Tag Archives: domestic violence

Jillian Barberie just recommended leaving a woman to be beaten

OK – I need to vent a little. I was driving home after dropping Charlie off at dance class (a full-time job, I swear) and I was listening to talk radio killing some time. Here in Southern California there is a station KABC 790 AM which airs various talk radio format shows. At this particular time it was “The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips”. Jillian was sharing how she and a friend were at El Pollo Loco in the greater So Cal area over the weekend and had witnessed a man beating on a woman, screaming at her in Spanish. She further shared her conviction he was on drugs and was upset the woman had used up his supply. Jillian then shared that her friend had wanted to run out to her car so she could use her cell phone to call the police and get help for the woman. Jillian explained how she had talked her friend out of it and told her not to get involved. She made some reference about how she knew the woman would just get back together with him anyway (in fact they were probably already back together now) and it would be such a waste of time to make a report. She complained about the pain in the ass it would be to have to put her name to the report and maybe testify.

I was absolutely horrified by this response and John Phillips’ seconding the notion she should pretend to see nothing (“like a referee in professional wrestling”). Really? What if this woman is killed? I understand we need to consider our own safety – no one is saying you have to let loose a flying tackle on the guy and risk your own life. But – call the police. Try to get help. Maybe he is her boyfriend and maybe she will take him back, but that should never stop us from doing the right thing. Our moral compass is not supposed to be based on outcome, but on doing the right thing because it is right. The end.

Do you remember the story of Catherine Genovese? In the 1960’s, Catherine Genovese was walking home from work when she was attacked by a man with a knife. She screamed repeatedly for help, but no one came. When lights turned on in neighboring apartments, the perpetrator ran away, afraid he would be caught. He then noticed no one coming and returned and killed her. It was later noted that no less than 38 people heard or saw some part of the attack and did nothing. The police were never called until she was dead. (The attack itself lasted over 30 minutes.)

If we followed Jillian Barberie’s example, we, too, would have stood by and waited for her to die without lifting a finger to come to her aid. I don’t care if the woman at El Pollo Loco ultimately went back to her abusive boyfriend (assuming that is even who he was), but I would have had the comfort of knowing for one night I did what I could to help and keep her safe. After that, it is up to her.

Bobbi Kristina: The Perfect Storm

I was recently contacted by a journalist writing an article about Bobbi Kristina Brown – she was seeking information how domestic violence can occur within a celebrity household, why a famous person would stay and what friends and family could have done to help her. We’ve talked about domestic violence in this blog before and the facts we discussed don’t necessarily change just because someone is famous. There was a whole twitter campaign following Ray Rice’s videotaped beating of his now-wife in a New Jersey casino elevator (#whyIstayed) that deals with all the myriad of reasons people have stayed in abusive relationships. I won’t rehash this conversation. If you have time, I really suggest you Google it and read what these people have written. It was very interesting and very moving.

From what I have gathered, there is not definitive “proof” that Bobbi Kristina was in a domestically violent relationship, but there have been a number of allusions to it. I am going to have this discussion as if this is true for the sake of conversation. There are a number of additional reasons why Bobbi Kristina may have stayed in an abusive relationship – the death of her mother, Whitney Houston, three years ago rocked her world and further estranged her from her father, Bobby Brown; her relationship with Nick Gordon was reportedly not well received by friends and family which created separation from those who loved her; and her issues with substance abuse might have caused her to feel trapped in a relationship with a man who had become her whole world. She was raised in a household rife with domestic violence and parents with substance abuse issues. Her life being so chaotic might have actually made it feel normal to her.

The difficulty really comes in what friends and family can (and can’t) do for loved ones struggling with substance abuse and/or domestic violence. If the individual in question is a legal adult, your options are somewhat limited. We, as adults, are free to make whatever decisions we choose – regardless of how detrimental they are. As doctors we have the option of involuntary hospitalizing someone if they are a danger to themselves, a danger to others or gravely disabled, but, unfortunately, substance abuse and domestic violence do not apply. Though these can often be a slow-ride to suicide, they do not apply as a “danger to self” situation.

So what can you do?

  1. Express your concerns. Often times this can alienate your loved ones. It is a delicate balance, but they need to know you have concerns and what you are willing to do to help them. You might offer your place as a safe place to start over or to research rehab programs. Try not to spend too much time bashing the violent partner – you don’t want to create a Romeo & Juliet situation where you end up pushing them closer together.
  2. Recognize the limitations of what you can reasonably do. You cannot want their health and safety more than they do. You will make yourself miserable (and frustrated) if you spend all of your time brainstorming ways to get them out. Sometimes they may need to hit bottom before they are ready to change.
  3. Identify when you are becoming more of an enabler than a friend. Are you doing things to make it easier for them to remain in the relationship (with the person or the substance)? Do you help to make excuses for the abuser? Do you give money to cover when she is short because her money was spent on drugs? Support the person, not the illness.


  1. Know there is only so much you can do. You cannot force sobriety or the end of a relationship. It is possible the outcome might be bad – very, very bad. In the case of Bobbi Kristina, it seems likely she will pass as the result of her relationship (either with drugs or with Nick Gordon or both). This can happen even when people repeatedly try to save someone. If this happens to your loved one, it will be horribly, profoundly tragic, but it is in no way your fault. You need to find a way to put the responsibility where it truly belongs – the addiction, the perpetrator or both.

You are a Survivor

I’ve noticed something lately. I used to think people were “playing the victim” to be manipulative or to get attention and/or sympathy, but I think there is more to it. When you are the victim, you don’t have to change – you are doing nothing wrong. The bad thing is happening to you because someone else is doing something mean or evil or wrong or mean to you. They are the ones who need to change their behavior or be punished. You just get to be you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times someone is doing something to you that is horrible and undeserved and you did absolutely nothing to bring it on. That sucks. I get it. But, and here is the big but, you decide what you are going to do about it and how you are going to recover. You get to decide if you are a victim or a survivor. There is a lot more power and control over your life as a survivor than as a victim.

If a man beats a woman – that is terrible. He is a reprehensible human being and deserves to be punished within the fullest extent of the law (and maybe a little bit more). This woman has experienced something tragic and painful and, undoubtedly, feels scared and betrayed. Labeling her as “the victim” means she has no power over what happens to her next. It limits her. If she views herself as a victim, she may feel vulnerable. If she is a survivor, she can stand up and get out of the relationship. She can heal her body, mind, and spirit and rebuild her life.

If a child grows up in a home rife with abuse, he or she can be a “victim of child abuse” or a survivor of child abuse. Can you imagine how people selecting those two different labels might view themselves and their experiences? One is empowering while the other seems to minimize their power.

This isn’t just about abuse. We can become so firmly entrenched in bad or unfair things that are happening to us that we don’t look for a way out. The weight of the “bad” holds us down and almost smothers us. It is important to look around you to see if there is any way to make the situation better and, if not, how to find an exit strategy. A client of mine recently told me about the difficulties he was having with his supervisor at work. He felt she was unjustifiably critical of him and often ignored his requests for assistance. He reported feeling trapped by her and saw no way to “make her change”. We began to explore their interactions (through his report, of course) and he discovered he has a tendency to be defensive, argumentative and passive-aggressive with this supervisor. We discussed how his style of communication might be contributing to her treatment of him. This was not all on him – at least it didn’t seem so, but once we could identify how he was exacerbating the situation, we could problem-solve ways to (hopefully) improve their relationship. My client had been so stuck in his self-identified role as the victim of his mean supervisor he had not been able to recognize his own behaviors. He could not change what he did not recognize. When we become so firmly entrenched in our position as the victim, we cannot acknowledge changes we might make to improve the situation.

Let’s sum this is – if you are in a problematic relationship, look for ways you might be able to make It better. If this isn’t possible, look for your way out. Life it is too short to be miserable. You are a survivor.

Introduction to Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl

Final Cover

In my professional life, I’m a psychologist and frequently get the privilege of working with teenage girls like you. I’m constantly amazed by the strength you show in overcoming life’s difficulties. Sometimes, though, you get just a bit lost. I know you’re not stupid. You’re far from stupid as a matter of fact. You’re so much savvier than I was at your age (eons and eons ago, but, despite what my daughter thinks, there were no dinosaurs). Despite your obviously superior smarts, many of the challenges I faced during my teen years continue to frustrate you and your friends today. A primary struggle may be knowing which people you can believe in and trust. Who can you look to for advice when you’re struggling? Often you may not want to discuss your problems with your parents—it’s OK; that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re learning how to find your own way and can’t do that if you’re looking to your mom and dad for everything.

I frequently hear that parents can’t relate any longer and are too old to understand. Unfortunately, your parents do sometimes know what they’re talking about, and you may miss out on that guidance. It may be incredibly hard to believe, but your parents were actually teenagers once dealing with love and friendships, parents, and problems much the same as you are now. Your mom may be able to understand what it’s like to get your heart broken and tell you how she got through it when it happened to her. You dad might have had a jerk teacher who treated him like crap and may be able to talk with you about how he handled it.

So, if not your parents, where else can you turn? Can you look to your friends? Well, they can be a source of phenomenal support and may be insightful in many ways—they’re in the trenches with you and can relate in ways others may not be able to. The trouble is that they don’t necessarily have any more life experience than you do. There’s something that can be gained from learning from those who have gone before you. So…where do you go?

Frequently, this insight may come from celebrities. These can be people older than you who have had more life experiences than you—all good, right? Well, maybe. The problem is that articles about them rarely contain any real advice. In interviews they are asked about fashion, how they stay thin, and the details of their love lives. These topics may make you feel worse rather than better. All too often the details of the celebrities’ lives are glamorized, which may cause you to feel as though your own life is insignificant. Articles discuss the exciting places where they travel or the other celebrities they date. Some will discuss the fitness regimens the celebrities use to stay in shape, but it will fail to acknowledge their personal trainers or chefs who prepare their meals.

How are you supposed to feel like you can compete? Celebrities are also rarely asked real questions in their interviews that real people can relate to. Maybe they’ll be asked what guidance they might give someone who is trying to break into their industry. Helpful to some, but most of you are not planning a career in the entertainment industry. It also fails to account for women who have achieved success in other industries (for example, business, politics, and sports).

That is where I got the idea for this book. I wanted to ask these successful women what advice shaped them during their teen years or for a piece of advice they wish they’d received when they were teenagers. I left the topic wide open for these women—they were free to write about whatever they wanted. I wanted this book to include women from a variety of industries as well as backgrounds. I wanted to include women whose names might be immediately recognizable to you because they’re actresses (like Kat Graham) or musicians (like Elie Golding), but I also wanted to include women you may have never heard of but definitely should, including politicians (like Janet Nguyen or Mimi Walters) and businesswomen (like Becky Quick).

You may be wondering how I picked these specific women in the first place and how they went from my dream list to actual participants in the book. This was trickier than you might think—it definitely was harder than I thought it would be. Initially, I brainstormed a list of women who I thought would have something useful to contribute. I searched the Internet and picked the brains of my friends and family. I made a list of their agents, business managers, public relations team, attorneys, personal assistants, and corporate contacts.

I then did something somewhat boneheaded. I mailed these contact people a letter explaining the project and why their person should participate. Interestingly, I learned almost no one reads letters anymore—especially unsolicited letters from a complete stranger (me). When I received little feedback from the letters, I realized email would be simpler. I again scoured the Internet to get contact information for those same agents, managers, and publicists, etc., and emailed a similar letter explaining the project. A few more responses began trickling in. Then I remembered the joy that is Twitter. I began tweeting like an idiot, trying to explain the project in 140 characters or less to women who have thousands of followers. This was key. Responses began flooding in.

So why would these amazingly successful women take time out of their busy schedules to participate in this project? Well, it definitely wasn’t for the money. There was none. They didn’t get a dime for their time and efforts. They did it for two reasons: First, they care about you. These women wanted to offer guidance to you as you navigate the difficult teen years. They also wanted you to know that you are not alone in your struggles; they’ve been there too and made it through to the other side. You can survive it too. The second reason was these wonderful women care about charity. I’m donating 50 percent of any royalties received to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

CHLA is a nonprofit hospital that depends on generous donations to help heal children in an environment that lets them thrive. Each year, more than 96,000 sick children come to the hospital for care. I worked at CHLA for a number of years and was consistently awestruck at the quality of care they were able to provide, and I wanted to find a way to contribute to that care. These women saw contributing to this book as a way to also contribute to CHLA. Follow the examples of these amazing women and find ways to give back. You can volunteer your time (or money) to a good cause (anyone you like) and Pay It Forward. You too can positively impact the lives of others.

All of the direct quotes that appear in this book appear entirely as I received them. They weren’t edited for content.

Parental Alienation – it Might Just Bite You in the Ass

In the course of my practice, I come across children from a number of different types of families. I see children whose parents are still married, those who were never married, those with a deceased parent, and those who are divorced or separated. Within those types of families there are those who are able to get a long and those who don’t. None of these family styles are immune from their children having difficulties whether emotional or behavioral, but there are definitely things parents can do to make it better and definitely thing that make it worse.

When parents are still together, I will often have the opportunity to meet them both at some point in treatment. This tells me the parents are (relatively) on the same page and are both interested in their child’s treatment. The difficulty comes in (as a therapist) when parents are no longer together and only one of them participates in their child’s therapy. This can mean a lot of things:

  • The “other” parent is not involved in the child’s day-to-day life. This parent may live far away or may not be exercising their rights to visitation with the child on a regular basis.
  • The “other” parent does not believe the child needs therapy. This parent might not believe in therapy in general or may not thing their child specifically will benefit from treatment.
  • The parent bringing the child to therapy is intentionally excluding the “other” parent and does not allow them to attend sessions. This is accomplished a number of ways – keeping sessions secret and not sharing appointment dates and times to name a few.

The challenge for the therapist is to determine which of these reasons is accurate for the family in treatment. Why does it matter? Well, often the relationship (or the lack of the relationship) with the non-present parent is often a significant part of the child’s treatment. We are given one-sided information from the parent who is present and must determine how biased this information might be. We need to wonder if parental alienation is a factor in our treatment.

What is parental alienation? Parental alienation is when one parent repeatedly trashes the other parent in hopes of creating a strong bond with the child while separating (or alienating) the child from the other parent. This is often done in hopes of obtaining custody of the child and to punish the other parent for some perceive wrong. This is detrimental to the child in a number of ways – not the least is the loss of a relationship with a potentially loving parent. These kids can end up hostile, angry and confused.

What can the “other” parent do in these types of situations? Fight for your child. If they are therapy, attend and participate. If you are being restricted from seeing your child for your regular visitations, involve the courts and seek their assistance. Try not to be pulled into your ex’s strategy by bashing him/her, but try to “take the high road”. If you are able to remain calm, consistent and present for your child, they will eventually mature enough to be able to view the family dynamic with some distance and see what has happened more clearly. Be there for him or her, without anger and judgment. Parental alienation did not just happen to you, it happened to them, too.

The Many Cycles of Domestic Violence

There have been a number of reports in the media lately about high profile allegations of domestic violence. It is sad to be occurring at all, but, at least, it starts people talking about a topic that all too often is hidden in the shadows. Unfortunately, some of that talk inevitably turns to blaming the victim. How often have we heard things like, “Why did she stay?”, “I would have left”, and “I would have kicked his ass.” It is statements like these that keep domestic violence in the shadows. What victim of domestic violence is going to be comfortable coming forward knowing she will only be faced by scrutiny, judgment, disbelief and scorn?

Many have talked about the cycle of violence. Often the cycle discussed is the one that shows how violence can continue in a relationship. The idea is this – violence is but one part of the relationship, often one of the smallest parts that have the biggest impact. (I’m going to use the pronoun “he” for the perpetrator and “she” for the victim for simplicity sake. I fully recognize there are situations where the abuser is a woman against a man or when the couple is of the same sex.) The cycle of violence begins when the man abuses the woman in some way. After the abuse, she is upset and scared, maybe angry, and considers leaving. The cycle continues with the man begging for forgiveness, promising to never do it again. Often there are statements about losing control because he loves her so much. They enter into the honeymoon period where everything is good – maybe even great. The honeymoon period only lasts so long. She begins to feel the tension in the air between them and senses his growing anger. She might even try to avoid it by being who she thinks he wants her to be. Unfortunately, the explosion is unavoidable and a new round of violence occurs. The cycle repeats and repeats and repeats until something finally stops it. It could be an arrest, a death, or some other deviation.

There is another cycle of violence that often gets overlooked. This is the steady increase in frequency and severity of violence over the course of the relationship. What people often fail to realize is abusers do not typically walk up and punch their dates in the face on their first outing. If these women were punched on day one, most would immediately get out and never speak to the jerks again. It is much more insidious than that. Most violent relationships I have heard about start out fairly typically. The couple date and enjoy each other’s company. Often the man is overly attentive which can be flattering. He wants to spend all of his time with her and becomes overly concerned with where she is when they are not together and, more importantly, who she is with. He gradually becomes more and more controlling, discouraging her from spending time with her friends and family. Before she knows what is happening, she is isolated from everyone else but her boyfriend or husband.

Somewhere within this time, he begins to get physical. This usually starts out mildly, with a shove or a slap. This is quickly followed by an apology and promises to never do it again. He may even blame his strong feelings for her as the reason for his behavior. (i.e., “I just love you so much I can’t control myself.”) The next time he becomes angry, it isn’t a slap or a shove, but a punch or restraint. This process continues to escalate over the course of the relationship until he is arrested, she somehow gets away, or she is killed. If she or the man is famous, they might end up on a video shown on TMZ. If not, it will be a little known story in their local paper.

I am fortunate enough never to have been struck by a boyfriend, but I did have a male friend in high school slap me across the face in the heat of an argument. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about, but he kept telling me to, “Shut up” and I wouldn’t. (If you had known me back then, you would not have been surprised – I had little restraint in those days). So, he slapped me. Hard. I was absolutely shocked. I backed out and left his house. I was so surprised I didn’t know what to do. I went home and lead life as normal. I came up with an excuse for the small cut on my lip (cat scratched me) and went to bed. The next morning, I went to school. I did the same the day after that. He was not at school either day. The second day, I went to work after school and was closing the store (alone) and there he was. I am not going to lie, I was scared. He apologized. He cried. He thanked me for not telling anyone. I just wanted him to leave. He did. Strange thing is I have no idea what happened to him after that. I do not remember him every being at school again and have no idea what happened to him.

You may ask why I am telling you all of this. I’m telling you because I want you to pay attention to the warning signs. If you are in a relationship with someone who wants you all to himself – be watchful. If he doesn’t want you to have any friends (typically because they are all “bitches” or “whores”) – be careful. If he lays a hand on you when angry (no matter what you may have said or done first) – get out. You deserve someone who treats you with kindness and respect. If he doesn’t, he isn’t good enough for you.