Category Archives: X issues & dialogs

Let’s change #WhyIStayed to #IWillHelpULeave.

Woman Leaving digital photography by BZTAT
Digital Art by BZTAT

#WhyIStayed is more than a hashtag. It is a trend, yes, where women have taken to social media to share their domestic violence experiences with solidarity. But it is so much more than that.

Each tweet from a woman who has experienced partner abuse, and has shared her experiences under the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, is a courageous person who has overcome incredible obstacles to finding peace and stability in her life.

Anyone who criticizes a woman for remaining in an abusive relationship does not understand the complexities facing women who have become entangled with an abusive male partner.

Since the videos of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Rice perpetrating a violent assault on his then fiance (now wife) Janay Palmer came to light, many have focused on the victim and her choice of remaining in the relationship. Rather than focusing on the choices of the man who perpetrated the crime, they have questioned the victim’s choice for staying with her abuser.

Truth be told, I don’t fully understand either person’s choices. As a woman, I cannot comprehend putting myself at risk with a man who has shown a propensity for violence towards women. Also as a woman, I cannot understand the male psyche that would justify such a lack of control.

But the man has committed a crime. He has harmed another person without any reasonable justification, and therefore, regardless of the woman’s choices, HE, AND ONLY HE, IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CRIME OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

There are many obstacles that compel women to stay with an abusive partner. Some of those obstacles are psychological and beyond the average person’s understanding.

But some obstacles are societal barriers that we have the option to fix, but lack the political or social will to change.

Many women stay in abusive relationships because the financial barriers to leaving are more complicated than are easily understood. If healthcare, childcare, employment, and mental health treatment were more accessible for women, they would be more likely to overcome the psychological barriers that trap them emotionally in unhealthy relationships.

Some women do leave, and find that the criminal justice system fails them, putting them and their children at increased risk and danger. In Lorain, OH, Robert Starr was free on bond for the seventh time when he invaded his estranged girlfriend’s home, assaulted her, kidnapped her child, and dangled the couple’s five-month-old son out the window of a moving car.

Even if a woman is inclined to leave, how can she trust that she and her children will be safe when a judge would release her abuser seven times after continuing to commit violent crimes?

We as a society need to do more than express disgust on Twitter about a woman’s choices in a personal relationship.

Instead, we need to garner the political and social will to provide the resources women and children need to be safe. We need to change the good ol’ boy attitudes pervading our criminal justice system that perceive crimes against women as lesser crimes that somehow are the responsibility of the victim. We need to make physical healthcare and mental health care easily accessible to all persons in need, particularly vulnerable women who are in harms way.

We need to hold public figures such as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to account and insist that abusive men do not get a pass for their dangerous behavior simply because they are football heroes. But we need to do more.

We can start by ceasing our inadvertent reflex to blame the victims and instead, start finding practical ways to help them find safety.

We need to change #WhyIStayed to #IWillHelpULeave.

Will we do that? Or will we simply wait for the next incident that prompts outrage but no real change?



I Hope…

Peace dove diversity hands painting by BZTAT
painting by BZTAT

” Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, JR.

After watching recent events in Ferguson, MO unfold on computer and television screens, I am shaken. I am shaken because of so many things, but the reality of continued racial disparity and prejudice in modern day America rattles me to the core.

As a white woman, I am certain that I cannot comprehend that reality fully, but I do not doubt its existence. I simply cannot fathom how people can be so hateful and so unequivocally misguided when it comes to individuals of a different race.

I cannot speak to the actual events leading to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, as the facts are not all revealed. I am not sure that they ever will be. I cannot ignore the claims of that community, either, that  racial profiling and misuse of power towards people of color has been a longstanding problem with local police forces.

Surely, the reactions of some in Ferguson were uncalled for. Criminal acts of arson and looting and terrorizing fellow citizens are not the way to right any wrongs that have occurred in that city. It is incumbent, though, on the authorities to react responsibly and not inflame situations further. There are many indications that the authorities actions were questionable on many fronts in Ferguson. Could they have avoided all the unrest? Hmmmm.

I believe that most police officers are professional and wise in their actions with the communities that they protect. I believe that they are often doing a thankless job where they are facing uncertain danger at every corner. The prevalence of guns on the streets makes it hard to know when anyone or any situation is safe.

