Good, Accurate Representations

Published on
November 11, 2010

Last week two different television programs aired that depicted first a murder (on Closer) and then a brutal assault (on Private Practice). Although the stories were fiction and mere representations of devastating assaults, they were highly accurate in many respects. I'd like to look at those representations of the series of incidents leading up to various types of abuse. The more you understand about the things that happen, the more you'll understand what the target of those assaults is experiencing when you meet them or attempt to serve them as a care giver.

The Closer episode resolved by showing how the murderer was able to enter the victim's house so easily on multiple occasions. It was precisely the circumstances I endured just before I escaped from abuse in 1999. One of the murder weapons was a box cutter, which was a weapon used to threaten me before I left. Apparently I did a magnificent job of sublimating the enormous amount of danger that surrounded me because it wasn't until watching that episode that I finally gained full appreciate of the situation. It wasn't my imagination that each day grew a little darker. I thought the darkness was because I had to keep the windows nailed shut to prevent entry through them. I thought the darkness was because I had to keep the window shades and drapes closed to prevent unwanted eyes seeing what I was doing and where I was in the house.

There was no one to come to my defense. Neighbors and police refused to come to my assistance. In fact, two neighbors watched as I was attacked. One declined to do anything by saying they could not until there was blood. I still remember thinking that when blood is drawn the time for coming to someone's aid is too late. It was up to me to be all in regard to knowledgeable, wary, and keen on how to use my best skills to protect myself. An episode of The View had aired approximately a month before those last days. During their discussion of domestic violence, Star Jones warned those who were living with abuse that the only thing that happens in that situation is the abuse continues to grow. The day that it becomes physical marks the day that if the target does not leave, the eventuality is death. Its day of recognition is soon in coming.

In 2008, I was among a total of six people renting rooms in a house. It was officially a boarding house but not permitted for such. It was also essentially a rehabilitation facility although not officially designated as such. The owner vehemently denied that status. However, all of the other residents have some type of disabling condition: psychological issues, substance abuse issues, dysfunction, learning disabilities, comprehension issues. They are pathological. Why was I there? At the time I rented my room, there was absolutely no other place within my price range that was available. Even though I attempted to move to a safer place on three different occasions, it did not happen. One barrier after another arose to force me into staying where I was. There seemed no way out. Eventually, my daily prayer was, "Please don't let me die in this place."

In November, a 20-something visitor of one of the residents brutally beat me because she objected to my recounting to a visiting neighbor (who in all likelihood is also a gang member) some of the abuses and property damage I was enduring. She vocalized her disgust with the types of things I was saying and made threats about what she would do if the conversation continued. It continued; she acted on her words. I was kicked in the head at least six times after being beaten to the floor. The mock black eye that I wore for last year's Halloween party at a nursing home was my poking fun at myself for what I endured the year before; it was my way of celebrating my safety. But in November 2008, I found I still was in a situation where I had no police protection. In fact, I was accused of having attacked and harmed my perpetrator. The police would not respond to my four or five 911 calls until nearly three hours later when my call was rerouted to a different precinct.

Someone to Talk To (video clip)

Imagine my shock when the episode of Private Practice that aired last week depicted the character Charlotte and the injuries she sustained. The makeup for her was extremely accurate. It was pretty close to how I looked after the attack in 2008. The hospital staff's attention to her injuries was extremely close to the attentiveness the doctors at the hospital provided to me that night. Actually, they were dismayed. This was their second time to attend me for an assault. They also had experience with me because of an increasingly aggravated ulcer that threatened the necessity of amputation. They realized each time they saw me I was becoming weaker because of the rages my body endured. They could only do as much as their protocols allowed.

Some trailers for this week's episode of Private Practice aired tonight. They plan to continue the story of the assault and Charlotte's reaction, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I highly recommend you watch this week's episode on Channel 7 at 10 PM. I believe you'll recognize a lot of the behavior portrayed by Charlotte. She is a very strong woman who looks at the world through very clear glasses. She is her worst critic and abhors being seen as a weakling. Her tongue is as sharp as her mind. But in tonight's episode, we see Charlotte finally succumb to the emotions she's been bottling up inside. She explodes.

Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King? (video clip)

She isn't crazy; she's extremely human (this fictional character who is so excellently portrayed on the small screen). The situations she has endured are enormous. Without counseling, a trusted person who can keep her information confidential and out of medical records, she has no means of allowing the building pressures to be eased. But the pressure cooker reached its limits tonight.

To those who are unfamiliar with the enormous amount of trauma endured by a person as strong as "Charlotte," she looks as though she's out of control. Coercion, shouting, threats are some of the methods used by those who are not familiar with domestic abuse and its traumas. They are counter-productive and only worsen the symptoms. Running interference on her efforts to obtain assistance and support, proper treatment, are also counter-productive and create yet another phase of abuse from which escape is necessary. Screaming her objections is a futile attempt at being heard because it is completely misunderstood -- even by those who are supposedly licensed medical practitioners.

I wish the barrier to my speaking on the subject of abuse could come tumbling down and the door opened to allow my voice to educate and inform. I wish I could be compensated for doing the presentations and creating the education. For now, it appears it will be necessary to continue my education of others via my written words.

Trying to reach this story has been met with many (probably) self-created barriers. A responsible journalist researches the subject. They come up with hard facts and statistics. Sometimes the hard facts need to be the personal stories. Sometimes the accurate statistics just aren't available. The words will come to you but in a more spontaneous manner.