Friday, October 25, 2013

U.S. single-parent families are the worst off

The wellbeing of single-parent families is a vitally important issue for the United States. Half or more of the children growing up in the U.S. today will spend some, and in some cases all, of their childhood in a single-parent family.

This report compares U.S. single-parent families with single-parent families in 16 other high-income countries. We find that U.S. single-parent families are the worst off. They have the highest poverty rate. They have the highest rate of no health care coverage. They face the stingiest income support system. They lack the paid-time-off-from-work entitlements that in comparison countries make it easier for single parents to balance caregiving and jobholding. They must wait longer than single parents in comparison countries for early childhood education to begin. They have a low rate of child support receipt.

U.S. single parents have both above average employment rates and above average poverty rates. High rates of low-wage employment combined with inadequate income support explain the paradox of high poverty despite high employment.

Consider the hypothetical single mother, Theresa. For simplicity sake, assume that she has only one child, Daniel. Suppose first that Theresa and Daniel live in one of the comparison countries. If employed at Daniel’s birth, Theresa would have been entitled to a period of paid parental leave ranging from 9 to 46 weeks and averaging over 20 weeks. While employed, Theresa would typically be entitled to paid sick leave and to at least four weeks of paid annual leave. Whether or not Theresa was employed, she and Daniel would be guaranteed health care coverage. Theresa would likely have access to public education for Daniel from the age of three on, even sooner in some of the countries. She would typically be entitled to a monthly child allowance benefit to help her provide for some of Daniel’s basic needs. In the majority of countries she could also be entitled to “advance maintenance” benefits if Daniel’s father neglected to pay child support or was unable to do so. If Theresa lost her job and had been employed long enough to satisfy the Unemployment Insurance (UI) employment history requirement, she would on average be entitled to up to 57 weeks of UI benefits. If she and Daniel were in financial need, she would be entitled to social assistance (“welfare”) that in the majority of comparison countries would raise family income close to or above the poverty line. Now, suppose instead that Theresa and Daniel live in the U.S. Theresa would have no entitlement under national law to paid parental leave, paid annual leave, or paid sick leave. She might be without health care coverage for herself or Daniel whether employed or not. She would be unlikely to have access to public education for Daniel until Daniel was five. She would not receive child allowance or advance maintenance, as the U.S. does not provide these programs. If Theresa lost her job, she might not qualify for UI, as single mothers in the U.S. are very often in low-wage jobs and thus less likely to qualify for UI benefits if they lose a job. If she did qualify for UI, she would typically receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks unless Congress renewed the temporary extensions of UI benefit weeks enacted in response to the ‘great recession.’ If Theresa and Daniel were in financial need, the family might be ineligible for social assistance because of “time limits,” or might be unable to access benefits because U.S. social assistance enrolls only a minority of eligible families. If eligible for and able to enroll in social assistance, the meager social assistance benefit would leave family income far below the poverty line.

Some highlights from the study:
  • A cross-national study of single parent employment around the year 2000 reported that 87% of employed U.S. single parents were employed 30 or more hours a week. 
  • Single mothers in the U.S. are paid much less than comparably educated single fathers or married men. A 1999 study found that if employed U.S. single mothers earned as much as comparable men, their annual earnings would increase 17% and their poverty rate would fall by half.
  • There Is An Entitlement To Paid Parental Leave In All Comparison Countries,  but not in the U.S.
  • There Are Entitlements To Paid Annual Leave, Holidays, And Sick Leave In Comparison Countries, But Not In The U.S.
  • Early Childhood Education Starts Earlier In Comparison Countries Than In The U.S.
  • Single parents need others to care for their younger children while they engage in paid work. The unavailability or unaffordability of care is often an employment barrier.
  • There Is Universal Health Care Coverage In All Comparison Countries, but not in the U.S.
  • Parents Receive Child Allowance In All Comparison Countries,  but not in the U.S.
  • Single Parents Receive Advance Maintenance In The Majority Of Comparison Countries,  but not in the U.S.
In advanced maintenance programs, also referred to as assured or guaranteed maintenance or child support, the government provides cash payments to single parents when non-custodial parents are unable or unwilling to pay child support. Typically, there is a cap on the payment amount, and the government seeks to recover the cost of the payments from the non-custodial parent. In some countries, advanced maintenance is only available to low-income single parents. Advanced maintenance aims to assures single parents a dependable minimum amount of child support.

