Systematic Failure

What would the criminal justice court system look like as it pertains to domestic violence if it were designed today? Years ago, domestic violence wasn’t considered a crime. Beating your wife was like vandalizing your car. It’s stupid to mess up your own property, but not criminal. Now, people recognize domestic violence as the crime it is. However, the current system reflects the old way of thinking more than the new one.

Naturally, this leads one to wonder why the system hasn’t been revamped. Domestic violence is the single most complex crime, and as such, it deserves the attention of specialized court system. There needs to be a court specifically designed to handle domestic violence cases, so that everyone who works within this specialized system will be specialized. The lawyers, the judges, the court personnel — all of them should be specifically trained in domestic violence, so we can tackle this epidemic effectively.

A unique Domestic Violence court system is a feasible goal. But first, it needs to be thought of as a priority. And for inscrutable reasons, domestic violence doesn’t make the cut. Domestic violence is the most underreported crime (National Crime Statistics Report, 1993), and so the statistics that we have do not reflect the full magnitude of domestic violence. But even with this missing data, studies show every 9 seconds, a woman is battered (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1994). Approximately 25 percent of women are victims of intimate partner violence during their lifetime.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2001, over 1,300 murders were committed by a spouse or intimate partners. These numbers equate to nearly four murders a day. Thirty-one percent of women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives (Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998). In 1995, the cost of intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking totaled $5.8 billion each year for direct medical and mental health care services and lost productivity from paid work and household chores. When updated to 2003 dollars, the cost is more than $8.3 billion (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2003).

These numbers are huge, and if you take into account the fact that many cases of domestic violence aren’t reported, then the numbers get even bigger. All these numbers should add up to change. All these numbers should tell people that something is wrong. And not only is it wrong, but it’s expensive — both in terms of lives and money. Domestic violence may occur “inside the home” but it is everybody’s problem. Every single one of us — male or female, child or adult, we all pay for domestic violence. And perhaps the most frightening fact of all is that domestic violence is a generational crime. This means that the above numbers will multiply as the generation witnessing or being targeted by the violence grows older.

Yet, everything is still more or less the same. Domestic violence is not decreasing in scale or incidence. One in five high-school girls are still being sexually or physically violated. Moms are still dying. Children are still growing up watching daddy hit mommy. Judges still send partners back out of the courthouse and tell them to forgive and forget, as if the victim can control the violence.

In fact, the victim has no control whatsoever; the offender uses violence as a means of wresting control from his victim. Domestic violence is a learned behavior. If a man beats a woman once, he will beat her twice. If you put him in jail for a short period of time, he will emerge with the angry belief that it was his wife or girlfriend’s fault that he was imprisoned, and he will seek revenge. Unless courts intervene right away, at the first instance of violence, the cycle will become nearly impossible to break. Courts must prescribe batterers’ intervention and other forms of offender treatment to first-time offenders. So-called Anger Management, which is often the go-to answer, is simply not an antidote to domestic violence. Men who are violent with their intimate partners manage their anger extremely well; after all, they only show their anger in the private sphere, behind closed doors. If a man learns that he can get away with abusing his girlfriend or his wife without suffering the same sort of consequences he might for beating a coworker, then he will keep doing it. Domestic violence is a learned behavior. Domestic violence follows a pattern. These two key attributes render domestic violence and domestic homicides the most predictable of crimes.

However, courts historically have refrained from looking at patterns. Instead, there is a long-standing precedent for courts only to pass judgments on specific, isolated incidents. This works for the majority of cases, but when it comes to domestic violence, this method falls flat. Again, this is because domestic violence is a pattern, and so a proper sentencing requires consideration of all evidence. Good judges will ask for the context of a crime and they will ask for all related incidents. Unfortunately, not all judges are good judges.

Let’s look at a case that unfolded right here in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008. William “Gerry” Seidl and Dorene Seidl had been married for 47 years. On August 25, 2008, Gerry shot and killed Dorene. Just five days before, Dorene Seidl appeared before Judge Joseph O’Reilly to ask for an order of protection. In the petition, Dorene claimed that her husband had previously put a gun to her head, and on a separate occasion had told her “I’m just going to kill myself and get it over with. Do you want to go with me?” She had just separated from her husband, and testified that she was afraid for her life as he had threatened to kill her if she left. (For all those who ask, “Why doesn’t she leave?” this is why: women who leave are 75% more likely to be attacked and killed.) The judge told her that it was a “he said, she said” case, and denied her the protective order. When she was murdered a few days later, Judge O’Reilly said his prayers were with the family, but he upheld his decision, saying that he did not find the burden of proof that violence occurred to issue a Domestic Violence Order.

He couldn’t find the burden of proof? Now, no judge wants someone in their court to wind up in the obituary pages, but it’s hard to believe that Judge O’Reilly couldn’t find any evidence of violence. Dorene gave sworn testimony at her court hearings. Sworn testimony is evidence. Additionally, after the murder, local papers came out with many illuminating pieces of information — information that Judge O’Reilly should have known. “She had two prior judicial findings of domestic violence,” said Marcia Roth of the Mary Byron Project.

“When an older woman has to become public and say that the man she’s been married to, in this case for 47 years, has been abusive, I would think that would cause someone to pay attention to what she’s saying,” Roth said. 

And it’s not like Judge O’Reilly didn’t know about any of this history. There was a paper trail he could have followed, and moreover, Dorene testified before him on August 20 and told him the history. During the hearing, Mrs. Seidl said that she had been granted a protective order from her husband in 1995 to 1996. In that 1995 petition, she stated to authorities that her husband didn’t want her to go to jury duty, got out a pistol, put in a clip and allegedly said, “I will kill you.”  She retold this story and many others to Judge O’Reilly. If you watch the recording of the hearing (which I have), then you’ll notice that Dorene and Gerry told the Judge a whole lot of stories. He seemed impatient with both of them and disinterested in what they had to say. Of course, he couldn’t have foreseen the murder, but if he had taken the two more seriously, perhaps he could’ve prevented it.

Why do I say this? Because of this: Judge O’Reilly asked both Gerry and Dorene for their final words before he made his ruling. Gerry blabbered about how much he loved his wife and how much he was looking forward to their 50th anniversary in three years. Dorene was more concise. She simply said, I’m going to divorce you. And that was it. Dorene avowed that she was going to leave for good. Her chance of critical injury jumped 75 percent. Her words coupled with the Judge’s denial of protection essentially sealed Dorene Seidl’s fate.

Since Judge O’Reilly denied Dorene the DVO, the EPO that was temporarily in effect automatically expired. The EPO had given the police the right to take away Gerry’s guns, but since the DVO was not granted, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office had to give Gerry Seidl his guns back. In a calculated move, Gerry gave the guns to his son-in-law and told him to let Dorene know that the guns were no longer in his possession. He then went out and bought a new gun for himself — a purchase he would not have been able to make if the judge had issued a domestic violence order.

 On August 25, Dorene went to the house she shared with her husband in order to pick up some belongings. She thought she’d be safe; to her knowledge, Gerry no longer had any guns and she even brought a relative along just in case. Little did she know that her husband, who repeatedly swore his love for her under oath, had gone out and purchased a gun specifically for her murder. Gerry Seidl shot and killed his wife of 47 years as soon as she walked into range of his gun.  

Clearly, judges are not perfect. They are fallible and vulnerable to prejudice just like every other human being. But unlike every other human being, judges are given godlike power to decide the fate of the people who appear before the court. Obviously there should be some oversight, but the truth is that the little oversight that exists doesn’t do a whole lot.

Every state has some sort of committee that oversees that retirement and removal of judges. However, it is unclear how exactly the committee is chosen and how exactly it works. There is very little transparency, and the public has virtually no ability to do anything about bad judges except vote them out of office. And as a previous post pointed out, most people are unaware of judges’ track records, and most people are likely to vote for the judge with name recognition —that is, the one already instated. And so, unless the public gets access to court records and takes advantage of reading them (which is unlikely), no one, except for those in the courtroom, really knows who the good judges are.

There is no oversight, except by the electorate. And that is why we, the people, must get involved.

Judges: For your information…

The last blog post discussed the importance of having good judges in the system. The two basic methods used in the selection of judges in the United States are election and appointment. Elective methods may be either partisan or nonpartisan. In partisan elections, the judicial candidate is nominated by a party and runs with a party identification. In nonpartisan elections, the judicial candidate is generally nominated in a nonpartisan primary and runs in the general election without a party label. Appointment methods used in other states differ on where the responsibility rests for the important decisions; they are made either by the governor, the legislature or a judicial nominating commission. The method which uses the judicial nominating commission is generally referred to as merit selection or the Missouri plan. Most states use a combination of elected and appointed systems.

