Why Do Victims of Domestic Abuse Stay?

No one else will ever want me and I’ll die alone.

It was my fault he hit me.

He promised not to do it again.

I’m the only one who cares about him, I can’t leave him now.

I love him.

He’s really sweet most of the time, he only hits me when he’s angry.

He’ll hurt himself if I leave, and it’ll be my fault.

I deserved it for being a bad spouse.

This just means he’s passionate about me.

Maybe he’ll change.

I can’t leave because he has complete control over our finances. The checkbook, savings account, house and cars are all solely in his name.

Everyone will say they told me so.

I’m a stay-at-home parent. But with no income I wouldn’t get custody of our child.

If the above text made your skin crawl, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re not a sociopath.

The Ray Rice incident has a lot of people wondering why domestic violence victims stay with their abusers.

I have been privileged in my life in that I have never experienced domestic violence, but I have spoken with those who have, and I have listened to what they told themselves when they were suffering abuse. These are reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, but really, I suspect they’re just excuses.

The real reason people stay in abusive relationships is that the abuser brainwashes them and victimizes them so constantly that they have no self-worth anymore, and the abuser strategically removes every resource the victim has to prevent them from escaping. It’s all about removing independence from the victim.

It’s a common tactic to cut victims off from family and friends. It’s a common tactic to remove access to money and finances to create dependency. It’s a common tactic to make the victim believe the abuser is the one dependent on the victim. Abusers may get victims to quit their jobs, stop visiting family, drop their friends and stop going out.

These are deliberate choices by the abuser, deliberate manipulations that get the abuser what he or she wants. It’s not some sort of accident that victims think this way. It’s not an accident that victims often stay. That’s what the abusers want; that’s their goal.

In other words, the real reason people stay with their abusers is that they are being abused. It’s not what the victims say to themselves, it’s what the abuser is doing.

Don’t put the onus on the victim, here. Why do they stay? Because they’re being abused, that’s why, and it’s messing with their heads.

And another thing?

Never think this couldn’t happen to you, because that’s probably the one thing that all victims of domestic violence do have in common.

It happens to men and women alike and some victims are very smart, very strong people whose strength has been deliberately, strategically eroded over years by abusers.

The Frost Giants: A New UND Nickname?

The Sioux nickname issue is over for the University of North Dakota, but it has left UND without a nickname and a mascot.

Last week, UND grad Lisa Monte wrote a letter to the Grand Forks Herald suggesting a new nom de game: The Frost Giants. That’s pretty clever, actually–it’s right out of Norse myth.

Ymir, Frost Giant

Ymir, Frost Giant

The downside might be that people don’t immediately recognize what a Frost Giant is. Someone asked about them on the Herald’s Facebook page, so I got out my “D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths,” an introductory guide to the subject meant for children, and tried to answer the question.

I’ve always loved the book for its beautiful illustrations, made with loving detail in colored pencil by husband-and-wife team Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire, so I thought I’d post some of the pictures here to introduce others to the D’Aulaires’ beautiful work. I really can’t recommend this book enough.


Ymir and Trolls

Ymir and Trolls

That’s a six-headed troll sprouting from Ymir’s feet, and another male and female jotun (frost giant) sprouting from his armpits.

Ymir Gets Beaten Up

Ymir Gets Beaten Up

Ymir is a bit like the Titans of Greek mythology, really. Here, Odin and his god-buddies are slaying Ymir, and after the frost giant is dead, they build the world from his body. No, seriously, he was that big, apparently. I love how the illustration shows the remnants of Ymir:

Standing on a Nose

Standing on a Nose

As to whether the UND teams should call themselves the Frost Giants, I’m not sure. They’re usually– but definitely not always– pictured as ugly, and they’re usually–but definitely not always– the antagonists of what we’d think of as the “normal” Norse pantheon.

However, they are also scary, intimidating and large, all traits one normally wants in a sports team.

What do you think?

Remembering Jerry Kainz

Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye.

