When the world listened to Donald Trump on tape as he bragged about sexual assault, and then as a dozen women confirmed his assaults, echoing the disclosures (later modified under a legal agreement) of his first wife’s account of being physically and sexually assaulted, pundits fully expected women voters to reject him. We heard radio and television interviews, a catalogue of a life of insult towards women. Young women did reject him; women of color did reject him. Older white women did not. Why not?
They were voting for something that to them, was more important.
They have also normalized misogyny as the price of living in patriarchy.
They take for granted the relative safety they enjoy being white.

Normalization, Minimization and Internalization
“Hey, I’m not myopic; there are more important things in the world, like a good trade deal.”
“If he wants to grab me, go ahead! I like being grabbed!”
“Toughen up!”
“It is not as bad as getting tortured like the women in the night club in Paris!”

Older white women have accumulated decades of assaults, insults, slights, sexualization and aggressions by men. Many see themselves through the eyes of what is acceptable to a distorted abusive male lens. They stifle other women’s complaints by telling them to stop whining because really, our human rights have always been compromised on this front, so get over it, there are more important things than this. Trumps’ acts only echo what has been writ large across their entire lives. It’s disturbing, sure, but not enough to repudiate him.
Also, abusive men always compare their abuses favorably to others’ acts or their own possible acts. They minimize the impact of what they do by asserting:
“I only shoved you, I didn’t hit you”
“I only hit you I didn’t put you in the hospital.”
“I only put you in the hospital, I didn’t kill you.”
“I did not do what Jeremy did to Maria. Did you see her?”
Older white women who voted for Trump accept a version of this minimization. They explain, for example, that violent politicized Islamic extremists torture and rape Europeans, and have slaughtered Americans. They feel that Trump’s being a serial sexual predator who has emboldened abusive men does not present as immediate a danger to them as these extremists do.
Protections of Being White
“It’s not that bad; we’ll see where we are in a year or so.”
“We need to curb the illegal aliens.”
“Roe v. Wade isn’t changing. Gay Marriage isn’t changing. If he tried to change those, I’d be the first one to fight!”
“I do NOT share the values of those KKK people and I have nothing to do with those attacks. Just because other people who are sick and violent voted for my candidate doesn’t mean that I am like them. I am not responsible for what they do.”
Women of color, especially black women, are exposed to even more assaults, insults, slights, sexualizations and aggressions by men than white women are. Racism intensifies misogyny in a way that few white women can imagine. Why is it then, that women of color did not normalize, minimize and internalize the misogyny of Trump?
Over their lifetimes, many older white hetero cis women have found their wealth and well-being attached the wealth and well-being of a white hetero man. They bind their fortunes with his, according to what works for him. The few families left in America where one income is sufficient and a second partner and even children can rely on that income is found largely within white families where white males are earning higher incomes. This economic reliance can intensify the minimization and denial of misogyny. The degree to which women experience cumulative misogyny as more or less intense is the degree to which they are protected by their color and their relative access to resources that comes with their color.
If hetero white cis women don’t tie up their fortunes with white men, they still enjoy a layer of unearned access to wealth and well-being not systemically afforded to women of color. They can afford to distance themselves from the oppression of women of color, and many chose to during this election because they could hide in their whiteness from the impact of Trump’s courting racists.
Some of the white women Trump voters found their home in his birther racism. Many don’t even see the birther ploy as racist. In my conversations with them, they explain that Trump gave them permission to openly question if racism really exists in America, or even, if women of color are just reading the signals wrong and it isn’t really there at all. They do not see fear of immigrants of color, but not white European immigrants, as anything having to do with race. News sites that parade as journalism supported their hope that all the data was wrong, after all. Some have said to me that this idea of “institutional racism” is just made up; it is white “self-hate” and there would be no issue with, for example, policing in America, if people of color would just behave. For these white women Trump voters, they have found the platform to express the implicit racism they do not even understand as racism.

