and wants to perform surgery on her to make her more appealing, so Katie undresses in her closet. He tells her she’s stupid and that she over reacts to everything—even makes things up. He says he doesn’t remember hurting her or if he does, it’s her fault because she needs to be taught how to behave. The worst battering Katie got was in her three-year-old daughter’s room when she was putting her to bed. In an odd way, Katie looked at the batterings as a relief from the constant barrage of obscenities and threats Claude made—there would be a bit of relief for a while—sometimes even, “I love you and it will never happen again”—until it did, and she began to make a plan to get out.

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

Children’s Domestic Abuse Wheel

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

As we come to the end of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wanted to share how violence affects children in relation to the Children’s Domestic Abuse Wheel. The wheel is divided into eight sections with these headings: Emotional Abuse, Physical and Mental Effects, Sexual Abuse, Using Children, Threats, Sexual Stereotyping, Intimidation and Isolation.

Emotional Abuse involves doubting reality, fear of doing wrong and expressing feelings, inconsistent limits and expectations by caregiver, inability to learn at school and low self-esteem.

Physical & Mental Effects where children may feel guilt and shame, think it’s their fault, are demanding and withdrawn.

Sexual Abuse involves shame about body, feeling threatened and fearful of their sexuality, inappropriate sexual talk behavior and children having access to pornography magazines and movies.

Using Children where the child is being put in the middle of fights or take on roles of parents and are used to resolve conflicts and take sides.

Threats help child to learn to manipulate because of their own safety issues due to effects of violence in family, expressing anger in a way that is violent, abusive, or not expressing anger because of their own fear.

Sexual Stereotyping helps the child to learn either to copy abuser’s dominant abusive behavior or copy the victimized passive submissive behavior unable to express feelings or who they are.

Intimidation is putting children in fear by: using looks, loud actions, loud gestures, loud voice, smashing things, destroying property with fear of physical safety.

Isolation is the inability to develop social skills, feeling alone and different, keeping harmful secrets and not trusting adults.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Rose, Katie’s three-year-old daughter, tries to stop her father from beating her mother. Unable to, she comforts her mother after and blames herself for the battering.

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

Take good care of yourselves,

PRISCILLA BENNETT XOXO

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