Hardship is quite common for US single-mother families. Two-fifths of single-mother families are “food insecure,” one seventh use food pantries, and one third spend more than half their income on housing. Three quarters of homeless families are single-mother families. One fifth of single mothers live doubled up in another person’s home.

Although single parenthood is especially common in the U.S., the U.S. does less than comparison countries to assure single-parent families basic economic security, and does less than comparison countries to help single parents balance jobholding and caregiving. With the principal exception of advanced maintenance, the more beneficial policies in comparison countries are not targeted specifically to single-parent families. Rather they are policies that serve all families but which are especially important to single-parent families because single parents often are both the sole caregiver and the sole breadwinner. U.S. single-parent families will remain the worst off unless the U.S. expands its family-supporting policies.

Excerpt from "WORST OFF – SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES: A Cross-National Comparison of Single Parenthood in the U.S. and Sixteen Other High-Income Countries" By Timothy Casey and Laurie Maldonado (December 2012)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two Great Accidents

"There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst." ~Frida Kahlo

Never Chase Love

Saturday, October 19, 2013

No father should treat his children like that. Your father should not treat you like that.

This is an excerpt of one of my favorite essays by Carol P. Christ: "Forgiveness or Truth: Which Is the Best Remedy?"

"Psychoanalyst Alice Miller was in her sixties when she finally recognized the truth that set her free. In Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, she writes of “the liberating experience of facing painful truth.” She states that not only parents but also therapists and religious leaders are all too often afraid of facing painful truth. What is the truth they are afraid of facing? In my family it was simply this: “No father should treat his children like that. Your father should not treat you like that.” If I had heard these words, Miller explains, it would have been painful. But it would have been the truth. It would have been difficult for me to accept that at times my father really was abusive and cruel. It might have been even more painful for my mother to acknowledge that her husband really was abusive and cruel to her children. But the alternative was more painful and in its own way more abusive and cruel.

Where is the abuse in being told a “white lie” about abuse? The child who is told a lie about the pain she is experiencing is being told to suppress her feelings. She is being told that her valid feelings that “this hurts” and “this should not be happening to me,” are wrong and cannot be acknowledged or expressed. In other words “feeling your own feelings” is not OK. If all or most children are raised not to feel their own feelings, it is no wonder that adults who have been raised not to feel their own feelings continue to be afraid to face painful truths. We allow ourselves and those around us to be abused and then we cover abuse up with white lies. Alice Miller asks:

“Why should I forgive, when no one is asking me to? I mean, my parents refuse to understand and to know what they did to me. … [My forgiveness] doesn’t help my parents to see the truth. But it does prevent me from experiencing my feelings, the feelings that would give me access to the truth.”

Alice Miller was in her sixties when she finally discovered that “The truth about childhood, as many of us have had to endure it, is inconceivable, scandalous, painful.” She was not talking only about sexual and physical abuse—which we now know are rampant. She was also talking about a kind of psychological abuse that is even more widespread: parents who expect their children to do as they are told and not to do what they feel like doing are abusing their children. These children are being taught to suppress their feelings in order to please their parents. Often the feelings that are being suppressed are not even anger or resentment but simple joy and excitement about life."

 Excerpt from

Friday, October 18, 2013

Just a Mother?

"I don’t want to sing Kumbaya right now. I want to kick our backwards, materialistic society in the shins and say, “GET YOUR FREAKING HEAD ON STRAIGHT, SOCIETY.”
This conversation shouldn’t be necessary. I shouldn’t need to explain why it’s insane for anyone — particularly other women — to have such contempt and hostility for “stay at home” mothers. Are we really so shallow? Are we really so confused? Are we really the first culture in the history of mankind to fail to grasp the glory and seriousness of motherhood? The pagans deified Maternity and turned it into a goddess. We’ve gone the other direction; we treat it like a disease or an obstacle.

The people who completely immerse themselves in the tiring, thankless, profoundly important job of raising children ought to be put on a pedestal. We ought to revere them and admire them like we admire rocket scientists and war heroes. These women are doing something beautiful and complicated and challenging and terrifying and painful and joyous and essential. Whatever they are doing, they ARE doing something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them doing it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?

It’s true — being a mom isn’t a “job.” A job is something you do for part of the day and then stop doing. You get a paycheck. You have unions and benefits and break rooms. I’ve had many jobs; it’s nothing spectacular or mystical. I don’t quite understand why we’ve elevated “the workforce” to this hallowed status. Where do we get our idea of it? The Communist Manifesto? Having a job is necessary for some — it is for me — but it isn’t liberating or empowering. Whatever your job is — you are expendable. You are a number. You are a calculation. You are a servant. You can be replaced, and you will be replaced eventually. Am I being harsh? No, I’m being someone who has a job. I’m being real.

If your mother quit her role as mother, entire lives would be turned upside down; society would suffer greatly. The ripples of that tragedy would be felt for generations. If she quit her job as a computer analyst, she’d be replaced in four days and nobody would care. Same goes for you and me. We have freedom and power in the home, not the office. But we are zombies, so we can not see that.

Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined.

Yes, she is just a mother. Which is sort of like looking at the sky and saying, “hey, it’s just the sun.”

Excerpt from:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Internal Struggle

THE INTERNAL STRUGGLE: LET GO, I DON'T KNOW? The decline of the human spirit has manifested as the world we see around us now. War, poverty, corruption, exploitation - all that lovely stuff.... When I say decline, I mean that we have forgotten our Divine origins and purpose of incarnation. However, nothing has actually been lost, only forgotten. 

In the vibration of abundance around us right now we feel pulled in two directions. On the one hand more and more of us are waking up to the realization that what we call Reality is a Lie. We aren't meant to be the puppets of politics and a broken economic system -- but rather the Makers and the Breakers of our own Destinies. There is a strong urge to unplug, to pull away from these forces that appear to control and subconsciously manufacture our thoughts, our identities and our existences -- and to simply break free and fly away, far away from the grid. But we live in a material form, we are energy manifest in cellular and molecular structures. We have chosen to incarnate as conscious flesh at this time. So what should we do? What can we do? 

Overnight, we can't practically transform ourselves into self-sustaining communities - not when there's a mortgage to pay, kids to send to school, a job to go to, etc. We feel compelled to toe the line somehow, telling ourselves that we have to, that's who we are, that's what we're supposed to be, feel, think do, that's what 'normal' people do. And that's where the tension starts. There's a lot of escapism going around in spiritual community. Love, Let Go, Be Free.... And that's a phenomenal internal state to have - to be the detached observer, to Love from the Heart and Unconditionally, without the attachment of expectation. But how does that translate to an external material world?

Don't run, don't hide - Do what you have to do right now. You can't walk out on your immediate responsibilities and dependents, and you want to stay true to a more authentic path of living - so what do you do? 

