People Cite Trump as Reports of Hate Crimes Against Muslims and Gays Increase After Election

First came the stealthy knock, carried out under cover of darkness.

Then the sound of footsteps, running away from the house.

And then, the horrible message: “TRUMP is our president now. Get out of our neighborhood now FAGGOTS!!”

I hate that word. I refuse to utter it and hate to even type it. Or share it on social media, which I felt forced to do today.

Corey Hurley found the note, printed in black ink on a piece of plain notebook paper. It was lying at his feet when he opened the door after being awakened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
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“I was terrified,” Hurley said during a telephone interview. “I knew things were going to start getting a little crazy . . . but I didn’t know it was going to (happen here).”

When I first read the note, posted on a stranger’s Facebook page, I was carried back to 1992. To the day when I took time off work to visit the principal at Kingwood Elementary School, an hour away from Clarksburg – and begged administrators to stop the harassment and name calling. The same name as appeared on the paper found at Hurley’s feet, paper that any child in America might use to complete a homework assignment. The same word directed at my son, Zach, then age eight.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the last 24 hours have seen a significant increase in reports of hate speech and hate crimes around the country. Most have been directed at Muslims, but some in the gay community are being targeted, too.

Like happened to Hurley – and his partner, Kyle Chester.

And my son, who in didn’t know even what sex was at age eight. Much less sexual orientation. All he knew was that the boys in his class didn’t like him. And my visits to his school, and even later, a letter from my children’s therapist, did little to change that.

“This one that you sent me (that Hurley and Chester received) looks like one of the more aggressive that I’ve seen on the anti-gay front,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

That unit monitors hate crime traffic. Beirich said the Harrison County case is one of “many, many instances we’re hearing about across the country, where people are seemingly victims of what appear to be hate crimes and reference Trump.”
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This is the first time since 2008, when another President took office. “We haven’t seen an outbreak of what looks like hate incidents since Obama was elected,” Beirich said, “when something similar happened.”

But then, the SPLC saw a “rash of hate incidents (against) black people,” because some people were angry about having a black President.

It’s a different dynamic now, though. “In this case,” Beirich said, “people who look like they support Trump or have sympathies with Trump are attacking minorities.”

Numerous reports have been fielded, she said, of “Muslims having their headscarves pulled off and a ton of incidents in schools . . . there seems to be a rash of these incidents across the nation.”

By the time Zach was in high school, the situation was no better. “I always got threatened in high school. I didn’t tell you because you would have just made it worse.”

One day during a break from theatre practice, Zach was walking outside near the football field. The players were tossing a ball around when “one of them threw the ball at my head, and very narrowly missed me.” Zach threw the football “all the way across the football field so they had to go into the woods to get it.”

Some of the players approached Zach as he walked back into the school. One boy wanted to fight. “So I just stood up to them and let him get into my face and I wouldn’t back down.” The football player turned and walked away.

Hurley, a lifelong Harrison County, West Virginia, resident, has never experienced this kind of violence. “It’s always been more accepting,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my sexuality from people before, so I was kind of shocked to see that it happened here in Clarksburg.”

Frightened and shocked, Hurley woke up Chester, who took action. The Lexington, Kentucky, native made sure their home was secure – and then told Hurley they had to call the police.

They did. Chester spoke to Deputy Chief James Chamberlain, with the Clarksburg City Police Department. And patrol cars drove by “a couple of times” afterward, but that’s all. When Chester called later this morning, an administrative worker told him the police couldn’t do anything else. Not until, Chester said, they had “concrete evidence as to where it came from or who did it.”

It’s difficult to understand how police could gather concrete evidence when, 12 hours later, no officer had shown up to even begin the investigation. I tried to reach Chamberlain, but he did not return my call. However, not long after, Hurley and Chester did get a phone call. They were told to go to the Clarksburg police station and file an official report. A “very nice” officer collected the hateful note left at their door.

So now, the investigation into a potential hate crime has begun.

