A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


What is the Cycle of Abuse

The cycle of abuse is cyclical; it has been proven time and time again. When something is characterized as being cyclical, it means that it occurs in a repeating pattern. Abuse is identifiable as being cyclical in two ways; it is both generational and episodic. Generational cycles of abuse are passed down, by example and exposure, from parents to children. Episodic abuse occurs in a repeating pattern within the context of at least two individuals within a family system. It may involve spousal abuse, child abuse, or even elder abuse.

A son, who is repeatedly either verbally or physically abused by his father, will predictably treat his own children in the same way. When a daughter hears her mother frequently tear down, belittle, and criticize her father, she will adapt a learned behavior which involves control through verbal abuse. Similarly, a child who witnesses his parents engaging in abusive behaviors toward one another, will very likely subject his or her spouse to the same abusive patterns. These are examples of generational abuse:

The episodic cycle of abuse is characterized by distinct periods of behavior that eventually result in an extreme episode of verbal and/or physical abuse. Typically, victims of abuse live in denial of this reoccurring pattern.
The cycle of episodic abuse begins with a major abusive behavior such as loud verbal abuse, screaming and/or verbal harassment and even a threat of physical assault. 

A period of remorse follows. The abusive individual will go to great lengths to seek forgiveness and offer assurances that the abusive behavior will never occur again. The abusive spouse may bring flowers or expensive gifts. “Oh honey, you know that I would never hurt you. I am so sorry. You know how much I need you."  One of my clients has recently gone back to an ex who abused her terribly. She says that he is treating her so good right now, and she believes she has it all under control.  Does she really? 

The third portion of the cycle is characterized by a period of "normalcy." During this time frame the abusive spouse may appear to be truly living out his or her repentance. Great effort will be expended to please and lull the victim of abuse into believing that the worst is now over. 
Over time, tension will begin to replace the easy atmosphere in the home. Irritability will increase, followed by veiled accusations by the abuser, blaming the other spouse for his or her frustration and unhappiness. Eventually, this escalating behavior will give way to another episode of full-blown verbal and/or physical abuse.

Remember, the  cycle of abuse is rarely broken without outside help. Victims need to learn how to set boundaries that protect them and help them to break free of the cycle of victimization. Abusers must confront and take responsibility for the verbal and physical abusive patterns of behavior. I have run groups for both victims and batterers and sadly, most of the batterers do NOT take responsibility for their actions.  It is always HER fault. Both victim and abuser need to consider professional counseling as a means to stop the cycle of abuse. Individuals who are living in environments characterized by a cyclical form of abuse should make personal safety a matter of urgent priority. Verbal abuse can quickly escalate into a related, but more deadly form of abuse, physical violence.


Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a very real form of abuse.  It can take many forms ranging from denying the woman all access to funds or making her solely responsible for all finances while he spends money irresponsibly himself. Money thus becomes the tool by which the abuser is able to further control the victim by ensuring either financial dependence on him, or shifting the responsibility of keeping a roof over the family's head onto the victim while simultaneously denying your ability to do so or obstructing you.   In any relationship, financial control is one of the earliest signs of future abusive behavior.  The  husband has control the purse strings and refuses to share financial information with his wife, doles out an allowance to her, and expects that she account for every cent that she spends. 

These  behaviors are designed to isolate the woman by forcing her into a state of complete financial dependence. The most important thing to remember  is that is that the abuser is not out of control.  In fact, he is so in control that he can change his behavior to suit the social circumstances. Although he may appear charming and persuasive, his objective is actually to isolate his partner and make her dependence on him total. He is making a decision to control his partner's life by eliminating her ability to make choices, have access to money and be able to get around.

Financial abuse can and does often lead to physical abuse as well, and it knows no boundaries and can within all age ranges, educational levels, ethnic backgrounds, and financial levels...from the  rich socialite who lives in the penthouse apartment to the poorest wife in the toughest section of town.  Some of the signs of financial abuse are as follows:
  • Controlling all of the family's finances.
  • Withholding money or credit cards.
  • Giving an allowance.
  • Making you  accountable for every penny you spend.
  • Stealing from you or taking your money.
  • Withholding basic necessities such food, clothes, medications, shelter.
  • Preventing you from working.
  • Sabotaging your job by making you miss work or call in constantly.


Sexual Assault

Yesterday I had a speaker from Safe Haven come to my women's group.  Safe Haven is a a victim's assistance program for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.  Safe Haven is located in many states throughout the country.  Yesterday she spoke of sexual assault, and I thought it is something important enough to share it with you.  

Sexual assault in the United States can be all too often a taboo subject that rarely gets brought up in conversation or in other formats. Sadly, many victims feel don't want to talk about it because they feel too ashamed and embarrassed.  And, when we hear the news surrounding high profile cases in which celebrities or sports start are accused of sexual assault, the women who bring charges against these celebrities often find themselves brutalized by the media and society at large. Rape is one of the few crimes in which the victim is attacked instead of sympathized with. These cases are often so severe  that the women drop all charges in order to regain their normal life, land when victims of rape are attacked by the media, the cycle of guilt and shame regarding assault is intensified and more and more women fail to report incidences.
What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual Assault and abuse is any sexual activity that one party does not agree to. This can include:
  •  Inappropriate touching
  •  Vaginal, anal or oral penetration
  •  Sexual intercourse when one party says no or is drugged
  •  Rape
  •  Attempted rape
  •  Child molestation
One form of sexual assault the speaker did not discuss was not discussed was exhibitionism, when someone exposes themselves in public. Several years ago--when I was much younger and thinner--I was traveling on the subway to visit a friend.  There was a man seated by the door, the side of the seat hid all but the upper part of the body.  I was reading my book, but you can sense when someone is watching you.   I thought nothing of it...until I got up to exit the train and saw exactly what he was doing.  It sickened me, and even though there was no contact, I found the entire episode extremely degrading.

The following have been deemed unable to give consent:
  • Anyone under the age of 17
  • Those who are mentally disabled
  • Those who are mentally incapacitated i.e under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Those who are physically helpless
The above is New York State Law, but I am sure it pertains to just about every other state as well.


Marital Rape

Sex should not be by force. It must not be under duress never give room for 'marital rape.' You can encourage each other, you can influence and seduce, but never have sex by force.

Married? Rape happens within marriages also. For many years women were expected to put up with it simply because it was not against the law. Our archaic laws actually stated that it was not illegal for a male to rape his wife.  In many countries, this law still stands.  But  rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the rapist and the victim. It can be a total stranger; someone you recognize by sight, but have never really communicated with;  a neighbor or a colleague; a friend, a boy-friend or a former boyfriend; a live-in partner, or a former partner; and, yes, someone you are married to or have been married to in the past.  Ask yourself the following:

Has your partner ever made you have sex when you didn’t want to?

Have you ever been uncomfortable with a sexual request from your partner, but did it anyway?

Have you ever had sex with your partner because you were afraid Have you ever given into sex because your partner would not stop harassing you about it? 

Marital rape is so destructive because it betrays the fundamental basis of the marital relationship, because it questions every understanding you have not only of your partner and the marriage, but of yourself. You end up feeling betrayed, humiliated and, above all, very confused.  Of all sexual assaults, marital rape is the most under reported. Many women who are victims of marital rape have great difficulty in defining it as such. The traditional idea that it is impossible for a man to rape his wife and that somehow, in taking our marriage vows we have abdicated any say over our own body and sexuality, basically denied ourselves the right to say 'no', is still prevalent amongst wives as much as amongst their husbands. A wife being raped will often question her right to refuse intercourse with her husband, and while she may realize that legally it now constitutes rape, there are many reasons which may prevent her from perceiving it in such a light.

