education, memories, mental health, true crime

Principal in Florida school “caught with her pants down”…

Before I get started… anyone who hit this blog because of the expression, “caught with her pants down” should know that this is not going to be a perverted post. So if you came here because your mind is in the gutter, you probably ought to keep scrolling. When I write the principal was “caught with her pants down”, I mean she was caught doing something wrong while unaware or unprepared. It’s an idiom that happens to suit this particular news story, which I read first in the Washington Post. TMZ also ran the story, along with an accompanying video.

In this case, the principal is 37 year old Melissa Carter, of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida. On April 13th, Carter took it upon herself to paddle a six year old kindergartner who had allegedly damaged a computer screen. The little girl’s mother, who doesn’t speak English and has not been identified, secretly recorded the incident, which happened right in front of her and 62 year old Cecilia Self, a school clerk who was there to interpret. The mother also said that Self’s interpretations of what was happening were inaccurate.

The girl’s mother and her husband are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and although the mom did not approve of her child being “beaten” with a wooden paddle, she felt powerless to stop it because she was afraid she would be reported to immigration authorities. Since the paddling, the girl has been transferred to a new school at her mother’s request. However, the girl has needed therapy; she cries often and doesn’t sleep. So the mother, despite being rightfully afraid of being deported, has reported the incident. Now, Melissa Carter may be facing criminal charges. It’s important to note that Florida does allow corporal punishment in schools. However, Hendry County school system, where Central Elementary School is located, does not.

Having watching the videos of the scolding and subsequent paddling, I tend to agree that it was less of a spanking and more of a beating. Carter rears back and hits the child with gusto. And when the child instinctively raises her hands to protect herself, the principal yells at her to put her hands down, then loudly berates her. I can understand why the child is now traumatized. It was hard for me to watch and listen to Carter speak– although in Carter’s defense, I don’t know if this incident was a first offense or the child was a repeat visitor to Carter’s office. Regardless, she had no right to hit the child, if only because that method of punishment is not allowed in her school district.

Some regular readers of my blog may remember that I had an unfortunate experience with being paddled in school when I was in the fourth grade in Gloucester, Virginia, which in the early 80s, was still very rural. During the 1981-82 school year, corporal punishment was still allowed in Virginia. That year, I had a young male teacher who was very popular and considered “cute”. I’ll call him Mr. A.

Mr. A. was memorable in many ways. I actually liked him a lot, because he was creative and a big believer in having fun. He used to encourage us to exercise and would take us out to run around the playground or play games– this was besides physical education class. He also had Armenian ancestry, which I found interesting even back then. I didn’t know that in 1995, I’d move to Armenia myself for two years. In the early 80s, Armenia was still part of the Soviet Union.

I remember when I was assigned Mr. A., he had a reputation for “whaling” kids. He actually called it whaling, because his paddle was shaped like a whale. And when he decided, rather arbitrarily, to hit children, he would do it in the front of the class, which was very humiliating. It happened to me once, for a reason that I think was completely inappropriate. Forty years later, I still haven’t forgotten it. It still pisses me off, because he had no right to strike me for any reason, let alone the reason he did. Below is part of the post I wrote in 2013 about the day I got a “whaling”.

…I was generally a pretty good kid and, in his class, I was one of the better students.  But one day, he had asked us to exchange papers so we could grade them.  I whispered to the person in front of me that mine might be messy.  Next thing I know, Mr. A. was calling me up to the front of the room to put my hands on the blackboard and bend over so my butt stuck out.  He made some inappropriate comment about how he had a good target, then proceeded to hit me with his whale paddle.

I don’t remember the paddling being painful.  It was just very humiliating.  To be paddled in front of a bunch of nine year olds is really embarrassing, especially when a lot of them tease you to start with.  I remembering being very upset… like I had been publicly betrayed by a trusted friend.  Moreover, I really didn’t think my offense warranted a paddling.

I went home still upset and my mom asked what was wrong.  I told her what happened.  She was upset about it, but my dad said I must have deserved it.  My dad was very pro corporal punishment and that was pretty much the only method he ever used to discipline me.  I still have a lot of lingering anger toward him for that reason.  He would get angry and hit me, sometimes when he was out of control.  Granted, I was a “handful”, but I was basically a good kid who caused little trouble, other than occasional disrespect and mischief. 

Paddling in public schools was legal in Virginia in the early 1980s; it has been banned in public schools since 1989, but is still allowed in private schools.  And maybe there were a few kids who deserved to be paddled, though I think that would have been better done in private instead of in front of their peers.  I don’t think what I did justified a public humiliation… and obviously many years later I still remember it.  I think if a teacher ever hit a child of mine, I would go ballistic.