There are four principles to bear in mind - Faith, Openness, Gratitude and Responsibility (not to be confused with Soul Purpose). Don't quit your day job just because you want to escape, unless you truly feel that's what you have to do from the pit of your soul. Change the internal mindset, and Will the Universe to manifest your external realities to the changing reality within - better still - Accept what's happening and Ask for the channels needed for you to manifest your Highest Soul Purpose be opened. Its not a paradox despite initial appearances. It's how a chicklet hatches from an egg - from within, rather than without. Life and the Universe expands the moment you make that internal decision to go with the Flow, and send out your intentions for a different mode of existence, a different reality. When you actually begin to claim your power and your responsibility as a Co-Creator of the Universe. We all are. Imagine that. Let go of the resentment you feel around your material circumstances and learn to be Grateful. Be grateful for the peeling walls, be grateful for the lack of a nanny, be grateful for the sick parent who needs your care, be grateful for how run-down you feel right now. Be grateful and attach no expectation of reward to what responsibilities you have right now - and continue to fulfill them. Don't wear the martyr's crown of 'sacrificing for the sake of duty' either - that's not what I'm getting at - and I'm making the distinction as it is a slippery slope to climb. Don't neglect what you have to do right now, and do it anyway, regardless of how you feel about it. The moment you turn it into an egoic identity ('see how I suffer', etc.) the farther you get from your Soul (Sole) Purpose. Hate your job? Fine. Keep doing your best at it till you have an opportunity to switch to something better. 

This is where Faith and Openness come in. Trust that the Universe will provide and open your Heart to receive its guidance. Trust that the right opportunities for change, for transition, for dramatic upheaval will arrive - and go with the Wisdom of Universal Flow of Energy. Something this wisdom manifests as an epic spiritual dream quest, sometimes it's a very welcome severance package, sometimes it's a natural disaster, sometimes it's winning the lottery. It comes in all forms. But when you focus on the resentment and irritability you feel about circumstances you want to change, then your vibration is not longer open to the Channels of Abundance, through which the Universal Energy circulates and manifests your intentions. This is part of the eclipse challenge before us. We can't change the entrenched forms (Saturn) overnight, and we can't run away to lofty Neptune or impulsively burn bridges that support us and our families in this material incarnation. The few who have that option, go for it - but it doesn't apply to the majority. Change inside, and the Outside will change in response. Just not in an instant. 

The Universe needs time to work its Miracles of Manifestation. Do what needs to be done now, and trust that the real work you incarnated here to do will open itself to you in due course.

Peace and Love to All this Eclipse Season!

Image and Post by The Goddess, The Serpent and The Sea: Building Pathways of Light


"...patriarchy, hierarchy, and capitalism create, encourage, maintain, and perpetuate addiction and dependency. Patriarchy and hierarchy are based on domination and subordination, which result in fear. This fear is expressed by the dominators through control and violence, and in subordinated people through passivity and repression of anger. The external conflict of hierarchy between dominants and subordinates becomes internalized in individuals, creating personal inner chaos, anxiety and duality. To quell the inner conflict people resort to addictive substances and behavior."

-Charlotte Davis Kasl, PhD - Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Systemic Inequalities

"The debate on welfare is structured around what people "deserve". Critics of welfare argue that no one "deserves" assistance from the state. This is true. No one deserves to live in a country where wages are so low that working families cannot feed their children without government aid. No one deserves to have the accreditation requirements for well-paid employment cost more than the average household income. No one deserves to be denied food -- period.

Welfare is need mistaken for desire. Wealth is desire mistaken for worth. Everyone in America is cashing in benefits, be it welfare checks or the credentials purchased with privilege.

It is hard to say most people "deserve" what they get. But some forms of exchange are more acceptable than others.

Critics fault the poor for their dependence, telling them to get a job or get an education, when jobs for the educated have disappeared. They tell them to work hard and climb the career ladder, neglecting to mention that it terminates at a locked door opened with a golden key.

Adam Smith famously proclaimed that the rich are "led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society."

Today the invisible hand is not invisible because we cannot see it. It is because it is not there."