For me, that applies to a lot of things, including shoes. I’ll buy a pair of shoes and, if I like them, I’ll wear them in, wear them out, and then keep on wearing them until they literally start to fall apart. In a few cases I’ve even attempted to glue them back together again just so I can wear them a little more.

I was wearing a pair of shoes a little longer than I should have when I stepped into the Jamestown Fire Department building one evening, and one of the soles had finally given up the ghost, flapping against the bottom of the rest of the shoe and the fire hall floor. I ignored them and looked for a firefighter, so I could get some basic information about a fire that had happened earlier.

It was Deputy Chief Jerry Kainz who helped me out, but not without pointing out the problem I was having with my shoe and teasing me a bit about it. We both thought it was pretty funny, actually–my shoe was flapping every step I took and I had to be careful not to trip on it.

After that, every time I stopped by at the JFD in the evening, I looked for Jerry. Everybody in that fire department is really helpful, but I remembered Jerry because of my shoe. He remembered my shoe too, because just about every time I’d go in there we’d have a bit of banter about whatever shoes I happened to be wearing that day.

And Jerry always knew the answers to all my reporter questions, too, and gave neat, organized answers. How many people were at the fire? How many trucks? What did you use to put it out? Any injuries? Is it totally destroyed? What caused the fire?

I was saddened to hear today that Jerry had passed away yesterday. I can’t say that I knew him very well, but I absolutely can say that he made me smile, more than once. He made my job easier, more than once.

While I never look forward to fires, I never minded going over to the fire hall, and part of that was because I knew Jerry was likely to be there, with both information and a quip about my (occasionally dubious) footwear.

I have since said goodbye to the shoe that prompted the initial exchange. I don’t even miss it.

I already miss Jerry Kainz, though–his quick smile, his knowledge and the ready way he shared them both. He made a difference to a great many people through his work with the JFD–saving homes, preventing property damage, saving lives.

But he also made a difference to me, even with just a smile and a helpful word.

Thanks, Jerry. Thank you.

Help Needed: Songs About Disasters

What’s your favorite disaster song?

I have been chided about not blogging often enough, and I said that once I was done with our upcoming totally-awesome Progress edition (really, it was fun to do this year!) I would start blogging again.

I’m not quite finished, so maybe I can get some help from my audience, if I still have one.

There are a lot of songs about disasters, whether it’s the figurative or the literal kind, and I realized the other day that there are at least a few about specific disasters. There are songs about shipwrecks, songs about storms, songs about wars, songs about hurricanes. There are even songs about the banana disaster. (It was a lot of bananas, to be fair.)

There are at least three songs about volcanoes:

1. Pompeii, by Bastille, which is about, yes, Pompeii, the town destroyed by Mount Vesuvius, so suddenly that a lot of people were buried in ash before they had time to run.

2. Volcano, by Damien Rice. This one seems to be a more metaphorical take on volcanoes, but does include some volcanic lyrics: “You give me miles and miles of mountains and I ask for the sea.”

3. 1816, the Year Without a Summer, by Rasputina. I’ve written about this before, and you probably remember it. Mount Tambora erupted and filled the skies with ash, causing brutally cold temperatures in Europe. It was the Little Ice Age.

What are your favorite songs about disasters? Have I missed any volcano songs?

Saturday’s Terrifying Incident

The scariest thing ever happened to me on Saturday: I gave my parents a perfectly valid reason to say “I told you so.”

I also slid off the Interstate at 75 miles per hour, but hey, perspective, people.

I’m fine, and while my car’s bumper is hanging down on one side, my car is also mostly fine.

Actually, the outcome of the accident was about as good as it was possible to be. I didn’t hit anyone or anything but snow. My car didn’t flip over. I didn’t even have time to be scared or worried, and afterward, I sat in the driver’s seat of my car on the median of I-29 about 20 miles south of Fargo, and thought: Well, huh. That happened.

A deputy arrived about 10 minutes after I called. A tow truck arrived about 25 minutes later and tugged me gently out of the median. Its kind-hearted driver told me my bumper was down on one side, and advised me to ask someone at a local truck stop to help me use a bungee cord to secure it temporarily, so that I could get back Jamestown okay.

I drove slowly to the truck stop and stood in line with some bungee cords; then I asked the cashier if she knew anyone who could lend a hand. The man in line behind me said he’d look at it and that I should wait before buying the cords so I could be sure I was getting the right ones.

He looked; I swapped the cords for a different set, and then he rigged the bumper up.

I went to my board game gathering in Fargo–two hours late–and asked my friends if one of them could put me up, because while I was in relatively good spirits, my taste for driving was definitely gone for the night. Two people offered me guest rooms, so I chose the one with the cat. (It is a particularly beautiful cat.)

On Sunday, my kind host fed me bacon and hot tea and sent me on my way.

The drive from West Fargo to Jamestown was awful. Along the way I saw multiple accidents. One woman sheltered a small golden-colored dog as she walked along the interstate to a waiting car, away from some sort of a wreck. At least one semi truck lay in the ditch, its weight clearly unable to protect it entirely.

Another accident occurred right in front of me, as an SUV from the opposite lane from me slid into the median. Only that unfortunate driver wasn’t lucky like me and his or her vehicle ended up on its side. As I passed, I saw one frail-looking arm push the heavy door up.

I called 911 and reported it, worrying that reporting the accident would cause me to get into another accident, but it didn’t.

It took about twice as long as usual to get from Fargo to Jamestown, but I stopped several times just to give myself a break.

It wasn’t until I was safely home that I realized the true horror of my own position. Before I left Jackson, Minnesota, to return to Jamestown, my parents had told me that the weather was bad and the roads terrible. I told them I’d simply drive more carefully.

Well, it turned out they were right, and now they have earned the absolute and total right to say “I told you so” for at least the next decade or so.

And I’m doomed.

Fashion Show

I went to the Buffalo Mall and caught about half of the fashion show there on Saturday. It was very refreshing to see ordinary people of various sizes, shapes, genders and ages modeling the clothes! Not everyone has the same body type, after all.

Baby Model

This model was too young to strut his stuff on the catwalk, but his mom carried him, so he got to show off his John Deere duds anyway. Super cute! Kudos to both of these lovely folks for serving as models.

Styles came from a lot of different stores in the Buffalo Mall.

Hat Tip

A young model tips his hat at the end of the runway during a fashion show at the Buffalo Mall Saturday.

I never found out why there were so many elves at the shindig, but they looked great and they certainly made the place festive.

Elves! Surely Santa can't be far behind?

Elves! Surely Santa can’t be far behind?

Plenty of kids showed up at the mall Saturday, too.

Treat Bags

Kids at the event got treat bags.

Dogs Who Survived Puppy Mill Need Families

Many of the dogs rescued from puppy mills have lasting issues. Some of them are health-related, like urinary tract infections, dental problems that have required removal of teeth or worse.

Other issues are behavioral. Some of the dogs haven’t had any socialization at all, so they’re timid around strangers, won’t get too close to people and have habits that are atypical for dogs raised in better conditions. They might gobble their food down so fast they choke, or they might hide food for later, knowing that in the past, food hasn’t been supplied regularly. When faced with stress, they might go to a quiet place and hide, ignoring everything. They haven’t been housebroken, so they’re more likely to have accidents inside the house than other dogs.

These dogs often still do make great pets, though. They just might require more time and more patience from their owners. The older ones, some of whom have been used as breeders under terrible conditions for years, likely won’t turn around in a week or two. It takes a long time to get over something like that for an animal, just like it would for a person.

It may sound odd, but I thought of the women Ariel Castro kidnapped and imprisoned for years in Cleveland. It’s terrible that people can do these things to other people. It’s terrible that people can do these things to dogs, too.

There’s still hope, though, and as time goes on, the dogs do get better.