A Cause More Important Than Misogyny
“I did not like what Trump said or did, but Hillary would not protect the unborn children, so I voted for him.”
“She is an evil, lying murderer. She went after Bill’s mistresses. And Bill was a rapist. Pedophiles are the worst sexual predators, and she protected them, so she was a lot worse than Trump for women.”
“We need to bring manufacturing and good jobs back to this country”
“We should be living according to Biblical Law”
“Our dealings with Radical Islamic Terrorism are a mess. Clinton would bring us to war and Trump would prevent war. He recognizes the danger of radical Islam and she does not. That is where I find my voice in him. I don’t like the rest of it, but I’m not really worried that it will impact me.”

Religious Norms
Older white conservative Christian women found themselves in support of a rapist in Chief by choosing what they felt was a moral higher good: the protection of the unborn or the return to the idea of marriage as one between one hetero cis man and one hetero cis woman. For those who recognized that Trump did not do much of what Jesus would do, Clinton was a culturally untenable choice for they who had been raised on loving all thy neighbors, except her.
Others found their solace in Pence. If he could dismiss the facts of what Trump did and said, and maintain a centered practice in God and their faith, then they could, too. They could focus on the Supreme Court nominees which would be their just reward for overlooking Trump’s “faults” a.k.a. sexually predatory behavior, racist commentary, encouragement of violence and overt, continuous lying.
In conservative religious communities across traditions, women’s dignity and wellbeing is found in relationship to their roles as wives and mothers and within the faith. The faith and the males of the family purportedly keep them safe from the misogyny outside of the faith community. In this way, they could claim protection from Trump’s misogyny, and vote for common ground with him. Within the faith, all pains, punishments and shames heaped upon women are most often explained as deserved in some way. There is no clearly supported path for white conservative Christian women to stand up first and foremost for the dignity and safety of all women, including those outside the faith, when this is pitted against the rights of the unborn and the return to a conservative Christian definition of marriage.

Older white cis women described a lack of protection for women and the LGBTQ community from the violent acts of radical and politicized Islam as their primary motivator to overlook the courting of overt racism and the revelation of clear misogynistic acts by Trump. This fear is so encompassing that they have minimized his abusive values and his lack of preparation for the role he has assumed, in hopes that he will be able to protect them against attack. This can’t be underestimated as a motivator for the vote for Trump by older white women.

The most protected hetero white cis women are willing to overlook his ongoing contempt for women by shifting value to what they consider to be the more encompassing “global’ interests of trade. It is here that hyper capitalistic values, might most closely ally with the abusive values and privilege that Trump upholds. Hyper capitalism narrows the scope of its self-assessment to what benefits itself as capital producing, without calculating the impact to environment, the exploitation of people and resources, access to its products, or concerns for equity and safety. These are deemed outside its scope, secondary, just as Trump’s sexual assaultive behavior and racist remarks are secondary concerns to those who feel protected by trade concerns because of their privileged access to its products, namely, money.

We can, in a democracy, debate the role of trade, protections from terrorism, and the respect for religious norms within a free country as we jointly reject racism and misogyny.

But most older white women did not.

JAC Patrissi

Like many others, I have spent my career finding creative responses to oppression and the trauma left in its wake. Though I have worked with survivors of all kinds of violence and, neglect, and poverties, I have specialized in working alongside women and children who have survived domestic violence and sexual assault, and with men who use power and control tactics against them.

This election season has revealed that President Elect Trump has employed a set of Abusive Values throughout his business and professional dealings, in his personal life and in the campaign. Though Trump displays elements of untreated mental health issues that render him both destructive and self-destructive, mental health concepts are insufficient to understand and help anticipate his actions. It is more helpful to examine the values that govern the thinking of all abusive people.

There is a reason that domestic violence is a red flag for terrorists. The perpetrators of all acts of violence share these values. Sometimes they are overlaid or undergirded with religious beliefs, or racism or misogyny or heterosexism.

