July 18th, 2018

Sioux City, Iowa 1956-1974

“My Anxieties Have Anxieties.” Charles M. Schulz

 As far back as my memory will stretch,  I can’t recall a day or time that I didn’t have a bit of fear riding alongside me.   It seemed to always be with me, sometimes it was less, sometimes more.  There wasn’t always an absolute reason for that fear.  It was just there.

I didn’t have the language then to call it what it probably was- perhaps “free floating anxiety”.  If I had, I wouldn’t have called it that.  Free floating is something you did on a raft in a lake, or on a cloud. “Free floating” sounds like a good dream.  Anxiety is like a waking nightmare.

It wasn’t always that way.  From what I’ve been told, I was the first one up the high diving board, the risk taker, and someone who in 1958, at the age of two, tumbled off a dock only to be found paddling happily towards my frightened parents.

Not much fear indicated here by the lake in 1957.  I must have been aiming for the dock.

Escaping my mother’s grasp as she must have known I was heading for something dangerous.  

There are stories of my older brother Norm going into our house and telling my soon to be panicked mother, “Look how high Cindy climbed up that tree”. 

When that fearsome bravado changed, I don’t recall. 

Maybe it was when I became increasingly afraid of the dark.  Apparently as a very young child, I insisted on being surrounded by a legion of my dolls, teddy bears, and other soft creatures before going to sleep.

Hugging tight to one of the legion of comforters, perhaps 1959?

Perhaps it was the first day of a new elementary school in 2nd grade, when I was taken out of the familiar surroundings my smaller and closer to home school.  I wasn’t afraid of the children, I never have been afraid of meeting people, so that piece of social anxiety didn’t land on me.  But most everything else did.  Familiar surroundings increasing became important to me.

I think it happened slowly and didn’t completely start spiraling until my later teen years.

Oddly, I performed in front of groups.  How, I don’t remember.  I began ballet lessons at 5, excelled, and continued until junior high school.  I then performed as a flag twirler through middle school and part of high school.

I may have been petrified with fear but just got through it.  I took risks, which became harder and harder as I grew into middle age.

High school graduation, “A” student, outgoing….still a risk taker, still not paralyzed by it all.  But the anxiousness was increasing by that time

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, GAD may indeed creep up on us.   And there are a lot of us.

“GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.

The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.”


It seems to be hard wired into me or became that way.  I once had a neurologist in L.A., where I was being treated on an outpatient basis for depression and who had ordered the ketamine treatment for the same, tell me after a brain MRI, ” Good news, your MRI shows that you’re depressed.”  No shit?  Really, that’s the good news? More on that in later chapters.

Was it the family background?

My mother has anxiety and has spoken about it to me.  She calls it her nerves.

My father had mild depression, though no one knew it but me.  He told me he’d had it as had his mother.  It was later in his life that he shared this with me, when we spoke of my depression, which  my brother Ted  astutely calls  anxiety’s evil twin. 



They were not only functional, they always seemed to do everything perfectly. They weren’t perfect, and I knew that, but they were damned good at holding it all together.  And they looked good all the time too. 🙂

Anxiety and depression seem to go together for many.  For me, anxiety is at the top, with depression being rare and usually with episodes that are years apart, but when it hits, can be severe.

Stressful life events?  I’ve had my share, some would say more than my share, but there have been many good life events.

But over time, over the years, the anxiety didn’t let up.  It didn’t get better.  It increasingly got worse.  And then, in my early twenties, the evil twin showed up just in time for the birth of of my only child.


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July 3rd, 2018

Upper West Side of Manhattan  1952-1969

By Eric Blumberg

One aspect of the human condition is the ability to remember.  Most people can regale others with poignant stories of their childhood.  Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

Chapter Two will explain why.


Above….sometime before the fall.

Sure, there are glimpses, which adhere to my mind.  For example, I remember growing up on the Upper West Side in New York, playing stickball, stoop ball and Chinese handball. 

However, if you ask me about anything specific, I turn into a witness who can only say “I don’t recall”. 

I remember going to P.S. 75, the Emily Dickinson School, and on to McBurney private school, however, ask me to tell recite many of the names of teachers or pupils (with the possible exception of my classmate Richard “John Boy” Thomas and singing in the all boys choir, all you’ll get is a shrug. 

I do, of course, remember my parents and siblings, but ask me to talk about particular incidents or interactions, which are so often on most people’s top of mind, all you will get is a blank stare.

Chapter Two will explain why.

I do remember that these two, who met as agent and actress, were my parents. 🙂 She saw a psychiatrist for many years.  He suffered from depression. 

There is one part of my young childhood which has stayed with me even today.  There was something wrong with me beginning at approximately age seven.  What is was precisely, I can’t tell you.  Regardless this was my time in life where I was in need of some medical assistance.

It wasn’t a deadly illness although I was nearly killed when I ran out in the middle of the street and was hit by a taxicab.  No, the illness wasn’t life threatening, but it was chronic.

My parents, who were both in show business, and therefore familiar with the world of psychiatrists, came to the conclusion that I was slightly different from the norm, and sent me to see a child psychiatrist named Dr. Friend (seriously).  He, in turn, prescribed a popular tranquilizer called Miltown. 

Not yet on Miltown above, perhaps needed to be.

Consider this foray into the realm of brain science as as a foreshadowing of the pain and suffering both my parents and I would have to overcome before I could set out on my own life’s evolution.

It started early for me and took several mind bending twists and turns until the solution or at least the right treatment, could be found.

The mind bending part reared its ugly head as I approached adulthood. 






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Depression His, Depression Hers… Introduction

March 12th, 2018



“A likely story…and probably true” Groucho Marx

As I emerged from a severe depression in 2017, I asked myself what the lesson was for me in that particular mind bending, long, and horrific episode.  Perhaps there was no lesson, or perhaps we are given challenges to make us more aware, more awake, and more compassionate.

Usually, when I come out of a terrible experience, the lesson involves doing something positive for myself and for others.  I hope this is a piece of that.

I asked my husband Eric to join me in this.  We are both writers, and we both have much to say.

So many of us in America with a mental illness live in a great big closet, a large walk in closet probably about the size of Texas.

Eric and I lived there too….for many years.

He came out very publicly around 2005 in Austin, where he was well known from his 20 year career in broadcast journalism, including a long stint as a radio talk show host.  A feature story was done in the Austin American Statesmen about well known Austinites who suffered from mental illness including singer Shawn Colvin, retired football player Hollywood Henderson, former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, and Eric Blumberg.

