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This year a new law, HB4264, takes effect in the state of Illinois. It’s a big step forward to help abused women. The law focuses on the close relationships between a woman and her beauty care practitioner, ie: her hairdresser, masseuse, manicurist, etc.

As of January 2017, every state-licensed beauty care practitioner is required to attend an hour of state-sponsored training to identify signs of domestic violence. Although, the state does not require the personal care worker to report the abuse to authorities, it does protect her liability against criminal or civil charges when acting in good faith to report, or failing to report, a client’s symptoms of abuse.

Probably the most important aspect of the state training is the information that it gives the practitioner to share with abused women. This may include the phone numbers for organizations that shelter abused women, and a list of what an abused woman should take when she breaks free. An abused woman needs to have basic essentials ready for her break to freedom and to live on her own. For example: identification papers and investment records necessary when filing for divorce. The abused woman also needs to learn signs of when when her abuser is about to boil over and when to run out with nothing but children. Possessions can be replaced. Lives cannot.

Women who regularly visit a hairstylist often enjoy how personal their conversations are. Even when confidentiality is not discussed, they feel that their secrets will not be not passed on, even to a client’s family member.

Beauty care practitioners are particularly likely to notice evidence of physical abuse. Often, abusers aim their blows at places on their victims’ bodies that are not readily seen when they are dressed. The masseuse in a spa, a manicurist, or a hairdresser may be the only one who notice bruises on the stomach, on the scalp, or on the feet.

Illinois is the first state in our nation to require personal-care beauty workers to take this training as part of their licensing requirements. Passing similar laws in other states will take time, but we can start helpful practices without a law. Salons and spas can post shelter organizations’ phone numbers and other information on relationship abuse. One Chicago salon owner puts the business cards of a local sheltering group in the beauty shop’s restroom. Her clients take so many of those cards that she must regularly refill the card-holder.

What can you do personally to help abused women?

• Prepare an informational card about the signs of abuse for your hairdresser, etc.
• Go to the local shelter organization and ask for business cards. Take them to salons and ask for permission to display them.
• Write to your state legislature about the Illinois law. And promote a similar one for your state.
• Volunteer to work for a women’s shelter organization.
• Talk to your hairdresser, other spa personnel, and your friends about this blog (

At the same time that the Illinois law took effect, the 2017 Women’s March inspired hundreds of thousands to promote women’s rights. Spreading information about relationship abuse fit nicely into their follow-up list of action goals. Women in all states will benefit.

What are you, your community, city or state doing to get the word out to women who need to break free? My readers and I would like to hear about it. Please reply to this post or email me at


C. L. Woodhams, Prize-winning author of THE OUTREACH COMMITTEE
Available from,, and


After many generations, we are talking openly about a blight on our society, the sexual abuse of women. Whatever you may think about the recent election patter or the candidates, you have to agree talking about the sexual abuse that women have long suffered in silence is a good thing.

It’s not that we didn’t know what was happening. Women heard jokes about the “casting couch” in Hollywood. The newly employed were warned to drive themselves to a meeting and not accept the boss’ offer of a ride. They worked hard   to keep their jobs while they avoided being alone with a coworker or moving away from his too-close stance.

In years past, women didn’t talk publically about demeaning sexual abuse for many reasons. Among them: They might lose their jobs if they complained; they tolerated the abuse as the cultural norm; and they depended on men for financial and emotional support.

But now, women are more independent and feel equal to men. They can train for any career that interests them. They’re confident and expect to to be treated professionally and paid equally with men doing the same job. But companies still see the need to train their employees on avoiding sexual harassment and often will transfer rather than fire a man who is caught.

Women in this country applauded Michelle Obama’s speech on October 13, 2016. It wasn’t a political speech; it was an impassioned plea on behalf of all women to bring this societal blight into the open and force us to discuss it. She understood that women had pretended that the abuse didn’t bother them just to keep peace or to hold onto a job. But it does bother them and they have to talk about it. To their daughters, to their sons and to all the men in their lives. And, of course, among themselves.

At long last, thanks in part to the exchange of political complaints and denials in the United States’2016 presidential election, men and women are widely discussing the sexual abuse of women.. One man said to me, workplace sexual abuse is wrong now, but it wasn’t considered wrong years ago. Women knew it was wrong back then, but they also knew that it wasn’t to be mentioned. They accepted it on some level. But that is changing. And changing fast, thanks to this election.

Any kind of workplace, home or casual sexual abuse, public or private, is more culturally unacceptable today.  Instead of joking about it or ignoring it, we as a culture must talk about it. It’s the healthy thing to do.  The 2016 election controversy started the discussion. It’s up to us all, men and women, to continue it.

