Monday, June 17, 2013

The End of November and the Beginning of Forgiveness

I promised to continue Part II of my story but I feel more comfortable summing it up in just one post.  I met my father again, 18 years after he shot and killed my mother.  He didn't look like the same man.  He was old and feeble looking; drawn in the face but he still had that gangsta walk.  You know, that 70's (I'm too cool for my threads) walk, with the lean.  My brother and sister and I used the venue of our church or should I say, God arranged the whole meeting that way.  The main pastor and another wonderful pastor, who are normally busy, happened to be free at the same time on this particular day when my sister felt a nudging to call the church. 

We sat down with my father and his long time friend whom he brought along for support.  It turns out that my father had two heart attacks and a bout of throat cancer in prison but to the disbelief of doctors, it went into remission.  I do believe that God spared his life so that he could meet his children again. 

It's so sad that he destroyed his life the way he did.  But God can pick up broken glass, shattered into a thousand pieces and put it back together as new.  He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and this was the best thing he could possibly do for himself. 

My father said that he longed to see us everyday and he tried on many occasions to get in contact with us. We really didn't want anything to do with him.  The truth is, we loved him.  What we didn't love was what he did to our mother.  Everytime he mentioned our mother, he would hit himself on the head as hard as he could.  His actions that led to the death of a beautiful, good-hearted woman, ate him alive in jail.  That alone was torture.  Not being able to have the freedom of seeing his kids was another torture.  Having to take massive amounts of pills for his ailments was another torture.  Almost three years after our reunion, my father's cancer returned and he passed away last November (4 days before my mom did). 

Before he died, his family members flew in from different locations to see him.  We learned that that side of the family never said that they wanted nothing to do with us, as we were told.  They were aching to have us in their lives but were discouraged by the same people and were told that we didn't want anything to do with them.  Many truths came to light before my father died.  My brother, sister and I needed to learn these things.  It feels good to know that you are indeed loved.

I feel like I'm 65 and ready for retirement.  It's been a crazy, winding road in this first chapter of my life.  I look forward to chapter II in a different setting.  One void of violence, lies and other vices that tear away at the fabric of goodness.  I want to replace these with love, joy, peace and kindness.  My father tried to play catch up with my siblings and I, trying to make up for lost time by giving us things.  We told him that it's okay.  God has taken care of us this whole time.  The Bible shows that God takes special care of orphans (and widows).  I just didn't realize that even when you grow up, he continues to be there, ever present, as a loving father.

When the phone rang around 5am, I knew what it was about.  When I hung it up, I started to pray and immediately, I got the nudge from God that my father was in his presence.  "Nudge" is the best way for me to describe it.  It was like my spirit and God's spirit communicating in an instant.  "Yes, He is here with me!"  A smile came across my face.  Tears of sadness intermingled with joy came later. 

Everything was his favorite color, Blue.  My sister wrote the obituary and I wrote a few words to say at his funeral.  Of all things, I recalled him hunting for a cabbage patch doll for me when people were rushing stores and fighting for these big-headed dolls.  He drove all the way to New Jersey to buy this doll for me and it wasn't my birthday or Christmas, it was Easter!  He was like that.  My father would go out of his way to make us happy.  Of he had a tragic flaw - being prone to Domestic Violence.

Although the pain of missing my mom will never leave me, forgiving my father has taken a load off of my back.  Forgiveness is good for you primarily, not the person who wronged you.  It's difficult, but its worth it.  The End of November has a sad connotation to it but The Beginning of Forgiveness brings joy with it. 

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Oz - Or So I Wish

Hello World!  I have been on hiatus for a good while.  Everytime I thought about writing on "Ward of the Court", I would feel overwhelmed; not because I didn't have any material to write about.  I had too much to write about.  You see, I spent the majority of space on this blog writing about being a child witness to domestic violence.  My raw juvenile emotions all compacted tight, like a ball of heavy clay smushed into a tiny body finally developed an adult voice and a cool medium to vent and release.

For the last two years, that door that I thought was closed shut many years ago was opened again.  This time, it was a doorway to a different world.  Strange and wonderful at the same time.  No, I didn't travel to Oz although the flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch would have been much tamer than my Kansas. 

I met my father again.  After 18 years, he entered my life again.  In an instant, I was captured up into a twister of conflicting emotions, whirling around up and down.  It all started when I heard that my father might be dying.  I called his parole officer for confirmation and she could not reveal much but she did say that he was not well at all.  I took that to mean that he was terminal.  It turned out that he was terminal.  I went home that night and alone in my living room, I started to wail like a mysterious animal caught in a trap in the woods.  I surprised myself.  I still loved my father. 