I wrote a story this week about some of the dogs saved from a puppy mill near Wheatland, N.D. in July. While more than 174 dogs were taken from the mill, our local group Prairie Paws Rescue took in nine of them. Three of those nine have been adopted, and six of them remain in foster homes waiting for more permanent homes.

Prairie Paws deliberately took in some of the hardest cases, because it has experience dealing with puppy mill dogs and their unique set of issues, so it’s not surprising that some of the dogs still haven’t found good homes yet.

The dogs, all of whom were named after cars, have been making progress.


This is Porsche, one of the dogs that has been adopted. She’s getting along quite well, according to her new owner, Terry McCleary, of Ashley, N.D.


Mercedes, called Mercy by her fosterer, Stacey Ellingson, hasn’t yet been adopted, but her condition has improved greatly from the above image. While she was at the puppy mill, the fur around her eye became matted, to the extent that her eye was beginning to close up.

It looks like they had to trim her hair pretty short, so I’m guessing the matting was pretty bad. Since then, though, with the help of eyedrops and Ellingson’s dedication, Mercy’s eye has improved. And her fur has grown back, too–she looks pretty fluffy now.


She’s probably going to need eyedrops for a while, yet, and may always need them.

“Her hair has grown out, the eye is looking better and her skin and coat are much healthier. She is now a happy girl,” Ellingson wrote in an email to me.


She is a pretty cute dog. According to Ellingson, she does like people, and she’s fine with other dogs, as long as they don’t get in her face.

Mercy served as a breeder dog, so she was older when she was rescued–probably around 7 or 8. That makes her a harder case for adoption, even though, as Ellingson pointed out, she has many good years left in her.

She needs to be on special food. And she has a tendency to gobble her food, and treats too, sometimes inadvertently nipping a finger or two in her haste. Sometimes she pees in the house, as puppy mills don’t teach their dogs to go to the door if they need to go out.

And when she’s stressed, she goes somewhere quiet and sort of shuts down, becoming so unresponsive that rescuers initially thought she was deaf. She’s not deaf, though–it’s just her response to difficult conditions, a coping mechanism she developed at the puppy mill.

For more information about the Wheatland dogs that Prairie Paws still has — Porsche, Mercedes, Buick and the others — click here. Prairie Paws has a website, too, and you can view all the animals currently available for adoption there, dogs and cats, kitties and puppies too.

Dead Wives and Lazy Writers

Dracula is a terrible show, and while Sleepy Hollow has great moments, it too is sometimes afflicted by lazy writing–and both shows suffer from Dead Wife Syndrome.

However, they make having a Dead Wife look so good that I almost want a Dead Wife or two myself.Dracula’s Dead Wife is beautiful, and he loved her. That’s really all we know about her,

My existence adds nothing to this show.


and those are the only things that matter about her. She’s not a real character, and she’s only important because of her relationship to Dracula. This is about as antifeminist as it gets, folks–a woman is dead, but it’s only important because of how the man feels about it, and what the man is going to do about it.

And it’s great that she’s a Dead Wife, because it means that he doesn’t actually have to work at having a relationship with her, and it certainly means he doesn’t have to listen to her. He doesn’t have any obligations toward her, and can in fact sleep with every woman on the show without feeling guilty, because hey, she’s only a Dead Wife after all.

In short, Dracula’s Dead Wife is just another objectified woman.

And it’s lazy writing, to boot. There’s no need for her to exist, except to create an artificial emotional connection between Dracula and a woman who coincidentally looks a lot like her. A real connection and a real attraction would be better, but hey, writing about that would be work.

None of my opinions matter because I’m dead. I’m just here to make my hubby feel things, thanks.

The Dead Wife on Sleepy Hollow is even worse in some ways, because while she’s conveniently Dead, she still shows up–but only when she is useful.

Katrina turns up only to save the male protagonist from the threat-o’-the-week, or to dispense massive gobs of exposition, which, by the way, is a sign of sloppy writing. In every case, the writers could have come up with some other way to deliver the same information to the viewers, so this particular Dead Wife is a sort of exposition-o-matic.

