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There Are Too Many Men Like Juan

Blogger’s Note: The following post first appeared in the NY Nonprofit Press E-Newsletter in 2014. It has been reposted in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

My relative Melinda and I ran out of a Bronx, New York Family courtroom laughing uncontrollably. I was nearly stumbling, clutching my stomach, tears filling my eyes. People were looking at me quizzically.

Melinda was brought to two family courts in New York City three times by a man, Juan, who insisted that he was the father of her daughter Lila. He is not. Melinda and Juan dated for about six months and were never sexually active. While dating Melinda, Juan was verbally abusive, controlling, and he even stalked her. Juan later misused our legal system in an attempt to achieve his twisted end of forcing Melinda and her daughter Lila into his life.

Melinda met Juan while attending community college back in early 2000. He asked for her phone number, but she initially refused. He persisted until Melinda finally agreed.

After dating for two months, Juan wanted to have a baby with Melinda. “He wanted me to drop out of school and have a kid with him. I told him“that’s ridiculous. I didn’t come here to start a family.” Juan kept up the pressure on Melinda to have a baby, but she refused to have sex with him.

Melinda broke up with Juan in late 2000. She met someone else with whom she had a daughter Lila in 2003.

Juan learned about Melinda’s daughter in 2006. He called and asked Melinda on a date and she declined. Juan’s harassment continued and things got bizarre. In 2009, Juan commenced court action, claiming paternity of Melinda’s daughter.
During the first court appearance, the judge asked if there were any objections to a DNA test. Melinda had none. But as Juan spun his tale of being Lila’s father, the judge was having none of it. This is an excerpt from the transcript:

The Court: It’s impossible for you to be the father. You had sex with her in Octo—let’s even say October. It’s impossible that you’re the father. Even—even early December, even November let’s say. It—it—you’re not the father of this child. It’s too many months. To do the math, the child was born in September of ’03.
Juan: All right.
The Court: Well—so I am dismissing your petition.
Juan: Okay. Cool.

A DNA test was done in 2010. The results: “Combined paternity Index=0. Probability of Paternity=0.00% Conclusion: The alleged father, Juan, cannot be the biological father of Lila, since he and the child do not share necessary paternal markers in multiple genetic systems.” The second court appearance was in Queens Family Court to review the DNA results. Case dismissed.

Juan did not give up.

“Dear Melinda: I am writing you this letter to inform you that the DNA test we took 6/9/2010 is null and void. The reason the test is null and void is because I was eating during the test and the DNA test center/DNA company was supposed to wait for up to 30 minutes to an hour before issuing the DNA test….Melinda the DNA test will not hold up in court do to what has happen.”

Summoned to court for a third time, Melinda showed up at Bronx Family Court, armed with her paperwork including the DNA test result, petitions, letters, court transcript. I came for support and tried not to eye Juan too much though I was seething.

The judge asked Melinda and Juan about their dating relationship. Melinda answered all of the questions calmly. She denied that Juan was Lila’s father, and named the father during the hearing. Juan was unswayed. The judge asked if the parties would agree to take a DNA test. Melinda responded that one had been done. She presented the judge with a copy of the report. The judge read it and asked Juan about it. Juan claimed that he was told by someone in another court that the DNA test was null and void because he ate before the test.

“This is silly!” said the judge in disgust. I began to tear up while simultaneously breaking into a smile. Melinda kept her composure.
“I’m just repeating what I was told,” said Juan, responding like a petulant child.

The judge called Juan’s case frivolous and openly expressed his contempt for Juan’s actions. “This is low,” said the judge. Of the DNA results, the judge told Juan “You could eat a steak with onions and drink a whole bottle of Hennessy and that would not alter the results of the DNA exam!” The judge continued to refer to Juan’s actions as “low.”

Trying to sound like a victim, Juan insisted that he was only repeating what he was told about the DNA results.

The judge was fuming. He repeatedly threatened to fine Juan and garnish his wages, issuing a stern warning to him to leave Melinda alone. “If you come back into this courtroom with this, I will sort you out!” Juan had nothing more to say.

The judge apologized to Melinda that he hadn’t gotten the previous court reports. The judge told Melinda that if Juan ever contacts her again, he will hear her case personally. He told Melinda he doesn’t care if she is in Timbuktu, he will hear the case! The case was dismissed and I ran out of the courtroom in stitches, Melinda laughing right behind me. Juan practically ran down the hallway to get away from us.

“I felt great, like a big burden lifting off me,” said Melinda of her court victory. “Inside I was jumping up and down.”

But Juan does not give up.

Melinda had to go to court with him in the Bronx again, but his case was shut down. He has not been in touch since. Melinda has been traumatized by her experience with Juan and gets upset whenever she think about it. Juan could probably care less about the chaos he has caused. He is not well and I hope women stay far away from him.

Situations like Melinda’s are why I get furious when I hear of men who cannot accept “no”, and then go on to destroy some woman’s life. Some of us women say “no” and we end up being stalked, slashed, stabbed, or shot. There are just too many men like Juan who do not respect women’s boundaries and choices, even if a judge tells them to do so.

Sigh.

Peaceful, Respectful and Safe

Years ago, the Sunday newspapers and the local radio stations in New York City reported on a man who brutally killed his wife the previous Saturday evening. He and his wife had been separated. She was fearful of him because he had committed violence against her in the past.

Learning of the killing devastated me. I did not know this woman, but still grieved heavily for her. My anger over her slaying was so fierce that I wished someone would kill her killer. I was so overwhelmed by this incident that I lay on my bed feeling depressed for days.

I knew the man who killed this woman. He had been a boyfriend of mine a few years prior to that tragedy. I almost married this man.

My former boyfriend was a troubled man. He was verbally, emotionally, and occasionally physically abusive to me, manipulative and threatening. There were incidents in which he twisted my neck, pushed me out of a door, yelled at me in the street. He criticized my appearance and made me feel like garbage.

His demeanor changed at the snap of your fingers. One minute he would be affectionate. The next minute he would be raging over something slight. Once we were having lunch at a restaurant. Everything was pleasant. Then suddenly, he started complaining about the food service for no reason. He got up and was about to leave the restaurant before our waitress stopped him. I was still sitting there eating, puzzled by his behavior. He took out some money, threw it down on the table, and left.

He would get angry at me for no reason and break up with me. Then I would get a call from him, apologizing and asking to reconcile. Because of my own feelings of low self-worth, I took him back each time. Since then, I have not tolerated any abuse from any man I dated. I love myself too much.

I was relieved when my former boyfriend moved out of the city and broke up with me. I moved on with my life. He would call once in a while but I did not care about him, so would not talk to him much. When he called me and told me he was married and had children, the news was surprising. But when he called me later on some time and told me that things were not going well in his life, I became concerned for myself. I wanted him to leave me alone and keep me out of his drama. He kept calling though, and I kept hanging up on him. The last time I spoke to him, we got into a screaming match because I told him that I did not want him to call me anymore. That night, he killed his wife.

I struggled with survivor’s guilt. His wife and I had both been involved with this man at different times, had both seen the signs that he was troubled. We both got away from him. Yet, he found and killed her. And I always wondered why he did not try to kill me. He knew where I lived. He could have gotten to me. I asked myself over and over, why her? They had children together. Why kill the mother of your children? Why kill anyone? What in the world was he so angry about?

I learned to stop blaming myself. My former boyfriend committed the murder; I did not. There was absolutely no justification for what he did. He may have been angry at her for leaving him. He may have been upset because I refused to speak with him. It does not matter. There was no excuse for what he did. He took the life of a woman, the mother of his children. She had dreams for a better life and he destroyed their family. He even tried to take his own life after he took hers.

I did not follow his case. I cannot tell you where he is today. I just hope he is being held accountable for his crime.

His wife deserved a loving relationship. I hurt knowing about all of the pain she endured at his hands while they were married.

All of us truly deserve relationships that are loving, peaceful, respectful-—and safe.

May it be so.

In memory of P.E.

Shine the Light On Domestic Violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For me, this topic is personal. My next blog post will tell my story of surviving an abusive relationship.

“Shine the Light on Domestic Violence” is a campaign coordinated by The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV). The campaign seeks to get everyone talking about “purple” as a way to discuss domestic violence. Purple is the symbolic color for domestic violence awareness. Each year, New Yorkers are asked to wear purple on one day. This year, that day is Thursday, October 19th.

What is Domestic Violence? Domestic violence is one person’s use of a variety of tactics to control another person in an intimate relationship. Does your partner:
• Hit, punch, slap, kick, shove or bite you?
• Threaten to hurt you or your children?
• Abuse or threaten to harm pets?
• Have sudden outbursts of anger or rage?
• Become jealous without reason?
• Isolate you from family or friends?
• Prevent you from going where you want, when you want?
• Interfere with your job or going to school?
• Destroy personal property?
• Deny you access to bank accounts, credit cards or car?
• Control all finances?
• Force you to have sex or do things that make you uncomfortable?
• Insult you or call you names?
• Follow you or spy on you?
• Humiliate you in front of others?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above, you might be abused. You are not alone. (Source: Brochure, The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence)

Anyone can be affected by domestic or intimate partner violence. Women, children and men have lost their lives to intimate partner violence. Men who suffer relationship violence can find themselves shamed, isolated, and disbelieved. One of my favorite columnists, Ronnie Polaneczky of the Philadelphia Daily News , wrote a great article in 2014 about male survivors of domestic violence, titled “Unmanly Hurt.”

Join the “Shine the Light on Domestic Violence” campaign during the month of October. Don’t live in New York but want to participate in shining the light on domestic violence in your state? Visit the National Resource Center on Domestic Violencewebsite for information on what events are taking place in your state.

If you are in an abusive relationship and want assistance, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Since 1996, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has been the vital link of safety for women, men, children and families affected by domestic violence. Calls can be made 24/7, 365 days a year.

The Children in Our Lives

“The world needs aunties and stepmoms, uncles and stepdads, who are willing and able to step up and be part of the village it takes to raise children, regardless of their own parenthood status. We all benefit when cool kids become excellent adults.” Ella Washington, comment, New York Times, September 15, 2017

I do not personally know Ella Washington, but I appreciated the comments she wrote in response to a recent New York Times piece, “Childless in a Houseful of Children” (September 15, 2017) written by Kia Abdullah, a novelist and editor who is child free by choice. My observation, validated by Ms. Abdullah, is that whenever women like her (it’s mostly women who write these pieces) write about their child free status, there are always the naysayers who call these women selfish, self-absorbed, and say “they don’t know what they are missing.” But increasingly, I read comments like Ms. Washington’s and am reassured that people are getting it—being a parent is not for everyone and people should not be harshly judged for their reproductive choices. In Ms. Abdullah’s case, she wrote “I have never felt a desire to bear and rear children.”

Count me as one of the child free. By chance.

When I was married, my husband and I could not have children. We talked about adopting, but our relationship ended before we could see that plan to fruition. After my divorce, I dated but did not meet anyone I could see myself settling down and raising a family with, though I tried to meet that person. So here I am. And folks who meet me don’t make a big deal out of my child free status. I have often been surprised at how many have said to me that I wasn’t missing anything by not having a child! Ouch!!

What irks me most about some of the naysayers is their insinuation that child free adults like me or Ms. Abdullah do not like children.

Nonsense! Many of us love and embrace children.

Granted, there are some child free folks who do not like children. But honestly, there are some folks who have their own children and don’t like them very much! They treat them terribly. Some parents love their children, but admit that they could have had good lives without becoming a parent. There are those who decide to forgo parenthood because they feel they would not be good parents and did not want to bring any harm to a child.

We have children in our lives through our siblings and close friends, through our occupations, like teaching, and through volunteer activities like mentoring and scouting. We love that we can be a support system to them. Speaking of her siblings’ children, Ms. Abdullah writes “I can lay claim to 21 children even though they’re not really mine.”

In my last blog post, I talked about my role as a mentor to my nieces. As I continue to navigate a society filled with racism, sexism and so many other isms and ills, I want to teach them vital life lessons. They will need many tools to help them lead lives of integrity and become good people in this world. Like Ms. Washington, I want the cool kids in my life to become excellent adults.

I take my place in the village seriously. If anything ever happened to my sister and she could not take care of her daughter, my door would be open to my niece without hesitation. There are other child free adults who would do the same, and have taken in and cared for children when necessary, including acting as foster parents.

Yes, the child free care about the children in our lives.

Aunt Janice the Mentor

Whenever I mention my work as a Mentor Program Coordinator, someone ends up telling me about the positive experiences they have had with their own mentor. They credit the mentor for giving them the encouragement to pursue higher education or apply for an employment opportunity.

It pleases me to see the topic of mentoring being discussed so widely these days. Even LinkedIn is jumping into mentoring, giving its member opportunities to find mentors within its vast professional network. Mentoring programs are springing up all over.