The president makes all federal judicial appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate. Additionally, significant roles are played in the selection process by the senator of the president’s party from the state in which the vacancy exists, the Justice Department and the American Bar Association.

The debate on whether elections or appointments lead to the best judges on the bench is ongoing. There are pros and cons to both avenues of judicial selection. Either way, there may be corruption and unfair play. The appointment of federal judiciary abides by the idea that judges generally should be insulated from the election and campaign processes, for purposes of keeping them focused on the law and court cases. Yet some worry that the appointment and confirmation of judges by elected officials is not sufficiently democratic.

Then again, elected judges may be more susceptible to catering to campaign funders and special interests, which would create a conflict or interest in their rulings. Electing judges forces them to beg campaign cash from the very people who would appear before them in court. It forces voters to choose from clogged slates of unknown names. Without any legitimate reason, voters may choose their candidates based on factors such as ballot position, ethnic surnames and who bought the most TV ads. Judicial elections have become costly showdowns between corporate and union lobbies, with clueless voters in the crossfire. Politics has infiltrated the judicial campaigns, making them high-stakes races, drawing in big money and increasingly negative advertising.

Here’s how judicial selection breaks down by state:


  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

Merit Selection:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • California
  • Florida
  • Tennessee

Non-Partisan Election:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Partisan Election:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • West Virginia


Governor or Legislative Appointment: In 12 states, judges are appointed by the
governor or (in South Carolina and Virginia) the legislature. Gubernatorial appointments
usually require the consent of the upper house of the legislature or the participation of a special commission such as an executive council. In most of these states, judges serve a term (ranging from 6 to 14 years) and then may be reappointed in the same manner. In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, judges enjoy lifetime or near-lifetime tenure.

Merit Plan: In 16 states, judges are nominated by a nonpartisan commission, and then appointed by the governor. Judges serve a term and then are subject to a retention election, where they run alone, and voters can either approve another term or vote against them. Terms vary but on the whole are less than those in appointment states. A merit selection plan generally has three key elements: (1) a list of qualified candidates (usually three) developed by a nonpartisan judicial nominating commission made up of lawyers and non-lawyers; (2) appointment of the judge by the governor from the list developed by the nominating commission; (3) a short probation period for the judge followed by a retention election in which the judge has no opponent but must receive enough “yes” votes to be retained.

Nonpartisan Election: In 13 states, judges run for election. Their political
affiliations are not listed on the ballot, and so voters, unless specifically informed, do not know a candidate’s political party. These judges serve a term and then may run for
reelection. The terms range from 6 to 10 years.

Partisan Election: In 9 states, judges run for election as a member of a political
party. They serve a term in the range of 6 to 10 years for the most part and then may run for reelection.


Judges are supposed to stand for justice, and as the executors of this abstraction, they are supposed to be blind. But judges are often blind in a way entirely antithetical to justice. Bias blinds them to truth, or else moves them to close their eyes to the truth. Now you may wonder: can judges be held accountable to the standards of a concept as controversially defined as justice? And can people be held accountable for knowing who will make the best judge? How many times have you voted for a judge on the basis of name recognition, or party affiliation, without ever bothering to check the judge’s public record?

Judges impact the lives of citizens more than any other elected official. Judges have the power to interpret the law and assess the evidence and testimonies presented in their courtrooms. They have the power to control how trials and hearings unfold, and they have the power of the last word. They decide the degree to which you’re guilty or innocent; they decide the degree to which you will be punished or compensated. No other elected official has this sort of power over the lives of those they serve. Your congressman cannot put you in jail. Your senator cannot make sure you get child support. Your president cannot order your abuser to cease contact with you. The system, as it stands, relies solely on the judgment of judges.

And yet, the qualifications for running for a judgeship are remarkably minimal. Most local and state judges are elected in local elections held every two years. While terms vary from state to state, a median term is four years. Judges campaign for their position like any other politician and appear on local ballots during elections. A candidate for judge does not necessarily have to have to run against anyone. The defense bar often throws a lot of money behind a judge who is running in order to curry favor with that judge. After all, everyone wants to win.

As the backbone of the system, judges enjoy great authority. It’s not just their decisions, but their demeanor in the courtroom that can have major ramifications for domestic violence cases. Eileen McNamara (a Boston globe columnist and Brandeis professor), who became famous for reporting on allegations of widespread harassment of battered women by judges in the lower courts, said:

I was mystified to find that a unique set of rules governs the public’s relationship with men and women whom I had been taught were public servants. These rules … were uniform and largely unspoken. They are enforced by a culture of deference that … makes it all but impossible to hold a judge in the state accountable for the way he treats people in his courtroom. Correction: make that our courtroom. History, literature, even architecture conspire to enthrone the judge above those he is empowered to serve … Institutional indifference to battered women can only contribute to the frightening statistics surrounding domestic violence. (“Who Judges the Judges?” Ford Hall Forum, Faneuil Hall, Boston Mass., Oct. 20, 1998)

The courthouse atmosphere alone can reinforce a woman’s sense of entrapment. For example, a courthouse may neglect women’s fears by failing to provide a safe waiting area, failing to coordinate with the police and probation and inadequately training court personnel. Once inside the courtroom, battered women may be intimidated when they are treated with indifference and not informed of their legal options. Judges often display harsh and condescending behavior with patronizing or hostile remarks, racist attitudes, and bias against unmarried women.  Furthering women’s isolation, the court may fail to provide resources for non-English speakers, deaf and otherwise disabled women. The community has resources, but they are useless if no one knows how to make use of them. Some judges will minimize the abuse or place the blame on the victim; she caused it; she should feel guilty for making him so angry; she is making a big deal and wasting the court’s time with a “lover’s spat.” Some judges will go so far as to collude with the violent men, joking and bonding with them, showing an unwillingness to impose sanctions on them. There are additional issues that crop up when children are involved. Judges often fail to recognize how batterers manipulate the women through their children. Judges may overlook requests for child support and order visitation rights without proper precautions.


Judges’ views can be antiquated by virtue of the fact that they are supposed to follow precedent. When a judge breaks from precedent, the judge essentially creates a new precedent that is to be followed henceforth.  One such antiquated precedent was the rule of thumb. In 1874, Judge Settle made a landmark decision that ended “that barbarism,” while enabling violence in the home to continue unchecked.

“We may assume that the old doctrine, that a husband had a right to whip his wife, provided he use a switch no larger than his thumb, is not law in North Carolina. Indeed the Courts have advanced from that barbarism until they have reached the position, that the husband has no right to chastise his wife, under any circumstances BUT from the motives of public policy, in order to preserve the sanctity of the domestic circle, the Courts will not listen to trivial complaints … If no permanent injury has been inflicted, nor malice, cruelty nor dangerous violence shown by the husband, it is better to draw the curtain, shut out the public gaze, and leave the parties to forget and forgive.” (emphasis added)

Judge Settle, in State v. Oliver, 70 N.C. 61, 62 (1874).


Contradictions abound in this decision, and Judge Settle’s wording allows judges considerable discretion when it comes to determining whether or not a complaint is trivial, an injury permanent, or the violence malicious, cruel or dangerous. And so, though the rule of thumb has been decreed “not law,” the courts can maintain their blinded eye toward domestic violence.

In the 130+ years since the aforementioned ruling, we have made little progress. The old doctrine of the rule of thumb might have made sense back when women were considered men’s property and men were punished for their wives’ crimes. But we have since accepted that women are individuals and are treated equally by the law. In theory, anyway.

In reality, the law often treats women who happen to be wives as the property of men who happen to be their husbands. Police officers, judges and lawmakers still are reluctant to interfere with a man’s disciplining of his wife.

In 1986, Judge Paul P. Heffernan granted Pamela Nigro Dunn an order of protection against her husband, Paul Dunn. She avowed that her life was in danger whenever her husband was around, and arranged for a police escort to her apartment so she could gather her belongings. Judge Heffernan chastised her,

This is pretty trivial… This court has a lot more serious matters to contend with … You want to gnaw on her and she on you, fine, but let’s not do it at the taxpayers’ expense.”

He told Pamela to “act as an adult.” He told the police officer, “You heard me tell this lady that she didn’t need the police…You’ve been duped in this case.”

Less than five months later, Pamela was found face down in a puddle at a town dump. She had gunshot and knife wounds as well as strangulation marks. Six months later, Paul Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

The judge’s remarks became front page news.