Sleepy Hollow at least tried to give its Dead Wife a personality, but so far it hasn’t actually worked. They tried to make her brave by having her talk back to an abusive enemy soldier. They tried to make her principled by having her be a Quaker. But none of her dialogue really made her stand out in any way, and it ended up being pretty empty, especially compared with the two lead characters on the show, both of whom are generally pretty well-written.

And again, of course, she’s a Dead Wife, so the male protagonist doesn’t have to work on any kind of relationship with her or really bother about her much at all. Sure, he says he’s upset that his Dead Wife is trapped in limbo, but he hasn’t tried to do much about it, and he certainly hasn’t tried to chat with her at all on the occasions she shows up.

He hasn’t asked why she lied to him during their marriage or deceived him about critical issues. He hasn’t even asked what she does all day in limbo, or if she’s feeling all right, or what she thinks about modern America. And she never has much to say other than what’s convenient to the plot.

She’s just a Dead Wife, after all, it isn’t as if she’s important or anything. She’s only there to make the male protagonist have feelings, provide exposition or be a deus ex machina.

She’s just a tool.

And I for one would like to see women characters treated better on my television shows, fantasy, scifi or none of the above.

For more information on using dead women as mere plot devices rather than characters, click here.

Rip Haywire Offers Snarky Adventure

The Jamestown Sun recently added three new comics to its roster, and as one of them is a serial adventure comic — and we started in the middle of a storyline — I thought I would provide readers with a quick guide to the new comic, Rip Haywire.

According to Wikipedia, Rip Haywire is written and illustrated by Dan Thompson. It’s a serial action/adventure strip, stylized, but with a snarky, comedic bent — occasionally it reads more like a parody than anything.

The great thing about serial comics in the modern age is that you can often read archives online if you miss an installment in the paper. Accordingly, a couple years of Rip Haywire are archived on GoComics.


Rip: He was hired to provide security for Fengshui Kelly’s poker game. The comic is named after him, and he seems to be the protagonist. Thompson has described him as a brave, handsome man of honor who lives for dangerous thrills. (Shown above, right)

Breezy: A pilot with an island charter service. Recently she apparently lost her helicopter. At some point after that, she saved Cobra’s life and then Cobra saved hers. She appears to be Rip’s girlfriend. (Shown at right)

Fengshui Kelly: With a mustache like that, he must be a villain. However, the portly gent wearing a Hawaiian shirt claims he’s running a high-stakes poker tournament, and hired Rip and Breezy as security and pilot, respectively. (Shown at the bottom of the post)

Cobra: A beautiful pirate queen, and according to Wikipedia, an ex-girlfriend of Rip. Thompson has described her as a self-reliant master thief. And an amoral one at that. (Shown at left)

According to the wikipedia page, this comic has a few other characters I haven’t seen yet:

TNT: Rip’s cowardly collie. Thompson called him “A coward’s coward.”

R.J.: An orphan kid.

The Story So Far:

Recently Breezy and Cobra were engaged in a battle of sorts over a magical wish-granting tiki statue, which ended up being lost to the ocean. At some point prior to this, Breezy’s helicopter was put out of commission and presumably, destroyed; I don’t know, as that was before we started carrying the comic.

Since the tiki storyline was over, the storyline has moved on to a high-stakes poker game run by Fengshui Kelly.

More information on Rip Haywire can be found here.

I’ll try to keep you updated on what happens in the comic as time goes on.

Fall Festival Photos

I took a lot of photos at the Medina Fall Festival, and we didn’t use all of them in the paper, of course. Some were definitely better than others, but here are my leftovers, so to speak.

Cute Baby

Cute baby! Look at those little toesies.

Waiting for Candy

Kids waiting for candy.

Not all the parade units were vehicles. Some people walked.

Tuckered Out

This little girl seemed tuckered out.

Tractor-Truck Pull

I believe this was used for the truck/tractor pull.