On May 16th, Lundy Bancroft will present a daylong workshop at UW-River Falls.
Now, I can hazard a pretty good guess that those in the domestic violence community are over-the-moon about this opportunity. For those of you who are unfamiliar though—especially if your work touches upon the lives of domestic violence victims—allow me to clamber atop my soapbox.
Throughout western Wisconsin, families are living in fear. If we are to improve our response to those victims, we must gain a clearer understanding of what domestic violence really is, how it impacts families, and how we can support real and lasting change.
And the upcoming Lundy Bancroft workshop offers us an important opportunity to advance that cause.
I’m a domestic violence survivor.
For more than ten years, I was emotionally, verbally, physically and sexually abused by my husband. I walked on eggshells each and every day of our marriage, afraid of his reactions, and once went so far as to hide in a closet—a grown woman, breathless in the darkness, obscured by last year’s Halloween costumes.
And, sadly, as I share physical custody with my now ex-husband, my beautiful children continue to live in fear.
(You can imagine my heartbreak when my youngest begged me to hide him in a closet, so he wouldn’t have to spend time with his dad.)
For many years, I struggled with the “Hows” and “Whys” of my rocky marriage; I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how my behavior could so easily trigger his rage. Worse, the idea of leaving seemed to be lost on me entirely.
Then, several years into a long legal battle, in which my ex repeatedly filed frivolous motions and obfuscated the truth, I stumbled into an online domestic violence support group.
A number of survivors there suggested I read, “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft.
A survivor’s domestic violence education
If Lundy Bancroft’s name doesn’t ring a bell, considered his credentials: He routinely conducts domestic violence workshops for judges, attorneys, Guardians ad Litem, social workers, therapists, and law enforcement officers across the country. He serves as a custody evaluator, child abuse investigator, and expert witness. He also co-founded our nation’s first batterers’ counseling program.
Mr. Bancroft is widely considered our nation’s preeminent authority on domestic violence and child maltreatment.
Seeing as I was about to enter into the second of three custody evaluations, I began reading his book, highlighter in hand. My intent was to highlight the passages that were relevant to my case and use them to support my argument to the court.
The exercise was useless.
When I finished, my book was day-glow yellow. It was as if Mr. Bancroft had peered into my life and recorded what he observed. And every single survivor I’ve met, who’s read his book (and there are many), has felt the very same way.
Lundy Bancroft helped me understand my ex-husband’s behavior in a different light. I began to see that his wild rages were not moments of lost control, but rather as tactics used to exert control.
I went on to read a book he wrote for professionals, entitled, “The Batterer as Parent.”
That’s when my eyes were truly opened to the enormity of the problem. After surviving my ex, my children and I had been let down by the larger family court system.
Nearly every misguided “solution” addressed by Lundy Bancroft’s book had been recommended in my case.
My ex was ordered into anger management therapy. Co-parenting counseling was suggested. His repeated motions against me, charging neglect and contempt, were proven untrue; yet his only consequences were a finger wag and stern lecture.
Because they didn’t fully understand, they couldn’t protect.
Most of the people involved in my case were lovely, well-intentioned professionals, but guided by their misconceptions, they emboldened our abuser and subjected us to continued abuse.
We need a coordinated, informed community response
Because my story was matched so closely by hundreds of others on the domestic violence survivors’ forum, I understood that I wasn’t alone in my experience and that a systemic change was desperately needed.
Domestic violence is pervasive in our community; the statistics suggest 1 in 4 will become victims in their lifetimes.
And it’s a cycle that we know will repeat if we fail those families still living under the cloud of domestic violence. If we neglect to hold abusers accountable, and we fail to offer the support victims need to start over and heal, we condemn our children to far too great a likelihood that they will, in turn, abuse or be abused.
That must change.
The good news is that, with a truer understanding of how batterers exert control and the elements needed to facilitate victim recovery, we can dramatically improve the lives of those who’ve been traumatized by abuse.
And that is exactly the knowledge we’ll take away from the upcoming Lundy Bancroft workshop.
I’m ready to work hard and make change happen, and I hope you’ll see the value in this simple, yet significant step toward a victim-centered response, as well.
So, please, plan to join us, Thursday, May 16th, for a unique opportunity to learn and connect. This could be a significant milestone in the way we approach the issue of domestic violence from the legal, mental health, and victim advocacy arenas.
We invite you to visit the Facebook page we’ve created for the Lundy Bancroft Workshop to stay on top of developments, as they’re announced.