Long Term Effects of Sexual Assault

Effects of sexual assaultWe know that sexual assault and harassment is psychologically traumatizing to the victim. As we have just witnessed in the recent Congressional hearings, these psychological effects are long lasting. Our understanding of the impact, however, continues to expand. A new study released last week shows that the trauma many victims feel is not limited to their emotional and psychological health. These attacks can impact their long-term physical health as well.

The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, found that both workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault had lasting, negative effects on women’s physical and emotional health. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recruited 304 women between the ages of 40 and 60 and recorded their blood pressure, weight and height. Through a brief questionnaire, researchers found 19 percent (58) of these women reported a history of workplace sexual harassment, and 22 percent (67) had a reported a history of sexual assault, and 10 percent (30) of the women reported they had experienced both sexual harassment and assault. The numbers for this study’s population are lower than national estimates, which indicated that 40-75 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, and 36 percent have experienced sexual assault.

About one in four women in the study who had been sexually assaulted met criteria for depression, while only one in 10 who had not been assaulted were also suffering from depression. Researchers also found that those who reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment had significantly higher blood pressure and significantly lower sleep quality than women who had not.Their findings are adding to a growing body of evidence, expanded through more than a dozen other studies over the past decade. Researchers have now documented other physical symptoms caused by sexual harassment, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems and disrupted sleep.

“When it comes to sexual harassment or sexual assault, our study shows that lived experiences may have a serious impact on women’s health, both mental and physical,” Rebecca Thurston, a professor of psychiatry at the Pittsburg School of Medicine and the study’s senior author said in a press release. “This is an issue that needs to be tackled with urgency not just in terms of treatment but in terms of prevention.”

The researchers are right, sexual assault and sexual abuse has a profound impact on victims, and efforts to improve women’s health must target the prevention of sexual harassment and assault, not just the treatment of its consequences. While the momentum surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements (as well as ongoing current events) has inspired and emboldened more and more women to stand up and make their voices heard, this study illustrates the fact that this is an unfolding crisis and will require diligence, education, and continued attention to eliminate.

The goal of sexual assault prevention is simple—to stop it from happening in the first place. The same can be said for workplace harassment. However, according to the CDC, the solutions are as complex as the problem. Preventing sexual assault requires prevention strategies that address factors at each level of the society. To help facilitate progress, the CDC has put together “STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence,” which represents a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities and states sharpen their focus on prevention activities.

In terms of workplace harassment, it’s important to keep in mind that the same laws prohibiting gender discrimination also prohibit sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the main federal law that prohibits sexual harassment, and each state also has its own anti-sexual harassment law. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done. It is important that employers adopt clear sexual harassment policies and conduct regular sexual harassment training – even if your state doesn’t require or suggest training. It’s also crucial that complaints are taken seriously, and if the complaint is shown to be valid, it is followed with a swift and effective response.

Although the studies focus primarily on women, people with non-conforming gender identities also experience sexual harassment and assault at high rates. To make the changes so desperately needed, we must work together. This isn’t something that will go away, so now is the time to act. This is a health crisis we must address. We need to listen to the victims, hold attackers responsible, and create safe environments in which people to live, work, grow, and thrive.

