Say her name- Gladys Ricart

Gladys Ricart. Say her name out loud and she will live through all eternity. She will never be forgotten.

I didn’t know her personally, but I’d heard about her. How? I’m not sure. I think that I told someone about the book I was writing, and they mentioned the annual bride march. Ms. Ricart is one of those people who became famous after her death, although to her family and friends she was loved profoundly both on this planet and after she’d been murdered by an ex-boyfriend who purported to love her. Instead, he shot her in front of her loved ones on her wedding day. This all happened in 1999. There’s so much backstory that I don’t have. I only know the spirit of what occurred through my reading.

Ms. Ricart’s death was yet another in the senseless push-pull of one person’s dominance over another. She’d, according to what I’ve read, claimed her space in the world and chose to walk away from what was not healthy for her and walk toward love. This was effectively stopped by a coward who couldn’t handle the devastation he felt by her ability to be a fully independent person- functioning separate from him. He chose to engage in this act of rage and cease all possibilities for Ms. Ricart’s future.

When I began writing Coney Island Siren I wasn’t so thrilled when I realized it was going to be about domestic violence. As a mental health nurse, in all aspects of my practice, I’ve worked with women who have barely survived similar terribly harrowing situations. What I’ve desired for many has not come to fruition, in terms of my clients getting out of these disastrous relationships. It devastates, not only the individual, but families, children, and whole scores of women. I know that some of you will say it’s not only women, it’s men too. I respect that, but I’m focusing on the women in my experience.

In Coney Island Siren, the protagonist, Maggie Fuentes, lives this same type of existence. Always looking over her shoulder. Trying not to say the wrong thing. Sneaking her way to happiness. My heart is hurting for these women. I know I’ll probably sit in front of another tomorrow in my office at work. For this, I am committed.

On September 26, 2018 the 27th Annual Brides March will be held in NYC. We an join that march to honor Gladys Ricart and all women who valiantly march on this path on a daily basis.

Here’s the link for more information on how you can participate:

http://www.bridesmarch.com/

Choosing what to write

Puerto-Rico-beach.jpg

An opening line turned into a paragraph. It was glorious.  The sun, the sea, a boardwalk and a young woman who was looking out into the vast ocean and sky. The seagulls call and land at her feet. Her hair is blowing in the warm breeze. But wait…oh no. I find out she’s standing with some dude that isn’t the kind of man that shares my existence. He’s the kind of guy I avoid. He’s careless. Okay, maybe not careless. He’s violent. With his words and with his hands. Ugh.

This isn’t the type of book I want to write. But I continue to tap onto my laptop keys. The story emerges. Domestic violence. Not my favorite subject. In fact, it’s one that has kept me frustrated in my work life. I’ve sat across too many pretty young things that wouldn’t think of leaving these situations- not even for the children. So, I hesitated but the words kept flowing and I kept putting them down on paper. Because edits were due for my recently released novel Covering the Sun with My Hand I was able to put that manuscript away for a while. That’s over. That book is done and available on store bookshelves and on Amazon.com.  I took the manuscript back out and added more dialogue, more scenes, more details. The story is being to tell itself with all my reluctance.

Then I get another break. I reluctantly agree to work on Fridays, my sacred writing day, for several weeks. I’m not so thrilled about it. Doing psychiatric evaluations in a room the size of a thimble in a women’s shelter in NYC is something I can do even if I’d rather be writing. I do it. Then I find that there’s something poignant about sharing this space with mentally ill women. I begin to realize is that many of these women have fled other states in order to escape their violent husbands and boyfriends. When I begin to write their stories down I realize many of them have been physically assaulted by men in their lives since early childhood.

As I gazed into the swollen and bruised eye of one woman trying to get her to go for medical care it occurred to me that this was probably the 901th time she’s been punched. She’s tired. A scratched cornea doesn’t sound all that terrible. She probably can’t see what she looks like anyway because she’s lost vision in that eye. My heart opens and breaks a little. I can tell she feels that in the way she turns her head and gives me a half-smile. She agrees to go to the eye doctor like they told her to in the emergency room. I think the smallness of the room allowed for the intimacy and helped our energy vibes touch each other. I hope she goes.

As I write another line in the book I’d come to dread about domestic violence, I know now why I’ve been told to write it. It’s a gift from my Higher Power.  I’d wanted to write a story about ‘pretty.’ You know what they say. God laughs when you’re making plans. She must have been rolling on the floor watching me this time.

I carry on…

 

 

Short Sleeve Weather: Domestic Violence Revealed

It’s ninety six degrees out. Do you wear short sleeves knowing that your arms will be showing? Maybe- if you’ve been consistent in your trips to the gym. Probably not, if you’ve been someone’s punching bag. Black and blues that are often hidden under layers of clothing peep out during warm weather months daring the people who see them to say something. Just like that terrorist warning advertisement says- “If You See Something, Say Something.” I can’t help myself, I have to ask.

I once had a supervisor who asked me whether I was being physically abused when I came into work sporting big bruises on my arms. I actually wasn’t being intentionally harmed but I was involved in martial arts training. I eventually figured out there was something wrong with that picture for me. Coming to grips with both emotional and physical pain and abuse at the hands of people we love is an excruciatingly slow process for many of us.

Being let into the inner sanctum of knowledge that women I’ve known have been secretly battered by loved ones is complicated. The trusted and untrustworthy people who engage in these behaviors have not only been intimate “romantic” partners of varying types but can be also be their children. During the last couple of months of tank tops, sundresses and spaghetti strap heaven, a couple of women have admitted to me that all hasn’t been sunshine and cool ice teas. How do I help?

I’ve learned, after a few decades of providing health care, is to listen to the woman (or male in some cases) tell their stories. Really listen. Then I ask them what they want to do. Be patient. This is the hardest of all for me. Most women I’ve wanted to help have immediately withdrawn their quests for release from lives of punishing blows, emotional dissection and little to no self-esteem when I’ve offered information on possible assistance.

I provide information anyway. It may take only the planting of a seed to grow a bounteous crop. I tread gently. I honor the person who has found the courage to bring up a most humiliating and potentially fatal circumstance.

Below are some links, for you to check out, if you or someone you know has decided not to wear short sleeves today.

For statistics on Domestic Violence:
http://www.ncadv.org/files/NewYork.pdf

Safe Horizon Resources

Homepage

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE

The New York State Coalition against Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-942-6906

The National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-HOPE

The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE