For today’s blog, I will offer the introduction to my upcoming book, The Prettiest Home on the Block, being published by Blue Heron Book Works in Allentown, Pennsylvania. We are planning on a September release date, which couldn’t be more perfect, since Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October. If you wish to be placed on my notification list for when it comes out, send me a PM. I will take pre-orders, but you won’t be obligated to buy if you change your mind until then. I hope you will find this enticing.
Despite our age of enlightenment and the empowerment of women it showcases, domestic violence (DV), or intimate partner violence (IPV), as it is known today, remains a tenacious problem in our country and in the world at large. In the United States, one in 4 women and one in ten men will experience IPV in a lifetime, and these are just the cases that have been reported. We never hear from the silent sufferers. Whether overtly expressed or not, prevailing attitudes still seem to dictate that men are stronger and should be in control of women. The idea that women are supposed to be the weaker sex and subservient to men dates to biblical times and somehow has persisted through the ages. Although I believe that men of this generation are more sensitive to the place of women in society and in the home than past generations, some of these patterns of behavior refuse to die, and until they do, we must be vigilant in our communication and education to both men and women.
For the purposes of this book only, women will be referred to as victims and men as abusers because this is true in more cases than not and because my subject is a woman. I do not mean to minimize men as victims because they can be, and are. In fact, there are likely more cases than we know about because men do not always report their abuse. It is also written in this way for simplicity and ease of expression. Make no mistake, though, men are at risk for abuse, also.
We can know the statistics and shake our heads in pity, and we can give someone all the resources at our fingertips to help them, but unless a victim understands why she enters into these relationships, it may be difficult for her to change and she may find herself repeatedly being drawn to abusive men. In reading over my work, Donna mentioned to me that she wishes she would have had the insights I talk about a long time ago. It was hard for her to see her life typed out on a Dell. The questions are, then, how does a woman become a victim of abuse, and how does an abuser become who he is? More importantly, how could Donna have shed the mindset of abuse that plagued her? Men are not born abusers and women are not born victims. We are all born with our own unique palette of DNA, but nature alone does not create a person. Nurture picks up where nature leaves off. From the day we are born, we are exposed to a multitude of influences collectively called nurture. Nature and nurture work together to form the kind of people we become as adults; they are not exclusive. This book will wade into the nature vs nurture debate, and, hopefully, give you some tools to work with to overcome negative influences that may be subconsciously sabatoging your life.
For full disclosure, I am not a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or mental health worker; I am a Registered Nurse. None of the information in this book should be construed as professional advice. It is provided only as information relative to one person’s story and to suggest ways for you to find help should you need it.
I have had a keen interest in mental health since my nursing school days, although I never worked in the field itself. I retired from full time nursing in 2015 after having spent 46 years practicing in several different disciplines in several cities. While working at Nash General Hospital in Rocky Mount, NC, my head nurse approached me one day and said “How would you like to learn how to put away bad guys?” This intrigued me, and I certainly did want to put away bad guys, so I readily agreed, without knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, but the intense course I was about to take spawned my interest in Forensic Nursing. Our class was the first of its kind in NC and we initially called ourselves FNE’s or Forensic Nurse Examiners, but we were also known as SANEs, or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. We learned how to collect evidence from victims for the police in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, the latter of which made my heart ache and my stomach turn. In the unlikely event a case would go to trial, we would serve as expert witnesses in the courtroom.
While still practicing nursing, I began writing again. I published two children’s books and I started doing freelance writing. Writing has been a dream for me for many years. I wrote for an online newspaper in Canada, the Agora Cosmopolitan, for awhile. It’s an edgy newspaper and they liked contraversial and salacious topics. Since I was writing health articles for them, I decided to write on subjects for which I was passionate, sexual assaults and domestic violence being among those topics. One article turned into four and I had a series, which I then published on WordPress and Facebook. After I wrote the series and saw the responses it garnered, I decided to write a book, an anthology of personal stories about abused women and men. I wasn’t getting any takers – secrecy and shame are hallmarks of abuse -but one day I got a message from “Donna” asking “Will you tell my story?” I recognized her name right away from a nursing case I had more than a decade earlier, but not an abuse case. She didn’t immediately recognize my name until I told her who I was. You will learn what the relationship was later on in the book. We knew immediately that this partnership was meant to be. Obviously, I agreed, and after meeting with her the first time, I decided to use her story as the basis for a book to help her and others who may feel trapped in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship.
The information on “Donna” and her experiences has been gleaned from personal interviews with her, sometimes at a trendy little coffee shop, where we enjoyed our cold mocha lattes, and sometimes at her home; from entries from her journal; and from entries in “Max’s” journal. She has given me access to these resources and permission to use any or all the intimate information it contains, providing the names would be changed, which they were.
I used my wealth of experience in the medical field and much research to write this book. A physician and friend, Robert Hill, MD, reviewed my book for medical accuracy, and my daughter-in-law, Kelly Schoch, a genetic counselor at Duke University in Durham, NC, reviewed my material on the genetic aspects for accuracy. Thank you so much, Rob and Kelly. I also feel honored and grateful to “Donna” for opening up her life to me, thus giving me the opportunity to combine my love of nursing, my love of writing, and my desire to help people to provide awareness and education for this ongoing blight on society.
Not every victim will live to tell their tale, but fortunately, “Donna Miflin” did, and she wants to tell hers. No matter how many stories there are about abused women, they are like snowflakes, none are exactly alike. There are commonalities, though, and these are the things I want to emphasize in this book. I aim to offer solice to those who are in dangerous situations and encouragement to those who are trying to escape but find it difficult, which it is. I want to offer hope to my readers that there are ways out for some women. I’m hoping that the information in this book gives you the knowledge and the courage to make the changes that you need to gain the happiness you deserve.
Donna’s story is different in a way that can’t be divulged here, or the resolution will be ruined for you, but this book highlights the events of her life and a look into the whys and wherefores of the behaviors that led to her situations, because she is not alone in them. If you see yourself, then this book is about you, too. It’s a woman’s personal story; it’s about creating awareness of a troubling problem in society; it teaches about the factors that contribute to unhealthy patterns of behavior; and it contains information about medical issues that some of the characters in the book have suffered, which are part of the total portrait.
As you might expect, Donna Miflin is not her real name, nor are any of the other names in the book the same as the real people in her life. The story takes place in cities in New Jersey and North Carolina between the years 1953 and 2007. All the situations in the book are real, but dialogue has been added and details embellished for literary purposes. Embellishment aside, each of these things did happen to “Donna” and scenarios have been created around events as they were told to me.
Hopefully, you will be reading this book cover to cover, but if you don’t get past the introduction, please know that there is help for you, whether you are a victim or an abuser. You can change your life to find happiness, but you cannot do it alone; no one can. To be truthful, not all women are able to break free of these chains, but my hope is that you will find a way, and that this book will help you in your quest for freedom.
Usually, situations such as Donna’s start out well and deteriorate over time, but if you or someone you love has had a sudden change in behavior, becoming aggressive when he or she was not before, please schedule a medical evaluation to rule out a physical reason for the change. It may just be due to a change in a person’s feelings or to other life stressors, but please rule out illness first, for everyone’s sake.