Unlike isolated acts of violence, domestic violence follows a pattern. It does not happen once and then stop. It cycles perpetually. Not all the injuries will be visible. Not all the injuries will be put on the affidavit. Not all the rightful arrests will be made. Not all the crimes will make it on a record.  Good judges insist on receiving sufficient information to reveal any pattern of systemic, abusive behaviors in order to accurately understand the situation between the plaintiff and the defendant and make a just ruling. However, many insist on the very opposite. Strictly interpreting their duties, they claim that they must ignore context and judge the crime as it stands alone. But context is what domestic violence is all about. Many domestic violence offenders are not violent toward everyone: They are only violent in the context of their intimate relationships.

Domestic violence is the most predictable crime. If it happens once, then it will happen again. We need to elect judges that acknowledge this fact and take responsibility for making sure the offender never has the chance to strike again.

So, how can we determine which of the judicial candidates would make good DV judges?

—  Research their decisions

—  Ask questions of courtroom participants

— Don’t just rely on endorsements— ask women’s advocates what their experience has been

—  Don’t rely on gender.  Some of the best and some of the worst judges of DV cases are women.

— Go to judicial forums and ask the candidates how seriously they perceive crimes committed against intimate partners — and what do they think their role is?

— Ask candidates what their average sentence is for batterers.

—  Ask candidates if they think that considering a pattern of behavior for a domestic abuse case is judicially sanctioned.

—  Ask candidates what they think of batterers’ intervention programs. 

You have the power to change the judicial landscape for battered women and children. You can do something. You must do something.

What about the kids?


  • 15-25% of pregnant women are battered
  • 30% of battered women are battered while pregnant
  • 50% of men who abuse their wives also abuse their children
  • 87% of children are cognizant of their mother’s victimization. Don’t assume they don’t know because they are in the other room or appear to be asleep.
  • More than 50% of kidnappings in the U.S. occur within the context of domestic violence
  • 100% of children are affected when they are exposed to violence in the home.


  • Domestic violence causes more birth defects that accidents and illnesses combined
  • A mother’s fear can send convulsion-like tumors through the fetus, damaging the developing brain and nervous system
  • Simply exposing your child to violence is a form of child abuse
  • Children who witness abuse often suffer the same emotional symptoms as children who are directly abused
  • By watching abuse, boys learn violence is a way to solve problems, gain control of a situation and/or get what they want
  • By watching abuse, girls learn to expect and accept it.
  • Feelings of fear, anxiety, powerlessness, low self-esteem and the emotional/behavioral problems will not end when the abuse ends. The emotional aftermath of abuse may last a lifetime.
  • Children of abuse are at an increased risk for: alcohol abuse, drug abuse, gambling, compulsive spending, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, sexual promiscuity, running away, and suicide.
  • Domestic violence is a cycle: children who grow up in a violent home learn how to have a relationship from this model and so the stage is set for the next generation of abusers and victims.

Information everyone should know

 As of now, there is no federal law that requires dating violence education in schools. While some states have passed their own laws, there is no mandate that gives every student the opportunity to learn about intimate partner abuse. We, at The Mary Byron Project, hope this will change. We hope that one day every high school across the nation will be equipped to engage students in conversation about dating violence.

The Mary Byron Scholars at Assumption High School (Mary’s alma mater) exemplify the value of such education and awareness. The Mary Byron Foundation currently sponsors a three-year $2,000 per year scholarship as a tuition grant for students who maintain a 3.50 GPA and wish to undertake a leadership opportunity among their peers and in the community relating to domestic violence. This past year, six girls were awarded this scholarship and granted the power to be aware and spread awareness.

Dating Violence is often a precursor to Domestic Violence. The two are obviously linked, and one inherently follows the other. As Marjorie Gilberg of “Break the Cycle” recently said, “We know that education is the best way to prevent dating violence from happening and by educating people when they’re young, we can really give them an opportunity for a lifetime of healthy relationships.”  We urge you to check out Break The Cycle and see what they’re doing to make our world a better place.

In that vein, please peruse the following information. It could help save your life — or help you save someone else’s.  

(Thanks to The Center for Women and Families for much of this information.)

Dating Violence & Date Rape

If you think it can’t happen to you, you’re wrong…

Dating Violence includes verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse used by one person to control their partner. While physical abuse is more immediately damaging, emotional abuse may be longer lasting and ultimately more damaging.


  • Approximately 80% of all rapes are acquaintance rapes
  • Women between the ages of 15 and 24 are at the highest risk for acquaintance rape
  • Rape is not about sex. It is about Violence and Control.
  • Acquaintance rapists usually use Fear, Intimidation, and Manipulation as their weapons instead of physical force.
  • Approximately half of all acquaintance rapes involve the use of alcohol.
  • One out of 4 women will be raped in her lifetime
  • One out of 3 women will be the victim of some sort of dating violence in her lifetime.
  • The aftermath of rape can last the rest of a person’s life.
  • Convicted rapists may serve 20+ years in jail or they may serve 20 minutes in jail.



It is extremely difficult for rape survivors to discuss their victimization with anyone. They may be afraid; they may be in shock or denial; they may blame themselves. Because of this, it is imperative that when victims do tell of the assault, they are met with empathy and support.  It is difficult to know how to react when you find out that someone you know has been sexually victimized. Here are some statements you may wish to say to someone who tells you she has been assaulted:

  • You’re safe now.
  • It wasn’t your fault
  • I’m here to listen any time you need to talk
  • I believe you
  • I still accept, love and care for you.

If the assault has occurred within 48 hours, you should advise them to do the following:

  • Do not bathe, shower or douche
  • Save the clothing worn at the time of or immediately after the rape.
  • Go to the hospital.

N.B.: If the rape survivor is under 18 years of age, the rape must be reported to the police.


  • Learn about your date’s attitude toward women
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Be aware of your date’s use of them, too.
  • Don’t leave your drink alone or drink something you didn’t get or open yourself. A “date-rape drug” can cause intense drunkenness, difficulty moving and memory loss.
  • Make your limits clear before you get into a sexual situation.
  • Drive yourself, go with another couple, or arrange your own transportation is you don’t know you date well.
  • Avoid secluded places, such as park or deserted beaches. Meet in public where help, should you need it, will be nearby.


  • Violence can occur at any time in a relationship and usually gets worse over time.
  • Violence may occur between couples of all ages, races and incomes.
  • People who are violent toward their partner usually blame the other person for their actions.
    • Remember: You cannot control what another person does.  It is not your fault. He can break up with you or divorce you — he chooses to physically, emotionally and/or sexually abuse you.
    • Violence in relationships as every bit as much a crime as random acts of violence.
      • Assault is against the law, no matter the relationship between attacker and victim.
      • In fact, violence between intimate partners is made worse by the emotional component.
      • Studies show that a woman is battered by her boyfriend or husband every 12-15 seconds.
      • According to the FBI, 30% of female homicides are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.



  • I have the right to refuse a date without feeling guilty.
  • I may choose to flirt without obligation. Flirting does not equal “asking for it.”
  • If I don’t want physical intimacy, I have the right to say no.
  • I have the right to start a relationship slowly.
  • I have the right to be myself and not change to suit others.
  • I have the right to change my relationship if my feelings change.
  • I have the right to an equal relationship
  • If the relationship changes, I have the right to not blame myself or change myself in an effort to maintain it.
  • I have the right not to dominate or be dominated
  • I have the right to act one way with one person and a different way with someone else.
  • I have the right to change my goals whenever I want.
  • I have the right to end a date if I feel uncomfortable.
  • I have the right to ask for help if I need it.


If you find yourself becoming afraid when your partner gets angry, you may already be caught in the Cycle of Violence. The typical three stages of the cycle are:

  • Tension Building
    • Abuser becomes increasingly angry
    • Signs may include pushing, staring, shouting, gesturing or other threatening behaviors.
    • Violent Episodes
      • Incident may be of an emotional, physical or sexual nature
      • With each cycle, the time between violent episodes grows shorter
      • Making up
        • The abuser is “sorry”
        • Promises to never hurt you again
        • Abuser may act very kind and generous — buy you presents, etc.

… And the cycle continues.


In 2006, The Mary Byron Project awarded a Celebrating Solutions grant to The Texas Council on Family Violence. Not only does the Council operate the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), the organization also has done an admirable job creating public awareness by targeting the friends and families of those affected. In 2001, they launched the “BREAK THE SILENCE, MAKE THE CALL” campaign at the Texas State Capitol.

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7723). The TTY number is 1-800-787-3224. A call to the Hotline is anonymous and can provide you with counseling and advice, and put you in direct contact with service providers in your community.

Break the silence. Make the call.

[1] Adapted from the original concept of:  Walker, Lenore. The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.