Beirich said it’s hard not to link this kind of hatred with the President-elect. “Trump is referenced in some way. If you’re going to use the word ‘Trump,’ you obviously think this is somehow connected to your support of the President-elect . . . Given Trump’s xenophobic, racist, and so on comments during the campaign,” she said, “it’s not surprising that some people would feel emboldened to do these things.”

While the SPLC doesn’t yet have a tally for how much hate speech, or how many hate crimes have occurred since Trump became President-elect, Beirich said it’s “several dozen.”

They don’t yet know how serious it is, but sadly, incidents like these are happening in America’s schools. At all grade levels. “We’re particularly concerned about stuff happening in schools, involving children,” Beirich said. Muslim students, especially, are being targeted. Being told to “get out of the country.”

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program has specific information available for teachers, to help them deal with the backlash.

“It’s tragic to see this happening,” Beirich said, while urging all victims to report such hatred to police, as well as the SPLC. And urging police to officially investigate.

“Any of those kids could have kicked my (butt),” Zach said. “I stood up to them – no, I didn’t back down from them. There’s a big difference.”

I asked him to clarify.

Zach did. “Standing up to someone is when you realize that something bad is happening and you actually confront them about it. Not backing down is just standing your ground if someone confronts you.”

I asked him if it worked.

“It definitely helped,” Zach said. “If I had acted in a different manner, maybe more submissive, they would have tried to do more. But if you let them know you’re not going to back down, they have a little more respect for you.”

Respect. That’s what this boils down to. It’s all Hurley and Chester really want, too. So they’re getting their friends involved, to help spread this message:

“We’re human beings, too, just like everybody else,” Chester said, “and we deserve the same rights and respect that anybody else does, in any neighborhood across the country.”

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Where the Open Road Leads Me

I haven’t quite gotten the hang of writing from the open road. You would think it would be so easy: just walk into your hotel room, open your laptop, and begin writing, right? Not so much. At least, not for me. I’ve struggled to find a balance between driving, interacting with people I meet up with, or on, my trip, and writing regularly. Hopefully, I’ll get into a regular rhythm soon. Until then, here are a few more nuggets from my journey.

In early September, I drove from West Virginia to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, my only companion an audiobook. The Lineup, edited by Otto Penzler, was the perfect read for a crime writer. Listening to accounts about other crime writers, like Alexander McCall Smith and Michael Connelly, I found tons of inspiration for my own work. Plus, it helped pass the hours spent behind the wheel.

After Myrtle Beach, the open road took me even further south, so I stopped in Savannah, Georgia, for a night. After wandering around in the intense heat and humidity the next day, all day, my energy was sapped and I didn’t make it to Pompano Beach, Florida, like I planned. Instead, I stopped for the night at a Wyndham hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. (Where a roach marched across my nightstand table as I was climbing into bed, while the lights were still on. Talk about setting the scene for a poor night’s sleep.)

The next day, after calling Israel (a fun first!) to conduct an interview for a feature article I’d been assigned, I complained to management, was given a $20 discount, and continued driving south on I-95. Munching on boiled peanuts and Cajun-coated pecans along the way, I went straight to the beach when I arrived in Pompano. It was 360-degrees of brilliant sunshine.

As the waves rolled in and back out again, I thought about some of the folks I’d met on my journey. Like Atlanta, who has worked at an ice cream parlor since she was 13. She’s 21 now, but still loves her job. Already a hard-working employee, one day she will be a successful business owner. Wait and see.

I thought, too, about those people I’d only seen in passing, like the fellow who was taking his children to a sports game over the weekend. We chatted only briefly at a coffee shop, after I commented on his shirt. He let me take a photo, which is shown here. Its message is something every parent can relate to.

Then there was the Florida Highway Patrol officer who blocked traffic with his police cruiser, crossing three of five lanes to toss two huge bags of what looked like clothes or bedding, obviously fallen from a vehicle, over the guardrail. He did that to help protect us from harm. From what could have been a very serious, multiple-vehicle pileup.

He and other emergency workers – police, fire, and rescue – provide a crucial service. In one way or another, they keep the peace. Protect us from anarchy. Even from death. In these turbulent times, we need to remember that the majority of police officers are decent humans, just like us. Who hate the actions of their incompetent and corrupt colleagues – who give the good guys a black eye – even more than we do.