Sarah Kendzior

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Words can provoke us

"Words should not seek to please, to hide the wounds in our bodies, or the shameful moments in our lives. They may hurt, give us pain, but they can also provoke us to question what we have accepted for thousands of years." ~ Nawal El Saadawi

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reclaiming “victim”

Feminists organizing against domestic and sexual violence generally use the word “survivor” instead of “victim” to refer to people who experience violence (unless, of course, the person is murdered, in which case the term “survivor” obviously does not apply). “From victim to survivor” (and even “to thriver” sometimes) is a model often invoked by people who are working to heal and empower victims/survivors of abuse as well as by the victims/survivors themselves.

I myself have used the word “survivor” for many years. But as I began questioning “survivor” narratives and exploring negative survivorship as a compelling alternative to the cult of compulsory hopefulness and optimism in the “trauma recovery industry,” I came to identify with and embracing the term “victim” more. I never felt that I survive well enough to call myself a survivor anyway.

Many people prefer the word “survivor” to “victim” because “survivor” feels strong and proactive. I understand that, as that is precisely how I felt for a long time also, but I am starting to think that we need to honor and embrace weakness, vulnerability, and passivity as well, or else we end up blaming and invalidating victims (including myself) who do not feel strong some or most of the times.

The society views victimhood as something that must be overcome. When we are victimized, we are (sometimes) afforded a small allowance of time, space, and resources in order to recover–limited and conditional exemptions from normal societal expectations and responsibilities–and are given a different set of expectations and responsibilities that we must live up to (mainly focused around getting help, taking care of ourselves, and recovering). “Healing” is not optional, but is a mandatory process by which a “victim” is transformed into a “survivor”; the failure to successfully complete this transformation results in victim-blaming and sanctions.

This is the so-called “victim role,” an extension of sociologist Talcott Parsons’ theory of “sick role.” The society needs victims to quickly transition out of victimhood into survivorship so that we can return to our previous positions in the heteronormative and capitalist social and economic arrangements. That, I believe, is the source of this immense pressure to become survivors rather than victims, a cultural attitude that even many feminist groups have internalized.

This victim-to-survivor discourse is a common theme in the trauma recovery services/industry. A self-help website, for example, states:
  • This section is about moving from Victim-To-Survivor.
  • This is an action step, and a change in mentality.
  • Yes, you are a victim of sexual abuse, but a victim stays in a victim role and never moves further and changes any behaviors that might change the outcome of the feelings that you are suffering from.
  • You can’t change what happened to you… but you CAN change how you will react to it and how you want your life to be from this day forward!
  • Once you make the decision to recover, you have the power to change your life!!
  • Your abuser does not have to win! You can take back your power and move on and not stay stuck where you are!
 Hence, victimhood is construed as static and uncomfortable. Being a victim means that the abuser has won, and the victim is left without any “power” and is “stuck” where she or he is. The only hope for the victim is not a revolution, or community accountability and care, but “a change in mentality.” I find this rhetoric overly apolitical, individualistic, and victim-blaming.
Such messages are not uncommon. Another examples is a recent (10/26/2011) “expert blog” article on Mayo Clinic website, which is ironically titled “Victim or survivor? It’s your choice.” When I first saw the title, I thought the article was about how we as victims and survivors get to define our own experiences. but it wasn’t. Because the author is an oncologist, I assume that it is an advice intended for cancer survivors–but the article itself does not make that explicit, and his comments feels very similar to things people say to victims/survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

  • Everyone has setbacks, disappointments and frustrations. But the way you respond to these challenges and opportunities is what defines you. Whether you become a victim or a “seasoned survivor” depends on your attitude and the way you view the setback.
  • When faced with an overwhelming crisis, whether personal, spiritual or financial, your circuits can be overloaded. You may feel paralyzed. However, once a little time has passed, you can marshal your options to creatively deal with the problem.
  • Whatever has happened, you can choose to whine and complain about it, or to profit and learn from the experience. Whining is not only unproductive, it also pushes away your support network. Friends and colleagues will listen for just so long, but then it is time to move on. The choice is yours. Your life depends on it.
Once again, victims who “whine and complain” are blamed for causing their own suffering by pushing away our support networks, as if our mentality is the only barrier for us victims/survivors to thrive. While the author pretends to offer “choices,” he is clearly promoting normative survivorship over “unproductive” whining and complaining, blaming those of us who remain “victims” for failing to live up to our societal expectations.