Most simply put, if a person believes these things, they are abusive:

“If I am uncomfortable, I can use intimidation, threat of violence or humiliation and retaliation to get what I want.”
Here are some Abusive Values to look out for:
• Believing that it is your job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
• Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out something about you that threatens my self-concept.
• Believing that it is your job to celebrate me, my s growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed
• Believing that I get to express disgust if you point out significant things that I forget or do not know
• Believing that I have the right to establish reality to my liking.
• Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
• Believing that I am inherently superior, or that men are superior as a gender, or other identities are superior.

These Abusive Values, how they operate and what curbs them, is the purview of those of us in the advocacy field who work with sexual assault and intimate partner violence. They are also easily recognized by people marginalized and oppressed on many fronts, across many identities such as race, gender identity, and physical ability.

They read as a playbook for Trump’s life and campaign. Yet they also read as a playbook for a great number of Americans. We see the acceptance of Abusive Values by the white male leadership of the Republican Party who have openly called for a rejection of “feminization” of discourse has been echoed by its base, now intertwining these values with a deeper race hatred, misogyny and heterosexism.
When people now talk of Trump’s actions as “campaign rhetoric,” I am reminded how survivors who are negotiating their safety with abusive partners go through the process of learning the limitations of their influence on an abusive person. It takes time to recognize the Abusive Values that endure underneath the actions some call rhetorical.
We can compassionately anticipate what is ahead, and offer guidelines gleaned from decades of helping people manage and escape oppression.

Recognize and Assess The Size of Our Unmet Legitimate Needs

People who are in abusive relationships are there in large part because they found something promising in the relationship. They were told they were going to get their legitimate needs met. They may get a few met, at a high cost. Over time, the size of the needs will increase.
This is true for large numbers of people who voted for Trump to get jobs, better incomes, security from threat, redress for their many woes. The slightly more than half of the voting public who did not vote for him also have these unmet needs. Keep your eyes on the size of this unmet need, as it will help you articulate what you are fighting for in a way that will help you garner larger support. You can join with others fighting for the legitimate unmet needs of the people.

Do Not Normalize the Abuse

Most abusers spend a great deal of time minimizing, denying and blame shifting the cause of the abuse. The survivors with them begin to focus on the positive aspects of the abuser. They look for cues of normalcy and focus on the strengths. This is a survival mechanism. However, it will not help you anticipate what will come. The way to freedom is to break from the isolation of perspective the abuser enforces. Write down the abuses when it is safe. Repeat them. Have others repeat them. Use descriptive terms; do not soften the images.
When it comes to Trump, you can hear his happy supporters now attempting to clean up and normalize his actions. They are saying that he never said he grabs women by the pussy. That must have been manufactured. It did not happen. When his racist or assaultive actions are admitted, they are admitted only as “rhetoric.” The racist call-outs and the life of assaults against women are not rhetorical. They are actions based on values and privileges that underpin rhetoric. Stay clear with these distinctions.

Do Not Share In Responsibility for the Abusive Values

Most thinking about negotiation of conflict is based on the assumption that there are two parties in roughly equal interaction. In Systems Theory, we could look at each party taking an equally important role in any tension. This is not an accurate framework for people or leaders operating under Abusive Values. I tell people in interpersonal relationship with someone with Abusive Values that you could be the Dalai Lama and the other party will still attack. Just ask the Dalai Lama about that. We must break out of the Prison of Goodness, that is, trying always to be “more good” in order to change the outcome.
In terms of responding to this election, we did not have truly civil differences in opinion as to how a country should meet the shared needs of its citizenry. Instead, Trump used threats of violence, assertions that he would limit the media, sue and jail his opponents and deport millions, following the Abusive Values throughout.

The degree to which we are threatened by his use of these Abusive Values is the degree to which we are not protected by privilege. We are to share the risk with others who are threatened in ways we are not, but never the responsibility for the risk itself. This is the responsibility of the Abuser in Chief and any abusive followers emboldened by him.
Assert Reality by Re-establishing Patterns of Fact
Most survivors spend their energy reestablishing basic patterns of fact to preserve their sanity. Help with this, for the good of everyone. Trumps own attorneys spoke of never meeting with him alone, in order to establish a record of agreements in light of the fact that he will easily deny them.