Let’s talk. What are your thoughts on this? My readers and I would like to hear them. Please reply to this post, or email me at




  1. L. Woodhams, prize-winning author

The Outreach Committee

Available at and








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The July 5, 2015 Dear Abby column contained an excellent and detailed list of characteristics displayed by abusing men. Check it out. You can contact her at


C. L. Woodhams, author of the multi-award winning suspense novel, The Outreach Committee. It’s available from



I recently attended an English tea, hosted by the Community Resource Center of Encinitas, CA. The CRC is a large organization devoted to helping abused women break free from their dysfunctional homes and start new lives. The enthusiasm at the tea was contagious; over two hundred supporters filled the room with their chatter and laughter. They placed bids at the silent auction and purchased raffle tickets for elaborate gifts donated by merchant supporters.  I couldn’t help but wonder if any of them were former abused women celebrating their freedom and giving back. The tea raised tens of thousands of dollars to support this wonderful service organization. My spirits soared at the thought that all these women were helping the abused to break free.

It was my first contact with the CRC so my initial goal was to learn about the organization. How were they helping? What were their goals? Were they connected with other organizations locally and nationally? Here is some of what I learned.

First and foremost, the Community Resource Center provides emergency shelter, at their very secure Carol’s House, for women breaking free.  But their help doesn’t stop there. Whether or not she is housed in this facility, every abused woman who has broken free, and her family, receives food and counseling. Volunteers provide emergency clothing and household goods. The CRC also operates thrift shops to bring in funds for their operation and to provide affordable clothing and household items to the whole community.

The CRC helps women who have broken free find jobs to support their families. They help them with resumes, job referrals, and job training too.

To ensure stability in the abused woman’s life, the CRC continues to help her after she leaves the emergency shelter, by offering her additional counseling, asset building advice, and even classes on choosing healthy food. They also provide referrals to professionals who may help her move ahead.

On a county basis, the CRC participates in an organization that networks non-profit, public and private groups to provide one-stop county-wide assistance to domestic violence victims. Currently the SDDVC is working to inform teens about the signs of control that could lead to date abuse. See for more information.

Following the tea and a progress report we heard from a woman who had been abused. She told us about her abuse, her cycle of breaking free and then returning to her abuser, and her success in finally breaking free. Her story contained many of the elements we’ve discussed in this blog.

In spite of the sadness of the CRC’s cause, I left the tea filled with the joy. The joy of coming together with this large, energetic organization to help abused women break free from an environment that no one should have to endure.

Organizations such as the CRC are vital to the health of a community. Domestic violence is increasing in the United States.  More CRC-like organizations are needed. If your community does not have such a group, please champion the formation of one.

Do you have a sheltering organization in your area? My readers and I would like to hear about it. Please reply to this post or email me at


C. L. Woodhams, author,  The Outreach Committee:Because Marriage Can Be Murder, a multiple award winner, available at









Domestic violence blights a community. It imprisons women and children and denies them the joys of a peaceful life.  I’ve been heartened by the increasing support that communities world-wide are offering abused women. Here is a sampling of them:

  • Pets may be included in a restraining order against a domestic violence partner.
  • Abused women cannot be forced to attend marriage mediation sessions with their abuser, even though other divorcing couples are required by law to do so.
  • The custody of a child conceived during sexual assault may be limited.
  • Victims of abuse are provided separate and secure seating in the courtroom, during a trial of their abusers.
  • A candidate for City Attorney of a major city is running on a pledge to punish and remove spousal abusers from society.
  • A law aids a woman who has broken free by permitting her to separate her cell phone contract from her abuser’s contract without penalty.
  • Many communities have provided a venue where representatives of all the organizations that can help a woman breaking free are housed in one place.
  • A charity organization put on a pampering day at a local spa for women in abused women’s shelters. After being treated to facials and massages, the women returned to their shelter each with a robe and a bag of toiletries.
  • Experts from all over the country assemble in one spot to train religious leaders on how to respond to and help women who are being abused by their domestic partners.

We still have far to go. While I’m heartened when I read about these and other community efforts to aid abused women who have broken free or who are making plans to do so, I can’t forget that we need to do more before we can say we’ve succeeded in erasing this blight. What else is needed? Let’s start with:

  • Educating our teens. Teaching them what a special, loving, equal partnership, looks like.
  • Building and supporting more secure shelters.
  • Building more of the one-stop information centers for women seeking to break free.
  • Setting aside some low income housing just for families breaking free from abuse.
  • Setting up more free animal shelters (or fostering homes) for pets of women breaking free.
  • Providing job training and mentoring.
  • Offering free financial counseling.

What has your community done to help women break free? My readers and I would like to hear about it. Please reply to this post or email me at


C L Woodhams, author The Outreach Committee:Because Marriage Can Be Murder, a multiple award winning suspense novel available at




I’ve been following the second trial of Julie Harper in Carlsbad , CA. Julia admitted killing her husband. Her motive? To break free from his financial, emotional and physical abuse of her and her children.  Julia was acquitted of first degree murder during her first trial, but the jury deadlocked on the second degree murder charge. This new trial is to decide her guilt or innocence on that issue.

The media has conflicting reports about the trial and I have not attended it. But I’ve read about a few facts that the prosecutor seems to be using as evidence of her guilt: her husband was a very well liked popular teacher at the local high school; she had squirreled away a backpack containing passports and a large sum of cash, $35,000 and a gun. She also is a hoarder. I propose that these bits of evidence are not proof of her guilt, but of his.

It is a well-known fact that an abuser is often well-liked in his community and quite popular. So much so, that outsiders cannot conceive of his abuses inside the home. He uses this charm to attract others. What he doesn’t show to his fans is his tyrant side. Because he needs to be popular in public, his controlling nature comes out only at home. This is not evidence against Julie.

Julie had stashed her back pack with the cash, gun and passports in her father’s attic.  She was doing what all breaking free women should do. She created a breaking-free -bag for her eventual escape.  I commend her for thinking ahead to her needs when she takes her children and flees.

Julie was a hoarder. Boxes of stuff were found throughout the home. Is this proof of her intent to murder her husband? How can it be anything other than a passive resistance to his bullying? Or to her decreased financial condition? Julie had had a successful career in the real estate game. That is until the housing slump hit and her income dropped precipitously. Her husband could not recognize this drop and insisted that Julie pay one half of all the bills that the family incurred, including a hefty mortgage.

I don’t know whether Julie is guilty of murder in the second degree or if she was just defending herself and her children against further attacks.  But I do feel that the evidence that the prosecutor is presenting against her is evidence of spousal abuse, nothing more.

Julie Harper was convicted by the jury in her trial. She is appealing the judgement.

Should defending oneself against an abuser be a crime? Is it murder of any degree? My readers and I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter. Have you escaped a charge of murder when you killed your abuser in self defense? Or tried and failed to do so? Please respond to this post or email me at


CL. Woodhams, author: The multiple award-winning novel, The Outreach Committee (available from








It is not safe for a victim of abuse to go to a friend’s, sister’s or mother’s house. The abuser knows those addresses. A woman breaking free must find an alternate place for herself and her family. The further away from her former home, the better.

I just finished reading J. A. Jance’s novel, Remains of Innocence. In it, one of the victims uses an underground railroad for abused women to escape the villains and move across country. This underground doesn’t use trains, but long distance trucks to move the precious cargo. She is transferred between drivers at truck stops where she is also welcome to use the showers and computers and bunk down until her next ride arrives.  She rides in the sleeping portion of the cab away from prying eyes. It is all arranged by a shelter for abused women.

Since Jance’s novel is fiction, I don’t know if the truck railroad exists, but it’s a workable and wonderful idea. The novel set me to thinking about other industries that could aid an abused woman to break free and establish a new home far from her abuser. My first thought went to the commercial airlines. And what about industrial firms that have their own jets? Could taxi’s and limousine services give a free ride to someone leaving shelters?

Then there are the Amtrak or cross-country buses. A free ride with them may present a greater potential of exposure, but they could also offer her a view of the countryside to relax her. If her disguise is good enough, she can ride in the open without the fear of being found. Or a car rental service might have an arrangement with local shelters to rent cars free of charge to women breaking free.

It all starts with the shelters who take in abused women and the community that supports them. In the novel, a beauty salon created a disguise for the victim before sending her on to the truck stop. Other local industries can offer help, providing free clothing, cell phones and meals.

A veterinarian or animal rescue/foster group could offer to shelter the abused woman’s pets until she finds a new, safe, home for them. A few women’s shelters have facilities for pets, but most do not. Abused women do not dare to leave pets behind with their abusers. The abusers may beat or starve or even kill the animals to punish the victim for leaving.

Do you have other ideas on how an abused woman might break free and flee anonymously? Did you avail yourself of one of the methods I mentioned?  Or do you have other suggestions? If so, my readers and I would like to hear about your journey. Please respond to this post or email me at


C. L. Woodhams, author

The Outreach Committee, a multiple award winner