I think most of all, though, I was disappointed in my mom.  She objected to what Mr. A had done, but did nothing about it.  She just went along with what my dad said, as usual. 

The following school year, Mr. A. ended up moving to the next school with us because he got a job teaching P.E.  He was in my school system the whole time I was growing up.  I guess I eventually forgave him, but I never forgot and I think I lost some respect for him that day, too. 

Later that year, Mr. A. had us outside playing soccer. For some reason, he decided to play the game with us. He was a pretty big guy with a powerful kick. At one point, he kicked the soccer ball and it happened to hit me in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me. I was actually unconscious for a minute and woke up with my head between my knees. That incident was also very embarrassing and painful for me. I remember Mr. A., who was originally from upstate New York, saying “Sore-y” (sorry, but with a Canadian accent) and sending me to the nurse to lie down for a bit.

Mr. A. was also notorious for playing a game he called “slaughter ball”. Basically, it was like dodge ball, but kids would line up against a wall as other kids and Mr. A. himself would throw the ball at them as hard as they could. I don’t remember playing slaughter ball with Mr. A., but I knew people who had him for P.E. class and did experience that. Having been both “paddled” and knocked unconscious by him, I can believe he was an enthusiastic player. Too bad my parents didn’t care enough about me to complain.

Because of my experiences with corporal punishment, both at home and that one time at school, I’m pretty much against its use as a disciplinary tool. I definitely don’t think it’s appropriate for school officials– teachers or principals– to be hitting children that aren’t theirs, particularly if the parents haven’t granted permission. Given the mother’s reaction to her child’s discipline session, I’m guessing that she did not give Carter permission to discipline her child in such a violent and disrespectful manner. I think if that had been my child, I would have raised holy hell… but sadly, I suspect that if I had been the mother in that case, Carter would not have dared to use corporal punishment. I’m not an undocumented immigrant and I speak perfect English. But at least she didn’t do it in front of a classroom full of the child’s peers… On the other hand, mom videoed this session and gave it to the press, so in essence, her daughter was just paddled in front of the whole world.

Although I remember still liking Mr. A. when I was a child, that was probably because a lot of men I respected (back then) hurt me physically, mentally, or emotionally. I never considered what they did abuse until years later, when I crashed into depression and crippling anxiety, told my story to a licensed psychologist, and was informed that I actually had been abused. In fact, one of my neighbors sexually abused me by exposing me to pornography when I was about nine or ten years old. I started thinking about all of this stuff I had compartmentalized for years and my mindset really changed. My father’s go to punishment for me was spanking, slapping, and yelling. He continued to feel free to do it until I finally told him, as an adult, that he had no right. And then I threatened to have him arrested.

In April 2016, there was another well-publicized case about a child who was spanked at school by his principal. That case, which took place in Georgia, also involved a Hispanic child and a mother who disapproved, but went along with it because she was afraid of law enforcement. The mother, Shana Marie Perez, claimed she signed a consent form under duress to allow her then five year old son, Thomas, to be paddled for spitting and almost hitting another student. Perez was told that if the principal was not permitted to paddle Thomas, Thomas would be suspended. Perez had been arrested two weeks prior to the incident on truancy charges. She had been booked into jail and released. If Thomas got suspended and missed more school days, Perez feared that she would go to jail.

In the 2016 video Perez took of her son being spanked, viewers can see administrators trying to get Thomas to bend over for his spanking. Viewers can also hear him begging not to be spanked and calling for his mommy. The teachers try to hold him down, but he continues to struggle, putting his hands over his bottom and fighting. Trust has no doubt been broken at this point as one of the teachers says, “He’s going to get a spanking. We have all the time in the world.”

Brent Probinsky, the attorney for the Florida mother and her daughter, says the girl’s mom calls him twice a day because the child has been “terrorized” by what happened. She cries and doesn’t sleep. To be honest, watching that video, hearing that principal’s harsh tone and threatening words, and most of all, seeing her really rear back and hit the girl with a wooden paddle, makes me believe that the child was traumatized. Probinsky insists that this was aggravated battery and he’s hoping that Florida officials will strip the principal and the clerk of their licenses so they will no longer be able to work in Florida schools. At this point, both women are on leave.