It took me longer.  People knew but I didn’t write about it until 2013.  It’s more comfortable in that big closet, but I gave myself a push and haven’t looked back since.

We are many things.  Our illnesses don’t define us.  Between us we have a son and a daughter from previous marriages. Both in their 30’s are kind, intelligent, and creative people.  We have a few college degrees between us as well which led to my career in social work, and his in teaching and journalism.  We’ve had some awards for work well done.  We have friends and family who care for us, as we care for them.

I remember coming out of the brilliant film “Silver Linings Playbook” about two people with mental illnesses who became a couple.  As we walked out of the theater, a dear friend of mine said she was worried about them. How would they cope?  She had a point.

We do cope. Sometimes exceedingly well, sometimes not well at all, but on balance, it works.

These little pieces start in Manhattan in the late 1950’s, and end in Los Angeles in 2017, with some  stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona.

We hope this helps someone. Or lots of someones. We hope, also, that it can help us untangle the web of two lives, both separate and together, that have been sometimes magical and sometimes a horror show.

We also hope to show that there is a brilliant light and much, much joy at the end of a long dark tunnel. That is our greatest hope.

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Depression His, Depression Hers

June 4th, 2017



This is for all who struggle, all who survive and thrive, and for those who are no longer with us.

With Love.




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Are You or Someone You Love Clinically Depressed? Read This Now

September 4th, 2016

sky very pink and blue

“In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience- one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devistation would by lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words.” 

William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

As I write this, I am in a major episode of clinical depression, caused by a medication prescribed by a doctor for a condition that it turns out, I do not have. It was an error. But it’s an error that has cost me a month of my life and taken me through unspeakable pain.

I am still in the fight, not quite out, but hoping that, as I do fight this, I can help someone else.  Stringing words together gracefully is harder now, but string them together I will. And in the end, for any of you, there will be hope.

First, the darker side.  When many hear the term depression, they may think about a person who is in grief, who suffers a chronic illness, someone who may be sad over a loss.  And indeed, some of those people will, under those circumstances, understandably,  be depressed or have entered into an episode of major depression.  But for others, either biologically prone to this illness or put into it by a situation like a surgery, childbirth or simply, like me, prone to it, but being fine one day, and terrible the next just being prescribed the wrong drug.

This is  a depression not only in the mind, but a depression that lives in the delicate chemistry that makes up our complicated human bodies. It’s real, it’s not imagined, and it’s serious.

First, here’s just a wiki version of what this is:

A major depressive episode is a period characterized by the symptoms of  Major Depressive Disorder: primarily depressed mood for 2 weeks or more, and a loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, accompanied by other symptoms such as feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, guilt and/or irritability, changes in appetite, problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, and thoughts of or attempts at suicide. Insomnia or hypersomnia, aches, pains, or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be present. 

Treatments for a major depressive episode include exercise, Pyschotherapy, nutritional supplements, and anti depressants, although in more serious cases, hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment may be required. There are many theories as to how depression occurs. One interpretation is that neurotransmitters in the brain are out of balance, and this results in feelings of worthlessness and despair. Magnetic resonance imaging shows that brains of people who have depression look different than the brains of people not exhibiting signs of depression.

So, essentially, you can have this without actually going through a major life change or loss. It may just happen.  Situational depression is common for those experiencing pain and loss.  For me, this depressive episode was not situational. It just happened.  Most areas of my life are going actually brilliantly and prior to this hitting me like a ton of bricks, I was actually in high spirits.  For the first time in many years, everything seems to be coming together.  I have an extraordinary  and supportive marriage, my son is happily engaged in study and also happily engaged to a beautiful and wonderful young women.  My finances are stable, my family of origin is supportive, and my work life includes a number of great projects, the first being a violence prevention film close to my heart that will debut on Netflix this month.

But I’m trying to crawl out of a hole that’s now in it’s second month.  Here’s what I’m doing and what I’ve learned over the years that can help, while you wait for either the right anti depressant, or for time to take it’s course, and the depression lifts.

  1. Treat the depression. Talk to your doctor, a psychiatrist, or therapist.  If necessary, and it usually is, try an anti depressant. It can be maddening to find the right one, but eventually you’ll land on relief.  If not, do the research.  There are new methods available where a doctor can match your body chemistry to a drug that may be better for you.  If you can’t get this treatment in your home town, find somewhere close that can offer that to you.
  2. Read up on everything, when you can concentrate, and that may be hard.  If not, have family members or friends research anything that may be of benefit.
  3. If you are feeling suicidal, you need immediate help.  Don’t keep that to yourself.  Reach out.
  4. While you are in the difficult process of waiting for the fog to lift, you may choose a number of options to get through it.  Some people literally try to sleep through it. I get that. I walk through it the best I can, while knowing that life as usual has altered.
  5. If you can, move your body. I swim twice a week, and walk three times a week.  There are days when I force myself, but research shows that exercise can alter your brain chemistry and in a good way.
  6. Spend time in nature and get natural sunlight every day, when and where possible.
  7. Talk to friends, family, and a therapist.  It can help to just express yourself and have someone telling you they love you and know you’ll get well.  For those friends who feel a party or social event might help, set them straight.  At least for me, my time is best spent one on one.  Large groups can make it worse for me.  Even three to four people together can be stressful because maybe for the first time in your life, you don’t care what they are saying.  When you find family or friends who don’t understand what you are feeling, perhaps share the opening quote above. It’s the darkest, toughest, but best quote I’ve ever read on depression by acclaimed author William Styron.You won’t always feel this way, the pain will end, but until you dig out, that’s how it can look.
  8. Try to do the smallest things that seem normal. Just a trip to the grocery store, doing a few simple emails, cleaning the house.  For some, it’s impossible or seems impossible. But give something a try daily.
  9. Don’t drink.  I enjoy a glass of wine or so while I’m cooking or when out to dinner.  When this episode hit, I do what I’ve done the other two times I’ve experienced this.  I just don’t do it. If you choose, and things are stable, and you do it very moderately, there could be time for that when recovery happens and when stability comes back into your life. That depends on each person,their illness, and their history.
  10. Try something creative.  You may enjoy a bit of art, making a new garden space, re arranging a room.  I try to keep busy. It makes the days go by quicker, and believe me, when you are in this, you want the day to fly by.  If you can’t though, don’t beat yourself up.  You didn’t create this illness.
  11. Nutrition.  As I’ve experienced before and many do, the appetite can be gone.  I stopped cooking. I love to cook normally and I’m a “live to eat” kind of person.  First, eat what you can get down, even if it’s forcing yourself.  Later, do some reading on foods that can help lift the mood.
  12. Know that your gut bacteria can be related to mood.  In this case, in this episode, I was given a strong antibiotic for a condition it turns out I don’t have. It was a guess on the doctors part. But in the best scenarios, anti biotics can destroy not only the bad stuff, but the good as well.  You might need a strong prescription strength probiotic if you have to go on antibiotics for any reason. Know that there’s a link with these.
  13. I went a bit beyond my medical community here in Iowa. If you can’t find the right treatment close by, go elsewhere if at all possible. I was fortunate enough to find a doctor elsewhere who actually knew how to treat this rare but known complication of antibiotics.
  14. Remember, it’s hard to describe this to someone who has never had it.  The strongest quote I ever found on the depths of this is above, from author William Styron. It’s dark but brilliant. Have others read that so they just might get a glimpse of how the darkest parts can look to the person suffering.
  15. Know that it WILL lift.  There are treatment resistant depressions, but there are other methods that can be used that go beyond traditional antidepressants.
  16. You may notice that after a period of terrible psychic pain, you may awaken to more clarity, a better day.  Take that as a sign that you are getting better, even if the days go a bit up and down.

You aren’t alone.  At one time, in any day, in this country, approximately 20% of us can be experiencing a mental illness.  You aren’t a bad person, you didn’t make this happen to you, and that fact that you’re alive and still moving forward is a testament to your strength.

The picture above is one I took a year or so ago. It’s just beginning to be night sky, the light still visible, the blue peeking through, but the pink, as glorious as it is, signals the approaching darkness. That’s the beginning of an episode.

For times of recovery, I choose to look at brighter themes, more clear cut, not perfect, but hopeful like an early spring.  I return to Styron, who ended “Sophie’s Choice” this way.  He said and I end with this,  “This was not judgment day – only morning. Morning: excellent and fair.”

For you…to the morning and the light…



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Tale of Two Documentaries

September 1st, 2015

emmys bully


By Cindy Waitt and Dr. Alan Heisterkamp

See the piece from Huffington Post

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

On September 28th, we’ll be attending the 36th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards  in honor of two very different films that we supported from their inception, “Bully” and “Private Violence”.

“Bully” opened the PBS Independent Lens season and “Private Violence’ bowed on HBO, both in October of 2014. As early supporters of both, we at Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention couldn’t have been happier about that.  But their road to the finish line couldn’t have been more different.

Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen’s  “Bully” had the “buzz’ from the beginning. It struck a powerful chord, in its riveting and authentic footage of children and families devastated by bullying.  Kids tormenting kids hits us at a basic level, and it’s a powerful punch. It was a perfect meshing of the right time, right place, and right issue

“Private Violence” was a very different story.  Cynthia Hill’s direction, Kit Gruelle’s voice and vision throughout, and Deanna Walters’ frightening and extraordinary journey weaves the experiences of domestic abuse survivors and advocates, as it challenges, and consequently explodes the myths behind domestic violence.  It suggests some answers to the age old question, “Why doesn’t she just leave’?

While both documentaries were driven by the same hopes, concerns, and passions, the production and postproduction of “Bully” took about two years to fund.  “Private Violence” was started more than eight years ago.

We think it’s time to move past the national disconnect and acknowledge how intertwined these two issues are.  As early backers of both films,  we believe that violence in the home and bullying in school must be treated as co-equals.  They are inextricably linked, and the data backs it up. A 2011 CDC study told us that kids who witness violence in the home are more likely to be bullied, and more likely to become bullies themselves.

It’s time to  see that the first time some children see or witness violence is not in the school yard.  It’s where they live. Over 8 million children were exposed to family violence in the last year alone.

As we advocate that prevention should start with kids, let’s not forget that bullying prevention education can be paired with the critical piece of age appropriate relationship violence awareness programs  and can change the attitudes and behavior of young people as they enter adulthood.

Research now  looks at possible links between bullying and dating violence. Prevent

Connect cites the following, Young  adolescents who perpetrate bullying become involved in romantic relationships earlier than those who do not bully, and are more likely to report verbal and physical aggression in their earliest intimate relationships” (Josephson and Pepler, 2012)

Bullying is universal and non- gender specific. Who doesn’t relate to being bullied at some time in their life? Family First Aid reports that about 30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as a bully or as a victim and we’ve all seen it, either as a victim, a perpetrator, or a witness. That’s a frightening number.  Too many children are a part of this.

However,  according to partners at Futures without Violence, “approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that mirrors victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.”

Gloria Steinem, an early supporter and Executive Producer of  “Private Violence”, has suggested that the term “domestic violence” should be changed to “original violence. “ It’s what makes people feel that it’s inevitable or that it’s normal or both”, she said. “If you have violence in the home then it normalizes it everywhere else.”

Dickens’  quote “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” could describe what we, in the violence prevention movement, feel today.  As many strides as we’ve made, we still have a long way to go. Linking violence in its many forms and helping kids, educators, and families connect those dots is vital.  As a Futures Without Violence ad campaign suggested, “Teach them early, teach them often.” With dating violence and bullying prevention, teach them together.




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Three Women and A Documentary

March 10th, 2014


“Some things are destined to be — it just takes us a couple of tries to get there.”

― J.R. WardLover Mine

This lovely painting of three women came to me in the 1990’s and I remember wondering if that was me and two other women I hadn’t met yet.   It hung in my living room for years, but when I redecorated, I put it away. When I stumbled across it recently in the basement, I realized that I did meet these women, around 10 years later. And when we met, we had work to do.  And as it turns out, we had a film to make.

I loved the image of these women, dressed up but navigating what seemed to be a difficult and winding climb up a narrow staircase, and navigating that climb in heels. When I saw it again, a couple of months ago, with fresh eyes, the woman in the middle of the group seemed like Kit Gruelle, in her signature purple,  who is the guide, teacher, and advocate in the film “Private Violence”.  Kit is also a survivor, and she became my friend.

kit good one

The woman with the long blond hair reminded me of Cynthia Hill, the director of the film. We are now more than colleagues; we’re friends as well.

cynthia good one

I’d always thought of myself as the woman in the green dress, simply because I liked the dress, I love green, and it looked like something I’d wear.  The painting, by a wonderful  artist named Earline McNeil Larsen, is called “Conspiraling Women”.