Making Work Safer for All Women

Every day the headlines reveal another scandal, as yet another brave woman shares her story and detailing male behaviors – including sexual abuse, predatory behavior or inappropriate sexual contact – that have typically gone unpunished. As women stand up in numbers, and people pay attention, it becomes impossible for their alleged harassers to brush them off as hysterical females or to hide themselves under the cover of blame-the-victim strategies.
There seems to be safety in numbers and women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others to step up and say, “me too” and to share their stories. Many high-profile men facing sexual misconduct allegations right now aren’t denying them. The allegations aren’t limited to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, or the hallowed halls of Congress, the problem is far more wide-reaching than one man, or even one industry. This has impacted women in every industry and every walk of life, and is finally experiencing the spotlight of public attention and, more importantly, action, it deserves.
During an interview to promote her return to television, Ann Curry, former co-host of the “Today Show” told PEOPLE Magazine that she admires the women who have been willing to speak up both anonymously and on the record. She feels they need to keep their jobs, and be able to work, to be able to thrive, without fear. “’The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there.”
“And the battle lines are now clear. We need to move this revolution forward and make our workplaces safe,” she added. “Corporate America is quite clearly failing to do so, and unless it does something to change that, we need to keep doing more ourselves.”
Certainly safety is key. In a 2017 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) study, the agency found three-fourths of sexual harassment victims never report it. The EEOC also reports that up to 85 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and many men as well (as evidenced by recent accusations of opera conductor James Levine and actor Kevin Spacey). The EEOC defines harassment as. “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. ”
Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson, not only spoke out about sexual harassment on the job, she sued the network’s chairman Roger Ailes, and 21st Century Fox reportedly settled with her for $20 million. More women followed her lead and came forward at Fox News with allegations of their own. Clyde Haberman wrote in the New York Times that Carlson is, “Aware that sexual hostility on the job falls most heavily on women who are far less privileged than she or than many of the women in movies, television, high tech and other glamourous industries who also report being hounded by predatory bosses. Victims are more likely to be lower paid workers whose plight rarely makes headlines: waitresses and female bartenders who have to fend off employers and customers with hyperactive hands, or women just trying to get through the day unscathed in the male-dominated construction industry.”
So, the question is, “How can the everyday worker, or the single mother holding down one or two minimum wage jobs, fight back against abuse and harassment?” Tammy Cho and Grace Choi are tackling that issue head on with After reading Susan Fowler’s blog post about Uber, the two women shared their frustration, and as Choi writes at, “Tammy and I discussed this at length the next day. How frustrated we were. How it’s 2017 and we’re still talking about harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Then we slowly opened up about our own experiences facing sexual harassment, discrimination, racism, and everything in between. It was a conversation that made us ask, ‘Why don’t good solutions to sexual harassment already exist?’”
The two women went on to talk to hundreds of people (including, but not limited to targets of harassment, Human Resource departments, founders, investors, and employment lawyers) to understand the full landscape of harassment. They then took their findings to a friend and an employment lawyer to translate their findings into a simple, but comprehensive guide on what to do if you experience sexual harassment at work. As a result, BetterBrave provides resources, tools, and employment lawyers to targets of harassment.
Eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace is, not only the right thing to do for a multitude of reasons, it also makes good business sense. According to the EEOC, when employers consider the costs of workplace harassment, they often focus on legal costs, and with good reason. Last year, EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment – and these direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Workplace harassment first and foremost comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it, as they experience mental, physical, and economic harm. Beyond that, workplace harassment affects all workers, and its true cost includes decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm. All of this is a drag on performance – and the bottom-line.
“This kind of behavior exists across industries, and it is so long overdue for it to stop,” Curry says. “This is a moment when we all need to be a beacon of light for those women, for all women, and for ourselves.”
We couldn’t agree with her more. Sexual harassment is unacceptable at every level, and thankfully, as Melinda Gates writes in TIME, “2017 is proving to be a watershed moment for women in the workplace and beyond. Instead of being bullied into retreat or pressured into weary resignation, we are raising our voices—and raising them louder than ever before. What’s more, the world is finally listening.”
That’s one thing each of us can, and must, do every day. Listen to women and support them in their life journeys.

Women Gain Power Through Our Stories

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly

When I tell my story, I find a connection with other women that is so close I feel like something magical occurs. We connect through our shared truth, and the hardships and traumatic events of life that made us grow and push past the barriers that held us back. Once we dissolve these barriers we stop being victims of our circumstances and become empowered through knowing and engaging our own truths. I’ve always felt that it’s very important for women to reach out and support one another in this process of sharing stories without worrying about how they will be perceived. The more we do this, the bigger our community will become to help us make the greatest positive impact on the world.