I was reminded of this when I returned to Pompano and the apartment where, last March, I wrote about one such good, even great, police officer. That book, while a love story, also provides a powerful example of the fine work done by such men and women in blue. If all cops were like him, there would be no national news coverage of police shootings like the most recent ones in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, if every police agency in America would model their teams after him, that coverage would drop dramatically.

If you’d like to read more about my trip of a lifetime, including my foray into the Florida Keys, where I visited Hemingway House and met many other amazing, gracious people, please tune in next time.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Ms. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Orlando: My Son Could Have Been Murdered

My heart is heavy after hearing the news out of Orlando. Upon realizing that the mass shooting at a gay nightclub is the worst one in U.S. history.

My son Zach, during AIDS/LifeCycle 2016.

My son is gay. So was my Uncle Robert. I’ve been around gay family members since the early 1970s, after my mother finally found my missing uncle. He had run away from home decades earlier because of family mistreatment over being gay.

I loved my Uncle Robert. He was as handsome as Clark Gable, a snappy dresser, and one of the most charming men I’ve ever met. He and my mother had a happy reunion when he visited our West Virginia home, and again later, when we drove to Los Angeles in 1975 to see him. Because of Uncle Robert, I saw the famous smog L.A. is home to and tasted spumoni for the first time, experiencing its delicious flavors of chocolate, pistachio, and cherry-almond. I can still remember waking up in his little apartment, which he shared with a male “roommate.” Hear my parents—yes, even my somewhat bigoted father—chuckle about how the fellow was really Robert’s lover. My uncle, you see, had not come out. No wonder, given that he felt forced to flee his own home because of being gay.

But Uncle Robert’s sexual orientation didn’t change my mother’s love for her brother. A religious woman, she knew true Christianity allows no room for homophobia. It didn’t change my father’s (who was agnostic) admiration of him, for the intelligence and charm his brother-in-law exuded. And it certainly didn’t matter to me that my Uncle Robert was gay. To me, he was simply my fun-loving, smooth-talking uncle. My mother’s older brother, whom she didn’t know was dead or alive, yet loved enough to find out, spending considerable time and energy and finally tracking him down through the Internal Revenue Service.

My son is gay. In fact, until recently, he worked in gay nightclubs in Washington, D.C., Miami, Florida, and San Francisco, California. I am not a nightclub person. They are too loud and too bright for me, neither of which I can tolerate for very long. But living so many miles apart, and both of us having hectic schedules, visiting him at work was often the only way we could see each other. Like the time I had a long layover in Miami, where I visited Zach at Halo; I’ve visited both when the clubs were open and when they were closed. Doing this, I came to know something of the people who do frequent these places. And I can tell you this: never once did I feel unsafe. As a woman who herself has been a crime victim, at the hands of a straight man, that’s important.

But more than that, I came to realize that for party-loving people, gay nightclubs offer a popular, hip social scene. You meet all kinds of people there, from millionaires to Congressmen to single mothers. Most intriguing to me was the fact that not all of them are gay. Which makes what happened in Orlando doubly tragic: in targeting what is perceived as a gay hangout, the killer undoubtedly killed straight people, too.

Zack is currently in L.A., where he was one of 2,300 cyclists who rode 545 miles over seven days for AIDS LifeCycle, raising $16,000 in the process for medical research. (His team raised $70,000.) He is the kindest, sweetest man I know, as well as one of the brightest and most generous. As a small boy who picked and brought me flowers, and who was beloved by all his female classmates from the time he entered kindergarten until he graduated high school thirteen years later, Zach remains a true gentleman. He is also quite handsome and when he enters a room, heads turn.

As a mother, my heart would break if I received a call saying a mass murderer had entered a nightclub and killed my beautiful son.

Goofing off with Zach during his April layover in New York City.

As a mother, I weep for all the mothers, sisters, daughters, and aunts who weep for their loved ones, slain in such a barbaric way in Orlando. Whether they were gay or straight makes no difference. I weep that any human would slaughter another over something as complicated and so misunderstood as sexual orientation.

We are not judge and jury of our fellow man, any of us. We lack the capacity to understand or recognize why people are as they are. And we certainly can’t read hearts—the only true measure of any man. No, we are instead misguided, imperfect creatures capable of giving offense and taking it, on any given day. Any hour.

I am praying for Orlando. And for the rest of us, and for what lies ahead, if such senseless violence and hatred against our fellow humans continues unabated.

* * * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog began appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it once did. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

BREAKING NEWS—Sexual Slavery Skyrockets After Trump Bans Journalists

June 2, 2018

By Anonymous Reporter

ANY CITY, U.S.A.—Under cover of darkness, a lone woman wearing a ski mask to hide her identity met me in an empty warehouse, far from the glow of the city lights. She was skittish, and kept glancing around as if afraid she was followed to our deserted meeting place.

Lily Clark (not her real name) was released from prison two months ago. When she reached out to me with accounts of female inmates being raped or, in some cases, forced into sexual slavery inside the prison where she was held for almost a year, I knew I had to get her to talk. It took some doing, though, because Lily was nothing if not terrified. She was afraid the feds would find out she squealed, and send her back to prison.

“Back to that living hell on earth,” as she called it.

Lily said the guards are actually encouraged to rape the women prisoners, who often end up being traded around among prison officials in a form of sexual slavery never before seen in this country. “They drew our names like it was some kind of sick lottery,” she said, “and then each of them took turns with us.” According to Lily, these actions are repeated daily, or as long as it takes to break the women, and get them to talk. To turn over the names of their menfolk.

Sadly, many of the women are innocent. They haven’t been charged or sentenced. None of them have even seen the inside of a courtroom. They are simply locked up, waiting for someone to tell them why they’re there. Or when they can go home. Lily says it’s a never-ending wait. Although no one in a position of authority will cite a reason, it’s a fact that the women were only thrown into prison after their husbands, fathers or brothers took to the street in demonstrations against President Donald Trump.

Under the current administration, which has targeted any citizen who speaks out against the federal government, these acts are seen as tantamount to torture. But they have only come to light recently, because most of America’s journalists are themselves behind bars. There, these once bold and courageous members of the Fourth Estate can do little to expose the gross wrongs that seem to grow in scope and number with each passing day.

President Trump quickly turned the American people against the media. Long before he ran for the highest office in the land, in fact, public outcry about “irresponsible journalism” was a common occurrence. Within months of moving into the White House, however, the President began a concerted campaign against journalists around the country, from reporters at prestigious, daily newspapers to pundits at Fox News, and every blogger around the country.

Now, though, as more and more people disappear, with family members relating how their loved ones were picked up in the middle of the night by military police, never to be seen again, some quarters are calling for a return to the days of an unrestricted media, when “freedom of the press” actually existed.

“I used to make fun of the reporters who called Trump a liar, and compared him to Kim Jong-un,” Lily said. “I mean, I know journalists are the lowest paid college graduates, and I thought they were just stupid windbags who were jealous that some rich guy was smart enough to get the American people to stand behind him.”

Lily glances again over her shoulder, before turning back to me and whispering something about a rumor that the next move is for the feds to take away citizens’ cell phones and Internet access.

“Now I know those reporters were right,” she said, shaking visibly from her fear. “But it’s too late. We’ve become North Korea.”

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog was written in the flavor of that satirical and popular publication, The Onion.

* * * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog will begin appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it has been. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Is Donald Trump a Rapist?

You may not know this, but many journalists don’t vote. Why? Because they believe holding a political opinion impairs their ability to objectively do their jobs. This is one reason I remain largely silent during election years. Since journalists are at the front line of an election, in order to be fair, we must be neutral. Otherwise, our reporting could be compromised. And reporters must write, not just about the political events leading up to an election, but about the behind-the-scenes stories that help citizens learn the entire truth about a candidate, or candidates.

I haven’t said much about this election because most of it has already been said. But a few months ago I received a private message from one of my readers, asking if I knew about a news article alleging Donald Trump was a wife beater. At the time, I didn’t.