I met Kit Gruelle, in Del Mar, California in 2005.   Cynthia Hill came later, in North Carolina. There was a immediate familiarity about both of these women. It was that click that goes off in your head or the shivers that go through your body when something significant happens or is about to happen.   These two mainstays of the “Private Violence” feature film and documentary project stood there talking to me prior to a 2010 fundraiser in Chapel Hill, where Gloria Steinem, one of our early supporters was to speak. Those shivers came on even stronger.  I thought at the time about the power of the number 3 (three women, the triple goddess symbol) and hoped that that unseen power could move this film forward.  At that point, we knew it would take a long time to get the whole thing launched.  And it did.

There were times when it seemed like letting it all go might be easiest.  The other film, “Bully”, that the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention supported took about two years from start to launch at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, and the funding came in quickly once it got going.  That didn’t surprise me, as bullying had become a high profile topic, and that story needed to be told.  I’m glad it was.  But it was a tougher go for “Private Violence”.  That didn’t surprise me either.  The title of the film tells why.  It’s something we still tend to keep in the dark, hidden away.

Along the long path to getting it done, though, more and more earth angels, women and men,  kept appearing showing up at the right time and right place with perfectly timed grants, encouragement, connections and support that  we desperately needed.  I can’t name them all here, but each one provided vital support.

The three of us have been through a lot together, and separately, in the years that it took to complete the story.  We each have been through challenges, both in life and in getting the film to its January Sundance opening.   Cynthia has given birth to two daughters since we all met.  We come from three different worlds, and sometimes meshing those worlds isn’t easy. We laughed together, and cried together, but we’ve stuck together and I’m glad we made it up that narrow and winding staircase in those high heels. We know that at the top of that staircase is another, and another. The film is only a small part of that work so many people do every day, but it felt good to be able to pause, and know that we’d made that first climb.

As I was writing this, I remembered that I had bought two paintings, and went down to the basement and took this shot of the companion piece to “Conspiraling Women”.

triple alliance

It turns out that the name is “Triple Alliance”.  I don’t know who the women in this painting are, but that doesn’t matter.  When I see the title and the image, it reminds me of the alliance of all the women who came together for this. Perhaps the three above symbolize the extraordinary trifecta of three of the women featured- Deanna Walters, Stacy Cox, and Jean Kilpatrick.  They demonstrate the strength of survivors and advocates, both in the film, and in their lives.  Or the piece could stand for the three women who founded Chicken and Egg Pictures, who believed in us at a crucial point.   I don’t know, because there are so many more who over the years found us, joined us, and reached out. Both paintings remind me that women are strong, but even stronger when we come together. We’re stronger yet when we don’t give up on something we need to do or say.  The paintings are both upstairs now, in a favorite room, full of light.  I think they’ll stay there.

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Dear Media, Can We Quit Saying “Domestic Dispute”?

November 4th, 2013

These aren’t domestic disputes, they are about criminals attacking crime victims”    Anne Jones, Author of “Next Time She’ll Be Dead


Updated September 12, 2015


It went on to describe the case of a 30 year old man who strangled his girlfriend until she passed out several times over a two day period, and left her hospitalized with numerous internal injuries and bleeding.

Is this a “dispute?”  And is this type of headline unusual?  Not so much.  The word is still used widely, as are the equally bad terms “domestic disturbance”,  and”domestic altercation”. Even worse is “crime of passion” or my personal non- favorite “love triangle”.

I’m with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Alliance when they say this in their site’s media education literature, “A dispute is akin to a disagreement or argument; it implies equal power. Intimate partner violence, on the other hand, is a serious, cyclical pattern of abuse and unhealthy behavior meant to control an individual. Referring to such incidents as “domestic disputes” takes away from its seriousness. It also implies an isolated incident, rather than a pattern of abuse. Call it domestic violence or intimate partner violence.”   

Here’s just a sample of headlines I ran across in the past 30 days…

Alabama woman dies after being shot in apparent domestic dispute

1 Dead, 1 in Custody in Domestic Dispute: Fort Worth Police

Police confirm murder-suicide in Columbia, Illinois domestic dispute

Here’s a few from the past year…




There are hundreds, if not thousands of those headlines and leads to be found.   These are not bad people writing these stories.  My husband, a former journalist, tells me that he was trained to use the term “domestic dispute”. as are many print and broadcast journalists who could use some additional education in how we refer to the hundreds of thousands of incidents and the thousands killed each year in this country alone.  These are violent crimes and these are murders.

Consider this data from our partners at Futures Wthout Violence… On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States, nearly one in four women reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse in their lifetime, and the CDC reports that women suffer two million injuries from intimate partner per year.

Knowing that, can we move to writing and reporting about it with the harsh reality in mind?  There is a good bit of material I found today from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance that could help.

As my friend and colleague Kit Gruelle, a subject, advocate, and special adviser to the HBO documentary “Private Violence” said to me in commenting on this story, “Using the proper terminology, even if it is difficult to do, will force us to grow up and see this violence in all it’s horror.”  Amen to that, Kit.

 Let’s  not soften these horrendous crimes by misnaming them.  Let’s call them what they are.
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Daisy Coleman and the Scarlet Letter

October 16th, 2013

Daisy Coleman

At the end of the day, what’s so frustrating and dismaying—about this story, as well as the others I mentioned earlier—is this pattern….The girls become pariahs. They wear the scarlet letters of our time.”  Emily Bazelon

We’ve heard it all before in the past year.  There was the  brutal and recorded rape case in Steubenville, Ohio in March of 2013. In April, 2013 we heard of suicide victim Rehaeh Parsons’ case of an alleged gang rape in Nova Scotia.  Now, the past few days, we have the case of  a Daisy Coleman, a 14 year old  girl whose family was driven from their home following her alleged rape by a politically connected  young man who was never prosecuted.

The details in the case are emerging.   The Kansas City Star tells of a family led by a widowed mother and her four children, who were essentially bullied out of Maryville, Missouri, after Daisy told her mother of her assault by a 17 year old football player Matthew Barnett,  grandson of former MO State Representative Rex Barnett.   Despite compelling evidence,  charges were dropped against Barnett and another 17-year-old accused of recording the sexual encounter on an iPhone.,

Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mother, a veterinarian and widow of a doctor who was killed in a car accident six years earlier, was fired from her job at Maryville’s Southpaws Veterinary Clinic. Daisy  was suspended from her high school’s cheerleading team, suffered depression and had a suicide attempt.  The whole family, including Daisy’s brothers,  suffered vile attacks on social media from both kids and adults, and in a bizarre finale to their nightmare, their house in Maryville, by then for sale as the family had moved, burned down.