It occurs to me that if an adult hits another adult, a case could easily be made for assault and battery charges. But for some reason, many people think it’s perfectly fine for adults to hit children. And children are never in a good position to defend themselves against adults. I stop short of saying that corporal punishment is never appropriate, but I definitely don’t think it should be something that is done in schools. At best, I think it’s a last resort solution that should be done very rarely. I’m not sure what will happen to Melissa Carter or Cecilia Self, but I do think it would be appropriate if both of them were permanently relieved of their positions.

I just don’t think that hitting children is the best way to get their respect. When I was a child and got hit by my father, all I remember is hating him and wanting to either hit him back or kill him. I don’t remember him ever taking the time to talk to me about things I did wrong. I just remember his face turning red, veins popping out, and being turned over his knee while he took out all of his frustrations. And now that I’m in my late 40s, I still don’t have a very high opinion of him, even though I know he wasn’t all bad. The truth is, those discipline sessions were not actually very disciplined at all. When he died, I didn’t shed many tears… and to this day, I lament the fact that he treated me the way he did. Maybe it’s a blessing I didn’t have children of my own to fuck up.

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disasters, Duggars, narcissists

Josh Duggar is in deep doo doo…

Well… last night– yesterday afternoon Arkansas time– Josh Duggar’s charges became public. He’s been charged with two counts of receiving and possessing child pornography. I suspect that was what the whole Homeland Security raid was about back in November 2019, when the feds busted into Josh’s car dealership office. This was the statement released by the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Arkansas.

I’m not sure if he could get 20 years total or 20 years for each count… I also don’t know if there’s more porn that they found, but they’re only charging him for two counts.

Back in 2015, when Josh’s pervert proclivities first came out, I had some empathy for him. At that time, his crimes against his sisters and the babysitter were reported as having happened in 2002, when Josh was himself still a child. I reasoned that at 14, he was the same age Elizabeth Smart was when she was kidnapped. People were calling Elizabeth Smart a child. I reasoned that in 2002, Josh was also a child, and should get some consideration for that fact. The fact that he was a male and doing something very wrong didn’t change the fact that Josh wasn’t yet an adult.

In 2015, Josh was NOT a child, but when the news about his crimes against his sisters first surfaced, we hadn’t yet heard about his extramarital affairs with other women or his penchant for viewing pornography as he lectured everyone else about family values and Christian decency. He is a liar and a hypocrite, for sure, and he was back then, too… But I still wish that when he was still just a fourteen year old boy, his parents had done something real to help him. He might have still turned out to be who he is today, but at least they could say they gave helping him an honest try. Instead of getting him some therapy from a real counselor and trying to treat his issues, they shaved his head and sent him off to do hard labor with a family friend.

When I was studying for my MSW, I had a professor who worked with sex offenders. He was an interesting guy, who had a lot to say about the subject and his years of experience within it. He explained that the sex drive is an incredibly powerful impulse and extremely difficult to control in some people, much like eating or drinking. That does not excuse sex offenders from being held accountable when they victimize people. However, it may offer some kind of an explanation. A person with a deviant sex drive is not like you or me; they don’t think the same way because they have a true mental illness.

That being said, I think Josh Duggar is a total creep and a hypocrite, and I would not be surprised if he is a full blown narcissist. He’s done bad things that have affected many innocent people in so many negative ways. I suppose the American public is, in a strange way, kind of complicit in the fact that his crimes have escalated, because he was not really held accountable six years ago. In 2015, Josh was outed, and that should have led to REAL treatment for his problem, as well as restitution that involved something other than attending a fundie “treatment” program. However, the Duggar family franchise still continued. Josh was not on any of the shows, but he was still pretty visible, and he and his wife continued to make babies, which were shown off to the world. It was as if they were counting on (see what I did there) the whole thing to blow over. And, honestly, I think it was getting to that point, although I suspect Counting On is on its last legs, anyway.

I also noticed that Jim Boob and Michelle were also sneaking back into the spotlight. I have no doubt that if Josh hadn’t been busted, they would have eventually found their way back to the show as more prominent fixtures. I absolutely hold Mr. and Mrs. Duggar responsible for not taking proper care of their children– especially Josh and the sisters he violated when he was fourteen. They did nothing to protect or support their innocent children, nor did they get appropriate or effective help for their child who hurt them. Seems to me that money and fame was more important to Boob, and Michelle was simply doing what she was trained to do… be “joyfully available” and follow her man. I wonder if Michelle blames Anna for not being a “good enough” helpmeet. If Anna had only been a better wife, Josh wouldn’t have been tempted… but I think we all know that line of thinking is nothing but bullshit.