Conciliatory Behavior Only Consolidates Control

There are a set of negotiation skills, nonviolent communicate skills and mediation and arbitration skills that work effectively when you are not dealing with Abusive Values. When you are dealing with Abusive Values, your giving to get, your negotiation, consolidates the control of the person who is willing to destroy you or incite violence and contempt against you to get what they want. You must re-establish the minimum standard: Equality and Safety for all. Period.

What Changes People Living By Abusive Values?

First, we articulate the values of Safety, Respect and Equality. Often these are articulated by a religious faith, or a declaration of rights.
If the community and institutions surrounding the person insists on consequences to violations of those values of safety, respect and equality, this sometimes helps.
Mostly, when the person surviving the abuse gets their needs met outside of the abusive person, gathers with others who are safe, the abuse can be challenged from a safer distance. This is always dangerous. We measure when to challenge, and how.
This has always been the path. We have survived thus far, and we are legion.

What makes a partner abusive is that they have abusive values.
Many people think that being violent is a mental health condition. Research shows that people with mental health conditions, when they are violent, are violent for the same reason people without mental health conditions are: they have attitudes and beliefs that support the use of violence.
Most simply put, if a person believes this, they are abusive:
“If I am uncomfortable, I can use intimidation, threat of violence or humiliation and retaliation to get what I want.”
Here are some abusive values to look out for:
• Believing that it is your job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
• Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out soething about you that threatens my self concept.
• Believing that it is your job to celebrate my growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed
• Believing that I get to express disgust if you point out significant things that I forget
• Believing that I have the right to establish reality to my liking.
• Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
• Believing that I am inherently superior, or that men are superior as a gender.

Unresolved mental health issues
Let’s say your partner has unresolved mental health issues. Perhaps she has served in Afghanistan and now her nervous system is easily hyperstimulated; she can not go to parties and feel comfortable and she also has a limited range of emotional expression. Or maybe your partner is struggling with clinical depression, or even has a set of traits known as one of the personality disorders. Without help, these conditions can be very destructive for you to live with. It can be hard for you to try to find emotional connection and social activities and routine that suit the both of you. Untreated, unaddressed, these challenges could degrade the bond between you. But is it abusive? No.
If your partner is addicted and not in recovery, you eventually discover that the substance maintains the central place in their world, usurping all, including you, the kids, and other heartfelt or longstanding commitments. That is what the chemical process of addiction does; the primary attachment overriding all others becomes the attachment to the substance.
It is devastating to realize this. Is this destructive to you, as a partner? Yes. Is this abusive? Not necessarily. Read on.

Chronic Immaturity
Perhaps your partner does not fully take on the day to day responsibilities for caring for him or herself, even though they should be able to. Your partner not take care of routine hygiene, household chores, does not follow up on basic responsibilities and commitments. And maybe this partner is more interested in gaming or new electronics or play time than doing the work of a committed relationship. For you, this is certainly exhausting, and destructive to you, but it is not abusive.

Yet any of these conditions: untreated addiction or mental health issues or chronic immaturity can combine with abusive values. In practice, this means an addicted abusive person says, quite threateningly, “You knew who I was when we got together. This is who I am. Are you going to turn on me now? You will pay for that.”
Someone with unresolved mental health issues who is abusive could say, “I TOLD you I don’t do parties! What the hell do you think you are doing having a party?!”
An abusive, chronically immature person acts disgusted and changes the topic to tear you down if you bring up unmet responsibilities.
See the difference? Addiction, untreated mental health issues and even immaturity are destructive, but not abusive on their own.
Combined with abusive values, these relationships become abusive.
And usually, abusive values stand on their own. People who have these values designate them for relationships overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, towards women or towards people with gender expressions most often associated with the feminine.
This means that a person with abusive values can accept criticism from their boss, but not from the partner, because one of the traits in common with all abusers is that they can not accept authority, influence or direction, no matter how gently or skillfully given, from a woman.
Does any of this ring a bell? Make you think?

Written on October 5th, 2016 , Uncategorized

When I first worked with trafficked women and children in other countries so many years ago now, I was startled

by how, among innumerable injustices, there were only a narrow few that privilege picks out and calls crimes, and usually only crimes of individuals accountable to society.

When there are so many wrongs heaped upon whole peoples, you can no longer think ONLY in terms of individuals’ responsibilities and culpabilities. That is the refuge of the comfortable.

Where to start
when your mother was stolen from her parents and put in an institution with all the other brown children to be made ‘civilized?’ And then she became drug addicted by the men who sold her for sex, and then the same state took you away from her for being such a bad mother?

Where to begin
when your schools are trash, when there is no fresh food or water, when your parents’ property is deemed less valuable because they are not white, when you are treated with deadly force because you are not white
when you are supposed to compete on the “even playing field” of the world with the legacy ivy kid who did his paid internship at his Dad’s multinational corporation in France?

Where to look, when a future, if you get to one, is leased at an exorbitant rate, with mounting fees attached to finding a dwelling, transportation, food, learning.

When addiction and suicide rates are soaring. When many kinds of violence are subsiding only for the white among us.

I think more now about injustice and justice in systems
rather than only about crimes of individuals accountable to society.

I think about how our social and legal systems are accountable to the individual.

I ask which system, what people, hold the power of institution, of practice and I ask–how are they doing in service to the brown or black girl–because that always startles me with the truth of
what needs to change for us all.

Written on July 9th, 2016 , Uncategorized

This was the first Christmas in five years that Joe had spent with any of his family. He’d been in prison for the aggravated assault on his ex wife, Raquel. She had been complaining to her adult kids for years that he was hurting her, but Joe was so convincing. Besides, she was so loud and aggressive herself, wasn’t she? She drank a lot and she was angry all the time. So it had been easy to say that “You never know what really goes on,” and, “It isn’t really my business.” It was easy, that us, until they visited Raquel in the Intensive Care Unit. It took so long for the breaks in to heal, and longer for the shock to wear off for all of the adult kids and grandkids. They rallied around their mom and several of them went to talk to domestic violence advocates themselves, so they could understand how it had changed them, and how to find their way now.

Part of Joe’s sentence included probation after his release, and the requirement that he complete a certified Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program. He’d been attending his program for three months when he came into group the week following Christmas. It was Joe’s turn to report out. Had he practiced taking accountability with his family without minimizing, denying or blaming? Had he conferred with others while making family decisions over the holiday? Was he able to tolerate including the needs of others, and not always getting his way? Was he a safe person to disagree with? Could he be relied upon to initiate sharing in the burdens of organizing, cleaning and supporting the holidays?

“It wasn’t that stuff which was the hardest part,” Joe explained after reporting his progress. “It was when we came into the dining room. You know, I’d been setting the table and carrying stuff in and helping distract the kids, like we planned I would. And when they went to sit down, I kind of held back, like we said, to see where everyone wanted to go.

Then my daughter Hailey said, ‘Dad, this is your seat. We’ve been setting this place for you at every holiday when it would have been your turn to see us, you know, when it wasn’t mom’s turn. No one sat in it. We saved it for you, because we wanted you to know it is your place.’ Joe put his head in his hands, hiding tears.

After a pause, his facilitator asked him, “What is that like, Joe, to feel how much families want a safe Grandpa and Dad at the table? How they want to have things feel alright, and safe and loving and whole? How does it feel to work to deserve that place?”

“Hard. Really hard,” Joe whispered.

By JAC Patrissi

Written on January 11th, 2016 , Uncategorized

Aimee had a good following on Instagram and Twitter. She had over eight hundred Facebook friends. Her posts were preternaturally upbeat in the abbreviated speak of her classmates, describing many imaginary “totes amaze” days. She described concerts she never attended, and boyfriends she didn’t have as part of an online life of invention, all fabricated, but for that one honest “emo” post where Aimee wrote how she wanted to kill herself.

Aimee was both annoyed and pleased that the post landed her a meeting with the school counselor. She was pleased that anyone read her posts, since she didn’t truly know almost any of her hundreds of “friends and followers”. She was annoyed that the school counselor wanted to talk. The counselor introduced her family to a Therapeutic Mentor for Aimee as part of a team of services. The mentor’s job is to link Aimee to a community of support and connection.
The first thing sixteen year old Aimee said when she opened the door to see her Therapeutic Mentor Maria was, “MOM! She’s OLD!”

Middle aged Maria was undeterred. She discovered that when Aimee was not online, she was teaching herself to knit. Maria did her research. When she walked Aimee into her first knitters meeting, the group leader exclaimed, “MARIA! She’s a BABY!” Of the six women in the knitting group, Aimee was the youngest by sixty years.

Knitting patterns have their own shorthand. There’s “beg” for “beginning”, “sl” for “slipping”, “tog” for “together”, “wyif” for “with yarn in front.”
The group of grandmothers helped Aimee start at the beginning. Together, they encouraged her to join activities at school. They talked about the friendships they’d made and how to keep and care for a good friend, unplugged. They told her the signs of control and abuse to look for in a dating relationship. Aimee talked to them when she began slipping into anxiety and darkness. They made her laugh; they loved her, with yarn in front.

They all fully expect good grades and kind friends and dating partnersfor her. They expect to help her keep both. They expect to stand at her graduation, long after her mentor closes services. Behind those precious pictures of her knitting friends and the things they make, which Aimee will post, will be hundreds of hours of listening, talking, hands reaching over to help unravel and start again.

By JAC Patrissi

Written on September 27th, 2015 , relationship, Uncategorized Tags:

In the opening scene of the film, Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character prepares his men for battle in the forests of Germania. As he enters the fray, he shouts to his men, “HOLD THE LINE! STAY WITH ME!”

When I work with people leaving abusive or destructive relationships, they are often shocked by the force with which they feel compelled to maintain or reestablish connection with the person who has harmed them. This is no ordinary break up longing. It cannot be attended to with a good movie and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.


Because of the way abusive or destructive relationships work, the person who was harmed is often isolated from other deep and sustaining life connections. This means that loss of the primary romantic relationship represents the loss of the most profound connection the person has, even if it was a damaging one. Often it is the only deep relationship occurring. Friendships and family are opfrequently distant or estranged.

Unmet Need

The survivor of these kinds of relationships has also usually built up a deep well of unfulfilled needs. To leave the relationships without real ongoing connection would mean feeling the depth of the unmet needs, which many survivors do not feel prepared to face. These are the needs for kindness, love, appreciation, sex, tenderness. With distance, the survivor recalls the whole idea that  a relationship is supposed to be good and loving most of the time. It is supposed to make you stronger. Facing that you have not had this and for so very long, is very painful.

The survivor longs for loving connection with the abusive or destructive person above a connection with anyone else. In part, this is because abusive person usually withholds affection or attention within the relationship, often denying the reality of the abuse or minimizing it. Over time, the smallest and often temporary acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of the abusive person begins to feel precious. A period of apparent peace, bought at the cost of the survivor swallowing or softening the truth, seems worth the price. The survivor wants acknowledgment, longs for respectful connection, even after leaving, in part because loving connection has been so hard to come by, so fleeting, especially from this person who meant so much.

Making Things Right

The survivor wants the abusive person to be the person who makes things right. You want the person who hurt you to do the apologizing. Survivors hope that if they maintain connection, that someday the abusive person will be able to see what they have done and to provide the much longed for acknowledgment. The sad truth is that the acknowledgement you seek most likely won’t be coming. And even if it is coming, it isn’t going to come as soon as you break up, and it won’t mend the harm on its own. The damage done by the relationship is still yours to nurse.

