How Do We Know That God Has Got Us?

Chris BradfordToday we all said goodbye to an awesome man, Chris Bradford.

He was a loving husband, caring and supportive son, and a pioneer among men advocating for victims of intimate partner violence.

I met Chris in July of 2008 when he showed up at a Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau training I was conducting.  He was hungry to learn and had an overflowing passion to support survivors and victims of emotional, verbal and physical abuse.

Chris was one of only a handful of men that showed up and participated whole heartedly in an effort to engage other men in turning the tide of violence against women and girls.

He had courage and determination to make a difference. And he did.  He leaves a legacy and he clearly touched many lives in his short time with us.

The primary challenge for me today is realizing that even being a champion for others, as Chris was, we also have our own struggles. We can advocate and participate in rallies and gain accreditation, but we are alone with our own internal battles to fight.

Chris, at 42, was apparently so consumed in his own fight that he decided he couldn’t win. He forgot for a moment how awesome he was. It is with a heavy heart to say… Chris took his own life. How? We don’t know. It isn’t important.

What is important is we all (especially men) need to learn how to ask for help.

I keep asking myself how I missed the signs that Chris was struggling. We talked at length about how to help men change their behavior, but we never asked each other how we were doing ourselves.

Chris knew how much I appreciated his help, his support and his courage, but I never told him I loved him. And I do love Chris. He is my brother in Christ and I look forward to seeing him again in heaven.

Yes. Chris was a Believer. But like all of us (believer or not) we can become isolated  which is exactly what the enemy wants. His goal is to steal, kill and destroy us.  For me, this is even more reason why we need each other.

Chris didn’t ask for help from anyone that we know of.  Maybe he struggled like every one of us thinking, “I’m a man. I don’t need help.” Maybe he felt he had his life under control and the enemy caught him at a weak moment.

The bottom line is this. We need to be willing to ask for help and we have to be willing to really dig in to get to know our brothers (and sisters).

Every man (and women) has a story.  We live together. We work together. We have church and Bible study together. But do we really know what each other is dealing with when we are left alone?

Whether we are believers in a risen Savior or not, many of us have experienced the enemy’s tactics; making us feel weak, insignificant and alone. This is why it is so important to realize that we are here to help each other.

In the beginning, God created man so He (our Creator) could be in relationship with us. He loves us completely.  He did not design us to be alone, but to love and support one another.

So today I say to each and every one of my family members, my friends, and especially my wife (who I do not tell enough), I love you.

We all need the reminder that we are loved.  Especially on a day like today.

I love how Chris’ wife Dana shared how God showed her His love in the following post a few days after he died.

Yesterday after seeing Chris for the last time, I returned home just before a big thunderstorm. Within 5 minutes of me entering our home, the rain began. My home was full of guests bringing me and my family love and support. I stepped outside on our deck and let God cry on me. I lifted my face and arms to heaven and let Him wash over me. It’s not often that it downpours (this) heavily with rain and thunder and the sun shining (all) at the same time. God and I wept together and I was the most drenched by His tears. (As I stepped back indoors) I was told my face looked different and that was because I was kissed by God and covered in His tears. I stepped back into the rain (for more).

God does love us so much and He does cry with us now as we say goodbye to Chris.

I choose to believe that our God is so awesome that He is now holding Chris. Reminding Chris how awesome he is in God’s eyes.

Going forward let us remember Chris for his pioneer spirit and his awesome heart for others. Chris always put our needs before his own.

Let us also keep Dana and Chris’ family in our daily prayers and consider helping Dana pay for today’s awesome service with a donation to the Fundraiser for Dana Bradford.

How do we know that God has got us? He shows us by revealing His love for each and every one of us… through… each and every one of us.

Chris said it perfectly when he said goodbye. “Be awesome to each other.”

Be awesome to each other

Domestic Violence is a problem year round

Every year we celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. This year was no different as we participated in more than 40 events.

P1070034From a joint City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Proclamation to marches on The Square in response to this year’s sixth and seventh local domestic violence related homicides, we rallied the citizens of this county to help raise the banner and extend a life line to potential victims in our neighborhoods.

Some of the events were strictly awareness efforts. Some were benefits with proceeds going toward helping provide services for the more than 1000 clients we serve every year through our Adult, Children and Batterer Services.

From RAD Charlotte rocking against domestic violence to candlelight vigils we know at least 5,623 citizens of Mecklenburg County were engaged in these efforts. Thanks to all of the advocates and countless volunteers for helping us spread the word.

Wells Fargo Lights CLTWith other efforts like the Wells Fargo Duke Energy Building being lit up in purple to the Diversity Council’s discussion on The Impact of Cultural Differences on Domestic Violence in Mecklenburg County to Power98’s Power Talk radio and television specials, we cannot gauge how many were actually reached.

On October 6th, WSOC-TV aired a one-hour special entitled Stand Up To Domestic Violence. With testimonies from abuse victims to perpetrators to bystanders interceding there were a lot of educational and powerful moments.

Community Support Services partnered with WSOC-TV in this effort by providing 7 staff and 10 volunteers from the Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau to answer phone calls from viewers in an effort to connect them with local services. The 110 calls that came in from viewers in 22 counties ranged widely. One gentlemen with a warrant was convinced to surrender. Another women who has endured verbal abuse for more than thirty years was referred to Adult Services for safety planning.

Our challenge now, as November moves swiftly toward December and we get lost in the Holidays, is that we do not forget about the countless number of male and female victims that are living as prisoners in their own homes. All at the hands of their abuser.

As the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team reminded us again this month, domestic violence is a year round problem.

Join us as we work toward diminishing this problem and clearly communicating to all of our neighbors and constituents that Mecklenburg County has zero tolerance for domestic violence.

For more information on how you can help raise the banner against domestic violence, contact the Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau at 704-432-1568 or go to http://DVSB.CharMeck.org.

Inspiration From A Fifth Grader

When working with survivors of domestic violence there seems to be a hero around every corner, but we don’t expect them to be an 11 year old.

Patricia & Kya Gregory

Patricia & Kya Gregory

Kya Gregory is a child observer whose compassion to help victims of domestic violence began as she saw it first hand when her mother was emotionally and physically abused by her father.

Kya wanted to help somehow, but she didn’t know where to start. Her mom called the CSS Women’s Commission for ideas and when I shared our cell phone program Patricia said “Kya can do that.”

Kya spoke with her Pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and with his blessing she set out to collect 150 old-used cell phones. Her efforts included making wooden boxes with statistics and stories that were put on display in the foyer of the church.

Click on image to see Family Focus feature

Click on image to see Family Focus feature

The congregation was so moved that her story became a Family Focus feature on WSOC-TV. (click on the image or this link http://bit.ly/1KpssBe to see that story).

Kya delivered 207 old-used cell phones to the Women’s Commission office yesterday. Now she is looking for another way to help. Her next outreach effort? Collecting umbrellas for the homeless.

If this one little girl can find a way to extend a lifeline to victims what can you do?
For more information on the cell phone collection program check out the Domestic Violence & Violence Prevention page at http://CSS.CharMeck.org or call Mike Sexton at 704-432-1568.

DV Fatality Review Team presents their fourth report

The Mecklenburg County Domestic Violence Fatality Prevention and Protection Review Team (DVFRT) presented their fourth annual report entitled “Until Death Do Us Part” to the Board of County Commissioners in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC) on Tuesday night.

DVFRT report at BOCC 100714District Court Judge Ron Chapman, who is the current Vice-Chair with the help of Helen Lipman, DVFRT Liaison presented the report at the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting in the Chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

North Carolina legislation created the DVFRT on June 1, 2009 as a pilot project in Mecklenburg County. The legislation provides the needed legal protection to make it easier for agencies to share case information in a full review. The DVFRT has reviewed 16 dv-related homicide cases since that time.

Community Support Services, a Mecklenburg County department that includes the Women’s Commission, is the lead agency for the effort.

The DVFRT report has four themes including; access to firearms, behavioral health issues, exposure of children and youth to domestic violence, and systems integration.

The report includes a number of recommendations including expanded trainings for police and probation officers, as well as judges, in regards to access to firearms. In 10 of the 16 cases reviewed a firearm was the killers’ weapon of choice. In 7 of those 10 cases the firearms were obtained illegally.

The DVFRT, in concert with the DV Community Leadership Team, also recommends that a pilot multi-disciplinary team be developed to actively monitor selected repeat violent DV offenders to reduce repeat incidents. Similar initiatives have shown positive results in other North Carolina communities, including the City of High Point.

DVFRT report at BOCC 100714 HelenA number of accomplishments are also noted such as the Supervised Visitation & Safe Exchange Center opening later this year, which was a priority identified by the DV Community Leadership Team for 2014-16. This facility and program will provide a safe environment for victims and children when child custody comes into play in abusive relationships.

The entire DVFRT 2014 Report is now available online.

For more information on the effects of domestic violence in our community, call the Mecklenburg County Community Support Services Women’s Commission at 704-336-3210 or Safe Alliance’s 24-hour DV Hotline at (704) 332-2513.

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship outside of Mecklenburg County, please call the National DV Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). They will help you get connected with a shelter, programs and services in your community.

Okay Roger… Now what?

Commissioner GoodellListening to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference multiple times now, I find myself still looking for some things to solidly get behind. From my perspective there are a couple of great moves. There are other missed opportunities.

It is great that the NFL has connected with the National Hotline (www.thehotline.org) and it appears the league is committed to helping them with staffing and resources. This is in response to the fact that the hotline missed a huge number of calls by victims due to an 84% increase of calls last week. This is a great initiative for victims. I can get behind that.

I’m glad to hear local domestic violence resources were provided to teams. This is also a good start in the awareness and education process needed for team owners, team personnel and players.

Other than these two new initiatives, everything else were things we already knew.

goodell riceThere were a lot of apologies for how the Ray Rice situation was handled, the lack of a heavy enough penalty for Rice’s actions, and Goodell admitting the mistakes began with him. I truly appreciate his leadership and the fact that he is owning the responsibility for fumbling this case.

In the NFL’s defense, I think this issue caught them by surprize. One of the best things to come out of this mishap is we are now participating in a nationwide conversation. My guess is there are lessons that corporate America can learn from how the Commissioner and team owners are trying to get their heads around this. There is a very good chance that alot of businesses, professional teams and college atheletics didn’t have this issue on their radar before now.

Goodell did say they are going to rewrite the Personal Conduct Policy and cited a new committee being formed to help with this policy. His goal is to have a new policy in place by the Super Bowl (02/01/15).

More than once he stated he invited former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to lead an “independent” investigation on how the league handled the Rice case. And that is good. More than a few times he talked about “getting our house in order.” That is important too.

What I was hoping he would say is, “Any player arrested for domestic violence would immediately be suspended until an investigation is completed,” but he didn’t. Instead he dodged the questioning about consistency of charges like a high stakes lawyer.

Right now the NFL is still floundering with a consistent approach to players caught in a criminal incident. Regardless of their guilt or innocence.

Ray Rice has been suspended by the league and terminated by the Baltimore Ravens.

Carolina Panther’s Greg Hardy is on the “Exempt List.”

jonathan dwyerArizona Cardinal Jonathan Dwyer has been put on the non-football injury list, and San Francisco’s Ray McDonald is still playing meaning three out of four of these cases the player is still getting paid.

Granted, we do need to respect the legal process. Ray McDonald has not been charged yet. He was arrested last month and accused of assaulting his pregnant fiancée. A number of former players including Hall of Famer Jerry Rice think the 49ers should remove McDonald from the field.

Another DV case in the NFL?

quincy enunwaAnd what about New York Jets’ Quincy Enunwa? (NFL investigating case, ESPN) Mr. Enunwa was arrested on September 4th for allegedly pulling a woman off a bed at a hotel near the Jets training facility, injuring her head and finger. Why have we not heard anything about his case Mr. Commissioner? Will the new NFL Domestic Violence Policy that was immediately implemented on August 28, 2014 apply in this case once he is charged?

It begs the question, is the NFL simply turning a blind eye to the illegal activities of its players? (NFL Player Arrests, USA Today). Could Commissioner Goodell be trying to protect his bosses’ investments?

There is a ton of great work being done by current and former NFL players in the communities where they live. Men that understand their role as a positive role model. Men that know what they do instills a lasting impression on children. Especially young boys.

By not addressing these cases of potential abuse the NFL is sending the message to these youngsters that it is okay to own an arsenal of firearms. It’s okay to minimize women. It’s okay to view women as sex objects. Did you know, Mr. Commissioner, this lack of action of addressing these issues has proven to eventually lead to abuse (Miss Representation Project)

How about this for a strong message to victims and women in general?

janay knocked outWhat I did not heard during the press conference or at any point before now is a conversation on what the NFL is doing for Jayna Rice, Nicole Holder or any of the other victims abused at the hands of current NFL players facing charges of domestic violence or child abuse.

There was no apology. No words of concern to their well-being. No initiative toward assuring victims’ safety, which could easily apply to players being abuse by their intimate partner too.

We all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL has done more awareness of this issue than possibly any corporation in history. The players will pink and purple ribbonbe wearing pink accessories to their uniforms all month and a pink ribbon will adorn the 50 yard line in most (if not all) NFL stadiums throughout the month. This is fantastic knowing that one in eight women have personal experience with breast cancer.

Did you know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month and that one in four women have experienced abuse in a relationship? What message can Commissioner Goodell send in support of women in general, which happens to be 44% of their fan base? (NFL fan base, USA Today)

Here is one tangible way the NFL can show they care. Ask every NFL owner to designate one home game within the month of October where $1 per ticket (or seat) would go to their local domestic violence shelter. Then the league could match those funds to go to the each State’s Domestic Violence Coalition. (This of course, would be over and above what the league has committed to the National Hotline.) This type of demonstration puts their money where their mouth is. All the while making a serious difference in the lives of abused women and possibly saving a life or two or more.

This just may help the PR nightmare they now are facing as well, with a move toward a commitment to victim’s safety which we all can solidly get behind.

Are you looking for ways you can help raise the banner against domestic violence during DV Awareness Month? Check out Mecklenburg County’s DV Calendar of Events or Domestic Violence Awareness Month for some ideas or how you can help.