Entries in Domestic Violence (8)


Las Vegas Machete Attack Victim Now Battling Cancer

ABC (LAS VEGAS) -- A Las Vegas domestic abuse survivor who nearly lost both hands in a machete attack now faces a second challenge. She is undergoing extensive surgery and treatments for uterine cancer.

On the night of March 31, Maria Del Carmen Gomez, 53, was leaving the North Las Vegas convenience store where she worked when she was blindsided by her 50-year-old ex-boyfriend, Armando Vergara-Martinez. He allegedly stabbed her seven times with the machete's 18-inch blade. In the attack he hacked away at her hands, almost severing them completely.

Miraculously, Gomez survived the attack. In two surgeries, doctors were also able to reattach her hands and repair the damage to her skull. Though it is still unclear if she will fully recuperate and regain full use of her hands, she has been undergoing therapy since the incident and was on the path to recovery.

In April Vergara-Martinez appeared in court and said that he would be pleading guilty to the crime.

Now, five months after the brutal attack, Gomez faces another battle: she is being treated for metastatic uterine cancer.

Gomez was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, and just last week underwent a lengthy surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus. In the five-hour procedure, doctors removed cancerous tissue from her colon, diaphragm and lymph nodes.

Metastatic uterine cancer begins in the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus, and typically occurs after a woman goes through menopause. Treatment typically involves a hysterectomy, or surgery to remove the uterus. The ovaries and fallopian tubes are often also removed.

"The tumor was removed last week," Rebeca Ferreira, who founded the Las Vegas-based Safe Faith United and is supporting Gomez, told ABC News. "It was huge, and it was in a very advanced stage. The doctors said the colon was affected too. They had to remove part of it. She is undergoing chemotherapy, and they've now moved her to a recovery cancer center."

"She's there -- she's very weak and very pale. And the bills continue to pile up," she said.

Ferreira says that both she and Gomez, who is also a diabetic, believe that the cancer may have been accelerated by the trauma and surgeries from her injuries.

"Maria's body has been under a lot of stress, and on a lot of medications, one surgery after another," Ferreira said. "I think maybe that the immune system was there, and it triggered [the cancer]. The doctors haven't said that; they don't know if this comes from weakened immune system."

Research varies on whether or not stress can lead to cancer. Some studies have shown that stress can hinder the immune system's anti-tumor defense, and a 2010 study showed that stress hormones like adrenaline can support tumor growth.

Whether or not the trauma from her brutal attack and her cancer diagnosis are related, the toll on Gomez has been severe.

"She was so strong, she would smile, and say [the attack] was nothing. I'd say, 'This is not nothing, this is something," Ferreira said. "Now she can't take the reality. Now she thinks, 'What am I going to do?'" she said. "Doctors were very optimistic. The doctors said that by December she'd be using her own hands."

"After the cancer, she's another person. She's very sad, very weak, she looks pale, and fragile, and helpless," Ferreira said.

Doctors are saying that Gomez will be able to beat the cancer, but she will have to undergo extensive chemotherapy. In the meantime, she cannot work, so she is relying on the donations to support herself.

Ferreira, who is also a domestic violence survivor, and launched Safe Faith United with her own funds, said she is doing all she can to help Gomez. She says that she has held raffles and invited some politicians to help, and soon plans to raise funds on a larger scale.

Ferreira said she also wants to ensure that Vergara-Martinez -- who, according to the Las Vegas Sun, could face a prison term of four to 40 years -- pays for his crime.

"Since October is National Domestic Violence Month, we're going to head down to the courthouse with banners," she said. "The prosecutor just wants a conviction. If he pleads guilty, he can get out. We don't want him to get away with this."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Domestic Violence PSA Urges Women to Speak Up, Not Cover Up

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Lauren Luke is famous for her YouTube makeup tutorials. But her latest clip, "How to look your best the morning after," is a plea for victims of domestic violence to speak up rather than cover up.

The video shows a battered-looking Luke working makeup magic to conceal the signs of abuse.

"If you apply a color that is just gently off-tone with your own skin tone, you can cover up any fresh bruising," she says, gently brushing foundation around a black eye. "It might hurt, just try your best."

The scene is part of's "Don't cover it up campaign" – a call for abused women to reach out for help.

"Sixty-five percent of women who suffer domestic violence keep it hidden," a black screen reads after a fearful Luke turns off the camera. "Share this and help someone speak out."

Luke's bruises were fake. But for some women, the morning after routine is all too real.

"Domestic violence is a huge issue and I really don't think it gets the exposure that it needs," Luke said in an interview posted on "A lot of women follow us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, so I just wanted to get the point out there and let everyone know that there's somewhere you can go if you need some support."