But since then, Trump’s popularity has grown—and people seem so swayed by the man, his money, and his power, that they blindly follow his every word—so I’ve decided to speak up about a topic I am passionate about. That topic? Domestic violence and, more important, rape. Specifically, marital rape—something I feel qualified to speak about, since I wrote a book about it.

You see, the scariest thing about this election for me, personally, is the reaction of Trump’s supporters—do they really condone raping one’s wife? After all, aren’t they’re saying they wholeheartedly support rape when they support Trump, the man accused of such a base act?

One year ago, in February 2015, The Daily Beast reported that during a 1990s deposition, Trump’s ex-wife Ivana, said he violently assaulted her. The account found its way into a 1993 book about the billionaire, and include such ugly details as Trump forcing Ivana to have sex she didn’t want, and intentionally yanking out clumps of her hair during the sadistic act. The book’s author said that when Ivana told her closest friends what happened, she used the word “rape.”

Reading about her horrific experience—which sounds like rape to me—made me shudder.

Sadly, Ivana late recanted. Well, in a manner of speaking.

By their very nature, divorce proceedings reveal extremely private details about a couple’s most intimate moments. Abused women, especially, have been known during divorce proceedings to reveal being victims of shameful behavior at the hands of their mate. These deep, dark secrets are things they would never tell another person—unless that person is a shrink or a doctor. It’s almost like these women have remained silent for so long that, finally, knowing their escape from their batterer is imminent, they relish the chance to speak out about the most vicious, private acts carried out against them during the marriage in question.

Ivana is not alone.

Many women—even married women—claim they were raped, only to later recant. Statistics show it’s not usually because the rape didn’t happen. More often, it’s because the women are still subservient enough that they are afraid to call a spade a spade. Because doing so comes at a very high cost. I know this because I was one of those women. And I’ve talked to dozens of women whose situations mirrored mine.

Based on Ivana’s divorce documents, she was raped. Just because she later toned down her words doesn’t mean Donald Trump did not rape his wife. Here’s what it could mean. In order to feel safe, or to get money (or some other concession) from Trump during their divorce, Ivana had to soften her story. Or maybe, like many women, Ivana later doubted her own reality. It happens. Far too much.

Read the Daily Beast piece. It’s well-written and shows Trump for what he is—a man who surrounds himself with bullies as ugly as he is. Bullies who threaten the press who dare to print such stories, and who say it’s legal to rape one’s wife.

Which is so ridiculous that it would be funny, if only so many Americans didn’t seem to worship the pedestal upon which Trump stands.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Listen, Learn and Love: My 2016 New Year’s Motto

It was almost midnight when she made her entrance, the beautiful, fair-skinned blonde with a red flower in her hair. Unlike most of the women I saw on the streets of Morgantown last night, she wore slacks. Not a sequined miniskirt.

Three men, possibly of Pakistani descent, in a nearby booth greeted her, and one of them stood out of what appeared to be a show of respect (perhaps they all did; I can’t recall), of chivalry, and to greet her with a kiss. That was when I knew: they were a couple.

I was at Gibbie’s eating a very late supper as I watched the people around me preparing to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. The trio drank water or soda, which could mean they are Muslim. I didn’t notice her drink, which doesn’t matter anyway. What I did see was the essence of happiness and, perhaps, a twinge of trepidation, before she showed up.

Morgantown is a melting pot, filled with people from around the world who swirl around each other like vegetables in a thick stew. Many, many of them have dark skin, but I’ve never thought a problem. I’m sure most people here don’t.

I hope not, anyway. Not when every interaction I’ve ever had, as a woman, has been positive and even uplifting. Has filled me with awe at the level of respect I encounter—respect I haven’t received from most the Caucasian men in my life. In my intimate life, not my everyday, professional one, where all the men who know me are the epitome of respect.

But I digress. I watched the trio of friends before the red-flowered blonde’s arrival, and couldn’t help but notice that none of them made eye contact with me. I don’t know if that’s “the new norm” for people of Middle Eastern descent during these recent tense days, but I hope not. Which is why I smiled, when one of the youth passed my booth. He did a double take, as if he wasn’t expecting such warmth, and shyly smiled in return.

That’s when I began thinking about what it must be like for Muslims and people who don’t practice that faith but who are nonetheless lumped together, because of the color of their skin. How hard it must be, as it often is for women who are mistreated at home and even in the workplace, simply because of our gender. Because we are different from middle-class, white males whose power and influence can extend well beyond ours.

When the clock struck 12 a.m., ringing in 2016, the four friends raised their glasses in a toast. I heard the handsome fellow who shyly responded to my smile say, “with water,” and laugh. Then, as the quartet took turns hugging each other, the beautiful blonde turned to her bearded beau and they kissed. And kissed. And kissed. As all around them, the world came to a stop. It was not an ephemeral scene. It was timeless.

And it made me wish I could trade places with her, or with any of the four people celebrating in that booth. In spite of their possible troubles, to have that sense of love and happiness—that is what I want in 2016.

For you, for me, for everyone. No matter their gender, their religion, or their flesh tone. Listen, learn, and love, and see all the beauty around you.

This is my New Year’s motto.

* * * *

My latest book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

From the Front Lines: Breaking Away From A Bully

It couldn’t be more ironic if we had been reading lines from a script.

Today’s early morning drive along Route 7 was pleasant enough, as I wound my way from Morgantown, W.Va., to Kingwood. It even included a serene interlude with an old friend at a Reedsville café. From there I continued driving east, to hear Judge Larry Miller sentence a man convicted of first-degree murder in a case of deadly domestic violence.

But before I could leave Kingwood and return home I had to file a police complaint–after I found myself facing a bully who wouldn’t back down.

* * *

I was sitting in the hallway outside Preston County Circuit Court when I saw her. I didn’t miss the cold glare in my direction, but I ignored it. Instead, I looked away and continued chatting with another reporter. Everyone was ushered into the courtroom not long after, where we sat through Denny Ervin’s hearing. I wanted to write about its outcome but instead I’ll direct you to two other worthwhile news reports.

And simply say this: Denny Ervin is an animal, and I have emails from his exes that prove it. Emails I’ve written about in earlier blogs. He carried out acts of terrorism that no one should have to endure, and a life sentence without mercy is too good for him.

But that’s all I’m saying about Denny because I’m writing about my personal experience with a different bully, and how I handled it.

I’m pretty sure Dr. Phil would approve.

At the hearing’s end, everyone filed out of the courtroom and I saw her. Standing there, with that same intimidating stare. Her body language was equally threatening, and I felt the need to step to the side just to avoid her. She tried to engage me, as I suspected she might, but I cut her off, using humor to try to defuse the situation.

“Hey, thanks for reading my column,” I said with a smile and a thumps-up sign.

My humor fell flat. She said something which in legal terms would probably qualify as an assault. I couldn’t say now what it was, but I do know it was a threat of some kind or other, designed to cow me into keeping silent about thirteen years of domestic terrorism that began when I was a teenage bride.

I looked her directly in the eye. “If you ever contact me again, I will go to the police.” I was speaking about her periodic and harassing Facebook messages—messages designed to scare me and assassinate my character. Full of comments such as, “you can’t rape the willing.”

Then I walked right past her.

* * *

In 1999 I drove my daughters to Ruby Memorial Hospital and waited there with them because their stepmother was having problems during her pregnancy. They were really worried about her and their unborn half-sibling, so I took them. I didn’t just do it for my daughters; I did it for her. I believed it was the humane thing to do, the right thing to do, and a simple act of kindness. I also thought it might engender some goodwill from a woman who has hated me since she married my children’s father. Hoped it might show her I wasn’t the evil witch my ex made me out to be, and that I had a heart.

I always did. Before he remarried, whenever my children grumbled about another one of their father’s girlfriends, I tried to encourage them to see the bright side: “Look at it this way. It’s just one more person to love you.” I did the same thing with his new wife. Besides, with a woman around, I believed they stood a better chance of being protected from his violence.