Over the years, I have had great mentors. One of my mentors, Fred, who was the subject of my last blog post, was instrumental in me getting my book published. He was my editor when I was writing a blog for his publication, the New York Nonprofit Press E-Newsletter. Fred had published his own book and that motivated me to stop procrastinating and write my own. Sadly, Fred did not live long enough to write more books as he had planned. He also did not see my book published. Fred would have been thrilled.

In 2012, when my sister-in-law died from breast cancer, I got serious about doing more mentoring work. I started my own small mentoring project with three women who were former junior colleagues. The project continued until December 2016. Because I was juggling multiple activities and recovering from illness, I decided to slow my mentoring work down.

A few months ago, I was thinking about my nieces and how fast they were growing up. One is 14 and the other is 11. My youngest niece lost her mom to breast cancer when she was five. We have a great relationship and I enjoy the time I spend with them. I do Halloween and Christmas parties and they live for these events!

I realize and accept the influence that I have upon them, though they see me only a few times a month. I am not just an Aunt who throws parties, gives gifts, takes them on outings to bookstores and museums, buys ice pops during the summer and buys bubble gum for them all year long. I encourage them to do well in school, attend events when invited, talk to them about their career goals, and share life lessons where I can. I am Aunt Janice the Mentor.

My oldest niece is very ambitious and industrious, so I give her occasional projects to do for me and I pay her. I want her to learn the value and satisfaction of working and of managing her finances. I reinforce all of the important messages she is receiving from her mother.

I am Aunt Janice the Mentor. I am their experienced and trusted adviser, and take that role very seriously. I will share my mistakes, successes, and will make myself available to offer them the encouragement they need as they grow into young womanhood and beyond.

Everyone needs a good mentor.

Thank You Fred

I want to acknowledge a wonderful friend and mentor, Fred Scaglione, who passed away two years ago on August 6th.

Fred Scaglione gave me an opportunity to write as a volunteer blogger for six years for his publication, the New York Nonprofit Press (NYNP) E-Newsletter’s “Around The Blogs” column. Writing has always been one of my favorite activities and it was wonderful to see my work in print. My posts covered a range of topics—career development, employment, education, intimate partner violence, religion, mental health, social justice, and many others.

As much as I loved writing my blog, there were days when it was very taxing and I thought of discontinuing. But I pushed through because of Fred’s encouragement and support of my work. Fred never hesitated to tell me how much he appreciated my contributions to his publication.

Fred lived and worked outside of New York City, where I live. It took a few years for us to meet in person. When we finally met, I just could not stop hugging him!! He was truly a good friend and mentor to me.

When Fred published his book “Home Visit”, a mystery that focuses on the child welfare system, I had no idea he was even writing a book. And in gratitude for his support of me, I wanted to support his effort and immediately purchased a copy. When Fred found out, he thanked me and asked if I wanted it autographed. Of course I did!! His autograph statement read “To Janice, Thanks for all your great blog posts over the years. I hope you enjoy this!” Fred. And yes, I did enjoy reading “Home Visit.” I so wish Fred had lived to write more books. I believed he planned to write a series of books based on “Home Visit’s” main character, Stevie Corra, a former NYPD narcotics detective and caseworker. “Home Visit” received positive reviews on Amazon and is available for purchase.

And when I published my first book, “What Were They Thinking? Behaviors and Attitudes That Can Ruin a Job Interview” I naturally dedicated it to Fred. Regrettably, he did not live to see its publication. He would have been very proud of me.

Thank you Fred. You will always hold a place in my heart and in my life.

4th Annual Veterans Resource Fair(NYC)

The Office of the Manhattan (New York, NY) Borough President Gale Brewer will be sponsoring its 4th Annual Veterans Resource Fair on Wednesday, July 26th from 9am-4pm at the State Office Building Plaza in Harlem, 163 West 125th Street. Loree Sutton, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Veterans Services will be the keynote speaker.

This event is co-sponsored by NYC Council Member Bill Perkins, the NYC Department of Veterans Services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Legal Services NYC, Harlem Veterans Center, Samaritan Village, and NY Metro Vets. The fair is a great opportunity for veterans to get help and connect with service providers and agencies. RSVP by calling 212-678-4505 or emailing eventscoordinator@ls-nyc.org.