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical abuse by a partner each year in the U.S., according to the National Coalition against domestic violence.

"Women cover it up for a number of reasons," said Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "They're often ashamed of what happened, and feel like it was in some way their fault. And often they don't want the perpetrator to get in trouble. They love them and they want to protect the relationship."

Some women fear that reporting abuse will only make their partner more violent, Kaslow said. And some women don't realize it's abuse at all.

"I'll ask, 'Are you in an abusive relationship?' and they'll say 'No.' But then I'll ask, 'Does your partner hit you?' and they'll say, 'Yes.'"

Kaslow said it's hard for women to ditch the cover-up and speak up instead but stressed that there's always support available.

"There are domestic violence hotlines. In most communities there are domestic violence shelters and in many communities there are support groups for domestic violence survivors," she said. "There are lots of different ways to reach out for help."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Why Would Rihanna Let Chris Brown Back Into Her Life?

Chris Polk/FilmMagic(LOS ANGELES) -- Rihanna debuted her sexually charged “Birthday Cake” remix Monday, and the man who bloodied and bruised her three years ago, Chris Brown, appears on the new version, rapping about how he wants to “f***” her and “give it to her in the worst way.” Listeners can also hear Rihanna’s vocals featured on the new version of Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music,” which was released Monday.

While some fans have expressed acceptance and even excitement about the collaboration, others are outraged, announcing their loss of respect for the pop princess for what seems like welcoming her former abuser back into her life.

Without having treated Rihanna or knowing the full details of the continuing saga of Rihanna and Chris Brown, experts weighed in on the rekindled music relationship. While some said the revived pair is inappropriate and dangerous, others suggest that Rihanna may have healed from the experience and now feels empowered to separate business and personal relationships.

“It is always a little worrisome to see an abused woman readmit her abuser into her life,” said Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. “This is, however, quite common and we often see women willing to forgive men for some of the awful things that they have done. As psychologists, we are always working to get people to change their behaviors and hope we can be successful.  We advocate the ability to forgive, but not necessarily forget.”

The cycle of domestic abuse can be a confusing one for all those involved or witnessing it, said Dr. Sudeepta Varma, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine and a member of the American Psychiatric Association. While common sense tells most people to permanently stay away from something so damaging, victims can fall back into their abuser’s web of charm, promises of change and grand gestures of apology.

“The highs the abusers provide their victims are like no other, and the memory and potency of the positive experiences draws the victim back in for more,” said Varma. “The victim is often someone who is psychologically vulnerable to this type of charm, deceit and grandiose behavior. Underneath the debonair exterior of the abuser lies a person with gross lack of empathy, disregard for rules and norms of society. [These are] many qualities we see in people with personality disorders.”

Rihanna seemed to allude to the situation with her former flame Tuesday while accepting best international female artist at the Brit Awards. “At times when I feel misunderstood, my fans always remind me that it’s O.K. to be myself,” she said during her speech.

Varma said society doesn’t expect women who are beautiful, talented, wealthy, and who have many options surrounding her to fall prey to such behavior, but, “domestic violence is an equalizer.”

It is more about psychological dependence, low-self esteem, and believing that this person, who is good to you sometimes, is really your best and only option out there, Varma continued.

“You are willing to overlook the bad, because the good feels so good,” said Varma. “It sends a confusing message to concerned parties and continued contact with a former abuser sends a message that you have accepted, tolerated and maybe even condoned this type of behavior.”

Nevertheless, Martin Binks, clinical director & CEO of Binks Behavioral Health, said women who are victims of abuse do not have to remain victims of their abuser forever.

“Why must we insist on disempowering victims by questioning their judgment without all the facts?” said Binks. “People may be forgetting that perhaps she has recovered and is a strong independent woman who is empowered enough to make this decision thoughtfully and without there being some pathological explanation. Only she and her therapist are qualified to have an opinion on this topic, in my opinion,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Study Reveals One in Five Women Are Victims of Sexual Assault

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly one in five women have either been raped or have been the victims of an attempted rape during their lifetimes, according to a report released Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study also found that 25 percent of women have suffered a beating at the hands of an intimate partner, while over 16 percent have had someone stalk them.

Overall, 36 million people in the U.S. say they were victims of some form of domestic violence during the past year, the CDC reports. That includes men, with one in seven claiming they were at the receiving end of violence by a partner.

Linda Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, remarked, "That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people. I don’t think we’ve really known that it was this prevalent in the population."

These updated figures suggest that the government has greatly underestimated the problem.  For instance, The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network last year estimated that 272,350 Americans were victims of sexual violence, and only 84,767 assaults defined as forcible rapes were reported in 2010.