The loss of control over her life becomes an issue. If forced sex becomes an ongoing pattern the feeling of powerlessness becomes intense and being able to feel safe in the confines of the home is totally shattered.

In marital rape, the short-term effects can include the following:
  • Feelings of betrayal
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Humiliation
  • Denial

Longer-term effects can include:
  • Inability to trust
  • Flashbacks
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Nightmares
  • Acute fear of being assaulted again
  • Sexual dysfunction 
Healing begins with having a safe place or person to talk with about the sexual assault. Since victims may not recognize the assault as "rape" and may be confused by their feelings, it is important to open a line of communication.


Three Women Lawyers Arrested in Iran

Iranian authorities have arrested three female human rights lawyers on  for so-called security related offenses. Maryam Kianersi, Maryam Karbasi, and Sara Sabaghian were taken into custody after they arrived on a flight from Turkey.  Sara Sabaghian reportedly represented Hossein Ronaghi in court after his arrest for blog posts which criticized the Iranian government. Ronaghi is currently appealing a 15-year jail sentence for his alleged crime. All three women had previously signed an open letter advocating for the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a well-known human rights lawyer imprisoned in Evin Prison.  Kianerswas on the defense team of Kobra Najjar, a woman sentenced to death by stoning who was acquitted and freed about two years ago. 

Sotoudeh is scheduled to go on trial on November 15 and faces charges of acting against state security, assembling, and collusion with intent to disrupt national security, and working with the Center for Human Rights Defenders, which was founded by Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Nasrin Sotoudeh who has been in the notorious Evin Prison since September 4, went on a hunger strike for 27 days to protest the conditions of her illegal arrest. After ending her hunger strike for a few days, she started a dry hunger strike since her case was mishandled and she continued to be deprived of her legal rights such as the right to telephone calls and visits from her family members and her two young children. As of November 12, Sotoudeh began drinking water on advice of her friends and lawyers, but remains on a hunger strike.


Iranian Woman Ends Dry Hunger Strike But Continues Hunger Strike

The husband, sister and brother of the imprisoned Iranian lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, visited her yesterday at Evin Prison in Tehran for ten minutes. The husband, who had not seen his wife for over two and a half months, said that on the advice of friends and lawyers, she ended her dry hunger strike, but that she will continue her hunger strike and only drink water until she gets what she wants.

is scheduled to go on trial November 15 and is facing charges of acting against state security, assembling, and collusion with intent to disrupt national security, and for working with the Center for Human Rights Defenders, which was founded by Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.


Sotoudeh, who has been in Evin Prison since September 4, went on a hunger strike for 27 days to protest the conditions of her illegal arrest. After ending her hunger strike for a few days, she started a dry hunger strike since her case was mishandled, and she continued to be deprived of her legal rights such as the right to telephone calls and visits from her family members and her two young children.


Women's Rights Gravely Threatened in Iran

Two Iranian women, Sakineh Ashtiani, currently facing an execution sentence, and Nasrin Sotoudeh,  a human rights lawyer and colleague of Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, are in danger in Iran.  Ahtiani,who was originally sentenced to death by stoning after an adultery conviction  faces a possible execution by hanging, while prominent human rights lawyer, Sotoudeh, has been on a dry hunger strike (no food or water) for more than a week while protesting her imprisonment.

Ashtiani was scheduled to be executed by hanging last Wednesday, but due to massive international protest started by her son and daughter, her execution was suspended, and according to Iranian officials, her file is "under review,"... but the regime has been known to execute people whose files were under review in the past. In 2006, she was convicted of having extramarital relations with two men who killed her husband. No names have ever been documented for the two men. While she initially received a sentence of 99 lashes for adultery, during an appeal of her case, the court sentenced her to death by stoning. After worldwide outrage, this sentence was commuted to death by hanging.  Her sentence still stands, and she is still living with the knowledge that she could be executed at any time.

Sotoudeh, the mother of two children,  has defended many political activists and campaigners in Iran's presidential elections last year, has been held in Tehran's Evin Prison since September 4, when she was arrested and charged with "acting against state security" and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic."   She is currently in solitary confinement;  Sotoudeh has been refusing food and water to protest the intolerable conditions of prison and the improper investigation of her case; she is in grave physical shape as a result. Activists are concerned she will soon fall into a coma or die.

Prominent political figures, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, have issued statements expressing concern and dismay over the treatment of the women. 

Please Contact your State Department or Foreign Ministry with the following message.

Sample letter:

Dear [the correct name]

I demand that this government exert the utmost diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to:

1) to immediately release Nasrin Sotoudeh and drop ALL charges against her.

2) stop the persecution of all Iranian human rights lawyers and adhere to the international human rights laws in which the Iran government is a state party.

3) allow Nasrin Sotoudeh to continue her work as a human rights attorney uninterrupted and allow her to visit her clients and give her access to her clients files and paperwork as guaranteed by judicial law.

[your name]



Rape is not an act of sex and will never be an act of sex.  Rape is purely an act of violence and control. Plain and simple...violence and control are the key goals of most rapists. They want to control their  victim, and most times,the rapist  gains that control through violence or threats or both at one time. Once you begin finally realizing that rape has nothing to do with sex, then you finally might really be coming to terms about what rape really is.   Anyone can be a victim of rape. You can be white, black, Spanish, Irish, male, female,, g old, young, paralyzed, drunk, sober,fat, skinny, beautiful, ugly...you get the picture.  There is no set pattern of physical appearance, clothing, nationality, or age or religion or nationality that is excluded from the crime of rape.

No rape victim asks to be raped nor wants to be raped. When society does not understand the crime of rape, then society ignorantly states that the victim asked for it. No victim asked to be attacked. If someone is stabbed or shot, society does not say the victim asked for it. If someone is run down by a hit and run driver, society does not say that the victim asked for it.  Yet, when a woman is raped, according to society, she must have asked for it.  Why is it that our focus is on those raped and not  on those who rape? Rape victims are not only subject to generally more scrutiny than other crime victims, but they are often thrust into the spotlight and into the position of having to prove their cases   more than victims of robbery, shootings, murders, scams, exploitation, or harassment.  This is why many rape cases are never reported. 

I want to share something you with that I've never shared to anyone, not a sole,  other than a therapist.   Even hubby doesn't know.  It's something I never talk about, but something today I feel I HAVE to talk about.   I was raped 45 years ago.  I was 18 years old.  The police told me it was MY fault, and I totally believed them.  I'd been out with a group of friends.  We'd gone up to this little bar in Port Jervis, New York.  At that time, legal drinking age in New Jersey was 21, in New York it was 18, so we'd often cross the border.  Well,  at some point of the night I lost my friend.  Later, I had found out that she went out to the car to 'neck' with her boyfriend.  Well, I'd had a bit too much to drink that night and really wanted to go home.    I was getting lightheaded and nauseous.

So, there were young men who I knew, maybe not very well, but I knew them.  They were acquaintances.   They, too, were from New Jersey, and when they offered me a ride home, I gladly accepted.   After all, they were acquaintances, weren't they?  It was supposed to be safe....only  hadn't taken into account that they, too, had been drinking...and alcohol lowers the inhibitions.  People do things they normally wouldn't do.  

All I can remember about that night is  being pulled from the car and tossed onto the ground.  I already suffered from a back injury, so when I hit the ground it was like a knife shooting through me.  I must have blacked out or disassociated myself because the next thing I remember was being tossed from the car.  It was dawn; the sun was coming up.  My clothes were ripped and dirty; my hair matted.  Black lines from mascara ran down my face from sobbing.  I was in severe pain.  I hobbled over to the nearest house and rang the bell.  

