13 posts categorized "VIOLENCE IN RELATIONSHIPS"

April 01, 2013

Changing Your Family’s Toxic Legacy

IStock_00couple alcoholAll human beings have been -- and continue to be -- greatly influenced and impacted by our family of origin. Some of these influences have been great and some have been toxic. And all of these influences impact the legacy we pass on to our children. For those who don’t have children, these influences impact the personal legacy we leave in the world. 

 What is particularly hard on couples, individuals and families, though, are the toxic legacies. Toxic legacies leave a tsunami of damage in families and in our world. Most of the time, these toxic legacies are unconsciously lived out and sadly passed on from one unsuspecting generation to the next. Before you know it, a person can look back a hundred years and see the same insidious, painful patterns back then that are being played out in the present day. Why is that? It seems crazy that people can’t learn to not repeat the same mistakes their great-great-great grandparents, grandparents and more recently their own parents made. Is it in our DNA to repeat the same toxic behaviors as those who have come before us? Are our destinies pre-wired? 

 Let me start by defining “toxic legacy.” A toxic legacy is a pattern of hurtful, painful and/or damaging behaviors that have been handed down from one generation to another through role modeling.  When parents repeatedly interact in a family system in an unhealthy way, they are imprinting this behavior on their children. The children (us, let’s say) then often grow up and repeat the behaviors we saw played out everyday of our childhood. As children, “we live what we know and we know what we lived.” As we grow up, we repeat what we learned in the first 18 years of our lives. And if we don’t repeat it ourselves, we often marry someone who does. 

Continue reading "Changing Your Family’s Toxic Legacy" »

January 07, 2013

Steubenville High School Alleged Rape: We Have to do Better

IStock_0fearllAs I watched the cell phone video of a boy laughing about a 16-year-old girl allegedly being raped by two 16-year-old football players in a nearby room, I could feel my anger rising.  I’m sickened that a girl could allegedly be raped while people in another room knew about it and made appalling comments, vulgarly laughing and -- horrifically -- doing nothing while a young girl’s life was being tragically changed.

This young girl wasn’t alone in an alley.  She wasn’t alone in a car.  She was in a place with a lot of people.  Isn’t there supposed to be “safety in numbers?”  I can only imagine that the 16-year-old girl thought she was safe going to a party with many other attendees.

When I was younger, I was repeatedly told that there was safety in numbers.  I was told not to go any place alone.  I was told to always bring a friend, never let your friends walk home alone, park where there are lights and on and on.  Looking back now, I’m saddened that most girls have to be told this.  I wonder how often boys are told: don’t walk alone, don’t leave your drink or someone might drug it, don’t dress provocatively, be careful not to lead a boy on, don’t jog alone, don’t go out by yourself after dark, always be aware of your surroundings.  I’m sickened that we are still warning our daughters to be careful in 2013.  I’m angry that the people we have to warn our daughters about are boys and men.  I’m horrified that the boys and men we have to warn them about aren’t just the creepy men in some side alley, but their friends, dates, fellow students, uncles, coaches, athletes, priests, ministers and those they trust the most and fear the least.

Continue reading "Steubenville High School Alleged Rape: We Have to do Better" »

December 18, 2012

What I Know…The Sandy Hook Tragedy

IStock_0babywithtearllI know that 26 families just had their world ripped apart because of the violent act of one 20-year-old young man.
I know that twenty children, -- none older than seven years of age -- had their lives taken in the blink of an eye.
I know that six brave adults were killed trying to save the lives of many.
I know that we cannot always rely on others to protect us.

I know that people are looking for answers and there are no simple answers.
I know that in our search for solutions to these senseless killings that there are many problems to solve: gun control, bullying, mental health care options, better and more thorough mental health care coverage with insurance companies, cultural violence, gaming violence, family issues, various types of abuse and on and on.
I also know that it will take a very long time to solve or even make a big dent in any of these issues.

And I know we have to start somewhere.

I know that change starts with the individual…with you, with me and with every single man, woman and child in our world.
I know that kindness starts with a smile.
I know that inclusion helps others feel a sense of belonging.
And I know it takes a lot of courage to go against the masses.
I know anything short of that, won’t be enough.