But Wednesday's  report put the number of women who were either raped or nearly violated at about 1.3 million last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Schoolyard Bullies More Likely to Abuse Spouses as Adults

Jupiterimages/LiquidLibrary(BOSTON) -- Schoolyard bullies are likely to grow up to be adults who abuse their wives and girlfriends, according to a new study.

The study, published this week in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed more than 1,400 men between the ages of 18 and 35 at an urban community center in Boston. It found that men who recalled being frequent bullies in school were four times more likely to physically abuse their partner than those who reported never bullying in school.

"Individuals who are likely to perpetrate abusive behaviors against others may do so across childhood into adulthood," concluded the report, which was led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study also found a link between "bullying others at school and perpetration of IPV (intimate partner violence]."

It was the latest study to indicate that many bullies do not outgrow their aggression. Past research has shown that bullies are at a higher risk of bullying their own kids, losing a job, and getting involved in the criminal justice system.

Adults with a history of bullying are 10 times more likely to lie than those with no bullying history, according to a study published in the September 2010 Psychiatric Quarterly. They also have a higher likelihood of stealing and cheating, the study found.

Mounting research suggests that for both men and women bullies tend to remain bullies. Women, however, are less likely to be the aggressor in an intimate partner relationship, according to developmental and behavioral psychologist Lori Warner in Royal Oak, Mich., who was not involved with the Harvard-led study.

"Girls who are engaging in actual bullying in school, it's typically a social, emotional type of bullying," said Warner. "Boys are more likely to be physically aggressive."

The new study indicates that identifying bullies when they are young and changing their behavior can have significant consequences, particularly for women who might otherwise be abused. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Once a Bully, Always a Bully, Report Says

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary(BOSTON) -- Bullying in school-aged children is not uncommon, with some studies estimating that as many as half of children and adolescents are bullied at some time during their school years.  But do bullies “grow out” of such behavior?  A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that many don’t, and their life partners suffer for it.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed almost 1,500 young adult men from three urban community health centers about various life experiences, including intimate partner violence and their history of school bullying.  Almost 41 percent of the men reported that they were bullies as children.  

The authors found that those who reported “rarely” bullying were 50 percent more likely to be physically or sexually violent toward their intimate partner compared with men who reported never bullying in school.  The risk of perpetrating intimate-partner violence was even higher -- four times higher -- in men who reported being “frequent” bullies in school compared to non-bullies.  But the authors don’t know the underlying cause of such abusive behaviors, and state that further research is needed “as a means to prevent violence perpetration across settings and life stages.”
As this study was based on a survey from three urban community settings, the results may not apply to the general U.S. population.  Critics of the study say that since the study did not include women, it is not know if the same association applies to female violence.  Another concern is that the data was obtained through surveys, and so the data represents a self-selected group of men -- those who agreed to participate in the study -- who may not have answered the questions truthfully.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NFL Losses Dangerous for Wives and Girlfriends, Says Study

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(BERKLEY, Calif.) -- It seems that unexpected losses by NFL teams are not only upsetting to the fans, but can also be dangerous for the wives and girlfriends of the male football enthusiast.

A study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics analyzed the number of domestic violence police reports over ten years in areas where the NFL teams Panthers, Lions, Patriots, Broncos, Chiefs and Titans play.  The authors found that there was a 10 percent increase in the rate of at-home violence by men against their wives and girlfriends when their home team lost a game they were expected to win. 

By cross-checking the time of the police calls with game times, the authors determined that the spike in violence occurred within a tight window of time: in the final hour of the game and up to two hours after. 

Male fans were not more violent when their teams lost games they were expected to lose. 

The authors point out that the increase in aggression after unexpected disappointment isn’t limited to football game losses, but can be applied to other situations.  For example, the authors say that “someone who gets a speeding ticket on the way home...might also be more likely to act out in a way he would later regret.”
It should be noted that the study is based only on reported cases of violence.  Unreported cases of post-game domestic violence could mean the numbers are even higher.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Administration Introduces Measures to Reduce Domestic Violence

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Wednesday introduced a federal program to reduce domestic and sexual violence against women and children.

According to the administration, “the scope and far-reaching effects of violence require a coordinated response across the federal government.”

Statistics suggest the problem is more widespread than previously believed.  As many as one in four women have been the victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, while 15.5 percent of children are exposed each year to domestic violence.

The new program, introduced by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, features a $1.5 billion maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting program for states to try to identify and reduce domestic violence.  Lawyers, judges and law enforcement authorities will also receive government guidance on ways to respond to domestic violence, help victims and punish perpetrators.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio