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19 years ago a mother was butchered to death in her walkway as her children slept upstairs. Not far from where she laid dying was her friend, also butchered, after attempting to do a good deed.

Small personal touches like a bath that had been run or a cup of ice cream melting on a bannister went from little personal pleasures to evidence attempting to place a time of death.

The man accused of their murder was called an American hero over 4 million times in the news in the days following his arrest. That man had pleaded no contest to spousal abuse a few years before. Still, he was called a hero.

Much has changed when it comes to the perception of domestic violence in this country. Unfortunately it was while America was glued to a trial often billed as The Trial of the Century.

We all saw the pictures of a battered face. We listened to 911 calls and heard the rage of a man who thought it was ok to break down a door as his ex-wife cowered behind it. We listened as she told the operator exactly what he was going to do to her when he broke that door down if help didn’t get there quickly.

We know that eventually she ended up dead.

So what is it about domestic violence that still is so puzzling? Nicole Brown Simpson changed perceptions in that we saw that it was not a problem exclusive to any race, ethnicity or even financial status.

She had our sympathy. But he was still called a hero. For running a ball? For parlaying a charming personality into a broadcasting and acting career? For those rental car commercials?

For pleading no contest to spousal abuse?

It is a sad reality that despite a raised awareness about domestic violence, we still have a long way to go. The signs are often missed and the dynamics of a relationship get lost in trying to assign blame.

It is often hard to understand why a victim goes back or even stays. It’s even harder when the abuse is hidden which is often the case.

The fear that Nicole Brown Simpson often voiced was that he was going to kill her and get away with it. She knew enough about a public image that was very different than the he that appeared in private.

It is that fear that many victims have. It doesn’t matter if he’s a football player, a doctor, a lawyer, or a police officer. No abuser is going to work speaking about that great beating they gave the wife last night or how much she deserved it.

Nicole Brown Simpson was a beautiful woman and it seemed that she had the perfect life. Until she was found in a pool of blood nearly decapitated.

19 years later there are still too many victims. They don’t all look like Nicole but they all have something in common. They are being abused and they worry that nobody will believe them or that their abuser is too charming, popular or charismatic for people to believe he is an abuser.

Abusers come in all shapes and sizes. There are even some who believe them to be heroes. Nicole’s ex-husband spent a lot of time searching golf courses for her real killer, that is until he ended up in prison for different crimes.

19 years ago a woman never got to take her warm bath or finish her ice cream. She was butchered in the walkway of her home as her children slept upstairs. Her ex, the same ex who had given a plea of no contest for spousal abuse was still called a hero. Over 4 million times.

Perceptions have changed since that day. But we still have a way to go.

If you or someone you know needs help The Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence will be merging with the Coalition Against Child Abuse & Neglect forming The Safe Center LI. Please call for help or visit the web sites.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Hello friends,

I am writing to tell you about a Red Cross volunteer day to Far Rockaway, Queens, which you’ve probably heard about. The story of my last stint at the shelter in Long Island was posted on the CUNY SPS Community Blog, and I thank them for their initiative. It may also be on the Red Cross blog soon.

This stretch of land, Far Rockaway, is a peninsula on the south end of Queens/Long Island, just south of JFK airport, which was right in Sandy’s way and still has widespread power outages and fuel shortages.

The New York Red Cross organized a volunteer effort to cover some of the most affected areas, which are basically the last pockets without power. There is an info-graphic that compares three recent major storms.

This was also an interesting day. We met up with our Red Cross (ARC) friend and headed down to Floyd Bennett airfield where the National Guard, FEMA, ARC, etc., have set up with fuel tanker trucks, trailers, mass kitchens from the Southern Baptists, and so on. Anne and I were with an ARC member and we set out ahead of the volunteer bus to find the location where we were to meet the food trucks, and to let folks in the area know there would be hot food.

The drive to Far Rockaway over the bridge from the airfield was an eye-opener. Even big trees had toppled and the storm’s winds had spread the sand from the beach from the waterfront up to a few hundred yards inland. Written on a boarded-up McD’s was: “Nothing here 2 take. U R 2 late.” Some commentary on night-time activity. Smashed car windows told the same story.

People in those neighborhoods were tending to their homes, generating piles of rubble that sanitation crews were picking up here and there. Some streets were closed to traffic entirely, because of downed trees, downed cables, trash, or rubble. Utility crews, said to come from all over the country, were all throughout the neighborhood, working on power lines and assessing damage. Some unfortunate neighborhoods will always be the last to have services restored.

Much of the dislocation comes from the associated effects of not having power—no heat, communications, spoiled food, trash piling up, lack of fuel, totaled cars everywhere… The area has been without power since the storm 18 days ago, when the ocean water, 4 to 6 feet deep, rushed in and destroyed any electrical circuit it met—in cars, in fuse boxes on houses, street lights, garages. Generators were around by buildings, work sites, and on main streets and corners. Lines of hundreds waited in long lines for fuel trucks, carrying gas cans to fill up their cans and generators, all overseen by police officers.

We found that a church close by had clothing donation and distribution going on, and found people charging their phones on generators. The food trucks arrived soon, run by volunteers from California, Virginia, and other places. People soon started queuing up for a hot meal ready to go, but that didn’t compare to when the next truck, carrying a load of clean-up kits, diapers, and over 900 comfort kits (containing a blanket, flash light, batteries, wipes, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, and more) arrived. Since we had walked the neighborhood, we easily found three apartment complexes that lacked generators and the kits found their way into the crowds in less than an hour. Here a word about the volunteers. They came from schools and companies all over town and formed instant teams for canvassing, food prep, handing out supplies, and did it all with a compassionate and positive attitude.

There were bright spots. Some houses had remained dry and people had taken in others who had no place to go. Sometimes we were told that things were fine, or that neighbors were helping each other by sharing a generator. In another back yard we found a guy with a beer and a hearty “who cares”-laugh barbecuing.

The whole effort will have gone on for a few more days after the first one on Saturday, which we were part of. I am thankful for getting a chance to help, and that leads me, with a little smile, to a good opportunity to mention that a small donation to the Red Cross is a very easy and helpful way to support disaster relief, not just here, but all over the country.

One more thought. After Katrina hit New Orleans it became public knowledge that in a situation like this people really need to be prepared to get by on their own for 72 hours. Please consider checking a preparedness web site to make a plan. They say hindsight is 20/20, but sucks nonetheless, if enjoyed from a raft.

Best, as always,

Mike

PS: As always, these views are my own and do not reflect the views or positions of any other party, directly, or otherwise.

Michael Spieth is a graduate of the Advanced Certificate in Project Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.