* * *

In the courthouse basement after the hearing I stood chatting with two reporters. By the time I left the building, she was there. Waiting for me. I knew that the minute I saw her. She made sure I couldn’t reach my car without passing her, because she intended to continue intimidating me, to issue more threats. I did the same thing I did throughout most of my first marriage: I turned the other cheek.

She followed me, her voice louder, trying to force me into an ugly confrontation. That’s when I did it. I wheeled around to face her.

And said the only thing I’ve wanted to since 1999, not long before she went to the hospital for prenatal problems. “You let that man abuse my children until social services got involved and removed them from your home.” I raised my arm and pointed directly at her. “You let him do that!”

“I wasn’t at home,” she said.

Disgusted, I turned to go. She tried to follow me, spewing whatever threats she felt compelled to utter. By then the crowd that had gathered outside the courthouse could hear her yelling. Everyone was watching us. Even a court bailiff had come outside to see if there was a problem.

This is why I told my story,
and why I won’t stop telling it.

“Stay away from me!” I said, headed for my car. She followed me, still chattering. I opened my door, stopped, and shut it. Turning around, I walked past her.

“Go ahead, go tell the police,” she taunted.

It was great advice.

* * *

My readers usually wonder what happened after Eddie and I divorced. Many have even written to ask me. It’s hard to talk about and even more difficult to write about because Eddie and his new wife cost me a lot. I left the best job I’d had up to that point, in May 1999, and traveled 3,000 miles to help my daughters after they were forced to leave their father’s home.

Those are a few of my losses. But my children lost even more.

I spent the intervening years with this woman taking issue with me and now, my memoir—which doesn’t give Eddie’s real name, and which took place years before she ever met him.

I’ve contemplated it, and this is what I believe: it must be really hard to stay married to a man whose first wife has accused him of such horrible atrocities, and has the evidence to prove it—in the form of his own words. If you have to live with that lie, trying to convince yourself he’s a good guy, then you have no choice but to hate the woman he spent thirteen years raping. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and it’s something abused women do to survive.

So really, I pity her. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let her bully me. Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. I will not be a doormat. For anyone—male or female.

* * *

I have three books, and will soon have four. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is being used in colleges and some high schools; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), due out in July 2013.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

 

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Five Years Later — 9/11 Reflections

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I sit here in a friend’s Pompano Beach apartment, every few minutes another small plane flies overhead. I am directly under their flight path on this, the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks here in the United States. After mulling over every way our lives are different now, I can’t imagine writing anything other than what I did in 2006, on the five-year anniversary. Except that now, with the uprising of ISIS, life is far more fragile now. Please read on for that original Sept. 11, 2006, post. I’ve added photos from my trip to New York City, taken earlier this summer. ~Daleen

Not long after beginning flight instruction, student pilots will hear the phrase, “If your radio goes out, turn your transponder to 7600 — not 7500. Because, if you do that, air traffic control will think you’ve been hijacked.” Those three codes are stressed repeatedly, drilled over and over: “Squawk 7600 for radio failure, 7700 for an emergency, and 7500 for a hijacking.” These are the most common codes needed, and when dialed into the transponder (a type of radar), allow your aircraft to show up on the air traffic controller’s radar screen, for identification and tracking purposes.

I learned that in September 1999, just two years before the World Trade Center fell and the Pentagon was attacked, in an event which involved four hijacked U.S. airliners. I was a student pilot then, fulfilling a childhood dream that began while sitting in the right seat of my father’s little single-engine airplane, flying back and forth between Martinsburg (MRB) and Clarksburg (CKB). A flight instructor, he often took me up in the air with him, teaching me to scan for other traffic while up there.

The day after September 11, I was scheduled to take another flying lesson. But the Clarksburg Benedum Airport was locked down tight, and no one was getting in. Least of all me, just another student pilot in pursuit of a private pilot’s license. But after authorities announced the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Middle Eastern men who, like me, were also in pursuit of that coveted license from the Federal Aviation Administration, my status as a student pilot took on new meaning. Unlike me, as the world has since learned, their motives were sinister in nature.

In the five years since the 9/11 attacks, I have received my license — earned it, with every minute of flight and ground training, and every dollar spent. Once I was allowed back in the air along with all the other general aviation folks, every opportunity I had to fly was accompanied by more than a few moments of meditation on the marvels of flight, of what a privilege it is to be able to hold a pilot’s license, and of how wonderful it is just to defy gravity and head toward the heavens.

What changed for me personally is that I finally made it to New York City, something I longed to do since that terrible day. Part of the reason for my visit was probably the journalist coming out in me, and part of it was my intense curiosity, which causes me to question everything around me, as a way of trying to make sense of it. Yet the biggest reason was in wanting to see firsthand the location where the world changed for us as Americans, for me as a person and a pilot, and especially for the many families who lost and then had to leave their loved ones behind that day.

Since that time, I have been to NYC five times — an average of once a year for the past five years. The first was in August 2003, when Ground Zero was a large, cavernous hole, taking up too many city blocks, and surrounded by metal fencing taller than I am. The second was a whirlwind trip with a group of college students, made on the second anniversary two years after the attacks, when the twin lights reflected into the night sky, and surviving family and friends gathered to weep, remember, and memorialize their lost loved ones. The third trip was a year later to visit new friends I’d made earlier that summer, and the fourth was in early 2005, on my way back from Canada. The fifth trip was six weeks ago, for a writer’s conference and again, to visit friends.

In the meantime, I continued flying. Not long after 9/11, two of my daughters and I boarded a jet and flew to San Francisco, to see their sister perform in a college play. The day we returned home, November 12, was the same day another jet (America Airlines Flight 587) crashed into a Queens neighborhood in New York, deepening American’s fears that yet another terrorist attack had occurred. I flew again, going solo a year later, once again to visit my daughter. Since then, I’ve flown to Spain (not long after the March 11, 2004, Madrid railway terrorist attacks), to Canada (where a U.S. Customs official nearly refused to allow me back into the country, because I had forgotten my passport), and to Fort Lauderdale, this past spring, for a work-related conference.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news that day. It’s just one of those things you never forget, something that’s indelibly etched on your memory. Having come off the afternoon shift, I went to bed early that morning, waking just as the news was being reported. I heard that an airliner (later identified as American Flight 11) had crashed into the North Tower when I went into my kitchen to get a drink and did what I normally did — turned on the radio. That’s when I rushed to the television, to see if the news was being broadcast live. It was, and as I saw smoke coming from the World Trade Center, I called my daughter to tell her the news. She was at work, and quickly turned on the radio, as well. While we were on the phone, I watched as the first tower crumbled, as easily as if it was a child’s sand castle. We had just hung up and I had gone back to the TV, when fifteen minutes later, a second jet (United Flight 175) struck the South Tower. It was unbelievable, like a horror movie where the ending comes out different than anything you expected. That coverage was suddenly interrupted, with breaking news that the same thing had happened at the Pentagon, when American Flight 77 crashed there. By the time it was all said and done, four jetliners — including United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania about an hour from here — had been used as weapons against the United States.

September 11 became our Pearl Harbor, the day the world changed for our generation. It’s true, sadly so, but true nonetheless. But with that has come some good, for not only was humanity at its absolute worst that day — it was also at its very best, as thousands of people throughout the country (and more, around the world) reached out to lend a hand during that time of crisis.

Today is the fifth anniversary of that dark, dark day in America’s history. I’m not sure what it’s taught the world, or even Americans, but I know what it’s taught me. To treasure each day, to spend time with loved ones (instead of taking them for granted), to make that time truly count, and to simply laugh when the chips are down, and the world seems like it’s going crazy. For, like it or not, danger is everywhere. It might be just around the corner, at the next traffic light, at the end of a one-way street, or even on the next flight. And there’s not a thing we can do about it — except make sure if and when danger strikes, we’ve lived our lives in such a way that we’ve got no regrets. About anything.

Especially about dialing the wrong number into our aircraft. Remember, 7500 should only be used when there’s a hijacking. For everything else, just remember to take life as it comes, one day at a time.


* * * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Ms. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”