They brought me into the home and showed me to the bathroom, giving me a towel and washcloth to clean myself up.  Meanwhile, they called the police.  From there, I was brought to the police station where I was questioned, and when I told my story, I was told I didn't have a case.  I SHOULDN'T have been at the bar; I SHOULDN'T have been drinking.  When women do these things, they are ASKING FOR IT.  And after all that, I was asked if I wanted to press charges.  What would you have said?  Don't forget, we were in a different era.  It was common belief at the time that if a woman went to a bar alone, she was after one thing.  The fact is, I would have been put on the stand and been torn apart, and NOTHING, absolutely nothing would have happened to the rapists.

Times have changed somewhat since that time, but women still have to prove themselves. It is time that we all wake up about rape, the stats, the facts, and know that a woman who goes out for a drink and gets raped did not ask for it, a woman who wears tight jeans or short clothes did not ask for it, a woman out late at night did not ask for it. There has to be a time for compassion and now is that time.


Quotes by Women

"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race."
—Susan B. Anthony

"We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever."
—Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." —Margaret Mead

"Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade."
— Constance Baker Motley
(First Black Woman in the U.S. to become a Federal Judge)


Early Signs That Your Partner Just May Be Abusive

The truth is, all relationships all start beautifully ; we meet, he sweeps us off our feet and fall in love, and get married.  He is the One.  Then the honeymoon stages ends, and suddenly He has changed...for the worse.   We think this can never happen to us, that these relationships happen only in women who lack an education, but truth be told,  even highly educated and well-accomplished women undergo abuse as well. 

Indeed, recent studies have shown that most men who abuse women were often abused themselves  in their younger years, and since it is strongly believed that childhood experiences may have played a role in turning these men into abusers, it is quite possible that they have been raised to believe that in order to make women follow their whims, they should be subjected to physical pain. Furthermore, in  some cases, the abuse is also a reaction or a form of rebellion against females...especially when the male had a negative experience with his mother.  Unconsciously, he rebels against his mother through his partner especially when he sees some similarities between the mother and his spouse's attitudes.

Although many of these men may initially be charmers, the following  are just a few early indications that  your partner just may be an abuser?
  • He tells you sob stories about how a previous relationship ended and how his girlfriend broke his trust. Watch out if he has had several failed relationships.
  •  He is overly jealous and possessive of you.  Even the time you spend with your family and friends becomes a threat to him.
  •  He  treats you as if you you are incapable of making your own decisions. He needs to control you and your actions so that you become dependent on him.
  •  He has unrealistic expectations of you, and when he thinks you have "failed", he becomes very increasingly disillusioned about you for not meeting his expectations.
  • He believes  that there is nothing wrong with the way he is treating you.
Remember.  Men who are abusive by nature rarely change how they view things. You might  try to slowly introduce him to the concept of him undergoing therapy, but get ready for  the tirades that will be coming from him.  An  when you realize that he is  not going to change--EVER--take  charge of your life and move on.


Brazil Elects First Woman to its Presidency

On Sunday, October 31st, Dilma Rousseff of the Worker's Party defeated Jose Serra of the Social Democratic Party by a wide margin and became Brazil's FIRST woman president.  Although she has never held elective office before, Rousseff, an economist, was strongly backed by Brazil's highly popular current President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. She formerly served as da Silva's Chief of Staff and a member of his cabinet as Energy Minister.

Following her historic win, Rousseff spoke passionately about her goals to eliminate poverty and promote gender equality, telling CNN  "I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say yes, women can." She also outlined her plans to improve education and public healthcare. 

During the 1970s, Rousseff was jailed and tortured for her membership in the left-wing guerrilla group called National Liberation Command, which opposed the military dictatorship ruling Brazil. She was allegedly tortured for 22 days by punching, being hit with sticks and pieces of wood, and electric shock devices. Later, Dilma denounced the torture she suffered in court proceedings, citing even the names of those who tortured her.  Dilma left jail at the end of 1972.