We know that victim blaming is a powerful and potent weapon used to discourage reporting of sexual assaults.  That fact is as old as time.  I went to high school in the early 70’s, and knew victims of rape, who would never come forward, and now they never will. No one wanted to go through the ordeal.  There are thousands of Daisy Coleman’s of all generations out there, but she and her family came forward.  What they reportedly went through goes even beyond the term “victim blaming’ into a different realm.  We now see the victim as a pariah.

Emily Bazelon, who is quoted above, reference’s Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famously told story of Hester Prynne in the 1850 classic  “The Scarlet Letter” in a recent piece in Slate. The book is not a tale of rape, but it is a story of a good woman from Salem Massachusetts in 1642, who becomes pregnant by the town pastor and is shunned by her community. As punishment for being found guilty of adultery, she must wear a scarlet “A” on her dress as a sign of shame.  In a particularly harrowing scene, she is forced to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation.  The dynamics are vastly different in the cases of Daisy and Hester, yet both are made pariahs, both are shunned, both take the blame.

After the Steubenville case, I wrote a piece for Huffington Post, called “The Upstanders”.  I lamented the fact that bystanders did nothing.  In that case, and in this case, though, it went beyond doing nothing.  Community members that could have been a support system actively targeted the victims and the victim’s families.

Considering this horrific new story of Daisy and her family, I was happy to see that, once again,  the army of social media, an army that can serve as tormentor as well to the Daisy Coleman’s, has begun to stand up on the right side.   A Facebook page is up and running, hundreds of stories like this one are appearing, and there is a twitter stampede starting, even backed again, as in Steubenville, by the group Anonymous.

We can no longer do nothing, we can do something, even if it’s just to sign our name in support of a young girl and her family, who never should have had to suffer this brutal crime, nor it’s hideous aftermath.

Update 10/15/2013: The Lieutenant Governor is calling for a grand jury..

Sadly, I update this story… January 7, 2014

And again…. January 9, 2014.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Terrorist Next Door

October 10th, 2013


Too many victims

If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms,and it would be the lead story on the news every night.”– Rep. Mark Green

Terrorism is defined as ” the systematic use of violent terror as a means of coercion”.   We tend to define terrorists by incident- the September 11 attackers, the Boston bombers, the Oklahoma City bombers, the group behind the  Kenyan mall attack, and on.    The horrific September 11th, 2001 attacks gave rise to what we now call “the war on terror”, a war that may never end. September 11th also gave rise to a United States Government Department of Homeland Security.   Between FY 2001 – FY2009, $850 billion was spent on the War on Terror, according to this source. After over 3,000 citizens were killed that day, our elected leaders understandably pledged to do everything in their power to keep our citizens safe.

And yet, consider the millions of victims who are terrorized each day, and terrorized where they live.   Here’s a snapshot of the national landscape from Futures without Violence:

  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.
  • In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data collected in 2005 that finds that women experience two million injuries from intimate partner violence each year.
  • Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
  • Women are much more likely than men to be victimized by a current or former intimate partner.5Women are 84 percent of spouse abuse victims and 86 percent of victims of abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend and about three-fourths of the persons who commit family violence are male
  • There were 248,300 rapes/sexual assaults in the United States in 2007, more than 500 per day, up from 190,600 in 2005. Women were more likely than men to be victims; the rate for rape/sexual assault for persons age 12 or older in 2007 was 1.8 per 1,000 for females and 0.1 per 1,000 for males.
  • 15 million children in the United States live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.
  • The United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 3.4 million persons said they were victims of stalking during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006.


And the resources we commit to these terrible numbers?

On December 16, 2009, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117; H.R. 3288) was enacted, providing total FY2010 funding of $625.91 million for violence against women programs, of which $444.50 million is for VAWA programs administered by DOJ and $181.41 million is for domestic violence programs under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The difference in the amount allocated to the war on terror and to victims of domestic violence is a bit staggering.  Representative Green’s opening statement speaks volumes in how we see and deal with the perpetrators and victims of  family violence. The people who commit these acts are criminals, though they are usually called “perpetrators”.  But, there’s more to this.  If terror is “the systematic use of violent terror as a means of coercion”, then let’s call these people what they are. Terrorists.

 Lucy Berrington, in a Women’s E-News report in 2012, said this,  “Domestic abuse is a form of terrorism that comes from within our society, resulting in mass casualties and extremely high costs.  But for it’s victims, no big budget homeland security effort exists. “  

She’s got that right.  Others agree.

“Framing domestic abuse as ‘everyday terrorism’ helps us understand how fear works,” said Rachel Pain, the author of an English study called  “Everyday Terrorism: How Fear Works in Domestic Abuse”.

Not only do the victims of both forms of terrorism share the same painful consequences–the terrorists use the same tactics,” said Trese Todd, president of  a Seattle nonprofit that addresses domestic violence.

In my years working in violence prevention, talking to survivors, advocates, and educators, I realize that they all are saying the same thing.  The dynamics of intimate partner violence are eerily similar to the dynamics of terrorism , and they all know it and speak to it.  The tactics used by abusers are addressed in our new documentary “Private Violence”, a film that finally brings answers to the age old question, “why doesn’t she leave”?  She and her children are being terrorized, that’s why.

This October, during Domestic Violence month, I’m choosing to re frame the conversation and remember that terrorists don’t always hijack planes and don’t always come equipped with bombs capable of mass destruction.  Their weapons may differ, but they are terrorists, and they are in your town, they are on your street, and they may be just next door.

For more on what you can do to help prevent violence see

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

If you are being hurt by your partner, it is NOT your fault. You deserve to be safe and healthy. For help and information anytime, contact:

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
TTY 1-800-787-3224

National Sexual Assault Hotline 
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 
TTY 1-866-331-8453




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The “Shutdown”- Workplace Bullying Gone Wild

September 29th, 2013


“Our challenge today is to explain how Congress evolved into our national nutcase.”  Gail Collins, “Congress Cracks Up”, September 27th, New York Times.


I’m not sure how many ways I can say I agree with Ms. Collins, but suffice to say, I agree.  Some of the members of  the 113th Congress is acting probably more irrationally than any we’ve seen in decades.  But, from what I see and what I’ve learned over the years, I’d say they aren’t acting just like “nutcases”, they’re acting like what they are…bullies.

