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I'm here today to talk about a disturbing question, which has an equally disturbing answer. My topic is the secrets of domestic violence, and the question I'm going to tackle is the one question everyone always asks. Why does she stay? Why would anyone stay with a man who beats her? I'm not a psychiatrist, a social worker or an expert in domestic violence. I'm just one woman with a story to tell.

I was twenty two. I had just graduated from Harvard College. I had moved to New York City for my first job as a writer and editor at Seventeen magazine. I had my first apartment, my first little green American Express card, and I had a very big secret. My secret was that I had this gun loaded with hollow-point bullets pointed at my head by the man who I thought was my soulmate, many, many times. The man who I loved more than anybody on Earth held a gun to my head and threatened to kill me more times than I can even remember. I'm here to tell you the story of crazy love, a psychological trap disguised as love, one that millions of women and even a few men fall into every year. It may even be your story.

I don't look like a typical domestic violence survivor. I have a B.A. in English from Harvard College, an MBA in marketing from Wharton Business School. I've spent most of my career working for Fortune 500 companies including Johnson & Johnson, Leo Burnett and The Washington Post. I've been married for almost 20 years to my second husband and we have three kids together. My dog is a black lab, and I drive a Honda Odyssey minivan.

So my first message for you is that domestic violence happens to everyone, all races, all religions, all income and education levels. It's everywhere. And my second message is that everyone thinks domestic violence happens to women, that it's a women's issue. Not exactly. Over eighty five percent of abusers are men, and domestic abuse happens only in intimate, interdependent, long-term relationships, in other words, in families, the last place we would want or expect to find violence, which is one reason domestic abuse is so confusing.

I would have told you myself that I was the last person on Earth who would stay with a man who beats me, but in fact I was a very typical victim because of my age. I was twenty two, and in the United States, women ages 16 to 24 are three times as likely to be domestic violence victims as women of other ages. and over five hundred women and girls this age are killed every year by abusive partners, boyfriends, and husbands in the United States.

I was also a very typical victim because I knew nothing about domestic violence, its warning signs or its patterns.

I met Conor on a cold, rainy January night. He sat next to me on the New York City subway, and he started chatting me up. He told me two things. One was that he, too, had just graduated from an Ivy League school, and that he worked at a very impressive Wall Street bank. But what made the biggest impression on me that first meeting was that he was smart and funny and he looked like a farm boy. He had these big cheeks, these big apple cheeks and this wheat-blond hair, and he seemed so sweet.

One of the smartest things Conor did, from the very beginning, was to create the illusion that I was the dominant partner in the relationship. He did this especially at the beginning by idolizing me. We started dating, and he loved everything about me, that I was smart, that I'd gone to Harvard, that I was passionate about helping teenage girls, and my job. He wanted to know everything about my family and my childhood and my hopes and dreams. Conor believed in me, as a writer and a woman, in a way that no one else ever had. And he also created a magical atmosphere of trust between us by confessing his secret which was that, as a very young boy starting at age four, he had been savagely and repeatedly physically abused by his stepfather. and the abuse had gotten so bad that he had had to drop out of school in eighth grade, even though he was very smart, and he'd spent almost 20 years rebuilding his life. Which is why that Ivy League degree and the Wall Street job and his bright shiny future meant so much to him. If you had told me that this smart, funny, sensitive man who adored me would one day dictate whether or not I wore makeup. How short my skirts were? Where I lived? What jobs I took? Who my friends were? and where I spent Christmas? I would have laughed at you, because there was not a hint of violence or control or anger in Conor at the beginning. I didn't know that the first stage in any domestic violence relationship is to seduce and charm the victim.

I also didn't know that the second step is to isolate the victim. Now, Conor did not come home one day and announce. You know, hey, all this Romeo and Juliet stuff has been great, but I need to move into the next phase where I isolate you and I abuse you. So I need to get you out of this apartment where the neighbors can hear you scream and out of this city where you have friends and family and coworkers who can see the bruises. Instead, Conor came home one Friday evening and he told me that he had quit his job that day, his dream job, and he said that he had quit his job because of me, because I had made him feel so safe and loved that he didn't need to prove himself on Wall Street anymore, and he just wanted to get out of the city and away from his abusive, dysfunctional family, and move to a tiny town in New England where he could start his life over with me by his side. Now, the last thing I wanted to do was leave New York, and my dream job, but I thought you made sacrifices for your soulmate, so I agreed, and I quit my job, and Conor and I left Manhattan together. I had no idea I was falling into crazy love, that I was walking headfirst into a carefully laid physical, financial and psychological trap.

The next step in the domestic violence pattern is to introduce the threat of violence and see how she reacts. And here's where those guns come in. As soon as we moved to New England, you know, that place where Conor was supposed to feel so safe, he bought three guns. He kept one in the glove compartment of our car. He kept one under the pillows on our bed, and the third one he kept in his pocket at all times. And he said that he needed those guns because of the trauma he'd experienced as a young boy. He needed them to feel protected. But those guns were really a message for me, and even though he hadn't raised a hand to me, my life was already in grave danger every minute of every day.

Conor first physically attacked me five days before our wedding. It was seven am. I still had on my nightgown. I was working on my computer trying to finish a freelance writing assignment, and I got frustrated, and Conor used my anger as an excuse to put both of his hands around my neck and to squeeze so tightly that I could not breathe or scream, and he used the chokehold to hit my head repeatedly against the wall. Five days later, the ten bruises on my neck had just faded, and I put on my mother's wedding dress, and I married him.

Despite what had happened, I was sure we were going to live happily ever after, because I loved him, and he loved me so much. And he was very, very sorry. He had just been really stressed out by the wedding and by becoming a family with me. It was an isolated incident, and he was never going to hurt me again.

It happened twice more on the honeymoon. The first time, I was driving to find a secret beach and I got lost and he punched me in the side of my head so hard that the other side of my head repeatedly hit the driver's side window. And then a few days later, driving home from our honeymoon, he got frustrated by traffic, and he threw a cold Big Mac in my face. Conor proceeded to beat me once or twice a week for the next two and a half years of our marriage.

I was mistaken in thinking that I was unique and alone in this situation. One in three American women experiences domestic violence or stalking at some point in her life, and the CDC reports that fifty million children are abused every year, fifty million. So actually, I was in very good company.

Back to my question. Why did I stay? The answer is easy. I didn't know he was abusing me. Even though he held those loaded guns to my head, pushed me down stairs, threatened to kill our dog, pulled the key out of the car ignition as I drove down the highway, poured coffee grinds on my head as I dressed for a job interview. I never once thought of myself as a battered wife. Instead, I was a very strong woman in love with a deeply troubled man, and I was the only person on Earth who could help Conor face his demons.

The other question everybody asks is, why doesn't she just leave? Why didn't I walk out? I could have left any time. To me, this is the saddest and most painful question that people ask, because we victims know something you usually don't. It's incredibly dangerous to leave an abuser. Because the final step in the domestic violence pattern is kill her. Over seventy percent of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has ended the relationship, after she's gotten out. because then the abuser has nothing left to lose. Other outcomes include long-term stalking, even after the abuser remarries, denial of financial resources, and manipulation of the family court system to terrify the victim and her children, who are regularly forced by family court judges to spend unsupervised time with the man who beat their mother. And still we ask, why doesn't she just leave?

I was able to leave, because of one final, sadistic beating that broke through my denial. I realized that the man who I loved so much was going to kill me if I let him. So I broke the silence. I told everyone, the police, my neighbors, my friends and family, total strangers and I'm here today because you all helped me. We tend to stereotype victims as grisly headlines, self-destructive women, damaged goods. The question, why does she stay? Is code for some people for? It's her fault for staying, as if victims intentionally choose to fall in love with men intent upon destroying us.

But since publishing Crazy Love, I have heard hundreds of stories from men and women, who also got out, who learned an invaluable life lesson from what happened, and who rebuilt lives, joyous, happy lives, as employees, wives and mothers lives completely free of violence, like me. Because it turns out that I'm actually a very typical domestic violence victim and a typical domestic violence survivor. I remarried a kind and gentle man, and we have those three kids. I have that black lab, and I have that minivan. What I will never have again, ever, is a loaded gun held to my head by someone who says that he loves me.

Right now, maybe you're thinking, wow, this is fascinating, or, wow, how stupid was she, but this whole time, I've actually been talking about you. I promise you there are several people listening to me right now who are currently being abused or who were abused as children or who are abusers themselves. Abuse could be affecting your daughter, your sister, your best friend right now.

I was able to end my own crazy love story by breaking the silence. I'm still breaking the silence today. It's my way of helping other victims, and it's my final request of you. Talk about what you heard here. Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence simply by shining a spotlight on it. We victims need everyone. We need every one of you to understand the secrets of domestic violence. Show abuse the light of day by talking about it with your children, your coworkers, your friends and family. Recast survivors as wonderful, lovable people with full futures. Recognize the early signs of violence and conscientiously intervene, deescalate it, show victims a safe way out. Together we can make our beds, our dinner tables and our families the safe and peaceful oases they should be. Thank you.
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Ashley Judd, stupid fucking slut. You can't sue someone for calling them a cunt. If you can't handle the Internet, fuck off, whore. Ashley Judd, you're the reason women shouldn't vote. Twisted is such a bad movie, I don't even want to rape it. Whatever you do, don't tell Ashley Judd. She'll die alone with a dried out vagina. If I had to fuck an older woman, oh my God, I would fuck the shit out of Ashley Judd, that bitch is hot af. The unforgivable shit I would do to her. Online misogyny is a global gender rights tragedy, and it is imperative that it ends.

Girls' and women's voices, and our allies' voices are constrained in ways that are personally, economically, professionally and politically damaging. And when we curb abuse, we will expand freedom.

I am a Kentucky basketball fan, so on a fine March day last year, I was doing one of the things I do best, I was cheering for my Wildcats. The daffodils were blooming, but the referees were not blowing the whistle when I was telling them to.

Funny, they're very friendly to me before the opening tip, but they really ignore me during the game. Three of my players were bleeding, so I did the next best thing, I tweeted.

It is routine for me to be treated in the ways I've already described to you. It happens to me every single day on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Since I joined Twitter in 2011, misogyny and misogynists have amply demonstrated they will dog my every step. My spirituality, my faith, being a hillbilly. I can say that, you can't, all of it is fair game.

And I have responded to this with various strategies. I've tried engaging people. This one guy was sending me hypersexual, nasty stuff, and there was a girl in his avatar. I wrote him back and said. Is that your daughter. I feel a lot of fear that you may think about and talk to women this way. And he surprised me by saying, You know what. You're right. I apologize. Sometimes people want to be held accountable. This one guy was musing to I don't know who that maybe I was the definition of a cunt. I was married to a Scot for 14 years, so I said, cunt means many different things in different countries.

But I'm pretty sure you epitomize the global standard of a dick.

I've tried to rise above it, I've tried to get in the trenches, but mostly I would scroll through these social media platforms with one eye partially closed trying not to see it, but you can't make a cucumber out of a pickle. What is seen goes in. It's traumatic. And I was always secretly hoping in some part of me that what was being said to me and about me wasn't true. Because even I, an avowed, self-declared feminist, who worships at the altar of Gloria internalize the patriarchy. This is really critical. Patriarchy is not boys and men. It is a system in which we all participate, including me.

On that particular day, for some reason, that particular tweet after the basketball game triggered something called a cyber mob. This vitriolic, global outpouring of the most heinous hate speech, death threats, rape threats. And don't you know, when I was sitting at home alone in my nightgown, I got a phone call, and it was my beloved former husband, and he said on a voice mail. Loved one ... what is happening to you is not OK.

And there was something about him taking a stand for me that night, that allowed me to take a stand for myself. And I started to write. I started to write about sharing the fact that I'm a survivor of all forms of sexual abuse, including three rapes. And the hate speech I get in response to that, these are just some of the comments posted to news outlets. Being told I'm a snitch is really fun.

Thank you, Jesus. May your grace and mercy shine. So, I wrote this feminist op-ed, it is entitled, Forget Your Team. It Is Your Online Gender Violence Toward Girls And Women That Can Kiss My Righteous Ass.

And I did that alone, and I published it alone, because my chief advisor said, Please don't, the rain of retaliatory garbage that is inevitable, I fear for you. But I trust girls and I trust women, and I trust our allies. It was published, it went viral, it proves that every single day online misogyny is a phenomenon endured by us all, all over the world, and when it is intersectional, it is worse. Sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, you name it. It amplifies the violence endured by girls and women, and for our younger girls, it is worse.

It's clearly traumatizing. Our mental health, our emotional well-being are so gravely affected because the threat of violence is experienced neurobiologically as violence. The cortisol shoots up, the limbic system gets fired, we lose productivity at work. And let's talk about work. Our ability to work is constrained. Online searches of women applying for jobs reveal nude pictures of them, false allegations they have STDs, their addresses indicating that they are available for sex with real examples of people showing up at this house for said sex.

Our ability to go to school is impaired. 96 percent of all postings of sexual images of our young people girls. Our girls. Our boys are two to three times more likely, nonconsensually, to share images. And I want to say a word about revenge porn. Part of what came out of this tweet was my getting connected with allies and other activists who are fighting for a safe and free internet. We started something called the Speech Project; curbing abuse, expanding freedom. And that website provides a critical forum, because there is no global, legal thing to help us figure this out. But we do provide on that website a standardized list of definitions, because it's hard to attack a behavior in the right way if we're not all sharing a definition of what that behavior is. And I learned that revenge porn is often dangerously misapplied. It is the nonconsensual sharing of an image used tactically to shame and humiliate a girl or woman that attempts to pornography us. Our natural sexuality is. I don't know about yours, pretty gorgeous and wonderful. And my expressing it does not pornography make. So, I have all these resources that I'm keenly aware so many people in the world do not. I was able to start the Speech Project with colleagues. I can often get a social media company's attention. I have a wonderful visit to Facebook HQ coming up. Hasn't helped the idiotic reporting standards yet. I actually pay someone to scrub my social media feeds, attempting to spare my brain the daily iterations of the trauma of hate speech. And guess what. I get hate speech for that. Oh, you live in an echo chamber. Well, guess what. Having someone post a photograph of me with my mouth open saying they can't wait to cum on my face, I have a right to set that boundary.

And this distinction between virtual and real is specious because guess what, that actually happened to me once when I was a child, and so that tweet brought up that trauma, and I had to do work on that.

But you know what we do. We take all of this hate speech, and we disaggregate it, and we code it, and we give that data so that we understand the intersectionality of it. You know, when I get porn, when it's about political affiliation, when it's about age, when it's about all of it. We're going to win this fight.

There are a lot of solutions. Thank goodness. I'm going to offer just a few, and of course I challenge you to create and contribute your own. Number one, we have to start with digital media literacy, and clearly it must have a gendered lens. Kids, schools, caregivers, parents, it's essential. Two, shall we talk about our friends in tech? Said with dignity and respect, the sexism in your workplaces must end.

EDGE, the global standard for gender equality, is the minimum standard. And guess what, Silicon Valley. If L'Oreal in India, in the Philippines, in Brazil and in Russia can do it, you can, too. Enough excuses. Only when women have critical mass in every department at your companies, including building platforms from the ground up, will the conversations about priorities and solutions change.

And more love for my friends in tech, profiteering off misogyny in video games must end. I'm so tired of hearing you talk to me at cocktail parties, like you did a couple weeks ago in Aspen about how deplorable Gamergate was when you're still making billions of dollars off games that maim and dump women for sport. Basta!, as the Italians would say. Enough.

Our friends in law enforcement have much to do, because we've seen that online violence is an extension of in-person violence. In our country, more girls and women have been murdered by their intimate partners than died on 9-11 and have died since in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. And it's not cool to say that, but it is true We care so much geopolitically about what men are doing over there to women over there. In 2015, 72828 women used intimate partner violence services in this country. That is not counting the girls and women and boys who needed them. Law enforcement must be empowered with up-to-date internet technology, the devices and an understanding of these platforms. How they work. The police wanted to be helpful when Amanda Hess called about the death threat she was getting on Twitter, but they couldn't really when they said. What's Twitter?

Our legislators must write and pass astute legislation that reflects today's technology and our notions of free and hate speech. In New York recently, the law could not be applied to a perpetrator because the crimes must have been committed even if it was anonymous. They must have been committed by telephone, in mail, by telegraph. The language must be technologically neutral.

So apparently, I've got a pretty bold voice. So, let's talk about our friends, white men. You have a role to play and a choice to make. You can do something, or you can do nothing. We're cool in this room, but when this goes out, everyone will say, oh my God, she's a reverse racist. That quote was said by a white man, Robert Moritz, chairperson, PricewaterhouseCoopers, he asked me to include it in my talk.

We need to grow support lines and help groups, so victims can help each other when their lives and finances have been derailed. We must as individuals disrupt gender violence as it is happening. 92 percent of young people 29 and under witness it. 72 percent of us have witnessed it. We must have the courage and urgency to practice stopping it as it is unfolding.

And lastly, believe her. Believe her.

This is fundamentally a problem of human interaction. And as I believe that human interaction is at the core of our healing, trauma not transformed will be trauma transferred. The end is latent in the beginning, so we are going to end this talk replacing hate speech with love speech. Because I get lonely in this, but I know that we are allies. I recently learned about how gratitude and affirmations offset negative interactions. It takes five of those to offset one negative interaction, and gratitude in particular, free, available globally any time, anywhere, to anyone in any dialect, it fires the pregenual anterior cingulate, a watershed part of the brain that floods it with great, good stuff. So I'm going to say awesome stuff about myself. I would like for you to reflect it back to me. It might sound something like this.

I am a powerful and strong woman, and you would say, Yes, you are. Yes, you are. My mama loves me. Yes, she does. I did a great job with my talk. Yes, you did. I have a right to be here. Yes, you do. I'm really cute. Yes, you are.

God does good work. Yes, He does. And I love you. Thank you so much for letting me be of service. Bless you.
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