Continue reading " What I Know…The Sandy Hook Tragedy" »

May 19, 2011

A Letter to Men: A Lesson from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn

IStock_00harrassmentall In an article in The Huffington Post, regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger’s illicit affair with his housekeeper, http://tinyurl.com/3ktnywq, Gov. Schwarzenegger is quoted as saying, "After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago.  I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family.  There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused.  I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family.  I am truly sorry.“

Really?  Here’s my personal take on what Arnold might have said if he were truly being honest: “I waited until after I had left the governor’s office to tell my wife about this event…because then her reaction could no longer jeopardize my position as governor.  And because my housekeeper could tell the world at any time that I fathered her son, I thought it would be in my personal best interest to tell the story first. “ 

Arnold is apologizing because he got caught.  He’s apologizing, like so many politicians before him, because to not do so would be a huge political blunder. And please tell me that the power differential between the Governor of California and his housekeeper is not lost on the world.

This latest report comes after years of reports about Arnold’s grabbing women’s breasts, putting his hand up their skirts, groping them at his will and countless other abusive behaviors.  This comes after years of our culture accepting his outlandish minimization of these incidents by stating that sometimes he “behaves badly.”  It follows decades of those in the movie industry (producers, actors, directors etc.,), movie audiences, and voters bowing down to his enormous sense of entitlement due to his fame. 

Continue reading "A Letter to Men: A Lesson from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn" »

January 11, 2011

Words Have Power: Lessons To Learn From The Arizona Tragedy

IStock_0policecarsll As much of our world recovers from yet another violent tragedy, I’m struck by the outlandish comments made by lay people, extremists and -- yes -- some of our nation’s potential leaders.  Since when has it become okay to slander, threaten, name call and even damage a person’s property because we don’t agree with the way they think?

The truth is that politics in our country today has become more and more contentious.  Politicians and we, the people, have become more and more oppositional, aggressive and downright threatening in our fight for what we believe.

Sarah Palin depicted Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the crosshairs of a rifle scope on a Facebook page and wrote: "Don't retreat! Instead - RELOAD!”  Really?  When a potential Vice President of the United States uses metaphors like this, you know things have gotten bad.  And, while I realize Sarah Palin did not literally want someone to gun down Rep. Giffords, the level of irresponsibility in this comment is jaw-dropping to say the least.  I’m no politician, but even I know that my words have power.  Have we really become so unconscious as to think that what we say doesn’t impact those around us? 

Continue reading "Words Have Power: Lessons To Learn From The Arizona Tragedy" »

July 13, 2010

Women Who Bully…and the Men Who Take It

IStock_00angry womenl

There is endless information written on men who are abusive, intimidating or controlling of their partners.  There is much less written, however, about women who do the same.  Over the years I have worked with many women who fell into this same pattern of rage and control in their relationships with men. 

Although the women are fewer in numbers, the wrath they wield is intense, scary and damaging.

More often than not, I have found that men capitulate and duck in response to the violence of women just as I have found women to do the same in response to the violence of men.  (Note: Some also respond by returning rage with rage, but that’s a different post).  Not surprisingly, capitulating and ducking is no more effective when the men do it than it is when the women do it. 

Men and women duck, even though it’s ineffective, because of fear.  Women, not unlike men, are scary when they are highly reactive and prone to have fits of rage.  The male partners of these women believe there will be hell to pay if they do anything but give the women what they want.  Some of these men also try to avoid the women altogether, which only makes things worse.  Often, these men do indeed have reason to be fearful.  I’ve known several women to become physically violent, take extreme steps to get revenge on their partner or make threats about custody and financial ruin at various times in their relationships.  I have no doubt that these women meant what they said.  The men had no doubt as well.

Continue reading "Women Who Bully…and the Men Who Take It" »

October 27, 2009


I am so appalled as I write this that I can barely contain myself.  A 15 year old girl was brutally gang raped at Richmond High School in California by at least 4 males for TWO HOURS.  As she was being raped, the word got out and more and more people showed up… to WATCH! In the end, there were reportedly FIFTEEN bystanders who stood by and watched her be sexually assaulted so bad that she had to be life-flighted to the nearest hospital.