The events that happened after that, on the yellow-bricked road of sorts, leading up to our meeting again are book-worthy.  I will reveal those happenings in the next blog. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

The White House’s Commitment to Combating Violence Against Women

Posted by Lynn Rosenthal on February 02, 2010 at 09:00 AM EDT

For six months now, I have held the first-ever White House position dedicated to combating violence and sexual assault against women and continuing the important work of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Every morning when I’ve walked into the White House, I’ve brought with me the stories of the many survivors I have worked with over the years. I’ve focused on raising the profile of violence against women issues across Federal Agencies, states, tribal communities, and localities; coordinating interagency collaboration on these issues; implementing victim assistance programs; and integrating these issues into Administration-wide programs such as the White House Fatherhood Initiative, the White House Council on Women and Girls, HUD’s fight against homelessness, and the Justice Department’s recent effort to better combat disproportionate violence in tribal communities.

Yesterday, I met with a group of 16 leaders of organizations that combat violence against women, provide resources for women who face domestic violence and sexual assault, and advocate for victims. During this meeting, I shared with these leaders the same information I am sharing with you -- information on how the White House, through the President’s FY 2011 budget, is making combating violence against women a real priority.

Violence Against Women Act as a Budget Priority

The FY 2011 budget will provide a record total of $730 million to combat violence against women -- a $130.5 million increase in funding from the previous fiscal year. The VAWA, passed in 1994, already provides thousands of victims with life-saving services, improvements in the criminal justice system and increased public awareness. The President’s FY 2011 budget not only continues this strong response, but bolsters current funding and responds to the emerging needs of communities.

Crime Victims Fund

The budget provides a $100 million increase from the Crime Victims Fund, specifically for emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other local services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. By focusing on both immediate safety and long-term housing assistance, we can help ensure that victims don’t have to choose between living with abuse or becoming homeless. Furthermore, the Crime Victims Fund does not consist of a single taxpayer dollar; it is self-sustaining and supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties for Federal offenders. In addition to a fund increase from the Crime Victims Fund, the FY 2011 budget provides $140 million for battered women’s shelters and services, an increase of $10 million from the previous fiscal year.

Victim Resources and Legal Support

The $730 million also provides vital funding for victim resources. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Dating Violence Helpline are receiving increased funding of $4.5 million to ensure every call is answered. The budget also provides $30 million in VAWA funding for victims of sexual assault -- a $15 million increase from the previous year -- which will be utilized by the Sexual Assault Services Program to provide crisis intervention, advocacy within the criminal justice system, support during forensic exams, and other related assistance.

The FY 2011 budget bolsters legal support for domestic violence and sexual assault victims by providing $50 million in VAWA funding for legal assistance for victims, a $9 million increase from the previous year. The Civil Legal Assistance Program will use this funding to help victims more easily obtain protective orders and other assistance available through the court system.

To build upon the above improvements in the criminal justice system, the budget also provides $188 million in STOP grants that provide better training, improved data collection, specialized law enforcement and prosecution units, and courts specialized for domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Support Across the Board

Ending domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for President Obama and Vice President Biden. I’ve written about numerous fund increases and initiatives that are testaments to this fact. In my meeting yesterday, the White House’s commitment to violence against women issues was clear -- we are increasing support for women across the board.

Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FACES OF HOPE: EMIG FAMILY

The Story of a Family Who Inspired the Creation of the Purple Ribbon Fund for Children and Camp Butterfly



"On April 26, 2007 our lives changed forever. It was the worst phone call we could ever receive. Eight year old Anthony crying "Nam, I need you now, my dad shot my mom" At that moment it never occurred to us that she was dead. My first thoughts were to get her help, and get to Anthony and Jillian, his 3 year- old sister. That wasn't the case. Our second born daughter was shot and killed by her husband, who then committed suicide, with Anthony watching. What trauma for a child to suffer.

We have suffered so many losses through this tragedy. Our daughter and their mother gone forever. The children can only visit her gravesite. It is a very unpleasant task to take them to the cemetery. We lost the joy and privilege of being their grandparents. We now have to play the role of parents and that changes everything.

It is so hard to put into words the affect this has had on us all as a family. We lost our daughter, Anthony and Jillian lost their mother, and our other two daughters have lost their sister. Although 3 years have passed, the pain remains.

Anthony has said that he would like to get to know other kids who have lost their parents like he did. He feels like he and Jillian are alone in that respect. We were very excited to hear about Camp Butterfly and the opportunity for the kids to meet other kids who have lost their parents to domestic violence.

