Dear Congresswoman Eshoo
Thank you so much again for that lovely personal letter you sent me in support of my program, Women-of-Means Escape Network, Silicon Valley (WOMEN~SV), a non-profit program funded by the Los Altos Community Foundation.
As you’ll recall, our mission is to raise awareness about domestic violence in affluent areas and to offer women information and resources to deal with it more safely and effectively, not only for their sake but for the sake of their children. Because whether women live in a studio apartment or on a ten acre estate, one thing domestic violence victims all have in common is living like prisoners in their own home.
I am very excited to report that Senator Jim Beall, Supervisor Joe Simitian, and retired Judge Len Edwards (who created the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council) have offered their support of my program as well.
I also started a monthly column in our local newspaper the Los Altos Town Crier on domestic violence in affluent communities. If you have time, here is the first one: http://www.losaltosonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44772&Itemid=47
After the shootings in CT, I noted that President Obama and Senator Feinstein will be initiating a dialogue about strategies to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening in the future. I would very much appreciate being a part of this dialogue for the reasons I outline below:
With regard to this horrific massacre in Connecticut, the shooter killed his mother first and then 20 children at the school he went to/his mother taught at (according to some reports). And he apparently used a high powered weapon that belonged to his mother (she owned several).
People are talking about gun control. But I am wondering if domestic violence is a factor here. I realize this is speculation, but for a young man to kill his mother with her own gun and then to turn it on students at his mother’s school suggests something was terribly wrong between them. This young man committed the ultimate form of domestic violence–murder–before going on to take the lives of many innocent children.
As a country, I hope we can open a dialogue about healthy versus unhealthy relationships and start educating our children about what they look like–not just between husbands and wives but between parents and children, and children and their peers, since bullying is the gateway behavior to domestic violence.
Sadly, school may be their only exposure to this kind of information. Yet it could end up saving lives, once they understand concepts like compassion, nurturing, respect, forgiveness, equality, the right to peace and freedom and safety at home, in school, in the workplace. 1 in 3 children raised in an abusive home will grow up to become a victim or abuser. 1 in 3 women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. Could this young man be one of those children? Could his mother be one of those women?
With many families, school may be their only opportunity to learn that abuse is wrong, no one ever deserves it, and there are other, healthier ways to treat people and be treated.
Teaching these fundamental values and human rights can help better inform and influence the way children learn to treat their parents, spouses, sons, and daughters. And if they learn there is another way, that it won’t always be like this, that they do have options, it might just prevent them from taking their own lives–or those around them.
President Obama talked about making changes in response to this tragedy. Stricter gun control may be one of those changes. But people pick up guns for a reason. We can’t just say he was crazy/a monster/had access to guns. We must ask, Why did he start by killing his mother? What were the family dynamics? According to some reports, his mother was very “controlling”, and possessed a disturbing collection of assault weapons which she shared with her son. People who knew him said he was brilliant but “remote” and a “goth”, an outsider. And she home-schooled him, which in this case would have isolated him even more. I want to know why he was described in this way. Was he bullied? Was he abused? If so, was there no one there to witness it, tell him that it was wrong and he didn’t deserve it? Was there no one to validate his experience, no one to show him what compassion, love, mercy look like? No one to teach him there are other options besides abuse, retribution, hatred, revenge, murder? Was there no one at all?
One healthy adult can make all the difference in a child’s life. When the family fails, that healthy adult could be the teacher. Isn’t “Respect”, just as important to learn as the other “3 R’s”? I hope that educating our children about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like and offering more resources to help children and young adults that are being abused will be some of the changes President Obama considers.
If you are inviting a dialogue about different approaches and strategies that might help prevent a tragedy like this from occurring in the future, I would very much appreciate being allowed to participate. I believe systemic change must be a part of it–starting as early as elementary school. Otherwise we are only treating the symptom, not the root cause.
Ruth Patrick, M.A.
Domestic Violence Consultant
A Los Altos Community Foundation
183 Hillview Avenue
Los Altos, CA