In October of 2012, I wrote a piece for Huffington Post called “Who Did You Bully Today?”  In it, I listed types of adult bullying that are not only getting in the way of efforts to keep kids from brutalizing each other, but are actively giving them bully lessons.  Among the groups I listed was the United States Congress.

This is what I said then about our elected officials..”There are some great politicians out there, dedicated and devoted to the public good, and many are active supporters of violence prevention. But, as a group, “hired” by us to work together in essentially a two-party system, they would earn a great big “dysfunctional” label and earn it easily. Let’s ponder this. Imagine a company where half the employees have as a stated goal the overthrow of the CEO. In this place, the employees have two camps, and many in both camps work not only on obstructing the work of the other camp every day, but are also featured in the media trashing the other camp on a daily basis as well. Would you invest in that company? We do. …I’m hoping they’ll gaze into their collective mirror and look at what’s not working in their own halls. I think many of them would like to see more civility in the process of legislating.”  

I await this civility, and have a feel I will be “awaiting this civility”  for a long time.  We currently face a government shutdown and the tactics currently being used by the “shutdown” gang are textbook bully tactics.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the types of workplace bullies from years of  working with our Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention partners ,Workplace Bullying Institute founders Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie; and from studying the work of the late workplace bullying  activist Tim Field.

The first four types come from the Drs. Namie,,  and the last four come from Tim Field

See if  the behavior of our people on the Hill doesn’t sound like the types of schoolhouse nemesis we’ve all faced.

1) The Screaming Mimi.  These are the specialists  in “the outbursts”.  Some of the rants are well timed, and some are just uncontrolled.  Either way, it’s not the most effective tactic, although they  rarely know that.  They’re the classic “slam them into the locker” types.   They tend to lose their temper at each other and sometimes the host  in double screened news show interviews. It’s fun to watch for a few minutes, until you change the channel because really nothing of value is being heard or said.

 2)The Constant Critic- Haven’t we all experienced the “know it all”? They rarely know it all, but they’ll let you know they do, both on the floor and on the networks. Like Downton Abbey’s dowager countess, “I am never wrong”, and the elementary school tattle tale,  it’s always someone else’s fault.  Always.

 3)The Two-Headed Snake– I like to think of these folks as the “divide and conquer” champions of the playground.  The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” tactic is at work here. Backstabbing is their game and they do it well.

 4)The Gatekeeper.  This one is my personal favorite when it comes to Congress.  If you can’t do something yourself, then keep someone else  from doing anything at all.  Obstruction, obstruction, and more obstruction.  Nothing gets done, and they like it that way.

 5. The Attention Seeker. The “grandstanders”! The speech makers that everyone starts to tune out are in it for themselves.  They love the attention, they love the press, they love to be noticed.  They’re the class clown with a mean streak, and the show off that no one likes. They don’t play well with others, because it’s all about them.

 6. The Wannabe.  These are the Hill dwellers who just aren’t very competent.  Knowing this,  they’ll make sure others look as clueless as they are.  It keeps the focus off their deficiencies.  If  little Johnny isn’t the best student in class, he’ll make sure little Susie and little Bobby look worse than he does.

 7. The Guru.   In their minds,  they are above all criticism and above reproach.  They may be experts, but in their minds, they’re the only experts.  Possible “teacher’s pet”.  This is the kid with their hand raised-all the time.

 8. The Sociopath.  This is the most dangerous type of bully, with no empathy, no loyalty, no bonds.  Like many sociopaths, they are master manipulators, and can be charming in getting to their goal, which is always to look out for themselves.   Period.

Does any of these sound  like some people we know up on The Hill?  And we want our children to stop bullying?

Ms. Collins asks in her excellent piece“”So, what do you think is wrong with these people?”  I would simply answer, see above.


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Dear Huffington Post, Let’s Talk About Iowa

September 3rd, 2013

Hello from the cornfields of Iowa

“I’m happy wherever I go, whatever I do. I’m happy in Iowa, I’m happy here in California.”  Ashton Kutcher  (Some of us are happy here too, Ashton”).  Have you noticed he seems like kind of a nice guy?  Not surprised.

Dear Huffington Post,

I really like your site.  In fact, sometimes I even write for your site.  But, the other day I ran across a piece from your site on Twitter about a quest for style in Iowa.  Apparently, this was such a strange notion that the Onion had to do their own version, which was pretty good, and in some cases, pretty accurate.,31579.

I’m glad you visited, though.  I actually liked the video piece, full of charm and good characters, but your written piece left out some of that charm.  So, readers all  over the U.S. were left with just these photos as a representation of all of us here in the fields of dreams….

So, with your permission, (can I have permission?) I’ll use your photos but add a couple of my own.

Here’s your picture of where we shop….

You really should have shown Walmart. We have some good ones here.  Photo courtesy Huffington Post.

But sometimes I shop in places that aren’t in malls, with, like, cool brick walls and everything…

Like this place…called Studio 427, not in mall.  Courtesy Studio 427, Sioux City

or this place

Indigo Palette, also in Sioux City, Iowa.  Here, I’ll prove to you that this isn’t in a mall….

Not a mall.  So, there’s only two or three places that aren’t a mall, I still thought I’d show them to you.

Then we proceeded to the type of hair salon, we all frequent, from your story…

You kind of picture Aunt Bea here, don’t you? Photc courtesy Huffington Post.

Here’s my hair salon, if you’d like to add this to your follow up story…

This doesn’t suck too bad. Bliss salon, Sioux City. Not in mall. Have you noticed I’m trying to get you to come to Sioux City?  Photo courtesy Bliss Salon

Not done yet, but neither were you, so we’ll move onto the clothing styles, particularly our choice of denim… Here’s yours..

Here’s your Iowa denim fashion statement. I actually kind of like overalls, and they work on this guy. Photo courtesy Huffington Post again.  I would imagine that probably only about .001 percent of us wear these but thank you anyway…


I found one just about like this…so you were darn close here… Photo courtesy Huffington Post again

Ok, a bit different, but not bad…. Photo courtesy La Ventura and the Weekender, yes, Sioux City again.

Two young Sioux City kids wishing they had overalls… I think I’ll find them and buy them some. Photo courtesy La Ventura and The Weekender.

Here’s another jeans picture from Iowa, taken of my husband during a protest.

Oh, shit, are these dad jeans?

But wait there’s more….

I loved your beard picture of the guy that lived in Paris and moved back to Iowa.  I can’t find a damn thing even close in Sioux City, so you win big here….

This beard is awesome, great job. Photo courtesy Huffington Post again.  You guys are great and so is this beard..

Nothing remotely like it that I could find in Sioux City, so here’s two guys I know, with rather short beards.

Here’s two friends who apparently need to work on their beard length if they want to be a bit freakier than they are. Photo courtesy Garie Lewis and Mike Langley.

I do get it, though.  It’s easy to pigeonhole Iowa.   I was the executive producer of a documentary called “Bully”, partially filmed here in my home town.  My friend, Lee Hirsch, who I love, didn’t show much of Iowa.  In fact, Sioux City looked like one bus, one train track, and a school.    Here’s a shot…

Sioux City in “Bully”, footage courtesy of Lee Hirsch, and I think the Weinstein Company too. Thank you, Mr. Weinstein and thank you for buying our film too. 🙂  Will you please buy my next documentary? Call me….

Heck, we’ve got bridges and everything here in Sioux City, and cars too….

Sometimes, half the town gets together for a big party close to the fourth of July.  There’s usually about 30,000 of us and some good bands too, so I am inviting you to visit and get kind of a cross section of types, because, you’ll get the general idea that we are a bit more nuanced here in the heartland than people think.

Here’s the party….

Gosh, we can fit about half the town here…. and just the denim fashions alone will give you much to work with.  Photo above and below courtesy Saturday in the Park.

These folks aren’t from here, but we let people like this play here and no one has to pay to get in. So, join us next year, ok?  I like Melissa’s jeans.

I’ll close by saying that we come in all shapes and sizes here in flyover America, so do come visit again, particularly in Sioux City. We need you. Poor Sioux City is doubly not blessed by not only being in a flyover state, but for having the unfortunately airport designation SUX.  I’m not making that up.  So, on your purchase of a ticket from whatever coast on our one and only airline, you can see it yourself.  And, you’ll get a free gift basket, with items such as this…

All SUX photos courtesy Sioux City gifts….

and my personal favorite…


So, come visit and be nice, or as Glinda once said,  be gone, before I drop a Walmart on you. 🙂

Most Sincerely Yours,

Cindy Waitt

This is me and my family.  When we’re in California, we wear dark glasses, so we can pretend we are cool too.


And finally, can I still write for you?








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How Will History Judge the Anti-Gay Rights Movement?

August 12th, 2013

This was happening when I was in elementary school.

At some point in our lifetime, gay marriage won’t be an issue, and everyone who stood against this civil right will look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black.”  George Clooney

And this is still happening now….

Do you ever watch a documentary on the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s and cringe when it comes to scenes of furious white people hurling stones, taunting, and overall verbally and physically assaulting movement activists? In 2013, it seems ludicrous, shameful, and yes, embarrassing.  If you haven’t, do it.  And go ahead, cringe.  We should.

If footage from then seems like coverage of the Dark Ages, consider this.  If you are over 50, that outward display of hatred was happening in your lifetime.

Today’s children routinely study atrocities like the Holocaust, the Salem Witch trials, and the treatment of African Americans and Native Americans, as well as women, in our country. If they aren’t studying them, they should be, and often.   It’s simply history now, that discipline that takes us back to another time while we see the actions and decisions of our ancestors from modern sensibilities.    The behaviors seem almost insane from our point of view today, particular the behaviors of people living in our lifetime, in our country, and perhaps in our own cities.

Jump forward 50 years to 2013 to the marriage equality movement and the overall movement that started out of a bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York in 1969.  We’ve come a long way.  Just a few headlines from this year:

Supreme Court DOMA Decision Rules Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional


Poll: Support for gay marriage hits high after ruling

As my friend and colleague Jackson Katz said years ago, “That train has left the station”.  And it has.  But, as a person who’s been involved in some movements, I know that for every push, there’s a “push back”. And oh, what a push back.

Let’s just take my beloved hometown, Sioux City, Iowa.  I sing it’s praises all the time, but not on this one.  In fact, Sioux City has a rather disturbing history of “the push back”.  Here’s a few highlights and a few stars of the anti equality bunch that our own children and grandchildren may be reading about 50 years from now…or sooner.

1950’s, Sioux City, Iowa:  As Neil Miller writes about in his classic “Sex Crime Panic”, described here.   “Following the brutal murders of two children in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1954, police, in an attempt to quell public hysteria, arrested 20 men whom the authorities never claimed had anything to do with the crimes. Labeled as sexual psychopaths under an Iowa law that lumped homosexuals together with child molesters and murderers, the men were sentenced to a mental institution until cured.”  If I wasn’t there in the mid 50’s, I was on the way…

2004, Sioux City, Iowa, from The Advocate    “The Sioux City, Iowa, city council has rejected a proposal to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. The council voted 4-1 Monday against adding gays and lesbians to the current city law, which makes it illegal to discriminate against people in jobs, accommodations, and housing on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, religion, ancestry or disability.The Human Rights Commission asked the council to add sexual orientation to that group of protected classes. Mayor Dave Ferris and Councilmen Marty Dougherty and Jason Geary said they voted against the measure based on their religious beliefs involving homosexuals. Councilman Craig Berenstein said he voted no because he wanted more time to study the proposal.Councilwoman Karen Forneris cast the only vote in favor of adding sexual orientation to the law. Five Iowa cities have included sexual orientation in their ordinances—Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines and Iowa City.  That time I was there.  A group of us stood outside city hall to protest that one.  I should have done the same in the mid 1990’s when a religious group objected to my having an LGBT section in my store.  A new council finally went along with adding sexual orientation in 2008, as the state of Iowa had already added it.

2010,  Sioux City’s own Pastor Cary Gordon and the Cornerstone World Outreach  were leaders in the efflort to have Iowans oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices whose ruling was part of a 7-0 unanimous vote that legalized same sex marriage in the state of Iowa.  The three justices were ousted, but later received the “Profiles in Courage” awards from the Kennedy Center in 2012.

2011,  Sioux City’s own, Bob Vander Plaats and The Family Leader gained national recognition for its pledge, “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY”, which it asked 2012 presidential hopefuls to sign. Vander Plaats himself also gained recognition, being referred to in one news post as a “kingmaker.”

I hope as our descendants study the history of our nation, as well as our own home town, some of these things will be looked at with new eyes and looked at hard.  My sense is that the cringe factor is and will be strong, as it should.  Just recently there has been a controversy concerning the appointment of a gay man, Scott Raasch, to the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, following the uncovering of some unpleasant comments Raasch made to anti gay rights Pastor Cary Gordon three years ago.  Gordon has asked for Raasch’s removal. The city council has just yesterday stated that Raasch will stay on the commission.  That was the push,  I await breathlessly for the push back.

I also await the day when we, as a country, and as fellow humans recognize and learn from our own cringe worthy actions and behaviors, that gay rights and marriage equality are simply human rights, and deserve our full and unqualified support.



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Violence Starts With Words

August 1st, 2013

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s always been my feeling that we don’t come out of the womb with hateful thoughts.  As Rogers and Hammerstein said in South Pacific, “You have to be carefully taught”. Having worked in violence prevention for many years, I found something my colleague Dr. Alan Heisterkamp uses frequently in training young people.  It’s called “the pyramid of violence”.  It’s a brilliant tool, and it’s more than academic theory.  There are too many real life examples of this pyramid.

I use this pyramid above when I talk about bullying.  In the documentary “Bully”, Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen highlight 5 cases that all started out with level one bullying and moved up the pyramid to, in two cases, lead to the victim’s suicide.  David Long, father of Tyler Long,  tells the story of kids at school taunting Tyler and telling him to “go hang himself”.   Tyler hanged himself in his Georgia home at the age of 17.  In some extreme cases, the victim may act with violence not only against self, but others.

The pyramid of domestic and sexual violence

This pyramid above is used to demonstrate the escalation of violence in domestic violence cases.  One is highlighted in  HBO documentary, ‘Private Violence”.   Domestic violence usually starts with words and escalates from there.  In at least 3 cases a day in America, the violence escalates to murder.  Janet, whose family was interviewed for the film, knew that her husband was capable of killing her.  In her case, she was killed at the age of 42 in December of 2009 in her North Carolina home.  When we repeat “rape jokes”, call women “sluts” a la Limbaugh, we are putting down half the planet.   Degrading women makes it easier to see them as less and  As Gloria Steinem says, “if you say that half of the human race is less than the other half, which is a lie, the only way to enforce that lie is violence”.

It can get worse.  No one could have imagined that a modern developed Western European nation could have perpetrated mass killings in the mid 20th century.  It was led by a mad man named Adolp Hitler, but many in that nation followed, and followed blindly.    The pyramid below demonstrates how the process evolved.  Adolph Hitler didn’t just get elected one day and suddenly announce a master plan to exterminate the Jews.  That process took years and started with words until it reached what Hitler called “The Final Solution”.

None of this is new.  From the “witch” burnings in Medieval Europe (most of the victims being women), to the Spanish Inquisition, to 1990’s Rwanda, and even in our country, with the systematic removal of Native Americans from their lands, humans have found ways to believe that hating others for their race, their religion, their gender and their sexual orientation is justified and therefore, acceptable.

Psychotherapist Howard Halpern, in a brilliant New York Times piece in 1995, gave a spot on summation of gradual escalation of hate and violence.  He said, “ Social psychologists and demagogues have long known that if ordinary citizens are to be provoked to violent actions against individuals or groups of fellow citizens, it is necessary to sever the empathic bond with those to be attacked by painting them as different and despicable.   We are unlikely to harm a friendly neighbor because she has strong views about equal rights for women, but if we call her a “femi-Nazi,” she becomes “the other” — evil, dangerous, hated.  We are unlikely to harm the couple down the block who are active on behalf of protecting endangered species, but if we call them “environmental whackos,” they become “the other” — weirdos who must be vilified and suppressed as enemies to “normal” Americans. When our shared humanity with those with whom we disagree is stripped away, it becomes acceptable to blow them up. The answer is certainly not to censor such speech, but those who recognize this danger must challenge it wherever it exists, even in those with whom we politically agree.” 

As Halpern said, we must recognize this danger and challenge it wherever it exists.  It exists close to home for me,  whether it be Iowa Congressman Steve King asserting that immigrants are drug mules or anti gay activist, Iowan  Bob Vanderplaats who called homosexuality a “public health” risk, to the collection of Republican state senators in my state who opposed an anti bullying conference for students by what they called ” groups who pervert the Bible, teach our youth to engage in dangerous behavior”.

Sticks and stones do break our bones, and it starts with words that hurt.



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An Apology To The Nation For the Stupidity Of Our Congressman Steve King

July 28th, 2013


By Eric Blumberg

Eric Blumberg is an award-winning radio talk show host who also has gained acclaim as a reporter and columnist for several radio stations and local weekly newspapers. Born in New York City in 1952, he received his B.A, in Media Studies at Hunter College and spent two years at the graduate school of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin.  He spent the majority of his broadcast journalism career in Austin, where he was recognized four times as the city’s best radio talk show host. Blumberg has taught journalism at Austin Community College as well as English as a second language and writing at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City.  He now lives in Sioux City, Iowa with his wife, Cindy Waitt.  He has three daughters  and one stepson.


To U.S. Residents Living Outside Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District:

As a resident of Sioux City, Iowa and a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, I want to offer all of you my sincerest apologies for the continued stupidity of my U.S. Congressman, Steve King.

His most recent hateful comments regarding those who would benefit from the Immigration Reform Bill are not necessarily those of his constituents.  Nonetheless, you might get the impression that those Iowans of King’s 5th district are mindless bigots in the fashion of our Congressman.

Iowans are fair people, who, by and large, do not condemn other people simply based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or, in this case, their current immigration status.

While I do understand what the Congressman is trying to say, I don’t understand why he chose to say it in the fashion he did.

Subsequent to his initial remarks from this July, he took the floor of the Congress to explain himself more thoroughly.  In that statement, he, once again, alluded to his belief that the overwhelming majority of those minors who would receive a path to U.S. citizenship are working for Mexican drug cartels in an effort to supply us with the illegal substances we crave.

King stood by his statement that for each valedictorian there are 100 drug mules, adding that there cannot be any doubt of his beliefs since they are backed by logic and scientifically empirical data.

To me, that means that for every 101 undocumented teens living in the U.S., 100 are criminals.  I find that hard to believe.  However, if this is so, I want statistical proof.  Not a guess or an assumption based on personal opinion, but mathematical certainty based on numbers derived from a credible source rather than out of his ass.

I’m well aware the 5th District voters spoke in 2012 and re-elected him by another large margin, however, that doesn’t mean we can’t speak up when faced with unrelenting ignorance and idiocy.

I’m also aware there is no recourse here in Iowa to recall King and am also aware he is too stupid to realize how wrong he is.  Thus, you will never receive an apology from him.

The best we can do here in Iowa’s 4th District is to apologize for him and trust the rest of the country does not look too harshly on us since we are not bigots, but simply a  group of inherently good people represented by one.































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