Murphy Milano's Exceptional Victims Handbook is Here!

Thank you Murphy Milano for giving us this important guidebook!

Posted Apr 14, 2010

Just when the public has demonstrated a belief that domestic violence is a crime of the past, the case of survivor producer Bruce Beresford-Redman makes the headlines.  It seems that all the ingredients for a domestic homicide are present.

And if this case is not enough,  we have seen domestic violence creep back into pop culture and celebrity justice - a la the Chris Brown case and the Charlie Sheen cases, as examples.   There is no arguing that there is a problem, but like everything else one can’t help to ask: Is there a solution?  While leaving the abuse is the only solution, that is often a lot easier said than done.  But leaving and preparing just got one step easier for victims thanks to tireless victim’s advocate Susan Murphy Milano.  In her book “Times Up”, Murphy Milano recognizes that domestic violence in not simply a crime de jour. It a real crime that was around well before OJ and will still exist well beyond Brown and Sheen.

To say that Susan Murphy Milano has hit the nail on the head (again) is a total understatement!  Murphy Milano's book is well crafted and timely.  She not only discusses the “problem” but takes it one step further in this soup-to-nuts handbook. In twelve easy to read chapters, she has created a realistic prescription: offering real-life solutions that will have long term benefits in the criminal justice system for victims of domestic violence. She gives concrete suggestions for how you can escape a violent relationship and get out with your life. For example, in Chapter 4 (Declaration of Independence), Murphy Milano describes and prescribes an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit – a document to help in the serious, dangerous, and daunting process of leaving an abuser. The concept is simple: leaving your abuse requires planning. The chapter actually has a sample document for use. It is genius! The affidavit is a wonderful tool to document the truth as to the circumstances that may have lead to death or injury and offers hope to hold the abuser responsible within the legal system.   With this sample, you would write out your wishes, the details of the abuse, and of course sign, have some witness it, get it notarized and keep in a secure location.

Take these circumstances as an example:

You are in a dating relationship. Maybe the person does not even reside in the same state as you. He is angry that you broke off the relationship. You have a “feeling” that he is planning to harm you because he cannot have you in his life anymore. He leaves threatening messages on your voice mail or text messages you that make you uneasy  afraid. E-mails arrive filled with high emotions and possible threats of what might happen if you do not come to your senses. Maybe he sends a threatening e-mail indicating he will take his own life if you do not return to him. This, too, is a sign you could be harmed. You need to complete this document and follow the instructions provided.

The example of how the document should be filled out is included in the chapter, as well as a copy of the actual document, which you can duplicate, and use.

But perhaps the biggest gem in the book is the recommendation to film the Declaration. From a prosecutor’s perspective - for so many reasons - having this video explaining why you are leaving, why you are concerned, showing of videos will be the best evidence in the worst possible scenario.

If you have access to video equipment, she suggests, a great way to record your history of abuse/stalking is to make a video tape. If there someone at work whom you trust, or you a member of a church that would be willing to make a brief recording for you – take the opportunity to do it and then send the tape somewhere where the abuser cannot find it.

One thing I would add to Murphy Milano's incredible suggestions to victims: if you cannot get a will notarized or have a witness present (perhaps because your abuser is watching you, or time is of the essence), I would recommend creating what is known as a holographic will. This is a will that has been entirely handwritten and signed. Normally, a will must be signed by a witness who attests to the validity of the document. However, in many jurisdictions, holographic wills will be treated equally under the law.

Can you imagine how valuable it would have been for Stacy Peterson’s family, for example, to have a Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit or a video, or handwritten (holographic) will.  Stacy is still missing, unfortunately, and the family has no peace. It is just speculation at this point, but most are convinced her husband had a hand in her disappearance. Also, her children and parents have no direction on what to do with her belongings. You can see how far this simple preparation would have gone in the Peterson case.

We know the only way to escape domestic abuse is to leave the abuser, but we also all know that this is MUCH easier said then done. It often takes many baby steps. Victims need some hand-holding in the process. Murphy Milano reaches out and offers her hand – with a key (almost literally). It is now up to the victims out there to garner courage to take up this book and implement all the fanatic nuggets of advice scattered throughout it. Do it with haste! Do not spend one more day in your abusive relationship!

Thank you to Murphy Milano for giving us, what Nancy Grace so aptly states, is a succinct, well-written guidebook that is a must have for anyone who is a victim or who works with victims of domestic abuse.

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