Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Witness to an unleashing of verbal abuse in a grocery store parking lot August 29, 2017

A snippet of a domestic violence poster published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

HE EXITED AHEAD OF US, the man with his right arm in a cast. His whole demeanor exuded anger as he strode from the grocery store pharmacy empty-handed.

Then the f-word started flying like missiles zoning for a target in the parking lot. “Where the f*** is she?” he shouted, followed by a string of more f-words. Clearly he expected her at the door, waiting for him.

His fury struck me like a coiled rattlesnake. His every move, his every word, heightened my concern. For her. His poisonous words flowed in a venomous assault on the absent woman. If he could verbally attack her in public without her present, what would he say and do in private?

“If he does anything to her, I will call the police,” I told Randy. My husband knew I meant it. I will not hesitate, ever, to phone law enforcement when I see someone being abused. I have done so in the past. If an abused woman was my daughter, my sister, my niece, my friend, I would want someone to speak up, to take action, to refuse to remain silent.

My eyes traced the irate man’s path across the parking lot toward a maroon SUV too distant to notice license plate or details. We watched, listened. I was already mentally preparing to punch 911 into my smartphone.

 

A photo of police reports published in the Faribault Daily News in May show the pervasiveness of domestic calls to local law enforcement. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2017.

 

But no criminal laws had been violated, only human rules of common decency and respect. “He has anger control issues,” Randy observed. I agreed. I feared his rampant rage might explode into physical abuse of the woman behind the steering wheel. Heck, he had already verbally abused her in her absence. I doubt that ended once the vehicle door slammed.

I stood next to our van on the opposite side of the lot, eyes following the vehicle as it turned right onto a frontage road and eventually onto Minnesota State Highway 60 heading west out of Faribault.

I wondered and worried. Could I have done more? What awaited this woman? Would she be OK? Or would he blacken her eyes, clench his hands around her throat, shove her around?  Would he tell her she was worthless and no good and a b****? Would he strike with those venomous words, “f*** you,” while she recoiled in fear?

Perhaps I am wrong about this man, this situation. But my gut and observations tell me otherwise. I trust both; they have never failed me.

 

I hope victims of domestic abuse will focus on that word, HOPE, and take action to reclaim their lives, lives free of abuse.

 

FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship (and that covers not only physical, but also verbal, mental, psychological, emotional, spiritual, technological and financial abuse), please seek help. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, clergy or anyone who can help you. Reach out to your local women’s shelter or advocacy services. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. The probability of violence against victims heightens substantially when they try to leave their abusers. Do not do this alone, for your own safety. You deserve to be free. Free of any type of abuse.

NOTE: I am aware that men can also be victims of abuse. But since women are most often victims, I write about domestic abuse and violence from their perspective. Click here to read previous posts I have written on the subject.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Raising awareness about domestic violence because I care & so should you October 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Becky Kasper's portrait.

Northfield, Minnesota, native Becky Kasper was only 19 and a student at Arizona State University when her abusive ex-boyfriend killed her on April 20, 2013. Her murderer is serving a total of 30 years in prison followed by a life-time of probation with mental health terms. Read Becky’s story by clicking here. She died in a vicious act of domestic violence. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Domestic violence thrives when we are silent; but if we take a stand and work together, we can end domestic violence.the National Network to End Domestic Violence

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

 

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coaltition for Battered Women..

“Homicide” and “murdered,” strong and accurate words on a t-shirt that is part of The Clothesline Project from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Have you thought much about domestic violence? I’ve always thought the word “domestic” minimizes the crime, as if it’s less brutal, less meaningful, less harmful. It’s not. The emotional wounds, especially, run long and deep.

 

Photographed on the inside of a women's bathroom stall at Lark Toys in Kellogg. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

Photographed on the inside of a women’s bathroom stall at Lark Toys in Kellogg. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Have you been impacted by domestic abuse/violence? If you answer, no, I’d be surprised. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women will be the victims of physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Victims of domestic abuse are as close as your next door neighbor, your co-worker, the woman worshiping next to you, your hair stylist, your friend, your niece, your college roommate…you just may not realize it. I can personally list about 20 women by name (family, friends and indirect acquaintances) who have been victims of domestic violence/abuse. Several of them died. Murdered by their abusers.

 

Profound words for anyone who's been abused or known someone who's been abused or is in an abusive relationship.

Profound words for anyone who’s been abused or known someone who’s been abused or is in an abusive relationship from the book, The Help. In this section, Aibileen is talking on the phone with her friend, Minny, who is hunkered down in a gas station after leaving her abusive husband.