A lot of people are writing about Anna Duggar, claiming that they don’t care about what happens to her. I think if they care about Josh’s children– and people really should, in my opinion– we should also care about Anna. She’s very likely going to have to deal with raising that brood by herself, especially if she stays married to Josh. It’s going to be very difficult for her, and she has a big job to do, making sure she does her best to see that none of her children with Josh turn out to be like him in any way. I’ve always thought Anna was a decent mother, although one might question a woman who keeps making babies with a known pervert. But Anna was raised and conditioned to be “joyfully available”, and there is no telling what kind of abuse Josh put her through when the cameras weren’t rolling. Add in Jim Boob’s obvious control issues and the way he treats anyone who doesn’t do what he says, and you have a very scary situation for a young woman, especially one with so many children to care for.

On one hand, I’m relieved for Josh’s children that he probably won’t have much access to them. On the other hand, I also know that it’s hard to see your loved one– especially a parent– being accused of very serious crimes and locked up. Josh’s children are totally innocent, but they are probably going to have to live with this infamy for the rest of their lives. It’s going to affect everything. I imagine when they get older, wanting to find a mate or possibly a job. There will be people who won’t want to associate with them because of who their father is and what he’s done… and allegedly done.

In any case, my sympathies are definitely with Josh’s children. I do have some empathy for Anna, too. She’s got a tough and scary road ahead of her, especially given that she’s pregnant again. I hope this will be the last baby she makes with Josh. And I hope people in her family will show her kindness and mercy, and help her… because I can already see that a lot of people in the public at large have no regard for her at all. I am sure that having been married to a narcissistic type like Josh, she’s used to people not caring or being kind. Remember, Josh famously took a nap when she was laboring at home, birthing one of the older kids. But it’s still a hard way to live, and I think that someone so obviously victimized by a notorious abuser should rate more understanding.

One thing that Bill and I have learned is that these kinds of problems don’t tend to go away when they are ignored. It’s hard to face the truth and all of the unpleasantness that can come with a situation like this. Doing the right thing is difficult and scary. However, if you don’t nip it in the bud with some very decisive and effective actions, it will get worse and more innocent people will be harmed. Eventually, you will end up with a much bigger problem than what you started with.

Incidentally, a Facebook user named Thriving Forward wrote and shared a very informative post about why Anna has stayed married to Josh and continued to have babies. Thriving Forward is herself a survivor and escapee of the fundie cult Advanced Training Institute (ATI), founded by Bill Gothard. ATI is the fundie Christian belief system the Duggars follow. The post is public, and you can find it by clicking here.

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Ex, LDS, psychology

The “princess treatment”…

About ten years ago, I was a big fan of the Project Rant series on YouTube. This channel featured actors who would take the most entertaining rants from Craig’s List and recite them as if they were the people who wrote them. I can’t remember which rant attracted me first, but I was hooked after I saw my first video– which wasn’t actually their first video. I have a habit of catching on to things after they’ve been established for awhile. For instance, it took me four years to discover Desperate Housewives. I never got into Nurse Jackie until long after it was off TV.

This morning, I discovered a video by Project Rant that I hadn’t yet seen. It’s entitled “Bully”, and appears below…

This one is a bit darker than most of them… I had somehow missed its release. I like her parting shot.

I hate bullies. I understand on a cognitive level that bullies exist because they have unmet psychological needs, and they take out their angst on people they perceive to be different and/or weaker than they are. I still hate them, though. I have been on the receiving end of bullies for most of my life, and it’s caused me a lot of pain. It’s also made me surprisingly resilient and resolute about some things. As I watched the above Project Rant video, I related to the actress as she describes mean people provoking her to take action.

What is a bully? Simply put, a bully is “a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable”. I’ve seen some people and behaviors described as “bullying”, when they don’t actually fit the definition of “bully”. For instance, I don’t think mere criticism of someone counts as bullying. There has to be a threat or intimidation involved. There also has to be a perceived power imbalance– whether or not there is an actual power imbalance– which causes the bully to act.

This morning, Bill and I were discussing a sad and distressing situation involving a female bully and her victims. For years, we were the only ones who seemed to see what was happening. Other people have now noticed the bully and the bad behavior perpetrated by this person.

Having a relationship with a bully, particularly when it’s someone as close as one’s parent, is like falling into quicksand or being caught in an undertow. It’s very troublesome and exhausting to extricate oneself from those situations. Once you’re out of that metaphorical quicksand or undertow, you’re wise to stay out of the morass and avoid the area. That’s what going “no contact” is about. A person can go “no contact” with a bully and still forgive them, and even wish the best for them.