Sharpening the Intensity

If the survivor has a family of origin that was unsupportive or hurtful, this longing for reconnection to the abusive person can feel intensely compelling, nearly beyond description. When you leave an abusive relationship, a window into your own profound needs for a family is opened. By truly separating, survivors feel like they are rejecting the chance at having a real, loving family, a thing that they have longed for their whole lives. You are not rejecting that chance! By leaving a destructive relationship, you are opening the path to that chance.

What to do?

Establish a boundary. Get help with establishing it. Every time you wan to write or text or call, or stop by, call your helping people.

Grieve. You are in grief. You must respect the many losses you are sustaining. Grieve your isolation, as you work to fill your life with new connection. Grieve your unmet needs. Grieve the loos of having things made right the way you wanted it all to happen. Grieve the deeper wounds that may be there. Honor your soul through the process of grief. Find help for this integrative process.

Use your spiritual tools. Call in friends and new connections. Ask them to help you find the line. Ask them to encourage you, to call to you across the chasm of your grief:

Hold the line! Stay with me!

JAC Patrissi


Written on September 15th, 2015 , domestic violence, Grieving and Leaving, relationship, Uncategorized

I was in the woods, following a set of bunny tracks, when I saw two giant wing brush marks on either side of the last track, and two drops of blood. That bunny’s last thought: “I’m flying!”

Until of course, that hawk smashed and ate him up.
This is the Seeker’s plight, too, in the talons of the hawkish teacher who promises flights of heaven, love, insight, transcendence, justice.

Though I work primarily with people sorting out their romantic relationships and the aftermath of destruction or violence within them, from time to time, people ask me about struggles they have in their place of work, or within a spiritual group.

It’s usually the same dynamic at heart: a teacher of a path, a leader of some kind, a therapist, or a lover asks you to suspend what you know and trust his judgment over your own for a time.
For those who believe in the deceptions of the ego, or call it the shadow self, or evil, or pathology or the blindness of social, gender and race privilege, this is not an unreasonable request.

We want to grow; we want to see what we don’t see—so we ask someone we respect to show us the things we don’t see about the world or ourselves. In fact, one of the attributes of some of the most painful emotional disturbances is that we don’t see destructive things about ourselves. And so the seeker seeks another point of view.

Which can be the very answer, the doorway, the way forward. Hawk knows about our hopes.

He comes dressed in infallibility. If you question the insight of this kind of boss, teacher, therapist, leader, something predictable happens. He uses the fact that you are questioning his point of view as evidence of your pathology, your shadow self, your evil nature.
This is no easy thing to shrug off. The Seeker risks being cast out by defying the teacher, and often would rather deny her own insight than risk losing so much of the beauty in the path she has come to cherish.

As a parent, I remind myself of this every day when my kids question my authority. Let them struggle, I tell myself—offer paths, offer consequences. Let them choose. When I teach or facilitate, I begin every session saying that I am Praying for Doubt. If the learner challenges me, then I know we are gripped in learning together.
Let’s ask the good questions, seek new information and try on the answers. My ideas might not fit you, and I’m good with that. If yours don’t fit me, will you burn me alive?
True insight offers its own flight—stable and rewarding, demanding bravery and humility and kindness. There are no talons, no tests of loyalty.



When it comes to relationships, questions  like, “Should I  or should I go?” and “Should I really have left?” are not easy to answer, especially on our own.

Together, in Omega’s beautiful setting, we examine some of the root problems that partners bring into relationships. We will learn  to evaluate the expectations, abusive values, addictive behaviors, trauma and other mental health issues that may be present in our relationships.

The weekend helps us:

  • Tell the difference between a health–yet difficult–relationship and one that is destructive or abusive.
  • Design a clear plan of action for you and your partnership.
  • Navigate the waters of a relationship that is difficult, but improving
  • Prepare for life without your partner, even as you keep trying to make life work with your partner
  • Understand and heal from a destructive relationship that you have already left

June 12-June 14, 2015



Written on January 20th, 2015 , relationship, Should I Stay? Or Should I Go?, Uncategorized

We are ThorMoms–wrecking your dreams of endless sugar and tv. We are FirefighterMoms, talking your crazy cat emotions out of your trees. Sweetearth moms, easy as a breeze, soft as water. Ruefully weeping with laughter as we slip in your puke. Abundant as summer, skating like a penguin in winter. Wisely calling in the rains when we dry up; that is, locking ourselves in the bathroom because we need a minute. Overall, terribly glorious. And this is our day.

Congratulations, mothers.

Today I want to give special congratulations and encouragment to those mothers who are parenting children while managing the ongoing destructiveness of an abusive partner. Motherhood is demanding enough without the overt attacks perpetrated by the partner intent on demeaning you and undermining your authority. Abusive partners target what we love the most as a way to inflict the most damage. So it is no surprise that they often use every means possible to undermine a mother’s relationship to her children. That this erodes the emotional health of the children is not important to an abusive partner, whose aim is to control you. What matters to him is is the consolidation of his power that he will gain by manipulating your children away from you.

If your relationship to your children is threatened, there is almost nothing you wouldn’t do to protect it. The abuser knows this, and works to control you accordingly, not hesitating to threaten you with the loss of rights to your children if you do not do what he requires. And sadly, these threats too often come to fruition. Because abusive people are already well versed in lying, denying and blaming, they  often successfully apply these well honed skills to a family court system whose record on supporting protective mothers is abysmal.

If the abuser is not successful manipulating the legal system against you, he can also use the same tactics to destroy your relationship with your children.

Women enduring the ongoing stress of having their parenting sabotaged by an abuser tell me that their first priority is to restore their relationship with their children. They feel a sense of urgency about this that only a loving parent could understand. I’d like to offer one thought to help address the sense of pressing urgency and loss that mothers feel when they are separated either physically or emotionally from their children because an abuser has interfered in their mothering.

It’s a Big Picture thought. Because a wound such as this is so big, we need some big medicine to help salve it. The idea I offer here will not help restore your relationship with your child in the immediate sense that you want. I do honor this pressing need and I want you to pursue every legal avenue you need to; I also want you to offer every olive branch to your children that  you can. But today, I am asking you to pause from these efforts, to take a step away from the pressing urgency you feel on this Mother’s Day, and consider something.

You are still ThorMom and FirefighterMom and SweetearthMom. Even if you have a temporary breach from your child, one that may last for years on end–know this to be true: every loving act you ever gave, every kindness–the thousand wipes, rockings and caresses, all seemingly EtchASketched away by time, exist in your child. Look at the bigger picture of the life-long well-being of your child, even if you have an adult child.

Your gifts will be available to your child, even as an adult, for the rest of his or her life. Your child’s journey is one of figuring out how to relate to the abusive voices inside of him or her. She or he must learn to discern the love from the manipulation. Your child will know that there are two paths always available, and one, the one of honest loving,  will have your name on it.

In everday time, the abuser may seem to win–older children of abusers often choose to spent holidays with the abuser because it simplifies their lives not to go to war with him. They also argue with you in ways that they would never dare argue with an abuser–because they can. This is not fun news for you. This is not what you are due. But if you can remember the long haul–your child’s long haul ahead, some of the pressured feeling that you must get your child to return to right relationship with you might be lifted a little. You might hold the temporary distance you experience from your child differently. I say ‘temporary’ because your child will recognize love–even if it is years and years from now. Your truly loving gifts will become clear.

Think how hard it was for you to untangle yourself from the abuser–to understand what he really  was to you. It is as hard for your child. You can focus on this today: that for your child’s long life ahead,(God willing) your gifts of love, already given in such plenty, will always be available. You can never not be the mother of this child; his or her very cells were made in your love. You may not get the shiny, breezing Mother’s Day that you so well deserve, but your true gifts have already arrived. Your child will spend a life learning to harvest them.

Written on May 13th, 2012 , Uncategorized

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JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart

JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.