Mary J. Blige is empowering women with this message in her music, her interviews, and at the new Mary J. Blige Center for Women in her hometown of Yonkers, New York. The Center is a sanctuary for physically and emotionally abused women. It provides a network of support and services including psychologists, doctors, day care centers, and scholarships. Ms. Blige intends to expand the concept from her home base to the world:
It starts here. I can’t start in Africa because we need help here. Women are suffering all over the world.
She and Steve Stoute founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) “to inspire women from all walks of life to gain the confidence and skills they need to reach their individual potential.”
When we think of Bill Clinton’s presidency, passage of the Violence Against Women Act isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, he is a tremendous champion for family violence prevention and for people who have experienced abuse. He’s walked in our shoes.
Pat Conroy is a champion for social justice. He’s done more to break down the walls of silence surrounding domestic violence and child abuse than anyone. He summarized his quest early on in The Lords of Discipline (1980) in a passage that chills my soul every time I read it.
Stacey Lannert endured 10 years of rape (ages 8 to 18) before she murdered her father. But, the jury never heard this evidence because it was deemed irrelevant and contrary to the prosecuting attorney’s theory of the case.
Michael Lisagor: ROMANCING THE BUDDHA [Book Review]
. . .in some fashion most of us grew up in dysfunctional families. And, we most likely attended some dysfunctional schools and worked in one or more dysfunctional organizations. So, how do we, as individuals, do more than just survive?
– Michael Lisagor
Michael Lisagor credits his wife Trude for helping him successfully cross the bridge from childhood chaos to joyful life. For over 40 years, they’ve embraced the empowering teachings of Buddhism to reach their full potential:
“As I romanced the Buddha in my life, I started to learn how to forgive adolescent me and rely more on enlightened me.”
Trude and Michael are an amazingly inspiring couple. Michael calls Trude his “pillar,” ”source of strength,” and “Most Beautiful One.”
Their marriage is an equal, unified partnership. They reared their girls to expect to be treated with dignity and respect, and both girls have ”well-developed self-images.”
Steve Martin is a true Renaissance man. He writes books, plays, and movies. He’s a comedian and an actor. He plays the banjo, juggles, and does magic and card tricks. He’s been the host of Saturday Night Live more than anyone. He’s won three Grammys and an Emmy. He was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2005 with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.And, he’s survived childhood abuse.
It’s a miracle that Alyse Myers survived her hellish nightmare of a childhood. It’s a greater miracle that she has a thriving career and her own loving family. How did she do it?
Victor Rivas Rivers’memoir A Private Family Matter is by far the best survivor story I’ve read. Mr. Rivers is the national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). Yes, a former NFL offensive guard for the Miami Dolphins and an actor who has been in dozens of movies is the spokesperson for an issue that many think is reserved for women.
As Father’s Day approaches, I believe we need to acknowledge that a whole lot of us grew up in homes where father didn’t know best. Many of our fathers were abusive tyrants who terrified the hell out of us on a daily basis. Some beat us with fists. Others beat us with words and glares. We weren’t protected by a strong and gentle man. We were on our own to survive as best we could. I think Mr. Rivers’ story of child abuse and neglect, starvation, and emotional abuse will feel quite familiar to many child abuse survivors.
Joe Torre is famous for his baseball career ~ especially his years as the coach of the New York Yankees. Most people aren’t aware that Joe Torre’s father, a New York City cop, was abusive. Although these childhood experiences left their scars, Torre believes they prepared him to deal effectively with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.
Torre has been a strong advocate for domestic violence prevention. He established the Safe at Home foundation and became a member of the Founding Fathers movement which promotes the “Coach Boys into Men” media campaign and training programs. You can watch the “Coach Boys into Men” public service announcement (PSA) at the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s web site.
Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: Clara Ward of Erie, PA Clara Ward, age 70, operates Clara’s Way, a youth development and family center, in Erie, PA for abused and neglected children. Before Extreme Makeover came to Erie, Ms. Ward funded the center out of her $640 monthly income. She did it while confined to a wheelchair.
Wynona Ward is an unlikely hero. She grew up in poverty and abuse in rural West Fairlee, Vermont. Her alcoholic father first sexually assaulted her when she was three. He beat her, her mother, and her siblings. He molested her sisters too. And, her niece (his granddaughter) when she was three. The charges were dropped in that case because the toddler was deemed too young to testify.
A prosecutor, who had seen her in action, encouraged her to go to law school. She started law school at age 44 and earned her law degree from Vermont Law School in 1998 while working as a Schweitzer Fellow in the school’s legal clinic. She was named the 1998 Outstanding Law Student by Who’s Who. The experience inspired her to create Have Justice ~ Will Travel (HJWT) to serve women experiencing domestic violence in rural Vermont. She knew their stories. It was her story too.
I was shocked to discover yesterday afternoon that Oprah’s infamous eating disorder/food addiciton is rooted in being whipped by her grandmother. It was a repeat of her show with Geneen Roth, author of the best-selling Women, Food, and God.
Oprah has talked candidly about her struggles with the disease to please. A lot of us have issues saying “no.” She described the anxiety she experiences each time she has to say “no.” Read more. . .
Fortunately, he has a supportive mother and sister who taught him “nothing would get in his way.” He turned to dance. To read more and see the video, click here.