I argue that feminist anti-violence movements and communities must embrace unproductive whining and complaining as legitimate means of survival in a world that cannot be made just by simply changing our individual mentalities. We must acknowledge that weakness, vulnerability, and passivity are every bit as creative and resilient as strength and activeness. And I think we can start that by reclaiming “victim” and “victimhood” and resisting the heteronormative “victim to survivor” discourse of the trauma recovery industry that imposes compulsory hopefulness and optimism in the service of neoliberal capitalist production.

posted on

Saturday, October 12, 2013

About Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship.  The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt but in in general, include tactics to limit the partner’s access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to the family finances.   Financial abuse along with emotional, physical and sexual abuse, manipulation, intimidation and threats are all intentional tactics used by an abuser aimed at entrapping the partner in the relationship.  In some abusive relationships, financial abuse is present throughout the relationship and in other cases financial abuse becomes present when the survivor is attempting to leave or has left the relationship.

Financial abuse, while less commonly understood, is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and deeply diminishes her ability to stay safe after leaving an abusive relationship.   Research indicates that financial abuse is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships  and surveys of survivors reflect that concerns over their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children was one of the top reason for staying in or returning to a battering relationship.  As with all forms of abuse, it occurs across all socio-economic, educational and racial and ethnic groups.

Forms of Financial Abuse

As with other forms of abuse, financial abuse may begin subtly and progress over time.  It may even look like love initially as abusers have the capacity to appear very charming and are masterful at manipulation.  For example, the batterer may make statements such as “ I know you’re under a lot of stress right now so why  don’t you just let me take care of the finances and I’ll give you money each week to take care of what you need”.   Under these circumstances, the victim may believe that she should or can trust the partner she is in love with and may willingly give over control of the money and how it is spent.  This scenario commonly leads to the batterer giving the victim less and less in “allowance” and by the time she decides she wants to take back control of the finances, she discovers that the accounts have all been moved or she no longer has knowledge or access to the family funds.

In other cases, the financial abuse may be much more overt.  Batterers commonly use violence or threats of violence and intimidation to keep the victim from working or having access to the family funds.  Whether subtle or overt, there are common methods that batterers use to gain financial control over their partner.  These include:
  • Forbidding the victim to work 
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace or causing the victim to lose her job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent 
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts 
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance”
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions
  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income
  • Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine
  • Hiding assets
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property or inheritance
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay
  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits”
  • Filing false insurance claims
  • Refusing to pay  or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets

The Impact of Financial Abuse

The short and long term effects of financial abuse can be devastating. In the short term, access to assets is imperative to staying safe. Without assets, survivors are often unable to obtain safe and affordable housing or the funds to provide for themselves or their children. With realistic fears of homelessness, it is little wonder that survivors sometimes return to the battering relationship.

For those who manage to escape the abuse and survive initially, they often face overwhelming odds in obtaining long term security and safety. Ruined credit scores, sporadic employment histories and legal issues caused by the battering make it extremely difficult to gain independence, safety and long term security.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Exhale every yesterday that lingers

"Stretching high,
I inhale the metamorphosis of today
and exhale every yesterday
that lingers..."

~Ruth Calder Murphy

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This REALLY works!

If you're feeling anxious or especiallly co-dependent, this is one of the best affirmations I know of.  Especially as women, I think we tend to give too much of ourselves away. This encourages us to take deep nourishing breaths that equally honor ourselves and those around us.

Today is World Mental Health Day, so I can't think of a better time to start this practice.

"Breathing in, I cherish myself. Breathing out, I cherish everyone else."

The Dalai Lama requests that everyone recite/chant this 5 minutes a day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dating an Alcoholic - Run Like Hell!

