ENOUGH! mad-men behavior

Photo by Sara Naomi Lewkowicz

Photo by Sara Naomi Lewkowicz

Media stories today from Vermont and Ohio illuminate the unimaginable brutality of abusive men toward women. Both of these accounts will unsettle viewers and listeners to the core.

I must admit that I asked myself this very day, why expose yourself to something so disturbing? Why ruffle your day?

And an answer came quickly from within on that question’s heels:

… because you need to witness the human suffering of others up close in order to grow in compassion … because you must continue strengthening your own personal voice as a woman … because you are responsible for those voiceless ones who require someone to advocate for them … because you are called to help other women reclaim their own powerful voices …

The first story involves a woman from my own Green Mountain State, Carmen Tarleton.  This former registered nurse is known to Vermonters.  In 2007, she was brutally beaten by her estranged huband and then deeply disfigured when he covered her with industrial lye.

She survived–and today received the fifth full face transplant ever performed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston!  Hear her inspiring words on Boston.com.  Despite devastating horrors, she is a beacon of hope and inspiration for all women …

The other story, equally unnerving, is a photo slide show (with must-read captions) by Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a graduate student at Ohio University.  While photographing her thesis project, she found herself in the midst of a domestic dispute between a partnered man and woman. (Read Sara’s own commentary too, below the photo slideshow.)

While you might criticize her for not intervening, she succeeds in capturing hidden-from-view domestic violence (and its progression), which thousands of women enounter daily at the hands of abusive mad-men.

Week-to-week, we at writinginsideVT work with incarcerated women on the receiving end of such horrific abuse prior to imprisonment.

In 2012, the National Institute of Corrections estimated that 52 percent of female inmates reported some kind of physical or sexual abuse prior to incarceration.

..which is why we work with these women, word by word, circle by circle, helping them unearth their dignity as women, as well as their powerful voices, so they can (hopefully) protect and advocate for themselves in that distant day.

living inside our bodies

Credit: BStarrArt

The majority of women we write with have lived through abusive relationships.

The National Institute of Corrections estimates that 52 percent of imprisoned females in the U.S. reported some form of domestic or sexual abuse prior to being jailed.

As a result, it’s not hard to imagine the physical, psychological and emotional traumas that a woman entering Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility bears.

We leave the deep work of unpacking those traumas to the mental health practicioners at the facility, for sure.

However, we do look for opportunities to have the women write about ‘living inside their bodies’ with mindfulness and respectful awareness.  We tread softly in our work, exhibit compassion, and allow the women to choose for themselves where they want to go in their self-expressions.

Last week’s writing circle began with the quote:

Be strong then, and enter into your own body; there you have a solid place for your feet.
–  #14 in The Kabir Book, translated by Robert Bly

CR wrote about her past as a body, with the parts being different ages or events, evoking a set of memories unique to herself.


My fingers, all 10 of them, have felt many things over the  years. The soft warm fuzz of my cat. The movement of his thundering purrs erupting from his body.

My hands, the two of them, have given many hugs.

My two arms reaching to my love, giving great big hugs as if I were trying to reach around a big oak tree.

My heart, the only one I have, has a couple of chips out of it from being pushed around. But the love that’s still within shines out every time I hear a bird. Remember the ones at home watching for me to return? Continue reading

women’s pathways to prison

Women’s pathways to incarceration differ from their male counterparts.  A decade of research by Stephanie Covington and Barbara Bloom of the Center for Gender and Justice in LaJolla, Calif. confirms that female offenders face “gender-specific adversities.”

They are more likely to be:

* survivors of sexual/physical abuse as children and/or adults

* in their early-to-mid thirties

* convicted of a drug or drug-related crime

* from fragmented/impoverished families involved in the criminal justice system

* individuals with significant substance abuse problems

* individuals with mental health problems

* unmarried mothers of minor children

* high school graduates, but limited in work history or vocational training

* predominantly women of color

We at writinginsideVT are devotees of Covington’s and Bloom’s gender-responsive & trauma-informed approaches to treatment/services in correctional settings.  We’ll be bringing you more of their research and philosophy, which nicely parallels the thrust of our program.