I also know that black persons have less reason to respect the police than I do. I know many law abiding citizens who have been stopped for bogus reasons, where I have not. I know that I am more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt than my black friends are. As a counselor for 20 years, I worked with many black boys who got “The Talk”, where they were told by their mothers that different rules applied to them as a man of color than applied for white men.

Being a police officer is not an easy job in any community. The firepower of our police has escalated to the level of that of their adversaries, and they now feel that tanks and warfare are required to protect themselves and the streets. But are tanks and weapons of war necessary? Is it necessary to suspect every person of a certain race of being a criminal while giving others a pass?

Many officers will answer “No”. But there are still too many officers with antiquated beliefs, and too many police force cultures that support bullies. We still have a lot of work to do. At some point, we lose the ability to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and that is not acceptable.

We need communities where police officers are not targets of warfare, but we also need communities where the police do not target innocent people of a certain race unjustly.

I am old enough that I have lived through the race riots of the 1960’s, the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King beating, and now the unrest in Ferguson. I am hearing the same calls for justice that we heard 40 some odd years ago. Will we learn from our history?

Will love ever prevail?

We can only hope.


My heart cries for an emu named Mary.

Emu Mary shot and killed
Emu Mary

I learned of a very tragic story today. I often see sad tales of animal abuse that move me to tears, but this one struck me more deeply than most.

Mary, a 12 year emu who had found refuge from the evils of mankind at Rikki’s Refuge in Orange County, Virginia, was brutally murdered as she awaited her breakfast from a caring caretaker.

According to news reports, a staff member had temporarily stepped away from her pen, and in the short time of the caretaker’s absence, a trespasser shot Mary and killed her. The layout of the animal sanctuary is such that the shooting most definitely was an intentional act and not an accidental stray bullet.

I have difficulty understanding any sort of abuse to animals or people. But this sort of act defies any sort of logic or understanding. The act of killing just because you can is beyond any reasonable person’s understanding.

There was no way that this animal could have caused anyone to feel rage or anger. This was not an emotional outburst. It was a callous and shallow act that likely humored an ignorant individual lacking empathy and emotional accord with other living beings.

We live in a society that has an increasing number of people like this, and it is terrifying.

We know what causes it. There is a whole litany of cultural influences that feed this sort of shallow callous monster that we have created. Yet our own wants and desires prevent us from looking honestly at what could change things. This really saddens me.

My heart cries for Mary and for those who loved and cared for her. My heart cries for so many innocent animals and people who are struck down needlessly.

My hope is that, someday, my heart will have less reason to cry.

From Rikki’s Refuge:

We are offering a $1,000 reward to the person(s) who supply us with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who did this. Phone 540-854-0870 x1 or email or PO 1357, Orange VA 22960. We will keep the name of any informers confidential and also welcome anonymous tips. If you prefer to deal directly with the sheriff you may call 540-672-1200 or 540-672-9725 for animal control.

Please share this message far and wide. Any help we can get to the folks at Rikki’s Refuge is welcome. They are a great organization and do wonders with rescuing animals of all kinds.

Thank you, Rikki’s Refuge, for all that you do on behalf of animals. RIP sweet Mary.


The Writing, and the Drawing is on the Wall.

Okey's Promise Art for the Cause - The Writing, and the Drawing is on the Wall.

I hadn’t given my current public art project a name, nor had I created a video to promote it. Both sort of evolved with each other this past weekend. As I was putting images together for the video, and as I was reviewing research and other articles, a thought kept going through my mind.

The writing is on the wall.

We use this phrase as an ominous warning that, if we do not pay attention to the obvious, we will face dire consequences.

We need to pay attention to the fact that many children and animals in our world are facing dire consequences. We need to look at both and find ways to help them to safety, and we need to aid children affected by domestic violence in dealing with the emotional turmoil in their lives.

Since the images to be employed for the latest mural are of children drawing on a wall, it occurred to me that there was a parallel meaning there.

The video is done, and the title reflects the importance of the the Okey’s Promise mission.

The Writing, and the Drawing, is on the Wall.

Please feel free to share the video and embed it on your website if you like. Please link back to this site if you. Thanks!