Bring it on 2017!

I begin 2017 like many people, looking back at the year before. Or, in this case, the month before.

December was not easy. Aside from being the anniversary of my sister’s death, there was so much tension and turmoil following the presidential election that I’ve had trouble remaining upbeat.

A room with a view, as seen from my Oakland hotel room.
A room with a view, as seen from my Oakland hotel room.

I last blogged on November 10, when I wrote about the sharp increase in bullying. Some people’s negative reaction to that blog, which contained evidence of hate speech directed at a gay couple in West Virginia, deeply saddened me.

That was before I realized that practically the entire country had been hoodwinked by fake news. I came to this conclusion on November 11, after seeing replies to my Facebook post and Twitter feed, both of which featured that blog. As one person after another commented, I found myself feeling like I was living in the Twilight Zone. There was such a large disconnect from what they believed, and what I knew to be true, that it boggled my mind.

I know where my facts came from, but where on earth were they getting theirs?

So I asked folks that very question, which led to a discussion about the horrible, awful things the Clintons supposedly had done, which they said would soon be brought to light. They cited websites I checked out, which turned out to harbor dangerous conspiracy theories.

These same conspiracy theories, with some help from some fake news articles, led them to insist the Clinton rumors were true. (The fake news seemed real enough it led one man on a would-be “rescue” mission inside a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor—where no one needed rescued.)
big-girl-panties-photo
So, for anyone who is wondering where a serious, investigative journalist goes to find out if something is true before using it in a news story they’ve been assigned to write, I offer you this: The Poynter Institute, a leading education agency that any news reporter worth his salt knows and uses liberally. This is the group that participates in top-notch media panels such as occurred in Morgantown, West Virginia, following the Sago Mine disaster eleven years ago today. (The explosion occurred on January 1, 2006. Two days later, heartbreaking headlines got it wrong, proclaiming the victims were alive. They weren’t. Yet another valuable lesson for journalists: take your time. Get the story, but get it right, first.)

Founder Nelson Poynter realized that his nonprofit had a big assignment when he declared, “its job is to help train the people who are going to help maintain the integrity, the stability, the progress of self-government.”

Poynter’s website has several critical stories about how you can spot fake news yourself. It isn’t rocket science, that’s for sure. But if you care about freedom and liberty, you’ll spend some time fact-checking the news you consume—before sharing it with anyone else.

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I’ve also had some pressing family matters that kept me busy, and I traveled to Oakland, California, after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire. As the days of December marched by, I tried to find and focus on the good. The positive. The upbeat.

And I couldn’t have been happier when I learned that Mandy, the homeless Mississippi mother of three I met on my trip west, found a home. One small step—but what a difference it’s making in her life and that of her children! Her success is our own, and we should all celebrate with her.

In a month like December, it was a real challenge to find good news. But there were bits and bobs, here and there. For instance, I learned that my three-week bout with bronchitis left me thirteen pounds lighter. (Who says being sick doesn’t have an upside?) Which I may put back on, given that a large parcel of goodies just arrived from my Hawaii friend. Oh yes, and the BBC plans to publish an article I wrote, which is most gratifying.

As we step into 2017 we’re like the swimmer who pokes his big toe into the water, trying to see if it’s warm enough for a plunge, only to find that it’s frigid. And we know it may stay that way for longer than we like. But it’s exhilarating and destined to keep us doing the breaststroke so we don’t give up before we realize what’s possible.

Like Dory said, “just keep swimming.”

I refuse to let the ugly residue from 2016 get the best of me. No matter what happens, I am going to live each day of 2017—each minute—to the fullest. I am determined to be happy in spite of what the world around me does. Or doesn’t do.

I will be present. I will live in the moment. I will cherish every small gift that comes my way.

I hope you do the same.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.”