But, as the actress in the above Project Rant video points out, sometimes you have to take bullies down a notch. There are times when it’s appropriate and even necessary to take action against them. Sometimes, you have to fight back. Sometimes, the smallest and most subtle and obscure clues can be profound in how they illustrate an actual scenario of how a bully is operating. Context is important.

The above video is pretty funny… especially at the beginning, as the missionaries ring the doorbells to the stars.

This morning, Bill related a story he’d heard from someone who had served as a Mormon missionary. Mormon missionaries, as you may or may not know, are not often treated well by the public. They tend to get a lot of doors slammed in their faces. But every once in awhile, they run into people who offer unexpected kindness to them. It’s those people who are the most memorable, and who often have a profound affect on the missionary’s experiences in the field.

I have kind of a special affinity for missionaries. I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, which isn’t the same as being a Mormon missionary in terms of my purposes for being away, or the day to day lifestyle. How the experience is similar, however, is that Peace Corps Volunteers and missionaries are far away from home and typically don’t have a lot of money. Both groups of people can be somewhat vulnerable in a number of ways. And since they are so far from the comforts of home, some situations are magnified in terms of how they are experienced and remembered.

Sometimes, people are cruel, but sometimes they’re not. I think the LDS missionary and Peace Corps situations are also similar in that, a lot of times, missionaries and Volunteers find themselves daydreaming about being at home and feeling comfortable among material possessions and loved ones. However, it’s possible for a PCV to visit home during their service. It’s generally not possible for LDS missionaries to go home while they are “serving the Lord”, even if there’s an emergency. Being a Mormon missionary can be very tough, unpleasant, and uncomfortable.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Bill said that this missionary had been treated like a “princess” by a couple she and her companion met when they were missionaries. The couple, who were members of the church, helped them out by giving them a place to stay for a couple of weeks. For some reason, the sister missionaries had nowhere to stay, so the couple had taken them in on a temporary basis. Years later, she remembers the experience of staying with the couple and describes their treatment of her as “like a princess”.

It’s my understanding that the church arranges apartments for the missionaries. The apartments tend to be cheap and spartan in nature, and sometimes they aren’t in the best or safest neighborhoods. But supposedly, the onus is not on the missionary to go out and find an apartment on their own. I am left thinking that the missionary in this story was waiting for a spot to open in an existing apartment, but I’m not sure exactly what the situation was.

I was just awestruck that the former missionary felt this couple who had taken her and her companion into their home– strangers to them, except for being fellow church members– had treated her so well that she felt like a princess. Either the couple who had offered hospitality are extraordinary people who weren’t aware of the concept of what missionary life is supposed to be like, or the missionary’s life at home was extraordinarily terrible. Bill happens to know something about this particular missionary’s home life. Indeed, he knows about it quite intimately. And he can attest that life at home was probably pretty horrible for her.

Still… hearing that story this morning really gobsmacked me. Over the years, I’ve read a lot of accounts from former LDS missionaries. I know that for a lot of them, the mission is pretty tough. It’s physically, emotionally, and mentally uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s even dangerous. Sometimes missionaries come home with lifelong health issues related to their missions, or lose limbs or senses.

A number of missionaries have even died while serving. Some get sick with diseases like dysentery, or they become seriously ill because they don’t get adequate medical treatment. That tends to happen when the missionaries are in remote areas in developing countries. Some missionaries are victims of crimes. I remember in 2006, an “elder” (male missionary) from Utah was killed in Virginia when he and his companion stumbled across a criminal in the process of committing an offense. The criminal shot the missionaries, and one of them– Morgan Young– died, while the other was wounded.

Church members tend to regard those who die while serving a mission as somehow blessed– they had a special purpose that God needed them for in the Celestial Kingdom, or something. I remember, in particular, the missionary who died in Virginia, since that’s my home state and where I was living at the time of the death. His mother said her son had “died with his boots on”. Below is a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley, who was president of the LDS church when the missionary was murdered:

“I’m impressed with the thought that Elder Young has joined the ranks of a very select group who stand so very, very high in the estimate of God,” he said. “There is some special place and some special work for them to do under our Father’s plan.”

Some missionaries have accidents, which run the gamut from the garden variety car crash, to falling off cliffs while hiking, or even being mauled by animals. Many missionaries make it through the experience just fine, although some are left with emotional scars that haunt them. I’ve read a lot of stories by people who have been LDS missionaries and have left the experience worse for wear. But sometimes, the mission– as tough as it can be– is even better than being at home.