I liken living with an alcoholic to living in a war-zone.

Like one who lives in deceit, I stone myself and call for help
Your wound grows and grows
It slits my throat from vein to vein.
I put sand in you wound
I put in your wound a giant, and around myself I light the fire.
—Hoda Al-Namani, I remember I was a Point, I was a Circle

When I read this, I thought, this is me. This is my life. But, I’m not living in Beirut. What’s that about?
If you are an addict, I’m sorry. This story isn’t for you. There are hundreds of stories and resources for addicts. It often seems it’s the families of addicts who are forgotten and who largely suffer in silence.

There will always be another excuse, another mistake, another relapse, another addiction or anger about a parent’s addiction that they need their lifetime and yours to get over. With addicts there is just always something.

Read full article at

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

the weight of that silence will choke us

“For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.” – Audre Lorde

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

How to Stop Domestic Financial Abuse

Financial abuse occurs in 98 percent of abusive relationships, whether in the form of restricting access to a spouse’s credit, or draining assets once a victim attempts to leave. For spouses who see their options gradually dwindle, money may be the reason to stay in a relationship or come back after trying to get out. Of the seven in eight women who go back to an abusive partner after leaving, a significant portion attributes the return to financial pressures.

An abuser can control the victim’s financial freedom in a number of ways, both before and after she attempts to leave. We thank Rene Renick, Vice President of Economic Enterprises at the National Network to End Domestic Violence for her advice on financially protecting yourself from an abusive relationship. Note: throughout the article, we use a female pronoun for the victim and male for the batterer for simplicity, although of course men are also victims of domestic abuse.

Opportunities for financial abuse 

According to Renick, a batterer often runs up debt on his credit cards or doesn’t make his payments. If a victim has a joint account with the batterer, or he has signed her up for loans or credit cards without her knowledge, she could see her credit score decimated by his actions or even be held liable for his debts by credit card companies. Abusers sometimes take out credit cards in their children’s names, with themselves as the co-signers, saddling their kids with ruined credit scores before they are financially independent.
After a woman tries to leave, her abuser may use her credit card statements—particularly if they share an account—to track her down. Most injuries or homicides related to domestic violence occur when a victim is leaving or has left the relationship and many batterers try to stalk the women who manage to get away.

The effects of financial abuse

After a woman leaves a financially abusive relationship, she may find herself with severely limited resources. If her abuser ran up debt on a joint account, her credit score will be shot, and she won’t have access to any meaningful lines of credit. She may even have trouble renting an apartment, getting a cell phone or landing a job. If an abuser knows his victim’s personal information —such as her social security number or mother’s maiden name—he can track any inquiries into her credit score, and find her after she’s left.

Furthermore, even if a judge rules that her husband should pay for the debt he incurs, debt collection agencies may come after the victim if he is delinquent. The victim is liable for all the debt in a joint account, whether or not she is responsible for running it up.

Protect yourself before and after leaving

If you can safely do so, transfer your assets—paychecks, inheritance, spare change—into a separate bank account. Make inquiries as to where your household’s assets are, and how much debt you have.
Keep a copy of all your important papers, including bank statements, social security numbers, birth and marriage certificates and documentation of jointly held assets. It’s important to have a physical copy somewhere outside of the house.

As soon as you leave, change all your PIN’s to codes that are not easily identifiable. Avoid using your or your children’s birthdays. Call the issuers of any joint accounts and have your name removed. It will not protect you from existing debt, but it will insulate you from having to pay for anything incurred after you leave.

If you do have a joint account, withdraw half of the assets. “Many women don’t want to do this. They say, ‘That will make me just as bad as he is. He wouldn’t ever do that to me,’” says Renick. “But then the abuser escalates his behavior in an effort to gain back control, and the woman tries to withdraw money only to find all assets have been drained.”

Getting back on your feet

If you are liable for any debts, send a copy of any court orders to the credit company explaining your situation. Also, send a letter to credit reporting agencies. Such extenuating circumstances may help you qualify for a credit card.