2017 is a year of new beginnings. The interviews I’ve conducted for my podcast so far this year seem to be focused on women who have had such beginnings. One of these, Michele Weldon, wrote three books about her journey from shedding an abusive marriage and raising her children as a single mom. Michele admits that while she experienced some very challenging times,  it was important to share the story. Especially  now she has moved on to something greater. Releasing the hidden truth of being a battered woman liberated her to live the life she deserved.

My Leading Women co-author Bridget Cook-Burch shares her story in her essay, “Transforming the Stories We Tell Ourselves as Women.” Strong women like Bridget are often surprised to find themselves in situations they thought impossible. In a decisive moment, Bridget looked her truth in the eye, took a stand, and shut down the circumstance that made her a victim. Having transformed her own story, she embarked on a successful career in business and as a best-selling author telling other people’s transformational and inspiring stories.

Another amazing woman I interviewed, Nancy Michaels, told of how her life was perfect on the outside while it crumbled on the inside. She suddenly became critically ill in the midst of a failing marriage. She survived it all to become a spokesperson for patient advocacy and tell her story about the mistakes women make trying to make our lives on the outside seem perfect while dismissing the very foundation needed to live a fulfilling life.

Nancy’s story is more common than you might think among women. When I went through my own divorce, people shied away from me for not staying in the marriage. I was shocked at the number of people who didn’t support me through that very difficult time. If they did support me, they would have to admit their own truth and the imperfections in their own lives. When I shared that fact with Michele, she laughed and said, “Yes, it’s like they think they can catch it if they get too close.” But once I found my own truth, and how I needed to transform my own story, I began to soar. When I was ready to share my truth, my very best friends were there to support and help me find my way to truly pursue my passion and purpose.

Women end up being victims because they don’t reach out for help. The purpose of WomenConnect4Good is to provide a venue for women to reach out, tell their stories, read and hear the stories of others, and support other women on all levels. And we are not alone. Stiletto networks are forming all over the country. Through these networks, women leaders hear the good and the bad and that helps us to problem solve and learn how others overcame difficulties we are facing. The issues we deal with in our lives are not unique. These communities of women where we can share our truths are so empowering that the possibilities are endless.

If that sounds too optimistic, look around you at what women are doing. When others try to put them down and make them feel less than they are, women are standing up and following their passion. They are starting their own companies , creating their own futures, and reaching out to other women to help them do the same. Although our numbers lag behind in the executive suites of corporations or seats of government, women are stepping up to change that. Feminine leadership is a natural fit for today’s successful social profit initiatives. When women find their truth and build a solid foundation, they can and do become leaders. If you’re already a leader, reach out to another woman, create a network for sharing stories and support. And if you’re still hiding your truth and unsure of how to find your path, reach out to other women, listen and share your story. It will liberate you in unimaginable ways.

Finding New Purpose after Nearly Dying

Speaker, Health care Advocate

Nancy Michaels

As an  award winning public relations professional and successful small business development consultant, Nancy Michaels’ life was perfect on the outside and crumbling on the inside. With a marriage on the rocks and an ongoing illness that had progressed for eight months, Nancy was  hit by a health tsunami. A virus caught during surgery entered her bloodstream and caused her liver to fail. Suddenly on a donor list and put into an induced coma, she received the liver, but died  twice during the surgery. The doctor told her the second time she was dead for more than two minutes, which meant she would never be the same. There was also brain surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, an extended period of being unable to speak because of a tracheotomy, organ rejection issues, long therapy episodes—putting her in and out of the hospital for a year. After relearning to walk and talk, she has transformed her experience into a purpose to inspire others to face their own health issues and health care professionals and others to stay in the moment with their patients and their families to deliver what they need to get well.
Nancy’s story is full of moments spent with health care providers where they unthinkingly talked about things in their own lives that were so unattainable for her they made her very sad. Yet there were other moments of kindness and care that made her so grateful, they had a healing effect. The message she shares for health care professionals is to be careful not to become desensitized. Be mindful of who you are and that your patient is your client, an individual human being with thoughts and feelings.

Message of Compassionate Care

Having spent so much time in the hospital, Nancy  admits that now she is not a good patient. She reminds the nurses that her pain medication is two hours late and nudges them toward other duties they have yet to act on.  Like every profession, healthcare professionals enter their chosen field to help other people. With time and the fatigue of being over-worked and dealing with very sick people on a daily basis, they become fatigued and battle their own burnout. Her purpose to help healthcare providers  understand how their actions actually affect patients moves her to be the squeaky wheel, whether she is a patient or delivering a keynote address. Steering them toward best practices, which can be applied in any profession, creates a better environment for successful outcomes both for the provider and for the patient.  If she can help one nurse or doctor improve their delivery of care, she has made a difference in thousands of patients’ lives.

Message of Hope

Although Nancy admits that she didn’t hear many of the helpful messages people tried to deliver during her illness, she thinks she would have  been more hopeful if she would have heard stories of survival.  By being a living miracle, her story of thriving after death should be enough to inspire hope in others. However, she goes beyond that to describe her life before her illness and other ways she has changed the way she deals with life’s challenges to maintain a healthy perspective going forward.
To get more messages, check out Nancy’s website and sign up for her “Motivational Monthly.” She has also written three books, including the one that details her story of survival, Stripped: Seven Lessons Learned from Dying. Listen to this conversation to hear Nancy tell her story and learn how she came back to reclaim  her life with a special focus on  creating new memories and not losing sight of  what matters.

How to Rebuild Your Strength and Recover After A Crisis

How to Rebuild Your Strength and Recover After A Crisis

Well-meaning people will say, “Pull yourself together,”  but how exactly can you do that when you feel shattered and exhausted by what you’ve been through?

I’ve spent a lot of time helping people cope with the aftermath of crisis and devastating trauma, and I know it isn’t easy. But I have observed some common threads that help everyone, regardless of their age or situation. How can techniques this simple make such a difference? I don’t know, but they do! I hope you will try them.

Techniques to Help Rebuild Your Strength After a Crisis

1. Here and now. Make the most of what is real and stay here. Of course your mind runs ahead and behind. Lovingly notice and honor your feelings.

2. Gratitude. If you focus with gratitude on the things that are good, you will find the strength to confront the things you want to change.  Each night before you sleep, write down six things you are grateful for this day.

3. Positive people. Spend time with upbeat and enthusiastic people. Avoid the toxic people who want you to be miserable with them, even if they are family or people close to you.

4. Kindness and compassion. Be gentle with yourself and others while you heal and chart your new direction. Stop being your own worst critic and instead be nice to yourself. What a concept!

5. Move your body.  When so much is out of your control, exercise is one thing you can start and finish. Look at all the immediate benefits of exercise:

  • Breathing deeply increases oxygen to all your cells.
  • Working out when you feel tense relieves stress and tension in your muscles and your mind.
  • When you exercise, your body produces “Happy Hormones” that help you feel great. Nor-epinephrine makes you feel energetic, endorphins cheer you up, and serotonin helps you feel less tense.
  • Exercise will make you look and feel sexy again. A toned body is a strong body, and women need to build more muscle.
  • Getting plenty of exercise will help you sleep well. Check healthy sleep tips.

6. Mental attitude. If you are hurting you have the power to change those feelings. Cultivate mindfulness to notice what you say to yourself. Can you cheer yourself up or can you only make yourself feel worse? You can create a good life.

7. Laugh. Laugh! It will change the chemistry within your body. Turn off the news; get rid of the negative things around you. Tickle your funny bone to release endorphins, the happy hormones that relieve stress and tension.

8. Faith. Prayer or meditation will make all the difference. Try it and see. Tune in to your sources of inspiration and insight and you may connect with your spirit guide.

9. Beauty. Open your eyes, ears, mind and heart to the things that lift your heart in joy. Whatever you find beautiful––music, art, design, nature, animals-–can create the grateful mood you deserve to experience.

Pull yourself together by taking these nine steps every day. I guarantee you will soon find yourself living in a different world, a world that you are willing to go out and conquer.

~Dr. Nancy

Articles of Interest

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founder of Red Slice and author of Reboot My Brain

Life After Near Death, with Maria Ross, who wrote Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life, in conversation with Dr. Nancy.

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How to Handle a crisis without overstressing

How to Handle a Crisis Without Over-stressing

How to Handle a Crisis Without Over-Stressing
Women and mothers take responsibility for others, and we need to be careful not to sacrifice our own well-being. We can also save ourselves lots of grief and struggle if we make a few preparations, even if other family members don’t think it’s necessary. I talked about that in the last post. Often we’re the anchors during the crisis, so cultivate the habit of taking time for your own mental health during the crisis as well.
What to do during a crisis

Get to safety as quickly as possible. Stay there. Keep your mind there too. Don’t let your your mind run ahead to fret about long-term planning because your job is to survive hour by hour. Encourage every family member to tell their stories as many times as necessary and express their fears and concerns about the crisis. It’s how we process experiences. Find things to laugh about and encourage everyone to focus on gratitude.
We need routine to feel comfortable, so find or create your new “normal” in this new situation. Reconnect with the strengths and the coping mechanisms that have worked in the past. A crisis that causes a huge disruption will likely have long-term effects, so you’ll soon be searching for new support systems and services to help with your day-to-day living. Start asking around, listen hard and take notes. Try not to get discouraged or angry when you receive contradictory information, and don’t give up. The service providers and volunteers are struggling too, and a little kindness and understanding will return to you multiplied.
Mental health work is all about helping people tap into internal and external resources. I have worked in the field of crisis response for many years and have a certification in crisis response, traumatology and working with PTSD. I have been privileged to work all over the United States (after 9-11 in New York City and New Jersey, the fires in California, hurricanes in Mississippi, New Orleans and Florida and after the tornadoes in my own backyard in Missouri with last summer’s devastation in Joplin  being the most recent). I was also the Director of Employee Assistance Service for a large health service organization, and have helped to develop all types of workplace programs on workplace violence and sexual harassment policy and helped in many workplaces when a crisis has occurred.
It is my privilege to serve and I can say without any reservation that I have seen survivors display amazing strength and resolve. During the worst of times I HAVE SEEN PEOPLE AT THEIR VERY BEST. It’s truly a blessing to be called to do this kind of work.
Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D.
Founder of Women Speak and Licensed Psychologist

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Protect Yourself from Abuse

From Trauma to Triumph, Surviving Domestic AbuseDomestic violence is a widespread problem that occurs among all ages, genders, races, educational backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups.

What is the Extent of a Domestic Abuse Problem?

  1. Nearly 2 million women are battered annually and more likely than men to be murdered as the result of domestic violence.
  2. Approximately 2 million children annually are seriously abused.
  3. Approximately 900,000 parents are beaten or abused by their children each year.
  4. 1 out of every 14 American men report they have been physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner.

Safety Tips for Domestic Abuse

If you are the victim of intimate partner violence and need immediate, assistance dial 911. Otherwise, contact your local battered women’s shelter, family physician, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (1-800-787-3224 TTY ) for help and advice. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website also provides resources.

If you are or think you may become a perpetrator of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (1-800-787-3224 TTY). They can provide helpful information and advice.

Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse

Learn the early warning signs for physical violence such as a

  • partner’s extreme jealousy
  • controlling behavior
  • verbal threats
  • history of violent tendencies or abusing others
  • verbal or emotional abuse

Learn more about domestic violence and the warning signs. The more you know, the easier it will be to recognize and help friends who may be victims or perpetrators. Know what services are available for victims and perpetrators and their children in case you or a friend should need help.

What Can I Do in My Community to Help Prevent Domestic Abuse

  • Support increased access to services for victims and perpetrators and their children.
  • Coordinate community initiatives to strengthen safety networks for women who experience violence.
  • Increase public awareness to help decrease and prevent domestic violence.


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Tips for Finding a Job In Social Work or Other Fields

Job Search TipsWhether you’re looking for work because of a layoff, change of marital status, empty nest or desire for personal growth, here are some tactics that will help you succeed.

Is it Hard to Get a Job in Social Work?

Here’s an article that highlights 16 ways social workers might revolutionize their job search. Social workers are overwhelmingly female and these ideas will probably help you, too:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Start preparing now for a future job search.
  3. Ask for feedback about your current skill set.
  4. Buff up your resume.
  5. Draft a really great cover letter you can tailor.
  6. Practice presenting yourself.
  7. Meet and greet to develop a professional network.
  8. Ask around and search out new job information sources.
  9. Use online job search tools and alerts.
  10. Get social! Cultivate a professional social media presence.
  11. Get a working email address and phone.
  12. Ask someone you admire to mentor you.
  13. Learn to talk about yourself without bragging or false modesty.
  14. Volunteer for something meaningful.
  15. Investigate temporary work or short term jobs.
  16. Expand the area of your search.

Regardless of your field, following these tips will increase your chances of finding that next job.

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Top 10 Truths for Good Sleep

Top 10 Truths for Good SleepAre you in the one-half of Americans who do NOT get a good night’s sleep every night or even most nights? Do you get less than the recommended 7–9 hours per night?

According to polls, lack of sleep causes mistakes at work, inefficiency, car wrecks, sex deprivation and problems with intimate relationships (as if less sex weren’t a big enough problem in itself!)

When women don’t get enough sleep, everyone is sorry! And fatigue is especially dangerous in an age of super viruses because lack of sleep suppresses the immune system we need to fight illness.

Rest is good for you and you deserve to rest well. Give yourself permission to go to bed by putting away that To Do list and making sound sleep your priority.

Tips for Good Sleep

  1. Eat supper early and allow yourself to unwind an hour or two before bed.
  2. Develop a sleep ritual that signals to your body (and your mind) that it is time for sleep. It needn’t be fancy, just soothing, for example: wash face, brush teeth, brew cup of herbal Sleepy tea, turn down the bed, arrange pillows, set alarm, turn off overhead light, read, pray, set book aside, turn off light, sleep.
  3. Create a restful haven. Remove piles of clutter and anything that makes you tense (him, too). Freshen bedding, try new or different pillows, flowers and plants. When you sit in bed reading or praying, everything you see should please and relax you.
  4. Avoid bright or noisy clocks, radios, or other electronic devices. Cover shining displays or replace them. Set them away from the head of your bed. Definitely get that computer OUT of your bedroom!
  5. Buy comfortable earplugs for the nightstand and for travel. Using a white noise-generator to mask sounds may also help.
  6. Pass on the alcohol. Alcohol won’t keep you awake, but it will wake you up around 2 or 3 am and make it hard to fall back to sleep. If you have overindulged, some experts advise taking an antihistamine (one of the drowsy types like Benadryl) and one NSAID tablet.
  7. Reading for pleasure is fine, but avoid hair-raising mysteries that keep you turning pages. Spiritual or soothing reading is best. Reading in dim light causes eyestrain and sleepiness, so use a low light setting.
  8. Wear comfy loose socks and even silk long underwear when it’s cold. Turning over onto cold sheets WILL wake you up. Change your blankets and your thermostat setting with the seasons so you are neither too hot nor too cold.
  9. Exercise every day — early in the day. Do your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, back, or hips hurt and sometimes waken you? Get serious about stretching during the day. Program a meeting reminder in your computer, like: “Stretch arms and hips.” When it pops up, do a favorite stretch for one minute while looking away from the computer. Set your reminder to snooze for an hour. When it pops up again, repeat.
  10. If you do wake in the night, keep a change of nightclothes by the bed if you are having night sweats. If you don’t fall right back to sleep, don’t lie there tossing, turning and fretting. Instead, get up, fix a light snack (piece of fruit, some yogurt) and read in a dim light.

Progressive Relaxation

If that doesn’t knock you out, try some progressive relaxation. Lie on your back with a pillow beneath your knees; tense and then relax your toes, then ankles, then shins, knees, thighs. Continue up the front and back of your body, doing arms, shoulders, face, scalp. Breathe deeply. Nighty, night.

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Love Never Dies Foundation Seeks End to Domestic Violence

[WomenSpeak has long focused on empowering women, and freeing women from abuse is close to Dr. Nancy’s heart. Please read and take seriously the lessons in this heart wrenching article. Your caring and involvement could be the magic touch needed to help another woman move from trauma to triumph.] 

by Kathryn Wiechert
July, 2010 for WomenSpeak

I recently became acquainted with the term domestic violence and suicide survivor, a horrific emotional trauma no mother should ever have to endure. It’s said that time heals all wounds. This may be true in love, but this is a unique monster.

Tiffany was born February 24, 1985, with eyes and a smile that would light up a room and intoxicate you, a young women who was full of joy and exuberance. On March 30, 2010 at 6:15 p.m., she committed suicide when she could no longer take the abuse.

How Can We Stop Domestic Violence?

End Domestic ViolenceI ask myself and try to understand at what stage this horrific injustice could have been stopped. How could we have helped her? How could we have saved her?

She was on the honor roll, played the piano and softball. She joined the Army National Guard in 2008, graduated as a Specialist Combat Medic in the top of her class. She then attended Ozark Technical Community College full-time, to become an Occupational Therapist, worked part-time and cared for three children, ages 7, 6, & 4.

In seven years of marriage she kept a lot of suffering to herself. Relationships almost never start out abusive, the love and intimacy precede the abuse, which can make it difficult to break away. Abusers effectively weave together intimacy and abuse to control their partners. When we did hear of something happening, it wasn’t until many months after and then she would follow it with, “We are doing well.” The abuser’s tactics are devised and carried out precisely to control her.

Being away from him in the military helped her realize the relationship was bad. She filed for divorce in November 2009 and moved into an apartment in December. We did not realize the severity of the episodes of abuse that continued, leading up to her death. The reality for women victimized by domestic violence is that the risk of danger is greater when they leave their abusive relationships.

I spoke with Tiffany earlier that day, she was running errands and I was to stop by around 6:00 or 6:30 pm. When I pulled up to her apartment complex I met the police and fire department surrounding the apartment, crime scene tape larger than life around the front. My world went to slow motion and I was watching frame by frame. No one spoke to me, but I knew in my heart that it was her. I hit the ground when the officers told me she had died at 6:15. I was in shock; this could not be true; she could not have taken her own life. Although he did not pull the trigger, I believe he drove her to it.

Because their divorce was not final, he has custody of my three grandchildren and is receiving all of her military benefits. On the outside, we know domestic violence is there, but we do not want to talk about it. Families need to understand the red flags when they see them. For example, in Tiffany’s seven years of marriage, she asked us to pack her and her children up and move them out at least 15 times. But all it took was one phone call from him, with his apology and gifts, and she would go right back. We wondered how he was able to change her rage back into love overnight.

Manipulation is a Common Abusive Pattern

We learned this manipulation was a common abusive pattern. In just a few weeks the abuse and control would begin again. Another red flag was that he always blamed others as the cause of their problems, and she ended up isolated from her family and friends. It’s easier to control someone who feels alone. Teenage girls are at risk as long as our society gives them messages like “Johnny hits you because he likes you.” Because abusers are skilled and often charming manipulators, women fall in love, make excuses for bad behavior, and blame themselves.

The goal for our foundation, Love Never Dies, based in Ozark, Missouri, is to increase public awareness for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. We plan to help fill gaps in exiting services and I have begun to work with the Christian County Domestic Violence Task Force and other area resources for victims.

There is media publicity everywhere for cancer, and heart attacks, even the prevention of animal abuse. We need your support to bring the tragic secret of domestic violence into the open in order to help women in crisis.

Thank you and God bless,
Kathryn Wiechert

In Loving Memory of Tiffany Marie “Love Never Dies”

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