In the Name of Love
An Educational DVD
One third of American women report that at some time in their lives they were involved in abusive controlling and often violent relationships. Entertainer Tina Turner and Nicole Brown Simpson were just two well-known examples. Why don’t the victims of abusive partners leave? What draws them into and holds them much like prisoners within destructive and potentially unsafe relationships?
A review of the cult problem and its history; a detailed explanation of cult “brainwashing” techniques; the warning signs of cult involvement; most frequently asked questions about cults and cult involvement; coping strategies when dealing with cult members; and bringing people out of cults through planned interventions
New York Times/January 17, 2007
New York — Joel Steinberg, the disbarred lawyer who served 17 years in prison for killing his illegally adopted daughter, must pay $15 million to the girl’s birth mother, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The appeals court affirmed a lower court decision to award Michele Launders $5 million for 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg’s pain and suffering, $5 million for pain and suffering ”as a battered child” and $5 million in punitive damages.
Joel Steinberg argued the award was excessive and should be reduced because Lisa died relatively quickly, after ”at most eight hours of pain and suffering.”
”We disagree, and in simply so stating acknowledge that sometimes words fail even those who use the language to render judgments on a daily basis,” the court wrote.
Steinberg got Lisa as a days-old infant from Launders, at the time an unwed teen, who paid him $500 in legal fees to arrange an adoption. Instead, Steinberg took the baby home to Hedda Nussbaum, his live-in companion.
After Lisa’s death at Steinberg’s hands on November 1987, Launders filed wrongful-death lawsuits against Steinberg, Nussbaum and New York City the following year. The action against Nussbaum was settled. The city settled with Launders in 1999 for $985,000 while admitting no wrongdoing.
Steinberg, 65, was released from prison in June 2004 and is on parole until 2012. Launders’ lawyer, Wayne J. Schaefer, said he does not believe Steinberg has any significant assets.
Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)/November 14, 2004
By Matt Cooper
Three women from different places, different jobs, different backgrounds.
They have two things in common: They were beaten, and despite the danger of leaving a violent partner, they got out.
The women don’t know each other, but when they talk about domestic violence, they speak with the same voice.
All three said they were “brainwashed,” that the physical and emotional abuse left them believing that they deserved it, that they were the ones at fault, not the abuser.
All three lost their identity and their independence – so completely, in some instances, that they couldn’t order for themselves in a restaurant or figure out how to spend a Saturday.
All three came to accept that they can’t change someone else, that they can only change themselves.
The women also echoed one another in recalling what it took to get out.
First you have to find yourself, they said. Then you have to back your words up with action. You have to believe that you deserve better.
The women share one more thing: Today, all three are happy and healthy.
JeriAnn learned to endure the hitting, the kicking, the choking, the verbal and emotional abuse.
But the reddish-blue bruises across her little girl’s thigh – the size and shape of a man’s handprint – pushed her over the top.
I have to get myself out of this, she said to herself. I have to get my children out of this.
It was 1987, in a small town near Portland.
JeriAnn had been married for seven years. She was the mother of two curly-haired girls, 5 and 3 years old; a boy would come later.
Her husband wasn’t abusive at first, just controlling. But over the years, the control turned into black eyes and split lips – weekly attacks that she accepted, because she thought she had done something wrong to provoke them.
A vicious fight one night ended with JeriAnn at a friend’s. When she returned home in the morning, she checked on her 5-year-old, who had stayed in the house with her husband.
The girl pulled back her plaid skirt and showed the bruises; she had been struck for asking her father why he couldn’t stop drinking.
“I just started crying,” JeriAnn said. “I realized this wasn’t just affecting me. This was affecting my kids. I decided at that time, I’m out.”
Through a Christian support group, JeriAnn devoured material on codependency, coming to realize that the abuse had replaced her identity – her sense of self – with blind obedience to her husband.
She confronted her pain in excruciating counseling sessions – “like peeling your skin off from the inside out,” she said – and a new woman eventually emerged.
“I decided I didn’t have to have a man in my life,” JeriAnn said. “Being a single mom felt pretty darn good.”
For the first time, she started backing up her words with action.
