Category Archives: Personal Stories

Rob Porter allegations detail common traits of domestic abuse, experts say

NBC News/February 9, 2018

By Elizabeth Chuck

The White House staff secretary who resigned following allegations of domestic abuse has put a spotlight on “incredibly common” patterns of violence against partners, experts say.

The allegations surfaced Tuesday against Rob Porter, an influential senior aide in the Trump administration, from two ex-wives: Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness. Both told that Porter was verbally and physically abusive, with the abuse beginning on their honeymoons. They confirmed their account of their allegations to NBC News.

Porter has denied the allegations as “simply false” and “outrageous.”

“I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign,” Porter said. Some in the White House were quick to jump to his defense.

Regardless, experts say the case brings attention to how misunderstood domestic violence is, and shows how hard it is for women to speak out against a spouse.

While domestic violence can begin at any point in a relationship, it’s a “very common story that it’s only after the couple are married that the violence, or certainly the more severe physical violence, begins,” said Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy at Futures Without Violence, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending violence against women and children. She added that sometimes the abuser has been emotionally controlling or verbally abusive before then.

“There’s no one trajectory of violence, but that is not uncommon at all,” Stewart said.

Victims also feel less inclined to leave once they’re in a long-term, committed relationship, said Cindy Southworth, the executive vice president of National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“You’re not as likely to walk away because you’re already invested. You’re on your honeymoon,” Southworth said.

Porter’s ex-wives have not alleged abusive behavior prior to their honeymoons. In a blog post, Willoughby said Porter cursed at her on their honeymoon and a month later “physically prevented me from leaving the house.” She also described Porter allegedly punching glass in front of her and yanking her out of the shower to yell at her, all the while presenting a wholesome public persona.

“Everyone loved him. People commented all the time how lucky I was. Strangers complimented him to me every time we went out. But in my home, the abuse was insidious. The threats were personal. The terror was real. And yet I stayed,” she wrote.

The experts say a dual personae is often seen in abusers, and makes the victim less believable when she comes forward.

“That’s incredibly common and, sadly, why abusers often get away with it for so long,” Stewart said. “It’s one of the things that women who are victims struggle with the most. They’re often just not believed. So often, people say, why doesn’t she just leave or try to get help? She often does. But people don’t believe her.”

Domestic violence is alarmingly common: One in four women will experience severe physical violence from a partner at some point in her lifetime, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. But experts fear it’s misunderstood.

“I do think that we struggle with the perception that we solved domestic violence, that this is a problem of the past, or that certain groups of people struggle with it, and that’s not true at all,” Stewart said.

In reality, according to Southworth of National Network to End Domestic Violence, “It cuts across every education and income level, race, class — you name it.”

Domestic violence isn’t only physical, although many people, including victims themselves, mistakenly believe it to be, Southworth said. Victims often dismiss other abusive tactics, such as a husband forbidding his wife from seeing her family or friends, that predicate any physical violence.

“There are other subtle things happening, and because they’re so subtle, they’re not so obvious,” she said.

And domestic abuse isn’t an anger problem, even though it sometimes appears like one.

“Instead, it’s this deep-ingrained belief that ‘I’m entitled to do this to you because I own you,'” Southworth said.

‘He wasn’t happy until he had me all to himself’

BBC News/January 17, 2018

When two women wrote about how they had been “gaslighted” – made to question their sanity by an abusive partner – many readers, male and female, got in touch to share similar experiences. Here, three of them explain how they were left feeling utterly isolated.

I moved from southern England to a small Scottish village to be with the love of my life, a handsome and charming man who made me feel more alive and special than I ever thought possible.

Just before I moved, a friend said he thought my boyfriend wouldn’t be happy until he had me living in the middle of nowhere, far away from anyone and all to himself. At the time I laughed it off but it turned out it couldn’t have been more true.

At first he was completely attentive. He worked away as a lorry driver but he called every morning, throughout the day and last thing at night. I thought this was really nice of him but I started to notice he was really ratty if I missed a call because I was in the bathroom or in a shop. He became more and more short-tempered when I told him I had begun to make friends, causing us to have arguments on the phone.

One day, after he had left for work, a woman from the village asked if I would like to go round to her house for some wine. I had a really nice evening. When I got home, my mobile had several missed calls and many text messages. I had left it behind and not thought about it. The text messages started off asking why I wasn’t answering the phone, and descended into calling me all sorts of horrible names, accusing me of being out with other men and so on. I couldn’t believe what I was reading – this had come out of nowhere. I sent him a text explaining where I had been. He immediately called and shouted at me for 10 minutes, not letting me speak.

These arguments would make me feel terrible and he would blame me for not being able to concentrate or sleep because he was worrying about me, and therefore a danger on the road. But then he would send lavish flowers and I would feel grateful he wasn’t angry with me any longer. I lived in a constant state of confusion and worry, never knowing what I had done to make him angry, and worried in case he had an accident.

Another time, when he was home, I was walking up the lane to our house when the farmer who owned the land stopped by. We leaned over the farm gate and had a long chat, looking out at the beautiful view. When I went into the house my boyfriend was sitting in a chair, staring at me. He kept denying there was something wrong, but he wouldn’t speak to me and kept glaring. Eventually he said he knew what had been going on all this time – I was making a fool of him and having an affair with the farmer! I couldn’t believe my ears, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

I soon stopped visiting my friends in the village. I didn’t dare go out in the evenings because he would call the house phone to check where I was. He didn’t like me going out to work either, so I was pretty much stuck at home in the middle of nowhere. In some ways it was a relief because I didn’t have to pretend to people that all was well.

I spent the next nine years walking on eggshells, never knowing if I was doing the right thing or the wrong thing in his eyes. His ultimate punishment was to attempt suicide. He did this more than once after an argument, which completely destroyed my confidence in myself. I was a confident, independent person when we met, and by the time he eventually left me I was a shell.

He would also try to make me think I had gone mad by claiming I had said things that I knew I hadn’t.

Silly things, like I’d make spaghetti Bolognese and he’d accuse me of adding carrots just to upset him, even though I followed the same recipe every time. Or he would say I hadn’t cleaned a room when I had, and would clean it all over again.

Taken individually, those incidents seem stupid and trivial but he would be so convincing that I would start to question myself. I actually thought there was something wrong with my memory.

I couldn’t argue any more. I couldn’t get my brain to think of a good response because his arguments were completely irrational. It was easier to just agree. I became a quiet, dull person – a shadow of my former self.

What is gaslighting?

  • The term comes from a 1938 stage play Gas Light in which a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane – when he dims the gas lights, he insists she’s imagining it
  • It is one tactic of coercive and controlling behaviour that aims to make a victim doubt themselves, their perception of events and even their own sanity, with devastating consequences, says Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid
  • Techniques include calling into question the victim’s memory of an incident, trivialising a victim’s thoughts or feelings, accusing the victim of lying or making things up, denying things like promises that have been made, and mocking the victim for their “misconceptions”
  • Some of the signs to watch out for include: feeling confused, continually apologising to your partner, having trouble making simple decisions, and withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to make excuses for your partner
  • Am I in an abusive relationship?

I didn’t really look like myself either – he didn’t like me going to get a haircut because I had a male hairdresser, so I started cutting my own hair. I stopped wearing make-up or high heels. If I wore nice clothes, I was “dressing up” for somebody. I had to think about everything I did.

Before, I was confident, I was always happy, always laughing. If I laughed at something on TV, he would get angry – he thought I was laughing at him.

I trained myself not to be happy. Friends of mine have said, “How on Earth do you do that?” But it’s the only way to cope. If you don’t let yourself be happy, you can’t get too hurt or upset by what’s happening to you. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, looking back.

I made two failed attempts to leave. But mostly I felt like I’d made my bed with this person, and I had given up too much to be with him. I hoped it would all turn around and it would be OK – but it never was. It’s a bit like a dog that isn’t treated well – it stays loyal to the person that feeds him.

The day he told me we were splitting up I thought I had won the lottery but a few months later, he decided he wanted to get back together. When I refused, he tried to lure me back to the house. That was really quite scary. He was on a mission – if he couldn’t have me, then nobody could. I was afraid he was going to kill us both.

I spent about three years hiding from him, constantly moving house. I completely disappeared.

What I didn’t realise was that it would take years for me to get back to being myself and repair the damage he did to me.

I will never forgive him and I’m telling my story so that hopefully it might help somebody else.

Caroline, UK

Viral domestic violence video: Ex-partner admits violently shoving Emma Murphy

Irish Eaminer/July 12, 2015

The man whose ex-partner accused him of punching her in the face in a viral video this week, has admitted that he did use violence against her.

In an interview published today, Francis Usanga said: “I lost the head and basically pushed her straight in the face. I shoved her in the face. It was a real forceful shove in the face. I connected with her face.

“I didn’t use a fist. I didn’t use a fist to punch her you know, because if I think I used a fist to punch her, even though she was severely damaged, I think her face would have been…”
He then cuts off, before adding: “It was uncalled for, I don’t condone it.

“It was very hard. I pushed her really hard in the face. It was so quick that it would have been the strongest part of my hand, it was with an open hand.

“It was more of a push, a real hard push. It was pretty violent and there’s no excuse at all and I’m extremely sorry for that.”

Usanga added in the interview with the Sunday World newspaper: “No man should hit a woman. It was a situation where I was in the wrong”.

In the video uploaded this week to facebook and YouTube, Emma Murphy had a visible black eye, which she claimed was caused when her now-ex partner Usanga hit her. She describes finding out he had been cheating on her with a woman who is now pregnant.

When she went to confront him, she says he hit her in the face.

The powerful video has been viewed almost six million times, has attracted international attention and has generated thousands of likes and comments, with many praising Ms Murphy’s courage in coming forward.

Speaking to 98FM this week, Ms Murphy said that she has filed a report against Usanga to the Gardaí.

In the emotional interview, she also said she still has feelings for him but that she will never go back to him as filming the video gave her closure.

“At the moment I still have feelings for him and I still love him… when somebody hits you, you just don’t stop loving them,” she said.

She said she had posted the Facebook video to raise awareness of physical and mental abuse because she strongly believed no man should hit a woman. She said the other reason was to make certain that she would never go back to Usanga.

She said posting the video had nothing to do with revenge on her Usanga. “(I did this) for me…Enough was enough. Hitting a woman is wrong. Full stop,” she said.

“The main reason to post the video was I would always have chased him (previously). I knew by posting that video that that was that. That was the nail in the coffin. By posting that video I knew there was no going back…That was it for us.”

She said she had given him a number of chances in the past. Explaining why she took him back on those occasions, she said:”I felt weak…I loved him.”

She has two young children with Usanga.

She said domestic abuse can be very complicated, and explained: “He was the love of my life (and) I still love him. When someone hits you, you don’t just stop loving them…You don’t just wake up one morning and have no feelings for him.”

She said the worst aspect of the three-year relationship was that she lost confidence, friends and some family who did not want her to be with him after he told her her insecurities would eat her up. She described this as “mental torture”

In the Name of Love: Abusive Controlling Relationships (DVD)

How do individuals get involved with cults in the first place, and what steps can be taken to “deprogram” and heal those who have been drawn into these damaging groups? These questions and more are addressed in Cults Inside Out, written by a leading cult expert Rick Alan Ross. Over the course of three decades, Ross has participated in around five hundred cult interventions, provided expert court testimony, and performed cult-related work all around the world. With the help of current and former cult members, Ross demonstrates many of the tactics the groups use for control and manipulation-and, more importantly, some of the most effective methods he and other experts have used to reverse that programming. As a result, readers will find themselves armed with a greater understanding of the nature of destructive cults and an improved ability to assess and deal with similar situations-either in their own lives or the lives of friends and family members.Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out
In the Name of Love: Abusive and Controlling Relationships 

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?

In the Name of Love: Abusive and Controlling Relationships

Cults: An Educational Volume 

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

Cults: An Educational Volume

NYC Child Killer Must Pay $15M to Mother

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.

Survivors’ stories: Three abused women find way out, discover their worth

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.”

Suffering Abuse

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.

Steinberg Calls Himself ‘A Good Father’

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.

NYC Child Killer Released After 15 Years

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.

‘I thought everything was my fault’

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, 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.”

Warning signs

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.”

Hedda: I’ll Flee Once Evil Joel Gets Sprung

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.”