 Can you imagine this poor young girl being gang raped and hoping and praying for someone to see what was going on?  People start to come and she thinks “Thank God, they’re going to save me!”  The next thing she knows some of those hopeful “saviors” become her rapists.  As more and more people come, she realizes that she is on show and not one person out of the 15 bystanders is going to do a damn thing to end this.  They watch for TWO HOURS.  They WATCH for TWO HOURS…without a word to stop it; without a call to the police; without a text message to a parent; WITHOUT A THING!!!

Every single boy who raped her, as well as every single accomplice who watched, should be arrested and sent to jail.  When they sat there for TWO HOURS watching that crime, they took part in committing it.  There will now be a thousand articles about the bystander effect to explain this horrendous incident.  I’m sure the parents of the teens watching will cling to this as an excuse for their son WATCHING FOR TWO HOURS while this young girl was being brutally gang raped.  There is no excuse.  Every single parent, whose son watched this crime and did nothing, should be walking their son to the closest police department and putting his butt in jail.  There is NO excuse for becoming a spectator to gang rape as though it was a sporting event. 


April 06, 2009


This has been an interesting week for me professionally.  Have you ever had one of those weeks in which the same theme keeps coming into your life again and again?  If you haven’t, believe me it’s a weird phenomenon.

The theme this week: verbal and physical abuse that starts between the couple and trickles down to the children.  I keep getting calls and e-mails from women asking me what to do about their toxic partners who have been verbally abusive for years.  Ninety percent of the time, the women also state their children are picking up this abuse and turning their anger on their mother as well. 

These women say they lost themselves somewhere along the way.  They’re fighting depression, confused about what to do in their relationships and are scared for the future of their children.  They know they have to do something, yet have no idea what that something is.  Many of them ask me to please see or speak to their husband or child, hoping I might get through to them.


March 16, 2009


Following an alleged incident between Chris Brown and Rihanna, the Boston Public Health Commission surveyed 200 youth ages 12-19.  The results:

  • 71% said arguing was a normal part of a relationship
  • 44% said fighting was a normal part of a relationship
  • 51% said Chris Brown was responsible for the incident
  • 46% said Rihanna was responsible for the incident
  • 52% said both individuals were to blame for the incident, despite knowing at the time that Rihanna had been beaten badly enough to require hospital treatment
  • 35% said the media were treating Rihanna unfairly
  • 52% said the media were treating Chris Brown unfairly

“In addition, a significant number of males and females in the survey said Rihanna was destroying Chris Brown’s career, and females were no less likely than males to come to Rihanna’s defense.” (http://www.bphc.org/news/press_release_content.asp?id=473)

First and foremost, let me be clear, that violence in relationships IS NOT NORMAL.  It’s abusive, toxic and tragic.  Physical fighting in relationships is NOT okay…it’s abusive!  Period.  If violence is occurring in your relationship…you are in a VERY unhealthy relationship; I’m very sorry no one taught you this.   


March 13, 2009



I often hear people proudly say that they’ve never hit their child or loved ones in an effort to defend how they speak to them (I.e.: “I may call my son a wimp, but at least I don’t hit him”).  I’ve never heard so clearly however, the absurdity of justifying ones words by the lack of physical beatings as I heard today when Sarah shared a little saying of her grandmother’s.  The loving saying (I say this in jest mind you) went like this:  “I never laid a hand on my children, but I could peel the skin off their back with my tongue”.


Yikes…I could not have expressed the toxicity of cutting words more perfectly myself, no matter how hard I tried.  You have to love these little quips for providing us with wonderful life lessons on what NOT to do. 


The reality is that words can be just as painful, scarring, and brutal as fists and belts.  Being proud of never striking your partner or child is wonderful… if you’re also being loving and respectful.  If you believe however, that as long as you don’t hit your loved ones you’re okay--think again.  Abuse is the maltreatment of a person and it is harmful regardless of whether the weapon of choice is your hand or mouth.



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