It’s not that different for Peace Corps Volunteers. Sometimes, PCVs die, have accidents, are victims of crimes, or contract exotic illnesses that affect them for the rest of their lives. I think that PCVs may have access to better healthcare. I know that they can be “medevacked” to the States or a western country for treatment, if it’s necessary. The LDS church, on the other hand, tends to do things as cheaply as possible. A lot of times, church members are tapped for help– donations of skills or material things, like a room in a house. So, say a church member is a doctor or a dentist. The church might call on that person to offer treatment for an ailing missionary free of charge, or at a much reduced rate. Sometimes people are glad to help, but other times, it’s an imposition.

I would think hosting two young women in a home, particularly since missionaries have to live by rather strict standards and rules, could be an imposition. I would not expect a missionary to be treated like royalty. But then, I also know that sometimes, just being treated with basic kindness, dignity, and respect when one has spent their whole lives being abused, can feel like royal treatment. So, knowing what we do about this situation, I guess I can understand why it felt like “princess treatment” for the missionary in question. She was getting treated like someone with value. And now, she wants to help others who are not being treated with value escape the morass, and get away from the bully who has victimized them for years.

It’s very satisfying to escape the toxic clutches of a bully. It’s even more satisfying to help someone else escape, and to help them realize that they can and should be treated with basic respect. But it’s absolutely mind blowing when someone describes being treated with dignity and decency as “the princess treatment”. I have no words for that. It’s possible that this missionary was really treated as if she was a princess, but I doubt it. I think being treated with warmth, friendliness, fairness, and love was so foreign and comforting to her that it felt like “the princess treatment”, much like a plate of bland vegetables or saltines tastes like the best food in the world to a starving person. It’s all about perspective.

Anyway… we hope we can help her take the bully down a notch. Maybe not with a literal baseball bat… but with something just as devastating and powerful. Time will tell.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists

A review of Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It by Ann Silvers, MA

I have just finished reading Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It, a book for male victims of abuse written by Ann Silvers, MA, a counselor who practices in Washington State. Silvers is herself a former abuse victim, but she is also formally educated in counseling and has a speciality in helping both men and women survive and escape abusive relationships. She’s been practicing for over 30 years.

This first edition book was released in September 2018 and appears to be a product of self-publishing, as it was published by an outfit called Silvers Publishing. In spite of the fact that it’s apparently self-published, Abuse OF Men BY Women is an excellent book. It’s surprisingly comprehensive, well-organized, and readable.

Why did I read this book for male abuse victims if I’m a woman?

There are a couple of reasons. First off, I have master’s degrees in both social work and public health, and if I weren’t “The Overeducated Housewife”, this might be considered professional reading for me. As it stands today, I just find it interesting subject matter. Secondly, my husband’s first wife abused him. Bill and I have been married for 18 years, and I’m still learning about everything that happened during their marriage, which lasted almost ten years. Although he’s come a long way since we first met, the healing process has been long… and a lot of people have little empathy or regard for men who have survived abuse.

Since I have both an educational and real life background in the subject matter Ms. Silvers covers in her book, I thought it would be interesting to read her thoughts on male abuse victims. More people need to realize that women are not the only ones who get abused in relationships. Unfortunately, it’s much harder for men to get help when they are in toxic relationships with women. A lot of people don’t take them or the issue seriously, or they assume the man is lying. I have seen firsthand the psychological and physical scars my husband bears after his first marriage. I take this issue seriously, and I want others to know more about it.

This book’s strengths

One of the things I noticed about this book that may be a plus for some readers is that the concepts are broken down into easy to digest pieces. Silvers has an easy to read writing style that takes little effort to navigate. I think that is especially important in books such as this one, since the people reading it are likely to be in trouble and upset. The book is very comprehensive and realistically covers a broad array of topics that male abuse victims may face. For instance, Silvers confronts the reality that not a lot of shelters will accept male clients, even if they need somewhere to go after they escape. She even admits that if a man calls the police for help, it could backfire, and he could wind up the one in trouble with the law. But she also reminds readers that if they don’t ever ask for help, there is a 0% chance that they’ll get it.

I liked that Silvers covered the many ways men can be abused. A lot of people wrongly assume that men, who are often bigger and stronger than women are, can always fight back when a woman gets physical. That’s not always true. Aside from that, some women use weapons… and there are also times when the woman uses other means of getting her way. She may, for example, use her femininity to get sympathy from others. She may alienate children or family members, or engage in financial or legal abuse. As I read Silvers’ descriptions of the scenarios that can arise in female to male abuse situations, I found myself nodding my head. Almost all of them have happened to Bill.