As grandparents raising these children, it would be great to be able to share our feelings and frustrations with others who truly understand what we are experiencing. Purple Ribbon Council's Camp Butterfly would be that place. Domestic violence is horrific and it affects so many people. The effects of domestic violence homicide are forever.

We didn't think to ask for help, we just thought we had to do it all ourselves and go on with our lives. We are so grateful for the Purple Ribbon Fund for Children and the support this special fund has provided to Anthony and Jillian. This is a blessing to us.”

Glen & Perry Emig

Grandparents of Jillian, age 7
and Anthony, age 10
Bethlehem, PA

The New York City 2009 Annual Domestic Violence Fact Sheet

http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/downloads/pdf/2009_annual_DVFactSheet.pdf

During the last eight years (1/1/2002 through 12/31/2009), family related homicides decreased by 20%.




FAMILY RELATED HOMICIDES*

There were 61 family related homicides in 2009.

o 11 victims were killed in the Bronx.

o 19 victims were killed in Brooklyn.

o 9 victims were killed in Manhattan.

o 19 victims were killed in Queens.

o 3 victims were killed in Staten Island.

o 67% of these cases had no known prior police contact.

o 87% of these cases had no current order of protection.

*Data is preliminary and subject to further revision by NYPD. Family related homicide includes intimate partners as well as homicide committed by other family members and includes children who were killed as a result of family violence.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EMERGENCY SHELTER*

There are 2,144, domestic violence emergency shelter beds citywide, a 35% increase since January 2002.

*Statistics provided by the Human Resources Administration

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CALLS FOR ASSISTANCE*

Police responded to 250,349 domestic violence incidents in 2009; this averages to over 650 incidents per day. In addition, NYPD’s Domestic Violence Unit conducted 69,188 home visits in 2009, a 79% increase since 2002.

In 2009, the City’s Domestic Violence Hotline advocates answered 140,985 calls, averaging more than 380 calls per day. In 2008, 134,903 calls were answered.

* Statistics provided by NYPD and Safe Horizon

TEEN ABUSE

Since its inception in 2005 through December 31, 2009, the New York City Healthy Relationship Training Academy of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence has reached 11,561 young people through 596 peer education workshops. The Academy has also partnered with the New York City Housing Authority, the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Juvenile Justice to educate both young people and staff about healthy relationships.

In 2009, 680 teens called the City’s Domestic Violence Hotline requesting shelter.*

* Statistics provided by Safe Horizon

PROJECT H.E.A.L. (Hospital Emergency Assistance Link)

All 11 City public hospitals have digital cameras that document injuries and Domestic Violence Coordinators who assist victims and connect them with social and legal services.

NEW YORK CITY FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER, BROOKLYN

Since opening in July 2005 through December 31, 2009, the New York City Family Justice in Brooklyn has served 28,451 new clients seeking domestic violence services and 5,344 children were supervised in the Center’s Children’s Room, Margaret’s Place. An average of almost 1,500 client visits are recorded each month – this number includes both first-time and repeat visits. There have been 58,603 adult client visits to the Center since it opened.

NEW YORK CITY FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER, QUEENS

Since opening in July 2008 through December 31, 2009, the New York City Family Justice Center in Queens has served 5,349 new clients seeking domestic violence services and 1,184 children were supervised in the Center's Children's Room, Margaret’s Place. An average of almost 750 client visits are recorded each month – this number includes both first-time and repeat visits. There have been 12,654 client visits to the Center since it opened.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call 911 for emergencies; call NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at

1-800-621-HOPE (4673) TTY: 1- 866-604-5350 or 3-1-1 for general City services information. Help is available in all languages. Callers will

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACT SHEET CALENDAR YEAR 2009

Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor City of New York Yolanda B. Jimenez, Commissioner

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Living in Limbo

It has been over 3 months since I last wrote here. Many things have happened. Good and well, not so good. Mostly good though. Domestic Violence awareness is heightening in my place of work due to a wonderful event that I took part in called, "Poetry In Purple". You guessed it. Poets and other artists gathering together to raise awareness about this ugly social disease of domestic abuse. (the magazine is coming soon). There is so much to say about the show but the most important part is that hearts were moved, tears were shed and victims are coming forth more than before to break their silence and get on the road to becoming survivors. If I can use my life to help one person save their life, my job is done.

I was asked to speak at a prestigious university at a conference filled with judges, the most experienced experts in the field and fellow survivors. It was a spiritual experience as I bonded with the other survivors. It was an immediate unspoken love. It's hard to explain but that is the best I can do to describe the kinship I felt with them and the experts. People kept praising me for enduring what I had to endure, witnessing my father constantly abuse my mother but I didn't see the need. This was the life that was handed to me and it was all I knew, so it was somewhat normal to me. Honestly, I did not really see the extent of the dysfunctionality of my childhood and adolescenthood until now. The only way I was able to survive and without self-medicating myself was my relationship with God.

God is a real person to me. My father. I always felt love from God shining down all over me, embracing me. Everytime I would ask for a sign that he loved me, he was patient enough with me to show me. He really is Love. He has protected me through the roughest of times and led me, holding my hand, down a path of peace of mind. Even though I would feel like the lowest thing on planet Earth, he would always assure me that I am special and beautiful and needed to endure and survive. Now I know that I have experienced all that I have in order to help others like me. Orphans of domestic violence who have been forgotten by society. This is why I answered the call of the Purple Ribbon Council to head up a support group for kids who have lost a parent/s to domestic violence called The Butterfly Club. I know it is God's will that this program gets off its feet and sprouts wings so I feel honored to be used as a tool by God to make it happen.

Life for me right now is fulfilling for the above reasons but I am also, disappointed, fearful and downright confused about the recent developments involving the status of my father. He was released to a deportation holding facility in August. For more than a decade, my family and I have been assured that he would be deported to his country of birth. We rested our hopes on this and so this gave us peace of mind. But this past Thursday, December 3rd, a relative was informed that my father would be released here in our hometown that very same day. Of course we were all beyond shocked. Immediately I reverted to my 15 year old state when my mom died-the uncontrollable cracking of the knuckles returned, uncontrollable leg shaking, folding my arms in front of me desperately for protection. I am sooooo confused. So now the family has to get Orders of Protection and so on and so forth. I will be contacting my local politicians on Monday because the reason for his release is apalling. My father's country of birth refused to send travel documents for him to return. Basically, they don't want him. So America simply releases him to the public? CRAZY!!!

I don't know what or who my father is now, nor am I interested. I do hope that he has truly accepted God in his life. But that is his business. I have to go on what I remember of him. Besides being a murder, he was a manipulating, calculating, stalker who fed off of fear and intimidation. I have to protect myself and my siblings.
This situation is too big for me to handle emotionally. When we are having difficult emotions and we are not aware of how to channel them, we almost always release the frustration on those around us, those who we love. This is causing me turmoil in my life. But I do believe that if someone is meant to be with you and truly loves you, they would muster up staying power and try to be there for you. It's so hard when someone cannot or will not stretch their mind to understand what you are going through. It doesn't take mental prowess to do this. It takes love.

I feel like I'm in limbo....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let the Games Begin

My sister and I occupied the biggest bedroom next to our grandmother’s master bedroom. The guest bedroom next to ours was half the size but still overlooked the backyard where my grandmother grew her tomatoes, string beans, mint leaves and other vegetation. For a Brooklyn garden, it was pretty impressive. My grandmother was no doubt blessed with a green thumb. Anyway, when Eileen moved in, she approached my sister (age 10).

"The bedroom next to your room is nice. Would you like to move in there?"

My sister quickly answered, "No."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"That bedroom is too big for you especially since Nicole moved out. What are you going to do with all that space?!"

"I don't want to leave this room." My sister said sternly.

After school the next day, my sister came home to find all of her belongings moved to the guest room. It could only hold bunk beds. When I came home a couple days later, my sister blamed me for the reason why we got pushed to the smaller room. It was okay because I already blamed myself which was fast becoming a habit of mine. My absence although it was only for a few days caused us to lose the big room. I was still very grateful we had a place to rest our heads; even if it was a piece of foam instead of real mattresses.

Eileen offered my sister and I a listening ear. She came like an angel wanting to make ‘peace’. She seemed to be there for us in the beginning. When I didn’t want to see a child psychologist at the courts anymore because the atmosphere was so cold, she worked it out so we could each see our own individual psychologists in a warmer environment. She took my sister and I clothes shopping now and then, stressing that we are young ladies now and we needed to look the part. She made us think that she was doing this out of her own pocket but as I found out later, she would take the receipts to my grandmother demanding the money back and then some. My grandmother would give her the money from our mutual funds. My Aunt actually had free reign to our accounts. Steadily my grandmother would give Aunt Eileen more and more allowances and control of my siblings and I.

When mail would come for me, I would find that it was more difficult than usual to open because the glue was especially sticky. My sister revealed to me that aunt Eileen would boil a pot of water, not for tea but to strategically place my letter over the steam to loosen the glue, read my mail and re-glue it before I came home. I don't know how many letters must have been delivered to me but never reached me because aunt Eileen had first dibs. What was her intention? I didn't know at the time. Then my failing college grades would be mailed to the house and before I knew them, my grandmother would yell at me, calling me a failure as soon as I walked through the door.