Work on rehabilitating your credit score. You may have to settle for a credit card with a high APR until enough time has passed. If you have assets stashed away, you can post collateral for a secured credit card, which extends you as much credit as the amount you’ve posted. Secured credit cards, unlike prepaid debit cards, help to raise your credit score.

Getting by on cash alone is extremely difficult. Everything from online purchases to gas is geared towards paying by plastic. If it is safe, you can get a checking account and a secured credit card. However, if you believe you are in danger if you use your social security number or trigger a credit inquiry, get a one-time-use prepaid debit card. You can buy prepaid cards at a CVS or Wal-Mart and load it up with as much money as you want for a small (usually $5 or less) fee. While it won’t help rehabilitate your credit score or earn interest, it is perfectly anonymous.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s website offers more resources, as does the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE).

Tim Chen is chief rewards credit card analyst at 

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse can be very subtle -- telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. At no point does someone you are dating have the right to use money or how you spend it to control you.
Here are some examples of financially abusive behavior:
  • Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy.
  • Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.
  • Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you do.
  • Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys.
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
  • Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support.
  • Using your social security number to obtain credit without your permission.
  • Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
  • Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
  • Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
  • Causing visible bruises and scars so that you are too embarrassed to go to work.
  • Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
  • Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same.

I'm Experiencing Financial Abuse

If you partner does any of these things, you are probably in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Financial abuse is usually coupled with emotional or physical abuse.

If you are not in control over your finances, or if your partner has removed money from your bank account, it can seem very scary to leave an abusive relationship. There are many organizations who can help you “get back on your feet” and get control over your finances -- some even provide short-term loans to cover important expenses as you escape an abusive relationship. Chat with a peer advocate to learn more about local resources.

You may also want to talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member or legal professional, about getting a protection order. Whether you decide to leave or stay, consider making a safety plan that includes setting aside funds in a secret location.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Love heals

“Love a lie. The truth is that love heals, love soothes, love makes everything better. It's the attachment to the illusion of where we expect love to come from that can disappoint us, or how we think love "should" look. When we realize that love comes in all forms, from every direction, and is reflected from our own internally connected Divine Love, there is nowhere that love is not.” ~ Oceana LeBlanc

Sunday, October 6, 2013

That's Slavery

“Look to yourself. You are free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you. Seed your own land. You young and a woman and there’s serious limitation in both, but you a person too. Don’t let __________ or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are. That’s slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.” – Toni Morrison, Home

"Wake Up and Smell the Jungle" - Elisabeth Slettnes

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Verbal and emotional abuse

Sublimation IS abuse and it is always dangerous. Verbal and emotional abuse are forms of sublimation, the primary reason why verbal abuse always precedes physical and sexual violence. Violent abusers use sublimation as an acceptable means to assail their victim. ~Maryland Sexual Assault Victims

Friday, October 4, 2013

Poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw

"When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatise those who let people die, not those who struggle to live." ~Sarah Kendzior

And, I would add, that men who refuse to pay their child support are not only guilty of financial abuse against the mothers of their children, but are also committing child abuse.

Is mothering valued?

“Telling women…that motherhood is the most valuable job in the world is not just a patronizing pat on the head…it’s a way to placate overworked moms without giving them the social and political support they actually need to make their lives better.” ~ Jessica Valenti

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stealing your autonomy and integrity are red flags

Infighting and divisive are words that point with 100% accuracy to someone who is not authentic. This could be an abuser, a violent person, a narcissist. Invalidating you, denying your reality and changing your perceptions are all forms of abuse. Normal, healthy people do not use these terminologies. There is no debate, it's been writen about for decades and is a known element of abusive individuals. The same can be said for these phrases: You blow things out of proportion, you're a man hater, you're too sensitive. No one can define you or your boundaries. Stealing your autonomy and integrity are red flags. ~Maryland Sexual Assault Victims