She called her county’s victims’ assistance program and learned what the law could do to protect her. She received a restraining order and began the divorce process; when he violated the order she called the police. She got a guard dog and a handgun.
She wanted answers to her questions about divorce, domestic violence, personal safety. The more she shared, the more people offered to help.
He fought her for two years, stalking her while he also delayed or missed court dates; he sent her notes that read, “I love you.” But as the divorce played out in 1990, he started another relationship and moved on.
JeriAnn, of west Eugene, is 45 now. She’s an elementary school secretary who relishes working with kids and parents, especially the troubled ones. She is strong but affectionate, with a calm, confident gaze to match her propensity for giving hugs.
In December, she’ll celebrate 13 years of marriage to a man who treats her like a queen. He’s her best friend; he writes poems and hides them for her to find later.
Her younger daughter is a college student studying to become a nurse. The son is a student and athlete at Willamette High School.
And the 5-year-old? She’s 22 now, recently married to a good man, JeriAnn said.
Sometimes she has to pinch herself.
“My normal life to me is a pretty good dream,” she said. “It was gut-scratching hell to climb out of the hole. I’m lucky I made it out. It’s so good now, sometimes I forget the past.”
Desiree found salvation at a New Age bookstore in a small California town.
At 17, she had been an independent thinker, a strong student who challenged the deferential roles relegated to women in her branch of the Baptist faith. She peppered her Sunday school teachers with questions that made them squirm.
Marriage changed her. She married at 23, to a man she’d dated in high school – the first man she’d ever dated, the first she’d ever kissed.
There were ominous signs, but she missed them: He burned with anger if she so much as talked to another man, but she mistook it for love.
“When he got really jealous and upset, I thought to myself that he must really love me if he can’t stand for another man to look at me or talk to me,” Desiree said.
During 10 years of marriage, the abuse escalated. He was careful not to blacken her eyes or knock out her teeth – unmistakable clues for the world to see – instead throwing her against a wall or smothering her with a pillow until she started to black out.
He was a real estate broker, a wealthy man respected in their community. She was just his appendage. The independent thinker had been systematically beaten down, replaced by a woman who thought that if she just remained quiet, everything would be OK.
But the bookstore shouted at Desiree to speak up.
She walked in one day in the early 1990s, and quickly found that she was in her element among the incense and crystals.
Desiree eventually left her cashier’s job to work at the bookstore. She read feminist writers Gloria Steinem and Mary Anne Williamson, Ginny Nicarthy’s “Getting Free,” and books on Wicca, a religion that promotes, in part, male-female balance.
She realized that she had done nothing to provoke the abuse, but it was up to her to stop it.
She stopped hovering over her husband, stopped asking permission. She took to a quiet corner of the house and read to herself. She developed her own friends, ones who valued her for who she was.
“It reaffirmed that I actually had a self to share with people – that I was a living, thinking person with something to offer,” Desiree said.
He stranded her at a friend’s one night in 1993 and that was it: She moved out the next day and divorced him within nine months.
Today Desiree, 42, wears a pentacle – a five-pointed star – around her neck. It’s a Wiccan symbol, one that represents natural and spiritual harmony, and her second husband respects it just as he respects her.
They have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and they live in a cozy, forested McKenzie Bridge home with more dogs, cats and chickens than can be easily counted.
When not running her child care business, Desiree draws, paints and reads.
The bitter memories, a decade old now, still make her eyes well up. But nothing more.
“My life is infinitely better,” Desiree said. “Everybody has challenges and struggles, but there’s no comparison between now and then. I only wish that I had known what the future held for me – how much better it would get.”
When he tucked the rifle under her chin and told her that she was going to die, calmness washed over Debbie.
“I had accepted it,” she said. “The fear actually dissipates.”
Instead, her husband jerked the barrel up, throwing her head back as he discharged a round over her face.
She had married him at 19, and they lived in Nevada around 1985. He was a mountain man, strong and deep, and she had loved his passion. He said he needed her for his very existence.
But it wasn’t healthy, Debbie said. His drinking was an embarrassment for her, and when the physical abuse started, she thought she was the only woman in the world experiencing it.
She used to watch cars motor down the road – she saw the happy couples inside, and she thought to herself how lucky the women were not to have to worry about being beaten tonight.
She had left before, but his threats to harm her mother and sister always brought her back.
Either I’m going to die or he’s going to die, Debbie thought to herself, and she contemplated killing him.
The rifle blast ended it. Debbie was gone in two days, her resolve galvanized by a rediscovered spirituality.
She planned it all out. She needed a 30-minute head start before he would realize she was gone, lest he tear up and down the highways in search of her.
She warned her friends and family to say nothing, then took off, ultimately arriving at an old friend’s in Junction City, a friend that he didn’t know. She left no note, no phone number, no way whatsoever to find her.
Debbie was 25, and she owned the world. She started doing the things she wanted to do: She made her own friends, she chatted up her neighbors, and she bought a house, fixing it up and renting out a room, all on a waitress’ salary.
And she learned a lesson.
“If I dated a guy who seemed in any way controlling – in any way – I would just get rid of him so fast it would make your head spin,” said Debbie, who did just that on one occasion.
Today, at 44 and living in Eugene, Debbie works for the Eugene School District. She’s an active parent and an engaged political volunteer. She feels a deep responsibility to help others.
Debbie has been married for 16 years, and she has a 15-year-old son by her second husband. Both, she believes, are rewards for the change she made.
Her husband respects their political differences and her occasional long hours as a volunteer and a helper in their son’s school. He honored her need to design – and redesign – the two-story farmhouse that they built together.
Most important, perhaps, he respects her need to be alone. Debbie likes to go to the coast, where she sits on the beach with her dog, Jack, and writes about her feelings.
“You have to have some self-worth in order to be able to leave,” Debbie said. “You need to say, `Hey, I’m worth something, I deserve better.’ When I think about my life before, it seems like a different lifetime. It really makes me appreciate what I have.
“Now I feel like I’m one of those people that I looked at in the car and wished I was.”
The state can’t say exactly how many women in Oregon have been abused by a partner, because not all women report it.
But in a telephone survey taken in 2001-02, one in 10 women between the ages of 20 and 55 said they’d been physically or sexually assaulted in the preceding five years – 85,000 women, according to the Department of Human Services.
Thirteen percent of those women were knocked unconscious or suffered broken bones, chipped teeth or other serious injuries.
New York Times/August 7, 2004
New York — Joel Steinberg, free after serving nearly 17 years in the beating death of his 6-year-old adopted daughter, still describes himself as “a good father” and said he pushed the girl but did not hit her.
Steinberg served two-thirds of the maximum 25-year sentence after he was convicted of killing Lisa Steinberg. The girl died in November 1987, three days after she was brutally beaten in the apartment Steinberg shared with his lover, Hedda Nussbaum, who also had been beaten.
In an interview with New York magazine, the disbarred lawyer continued to deny responsibility for the child’s death. “As soon as we saw that she wasn’t breathing right, we called the ambulance,” he said. “What would anyone else have done?”
“I was a good father,” he said in the interview in the edition that hits newsstands on Monday. “Of course, I’m sorry my daughter’s dead. But the medical reports showed no ‘present’ or ‘historical’ fractures or wounds. That means no history of abuse. Got it?”
The magazine quoted an expert as saying Steinberg was selectively quoting from a medical report that showed the girl had injuries including brain swelling.
“If a man my size, with a fist as big as mine, hit you in the forehead, you’d hit the floor and have a mark you’d remember. If I hit a little girl that way, the bruise would have been bigger than her head!” he said.
Steinberg told the magazine he pushed his daughter, “with the soft pad, you know, on your palm?”
He has been living in a halfway house since he was released June 30.
“I went from middle-aged millionaire to penniless bum!” he told the magazine.
New York Times/June 30, 2004
Pine City, N.Y. — Infamous child killer Joel Steinberg was released from prison Wednesday after 15 years behind bars for the 1987 beating death of his 6-year-old adopted daughter.
The former lawyer, now 63, served two-thirds of the maximum 25-year manslaughter sentence. He has continued to deny responsibility for the girl’s death.
Steinberg left the upstate prison with $104 in earnings from his inmate account and was picked up in a limousine by defense attorney Darnay Hoffmann.
Lisa Steinberg died in November 1987, three days after a vicious beating in the Greenwich Village apartment where she lived with Steinberg and his former lover, Hedda Nussbaum.
Nussbaum called police after finding the 6-year-old naked, bruised and not breathing. Nussbaum, initially a co-defendant, herself had a split lip, broken ribs, a broken nose and a fractured jaw she said were inflicted by Steinberg.
According to Nussbaum’s testimony, Steinberg struck Lisa for staring at him, then ignored her injuries and smoked cocaine.
Nussbaum, now 59, who said she would flee New York rather than face Steinberg again, has quit her job at a domestic violence center, the Journal News reported Wednesday. Her small white house in Carmel was empty Tuesday.
Hoffmann has said he offered Steinberg a free apartment and a $250-a-week job with a local cable television show. Steinberg will have to make regular visits to a parole officer through October 2012. Now disbarred, he worked in prison as a paralegal.
The Star Press/June 18, 2004
By Ric Routledge
That first-grader staring out the window at school might not be daydreaming. Instead, he might be thinking about what he saw at home last night – Daddy beating the hell out of Mommy.
Maybe he saw Mommy being taken away in an ambulance and Daddy in a squad car, which means he’s without both parents.
“This happens more often than people will ever, ever know,” said Alice, a former abuse victim in her 40s who lives in Blackford County and asked that her real name not be used. “They [victims] keep their mouths shut because they are scared, absolutely terrified. Or they have nowhere to go, or they think that no one will ever believe them.”
Just why some men, and even a few women, physically and verbally abuse their mates, supposedly their loved ones, is still being debated. But there is no argument that domestic violence is prevalent in our society.[h4]Low self-esteem
More than 3 million children are at risk of exposure to parental violence each year, according statistics provided by womensissues.com, and the violence knows no boundaries.
“We as a society think people with more education and wealth would be immune from this,” said Bud Edwards, a counselor at Ball State University. “But there is no respect to class or race. We find the phenomenon across most demographics in this country.”
Why men beat up their wives, and why a woman would stay in such a situation is subject to speculation more than science.
“As best we understand it, some factors are similar,” Edwards said. “Men with a low self-esteem, and ill equipped to maintain an equal relationship, may have a need to have power in order to make themselves feel good.” They are often jealous and control freaks, he added.
“The need for control usually comes from how they get their self-esteem,” Edwards said, “They assure themselves they can maintain a relationship and have an air of superiority that they know what is best for their partner. And if her self-esteem is low enough, she may believe him.”
Women stay in abusive relationships, according to Edwards, also because of low self-esteem.
“She believes that she couldn’t make it on her own when, in reality, she probably could.”
Finances are another big reason why women stay, especially if children are involved. He might be the sole provider and she can’t see how she could possibly make it financially without him.
“They brainwash you,” said Alice, who still fears the man she divorced years ago. “They literally control you, they make constant threats. I ended up having a nervous breakdown and looking like the crazy person. I wasn’t but he had taken me to where I couldn’t go any further.
“It got so I’d rather he hit me than take the verbal abuse,” she said. “You can recover from the bruises but you don’t recover from the verbal abuse. God, I hate to think about what it’s done to the kids.”
Taking the blame
Alice said that for years she thought she was to blame for all of their problems.
“I thought everything was my fault,” she said. “If he had run over somebody while drunk I would’ve thought it was my fault because I should have tried harder. He always said everything was my fault, and I believed him.
“You think maybe it’s not real, or that he’s going to change, or that it’s going to get better the next day. I kept thinking that if I was a good wife he would be different.
“But it didn’t matter what I did, I know now, because it made him feel superior.”
For former victim Betty, domestic abuse is something she’s known since childhood.
“I heard my parents fight when I was a kid,” said Betty, who also asked that her real name not be used. “I thought she [Mom] had it coming because she was pretty hard to take. When I encountered it years later, I assumed that I had it coming. If I thought she deserved it, then I did, too.”
This happened to Betty during her four-year marriage to a Ph.D. while she was working on a master’s degree. That was 30 years ago and the Delaware County resident still hasn’t remarried.
“I don’t fit any of the stereotypes. That’s why I wanted to tell my story,” Betty said. “He was a heavy hitter in terms of intellect, very successful. I was 35 when I married him, not exactly a baby.”
Both women said they were fooled by their men when they were dating.
“In the beginning he was so nice,” Alice said. “He had me meet his mom and dad. I thought he was great. He was sweet and loving – and a monster.”
“He was the perfect gentleman when we were dating,” Betty said about her former husband. “Sophisticated, had a Shakespearean aura about him.”
Signals that someone might be an abuser often aren’t apparent at first, Ball State counselor Edwards agreed.
“It’s hard to see these things coming,” Edwards said. “It may be that some of these things aren’t in place yet, especially if you marry young, or if life circumstances change inside the abuser.”
But there are warning signs.
“Look for people who struggle with controlling their emotions, especially anger, and have a history of violence,” Edwards said.
“How does this person treat other women in his life? Sometimes it’s gender-specific, which is why other guys wouldn’t see it.”
Domestic violence has remained hidden for a long time, according to Edwards. “We still have a ways to go to academically address this less desirable piece of our culture.”
“It’s time people wake up,” Alice said. “Your daughter could be in a bad situation or your son could be doing it to someone.”
NY Post/May 23, 2004
By Marianne Garvey
Hedda Nussbaum – the ex-lover of infamous child killer and abuser Joel Steinberg – will go into hiding when he’s released from prison within weeks.
After serving 16 years at an upstate prison, Steinberg, now 62, will walk free – but Nussbaum told The Post she can never forget her past life or the brutal slaying of their illegally adopted 6-year-old daughter, Lisa Steinberg.
Nussbaum, now 61, who was in a relationship with Steinberg for 12 years, said she will move in two weeks to “someplace warm in America” because she feels there’s a “very good chance” he will attempt to contact her.
“I’m not his puppet any longer and I’m taking precautions against him finding me,” Nussbaum said.
For the past six years, she’s worked as a paralegal at My Sister’s Place in White Plains, and wrote letters and petitions opposing his release.
Steinberg’s brutal abuse shocked the nation in November of 1987.
The former lawyer, who lived with Nussbaum and little Lisa in Greenwich Village, regularly beat the two and knocked Lisa unconscious, killing her after one beating because he claimed she was “staring” at him.
Nussbaum also suffered from Joel’s abuse regularly and has had plastic surgery to mend her nose, which he broke five times during severe beatings.
During the height of the scandal, Nussbaum was accused of being a co-conspirator in Lisa’s death, but was granted immunity in return for her testimony against Steinberg.
“Ten months prior to the trial in 1988, I was an inpatient at Four Winds hospital in Westchester, getting ready to testify,” Nussbaum said. “I was to have no contact with Joel whatsoever – and haven’t ever since.”
In December 1988, Nussbaum took the stand to testify against Steinberg.
Steinberg was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to eight to 25 years. He will be sprung June 30 from the Southport Correctional Facility in Chemung County, due to a good behavior record.
Prison officials said Steinberg was rejecting requests to be interviewed before his release.
Nussbaum says she still refers to herself as Lisa’s mother and remembers her every day.
Once in a while, she visits Lisa’s grave at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester. A painting by Lisa hangs in her office.
“It leaves a hole in my heart, missing Lisa,” Nussbaum said. “She’d be 23 years old today, but she’ll always be a little girl to me.”
In addition to Lisa, Steinberg and Nussbaum also had an adopted son, Mitchell, who was taken away and reunited with his birth mother after Steinberg’s arrest.
“I miss Mitchell very much but his birth mother is against me having a relationship with him,” Nussbaum said. “I think about him every day.”
As for her past life with Steinberg, Nussbaum said she has no contact whatsoever with anyone who ever knew him and that she never plans to.
“One condition of his parole is that he never try to contact me,” she said.
“I want nothing to do with him. He might try to get in touch with me, but I’m not listed [in the phone book] and no one knows where I’m going except my family.”