"Of course I was failing my grades after my first year in college. I couldn't CONCENTRATE!" And after begging for money from my own funds over and over again and being turned down by my grandmother and aunt, I couldn't buy books. I had to resort to asking classmates to borrow their books for a few minutes to make copies to study for the next class.

I found out that when I hit age 19, my grandmother and aunt were no longer receiving Social Security checks for me anymore so basically, I was no longer welcomed. My sister would later see the same dynamic when she was on her way to becoming 19.

They would harass her, gossipping about her to other relatives and "friends" of the family. One evening when our grandmother was out of town on vacation, our step grandfather locked my sister out of the house and despite her franticly knocking the door and ringing the bell, he refused to get out of his bed to open the door. So my sister, bold and determined as ever, called the police for help. They tried ringing the doorbell too but to no avail. At the first attempt to kick the door down, the step grandfather appeared as if by a miracle. He received a warning from the cops. Of course he then proceeded to contact our grandmother. She then contacted all relatives and my sister was blamed for embarassing visit from the authorities.

At 18, Natasha was told to leave. I guess they saw the need to give it a head start with her since she was more of a fighter than I was. My fiery, determined sister refused, informing them that she would move on her own accord when she was good and ready. They kept trying to throw her out and she kept her stance. Aunt Eileen went as far as to sit my sister's boyfriend down while he waited for her to get ready for their date and tell him how mentally sick she was and he would do well to drop her as a girlfriend before she hurts him. Natasha's boyfriend relayed this sorry attempt by aunt Eileen to break them up.

My sister eventually moved out when she felt fit to move at age 21. My grandmother was not as hard on my little brother as my sister and I so he was allowed to stay when he too turned 19. I am sure the fact that Aunt Eileen moved out by that time had something to do with hit.

Anyway, my aunt did lots of things to drive me out of the house. On top of all the other insults, my grandmother started calling me a thief and a liar. I couldn't believe this. It came from left field and it was so not me. I wondered why she added these new names to her bag of tricks. Then one day, my grandmother, "aka" the first world wide web blurted out, "You think I don't know that you go inside of my file cabinet in my bedroom, taking my money?! Stay out of my bedroom!"

So she thought I was stealing money out of her bedroom. No wonder my step grand father would follow me when I went upstairs and periodicaly peer into my bedroom when I was upstairs alone. I even tried to put a lock on my bedroom door and my grandmother yelled at me. "This is my house, not yours! When you get your own house, you can put locks on your door!" Of course aunt Eileene had a lock on her door but I guess that was for me. At this point, my grandmother even locked her door down with three locks everytime she went downstairs.

It turns out that peaceful aunty Eileene was the one breaking into my grandmother's file cabinet, taking money and her personal info such as her social security number. She slyly told my grandmother that she witnessed me breaking into the cabinet and of course she believed her. My grandmother trusted Eileene so much that she allowed her to file taxes and claim my siblings and I as her dependents so she could collect the money. (She continued to file for us even as adults until the IRS caught up to her) What my grandmother didn't know until very recently was that for years, good auntie Eileen used her info to open up credit cards in her name which she shot up to the point of no return.

Well I eventually moved out of the house officially when I was 19 to my aunts delight. She was victorious - one down, two more to go. I really wanted to stay with my siblings but I couldn't take the harassment anymore. My intention was to continue with school, work hard to finish, go out and make money so I could support myself and my brother and sister.

When I would return home to steadily pick up my belongings, I noticed my little sister becoming more and more hostile towards me. I chalked it up as puberty. She would talk back to me and just seemed angry at me all the time. She even started to belittle me with her sharp tongue. I didn't understand until speaking to my sister recently. After I moved out, my grandmother and aunt Eileene would constantly tell her that I didn't love her or our brother. They made her believe that I left because I wanted to get away from them. How horrible. These kids lost both their parents in one night less than three years prior and here they were making them believe that the only person that they looked upon as a mother did not love them. My cousins would also chime in convincing my sister that I hated her. I wondered why everytime I came over to the house to take them to the museum or movies my grandmother would tell me to ask my aunt for permission. When I would suck it up and ask her, I would always get, No. You're not responsible enough. I kept on going to my grandmother's house and I kept on getting shot down until I eventually gave up. My siblings never knew that I would come over to take them out. This is another fact that only came to life very recently as we had a heart to heart to heart. Communication is very important.

Aunt Eileene did some really despicable things to us. Too many to number but what she did next really hurt me for years to come and to this day, I still can't hold back the tears when I think about it.
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