Silvers explains that men may have to accept that some people won’t believe that he’s a victim, but they may end up pleasantly surprised that the public attitude is changing. Bill’s ex wife turned the children against him and even tried to convince his parents that he’s an abusive, woman hating pervert. However, Bill’s younger daughter, who was estranged for years, eventually recognized that her mother abused him. And her parents were not swayed by the Ex’s lies, either. His stepmother took a little more time to be convinced.

This book’s weaknesses

Overall, I don’t think Abuse OF Men BY Women has that many weaknesses. It’s a well-written and useful book. It’s practical, engaging, and easy to read. I guess if I had to offer a complaint, it might be that, to me, the book has a somewhat academic feel, not so much in the writing style, but in the way it’s laid out. There aren’t any graphics or charts, per se. The chapters are arranged as if they were done for a university thesis, rather than a book to be read by laypeople. The lone one star review on Amazon mentioned that the reader had been expecting journalism, rather than a self-help book. I knew this was a self-help book, so I don’t have that complaint.

Overall

I think Abuse OF Men BY Women is a useful tool for men who are in abusive relationships. I don’t know how many men in this situation would take the time to read a book like this one. I think it’s more likely their caring female companions, who get involved during or after the abuse, probably will. For instance, I noticed that some reviewers on Amazon were not men in abusive relationships; they were women who were involved in some way with men who had been abused (family members or new significant others). I have learned a lot about this issue myself, having been married to Bill. This kind of extra reading makes it easy for me to talk to him, even though ideally, he should talk to someone who is licensed to counsel him and isn’t directly involved, as I am. But this kind of book does make the problem easier to understand for me, and I suspect it would have been helpful for Bill when he was still in an abusive relationship.

Silvers writes like someone who understands the problem very well and has done her best to cover every angle. I like that she does so in a way that isn’t derogatory, either. Other books I’ve read on this subject have a tone that is unflattering toward women. I remember one book I read years ago was published in Ireland, and the title (which was later changed) was, That Bitch: Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent. While most abusive women are, in fact, legitimate bitches much of the time, I don’t think that title was appropriate. It’s hard to take a book seriously when the very title is a misogynistic insult. I suspect the publishers determined that the good information in that book was not being read, since the title was so antagonistic and, in and of itself, somewhat abusive. On the other hand, I remember reading another book, over 20 years ago, that was entitled Let’s Face It: Men are @$$#%\¢$: What Women Can Do About It. I remember not being very impressed with that book, although I’m sure the title attracted plenty of attention and helped make sales.

Anyway… Ann Silvers is much more professional in her approach, and that’s what makes her book more useful, in my view. Abuse OF Men BY Women is not just a book about offering sympathy and bashing males or females. Silvers offers practical and realistic advice, and even warns that sometimes doing the right thing can lead to unpleasant consequences. For men, sorry to say, calling for help can be legitimately risky. On the other hand, if more abused men would stand up to be counted, they would more likely be taken more seriously and have more access to the help they need. We’ve got to break the stigma against male domestic violence abuse victims. I think this book helps do that, so I highly recommend it.

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book reviews

Repost: My review of Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu…

And finally, a repost of my review of Olympic gold medalist gymnast Dominique Moceanu’s book, Off Balance, which I read and reviewed in June 2012. This review is posted as/is, so Dominique is no longer 30.

I will never forget the summer Olympics of 1996.  They were held in Atlanta, Georgia, a city I would eventually briefly call home.  Though Atlanta is now not so far from home, back in 1996, it was halfway around the world from where I was.  At that time, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia.  The United States Embassy had graciously allowed Peace Corps Volunteers to use its services, which included a laundry, movie theater, and restaurant.  The restaurant got the Armed Forces Network (AFN), which aired American television shows and, of course, the Olympic Games! 

The 1996 Games were very special, especially for the women’s gymnastics team, which won team gold and consisted of seven amazing young ladies.  One young lady on the 1996 women’s gymnastics team at the Olympics was Dominique Moceanu, author of the brand new memoir, Off Balance: A Memoir.  This book, which comes on the market just in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, was also written by Paul and Teri Williams.  

Dominique Moceanu’s electrifying floor routine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Who is Dominique Moceanu?

Dominique Moceanu had already made a lot of headlines before the Games.  At 14, she was the youngest and tiniest member of the women’s gymnastics team.  Born to immigrant Romanian parents, in many ways Moceanu bore a striking resemblance to another famous Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci.  Besides looking a lot like Nadia, Moceanu had the same famous coaches, Bela and Marta Karolyi, and the same athletic power, grace, and charisma.  And just like Nadia at 14 years old, 14 year old Dominique Moceanu won gold for her country at the Olympics.  She will always be the youngest American gymnast to win gold, since the eligibiity rules changed after 1996 and now female gymnasts must be at least 15 years old to compete.

Dominique Moceanu was born about a year after her parents’ wedding in 1980 and she was very impressive from the start.  At six months old, her parents had her hang by her hands from a clothesline.  Even as a baby, her grip was amazing and somehow her parents knew they had a gymnast on their hands.

Being an amazing gymnast has its price, however.  Moceanu explains that since her parents were old school Romanians, she suffered a bit trying to adjust to American culture.  Her parents were very poor and came from a country where family honor is a very important concept.  Consequently, Moceanu worked very hard as she grew up and had little control or say over her own life.  Her late father, Dmitru Moceanu, was very ambitious for his daughter and, along with the Karolyis, forced her to train endlessly.  He was very controlling and not above using violence to get what he wanted. 

At age ten, Moceanu began working with the Bela and Marta Karolyi, whose training methods were effective, but brutal.  I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Dominque as she described a childhood spent in a gym full of old equipment and ever changing coaches.  The truth was, the Karolyis didn’t actually do most of the coaching themselves.  They hired and fired different people at the drop of a hat.  

Behind Dominique’s powerful tumbling and confident smile, there was a young lady who was truly suffering for her sport.  Bela and Marta Karolyi, though famous and charismatic on camera, were exceedingly demanding and critical coaches who forced Dominique to starve herself as she put her growing body through punishing and grueling practices.  When Dominique became famous and started earning money, her father squandered it on a huge gym, forcing Moceanu to go to court to become emancipated from her parents at age 17. 

In 2007, Moceanu learned that her parents had kept a secret from her and her younger sister, Christina.  They had given up another daughter for adoption.  Dominique learned of her long lost sister, Jennifer Bricker, when Bricker sent her a letter, pictures, and adoption documents.  Besides the fact that Dominique did not know that she had a sister, she also didn’t know that her sister was born without legs and that was the main reason her parents had given her up.  Moceanu found out about her sister as she was about to give birth to her first child and was trying to prepare for final exams in college.

Now just 30 years old, Moceanu is a married mother of two, an Olympic champion, a college graduate, and getting to know the sister her parents gave away.  To top it all off, her father, with whom she’d always had a complicated relationship, died a few years ago of a rare eye cancer. 

My thoughts

Yes, Dominique Moceanu has seen, done, and lived a lot in her thirty years.  Ordinarily, I would say she was too young to write her life story, but there’s plenty to read about in Off Balance.  This book is written as if Dominque were sitting nearby, having a chat with a friend.  In a casual, conversational style, Moceanu, with help from her ghost writers, retells her life story.  Curiously enough, she doesn’t start at the beginning.  The book begins with Moceanu’s discovery that she had a long lost sister… one born without legs, no less!  From there, Dominique explains how her parents met and wed in an arranged marriage and left Romania for the United States, determined to make a better life and eventually became a world class and world famous gymnastics family.

I didn’t really care too much for the initial jumping around this book did, but I’m kind of old school when it comes to reading life stories.  I like to start at the beginning.  But I also understand that a lot of people will be buying this book because of the recent buzz surrounding Moceanu’s legless sister.  Indeed, I didn’t even know Off Balance existed until I saw a news clip about Dominque and Jennifer Bricker finally meeting each other.  I would have read the book anyway, since I love memoirs about famous gymnasts, but I have to admit this astonishing development in Moceanu’s family life is very compelling.     

I was very touched by how accepting Moceanu and her younger sister, Christina, were toward Jennifer Bricker.  Indeed, they all seem to get along as if they had spent their whole lives together.  And Bricker is truly amazing in her own right; she seems to have inherited the amazing athletic genes that helped make Dominque Moceanu a champion.  Despite not having legs, Jennifer Bricker is able to be a gymnast herself and now works as an aerialist.

Aside from all of her family dramas, Moceanu also writes about the politics and corruption she encountered in the elite gymnastics community.  And she includes the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband, podiatrist and gymnast Dr. Michael Canales.

Moceanu includes plenty of color photos.  I read this book on an iPad, so the photos were easy to see.  The book was also a very quick and satisfying read.  I finished it in less than 24 hours.

Overall

Dominique Moceanu may only be 30, but she’s done a lot of living.  I enjoyed reading Off Balance and would recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys memoirs, particularly about sports figures.

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