Tag Archives: domestic violence

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?



Public Debut of the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond Project

Painting of a white and gray by Artist BZTAT
Painting by Artist BZTAT

The artwork for the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond Project has been complete for some time now, but we were waiting for the right time to begin sharing it with the public.

I have been working with the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. to plan some events in conjunction with their 35th Anniversary year celebrations, and we are looking forward to making a strong impact on the community.


Our first event will be tomorrow, May 3, 2013 during the First Friday celebrations in downtown Canton, OH’s Arts District. We are also planning exhibits at the Massillon Museum, Malone University, and other locations throughout the Stark County Community. Stay tuned!

If you are in Canton tomorrow, I hope you will join us. The weather is predicted to be fabulous! Here are the particulars:

Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond

First Friday Event

An artistic celebration of animal rescue volunteers and domestic violence advocates coming together for mutual benefit of the community.

Pit Bull dog painting collage by Artist BZTAT
Painting by BZTAT

Time: 6:00pm until 9:00pm
Location: At the “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural, hanging on the side of the Imperial Room at 4th St. NW and Court Ave. in Downtown Canton.

Artist BZTAT will exhibit her latest Okey’s Promise public art project, an exhibit of 9 artworks highlighting the connections between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence, with guests from the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. and local animal rescue groups. The artworks are positive and uplifting, showing the faces of children and companion pets who have triumphed over adversity. At risk youth and women affected by domestic violence contributed to the backgrounds of the artworks. The project was funded by a grant from ArtsInStark and private donations through crowdfunding efforts.

Painting of a young girl by Artist BZTAT
Painting by BZTAT

Rescue groups include: Peace for Pets, Friends of Stark Pound, Second Chance for Animals, Rose’s Rescue, and others. Pets available for adoption will be present!

Want to know more about the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond Project? Read more here, and watch the video below that was created for the fundraising campaign.

The Power of Images

Drawing of a boy by BZTAT
Artwork by BZTAT

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, our collective senses have been rattled. Not only with the telling of the story of what happened, but also with the images that have been thrust into our view of frightened children, grief stricken parents, and other signs of intense pain.

And guns. Everywhere you turn – newspapers, TV news, online magazines – you see pictures of assault weapons. It is as if seeing the image of these machines that are designed to kill will somehow motivate us to some kind of action.

As we are gripped with the pain of this one tragedy, however, we tend to ignore the daily tragedy of harm that befalls other children daily.  An average of 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse in the United States. Nearly 6 million children are harmed in some way by domestic abuse each year according to reports, which likely underestimate the true number of abuses cases.

We have ugly pictures to go along with that too. Photos of sad, morose children wth dirty faces and black eyes evoke pity and implore us to do something. Again, it seems that the only way to motivate people to action is to assault them with images of awful things.

Another area of activism that tries to motivate with horrifying imagry is the pet rescue community. Images of bloody and emaciated animals creep their way into my Facebook newsfeed every day. Activists think that sharing these awful pictures of abused and neglected animals will motivate us to do something to stop animal abuse.

Artists often buy into this myth that scare tactics motivate people to action. They fill their artworks with macabre images that thrill the arts intelligencia, who analyze their expressiveness with egoistic verbosity.

But looking at the statistics on mass shootings, child abuse and animal abuse, these motivation tactics do not seem to be working. Children are still being harmed. Animals are still being harmed.  The two phenomena are deeply intertwined in their occurrence in our society.  And shocking us with imagry is not making a dent in creating change.

As an artist, I do not enjoy creating ugly things. I deplore violence towards children and animals, and I want to use my art to educate people about how these two issues are connected. I want to inspire and lead people towards meaningful change. But I cannot, and will not do it by perpetuating the ugliness.

All of my artwork has a positive and joyful quality. It is not by accident. I choose color and other artistic elements that bring about those qualities on purpose. It is not to ignore the less positive realities in life, but to articulate the more positive outcomes that we seek.

With my Okey’s Promise projects, I more purposefully challenge people to initiate a dialogue about the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence – a particularly ugly reality of human society. But even so, I do this by intriguing people with images of hope instead of creating images that make them want to turn away.

I don’t know if I will make a dent any more than those who resort to sensationalism tactics. I can’t go wrong with hope, though. What have I got to lose?



A profound reunion reminds me of why Okey’s Promise is so important.

Okey's Promise: Art for a Cause public art mural sketch by BZTAT
Okey’s Promise mural sketch by BZTAT

I spent 20 years working as a professional clinical counselor. In that time, I met a number of children who had been abused or exposed to domestic violence. The trauma was profound and the emotional effects were deep for these children.

Most of these children are now adults. Some have recovered from their painful experiences and have gone on to be successful in their endeavors. Others still struggle, but are working towards recovery.

And there are a few who have ended up in prison for violent crimes. That is the reality of recovery – some do not get to the place where we want them to be.

I met up with a young woman recently with whom I had worked towards a healing journey from her painful history. This young woman continues to struggle. She has a support network that stands by her, though, and a family that she has accrued through the years. She knows how important that is to her.

I had not seen her in probably 5 years. The reunion was emotional for both of us.

I was completely disarmed by her genuine gratitude for my past efforts on her behalf. As a child, she had many moments of reacting angrily against me, so I was surprised that she had recognized that I was helping her. One by one, she recounted incidents where I had stood by her despite her ingratitude at the time.

And she thanked me.

Not just for standing by her, but for understanding her pain.

This young lady loved animals, but when she experienced her emotional torment, that love turned to hate. She did not understand why, and she hated herself for it, but when her pain became too great, she attempted to harm the very pets whom she loved.

Luckily, she had foster parents and a treatment team that understood this. Plans were in place to protect the child and the animals from the dangers of her pain.

As we walked down memory lane recalling this, she was profuse in her gratitude about my help in keeping her from hurting the animals who were her best friends.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead has said, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” My young friend told me in so many words that she believed it to be true.

She rekindled my belief in the necessity of educating the public about this important issue.

Okey’s Promise is not just about animals. It is not just about children. It is not just about abuse and domestic violence.

Okey’s Promise is about bringing widespread awareness to the connections of animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence through public art, so that we can help animals AND people be safe in our world.

I cannot do it alone. Will you help me?

My young friend, and many others out there deeply appreciate your understanding and willingness to share it with the world.


Please support the latest Okey’s Promise project. Become an Okey’s Promise Keeper today!

donate to Okey's Promise: Art for a Cause