 

Are you in an abusive relationship? If you are, I want you to know that you do not deserve this. You are not somebody’s property. You are stronger than you think. There are individuals and organizations who can help you. Don’t do it alone. Leaving an abuser is dangerous; have a safety plan in place before you attempt to leave. You can break free. I believe in you.

 

Bird art perched on a front yard rock.

Survivors are no longer birds in a cage. They are free. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Are you a survivor? I admire you and your strength. You are F-R-E-E. Your abuser can no longer claim you.

 

Reasons she stays, published on page 18. Text copyright of Erica Staab.

Reasons she stays, published on page 18 of She Stays, written by HOPE Center Director Erica Staab. Text copyright of Erica Staab.

 

Through the years, I have written on this topic, and I will continue to do so. Because we need to speak out, to understand, to educate ourselves, to support victims and survivors, to hold offenders accountable, to care.

It’s that important.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Trust your gut. If someone raises red flags (whether in words or behavior) in a relationship, trust your instincts. Trust yourself, not him.
  • Educate yourself. If you learn one thing about domestic abuse, it should be this: Do not blame the victim. Ever.
  • Believe her.
  • Support her. Listen. Keep the communication open. Simply be there.
  • Realize you cannot “save” a woman who is in an abusive relationship. She must decide, on her own, to leave her abuser.
  • When she is ready to leave, help her stay safe. Reach out to resources in your community. Support her. Believe her.
  • Support the victim’s/survivor’s family, too.  Listen. Encourage. Be there. The impact of domestic abuse spirals like a stone dropped in water.
  • Talk to your daughters, your sons, your grandchildren, about healthy relationships.

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FYI:

Domestic abuse is about control, manipulation and power. It can take the forms of physical (including sexual), mental, emotional, financial and spiritual abuse. Abusers want to “own” their victims; they do not.

If you are in an abusive relationship and are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is an especially dangerous time.

Seek help from a local resource center or safe house. Or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline at 1-800-799-7233. You deserve to be free.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For purposes of this article, I reference women as victims of domestic abuse, realizing that men and children are also victims.

 

The disturbing truths revealed in “Why I Left the Amish” December 13, 2011

ANY ILLUSION I’VE HELD of the Amish living Utopian existences has been shattered into a million shards after reading Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir.

Written by Saloma Miller Furlong, a woman raised in an Amish community in Ohio, this rates as one of the most disturbing books I’ve read given my preconceived notions about an idyllic Amish world.

Certainly, all Amish should not be pigeonholed by this single book.

Yet, the truths shared by Furlong cannot be ignored. The Amish, like none of us, live pastoral, simple, uncomplicated lives.

In Furlong’s situation, she lived a living hell. I can think of no other way to describe the horrific stories of abuse within her family shared in her memoir.

As I read her book, I began to understand how living within the confines of rigid rules and beliefs within a closed community can allow such abuse to continue without intervention.

According to Furlong:

Individuality is squelched in the name of “community.”

Women/girls are to be subservient to men/boys.

Obedience is demanded.

Rules rule.

Humbleness of spirit prevails and not always in a positive way.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not condemning the Amish or their chosen beliefs or lifestyle. But I have, through Furlong’s memoir, come to understand how ideologies can keep the issues of abuse hidden and ignored deep within the community.

In Furlong’s case, she writes of the shame heaped upon her family by the Amish community aware of dysfunction within her family. Her father was mentally ill, her mother unwilling to protect her daughters, her brother abusive.

Her words hurt your heart. Simple as that.

Furlong writes:

“Our fear of Datt’s violence kept us trapped so that we could not even imagine freedom.”

Eventually that fear of violence also gave Furlong the courage to plan her escape and flee in 1977 at the age of 20.

But can you imagine how difficult that decision must have been, knowing this:

“It is a belief system that a child inherits, in which one believes one is damned if one leaves the Amish.”

FURLONG IS CURRENTLY co-writing a sequel, When We Were Young and She Was Amish, with her husband, David. After that initial escape, where Why I Left the Amish ends, Furlong was tracked by her family and the bishop and returned to her Amish community. Later she would flee for a second, and final, time.

Why I Left the Amish was published in 2011 by Michigan State University Press.

This is a must-read book, even if you’re not interested in the Amish. Furlong’s memoir addresses abuse and we can all learn from it, no matter our beliefs.

© Review text copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling