Domestic Violence Awareness Month

To help educate and increase awareness about domestic violence, many events are slated around the country this month, including some here locally. At the bottom of this list are my speaking engagements in October. Please feel free to attend ~ and bring a friend!
One of the most difficult topics to talk about when it comes to domestic violence is the idea that rape can and does occur within marriage, and other intimate relationships where love should be the basis for sex. Perhaps even more challenging to talk about, though, is the fact that pregnancy does occur through these acts of rape. This is really a much bigger problem than you might expect, and one that is supported by several major studies, as reported at the Centers for Disease Control website.
According to the CDC, 10% of American women were raped (or experienced an attempted rape) by a husband or significant other. And the evidence reports that this rape doesn’t just occur once—it occurs repeatedly.
Approximately 4.7% adult women become pregnant through rape. This led that agency to take U.S. Census figures, and arrive at the conclusion that an estimated 32,000 such pregnancies occur annually in women who are 18 or older.
Where pregnancy occurred:

  • 32.4% of victims didn’t know they were pregnant until they their second trimester
  • 32.2% kept the baby
  • 50% had an abortion
  • 11.8% had a spontaneous abortion

Because of the numerous associated problems (such as depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and attempted suicide), this is what the CDC’s study found:
“Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.”
Please see the CDC’s website for more details about this serious problem.


Daleen’s calendar

  • Monday, Oct. 9—Silent Witness; 7 p.m. WVU Mountainlair Ballroom
    The SILENT WITNESS EXHIBIT was first conceptualized by members of the Minnesota Arts Action Against Domestic Violence, an ad hoc group of artists and writers, in cooperation with the Minnesota Women’s Consortium. The first exhibit in 1990 featured 27 life-size figures, each representing a woman whose life ended as a result of domestic violence. A WVU Public Service Grant made it possible to update the Exhibit in 2004. The silhouettes represent 50 women, children, and men in WV who were murdered by an intimate partner or a family member between 1999 & 2001. For more information, please contact Leslie Tower at (304) 293-293-3501, ext. 3126.
  • Monday, Oct. 16—Morgantown Public Library; 6-8 p.m.; DV Awareness Program featuring a video and speeches. For more information, please contact Tamara Woods at (304) 291-7425.
  • Thursday, Oct. 19—Morgantown Courthouse Square; 6:30 p.m.; RDVIC Annual Vigil, featuring information about how the legal community helps survivors of domestic violence. For more information, please contact RDVIC at (304) 292-5100.

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.”

Parents Beware: Misconceptions about the Natascha Kampusch case all too common

This week, I attended “Crimes Against Children,” a conference at Camp Dawson in Preston County, West Virginia. There, the FBI NAA (National Academy Associates) program featured several experts who spoke about the problems confronting today’s children. While the public—as well as the media—often believes violence is a natural component in the sexual crimes of children, that’s rarely the case. The current breaking news about Natascha Kampusch appears to support this fact. So in light of what those experts said, Natascha’s abduction and abuse bear analyzing.
Natascha, then 10, disappeared from Vienna, Austria, on March 2, 1998, while walking to school. Eight years later, authorities say she’s in relatively good health, after having been locked in some type of cellar all those years. Her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, threw himself in front of a train after Natascha was found. From initial news reports, it seems Natascha did not know her abductor—which is unusual. Nor was there violence—which is quite common.
The American public (and, I’m guessing, society in most parts of the world) mistakenly believes that cases like this one are the norm: strangers abduct our children. That’s how we came to have so much prevention literature on “stranger danger,” where the stranger is often depicted as a man in a trench coat who offers candy to little children to trick them into going mindlessly with him.
But at Monday’s conference, I again heard something I know from personal experience to be only too true—the real danger to children comes from people they know, and often know well. “The forgotten molester is the acquaintance molester,” Kenneth V. Lanning, a retired FBI special agent, told an audience of law enforcement officers, social workers, and teachers.
This molester is one society refuses to discuss, Lanning said, “because he’s one of you. You’ve invited him over for dinner. Or you go to church with him.” Instead, society instead prefers to focus on stranger abduction, because it’s easier for us to believe strangers will victimize our children, than will the people we know (and even love).
News reports about Natascha indicate she was also victimized sexually. But since the authorities are relating she’s in “good health,” that may confuse us. This ties in with the second fallacy: that violence is part and parcel of such abductions and or sexual crimes.
“Sexual offenders do not use violence. It’s simply not necessary. If you do use violence, look at all the trouble it causes. The single dumbest thing you can do is abduct a victim and become violent,” Lanning said.
Which brings me to another topic pertinent to this issue: sexual activity with children. As one of the online news sites has reported about Natascha’s situation, “Whether the sexual contact … was consensual or forced on her was not yet clear…”
Excuse me, did I read that correctly? You bet. Which shows how little some branches of the media know about this sensitive issue. For the record, and as Lanning likes to say, children cannot give consent for sexual relations. Just because they can participate in it, doesn’t mean they can give consent—for it isn’t legal to have sex with a child (as defined by legal terms, anyone under the age of 18) and, furthermore, children lack the emotional maturity to understand the consequences of having sex. This means they’re not responsible for what happens to them sexually when the other person is an adult. (And even when the other person isn’t.)
So let’s just take the ‘consensual’ nonsense out of the equation right now, when it comes to Natascha and others like her. (For even if she had sex with her captor after she turned 18, years of any such sexual abuse would still render her unable make a good, sound decision.)
Other important points for parents to consider when trying to protect their children, as gleaned from that recent conference include:

  • The Internet poses a huge danger to children.
    Jerry Spurgers, a special agent with the FBI in Little Rock, and Jim Barrett, a sergeant with the Conway Police Department, both in Arkansas, related the 2002 case of Kacie Woody’s abduction and murder, by the 47-year-old man who masqueraded as a 14-year-old admirer.
  • Children and teens aren’t getting the message. Denise Holtz, a special agent with the Pittsburgh, Pa., FBI, said she has spoken to more than 40 classes this year alone, and her findings have been the same every time: If parents are explaining Internet safety use to their children, the children are either not hearing, or not listening. Therefore, parents need to set rules (and review them often), regularly monitor their children’s computer use, and keep the computer in an area frequently used by all family members.
  • When faced with a threatening situation, call for help. Teach your children how to help themselves. Holtz said she teaches kids if their gut tells them danger is nearby, to run! “Run toward somebody who looks like a mommy,” she suggested.
  • Grooming is alive and well. Child pornography, defined as images of children in sexual poses or situations, is being used in grooming, which is the process of befriending a child in order to then sexually abuse her (or him). Tessa Cooper, a victim specialist with the FBI, and Maureen Runyon, of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, both out of Charleston, W.Va., said they’re seeing a lot of grooming cases where child porn is used prior to a sexual assault.
  • Adults who prey on children will try to act on their perverted desires. When using the Internet to befriend and then lure their victims, these offenders will get around to asking about having a real world sex encounter. That’s the word from Dave Perri, an assistant U.S. attorney in Wheeling, W.Va. “It’s not a question of ‘if.’ It’s a question of ‘when,’” Perri said.
  • Report anything suspicious to the authorities. According to the news, Natascha’s captor exposed himself to a neighbor’s daughter, whose father never reported it. Wayne Sheppard, with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the NCMEC works with local, state and federal law enforcement officials, to investigate reports of suspected or actual child sexual abuse. So either call your local police, or 1-800-The-Lost, if you think a child is in danger.

Why am I always in NYC when the lights go out?

In August 2003, during a two-day whirlwind trip to the Big Apple with my daughter, Jocelyn, it was hot, humid and sweltering. The day we left, you could barely cross the street, what for the traffic, the cops and the pedestrians. Just a few hours after that, though, the lights went out when a huge power outage occurred. I think we had just gone through the Holland Tunnel, when everything went black.
In March, thoughts of that earlier journey were with me as I began mentally planning my itinerary for this trip, in the hope that I would be able to do some networking, as well as get my foot in the door for some future freelance reporting assignments at some national magazines.
I anticipated taking that trip in late May or early June. I was forced to postpone it when forces larger than myself intervened, however, in the way of pneumonia, the ‘flu, and a few family factors.
So now it’s nearly August and I’m just now in the Big Apple … where Con Edison can’t seem to figure out how to restore power to about 20,000 very hot and angry electricity customers who have been without lights for more than a week. (Thank goodness I’m staying in the Bronx, with some good friends.) Again, the lights go out when I’m in town. I don’t know if someone’s trying to tell me something, or what.
Well, in spite of having to delay my trip here, some pretty significant things have happened along the way, and the timing turned out perfectly. (Which would explain why I’ve been less than diligent in posting to this site as frequently as I wanted to … my apologies to all of you!) First of all, I learned in June that my book (the rough draft, since it’s still not published) took first place in this year’s annual West Virginia Writers Competition. That means I not only earned my very first dollar for a project that began back in 1988 when I started writing simply for my own personal satisfaction (using my dozens of diaries for source material), but also that Richard Currey, the author who judged my entry from among the 72 entered, must think I can write.
Richard Currey, for anyone who doesn’t know, hails from Parkersburg, West Virginia, although he (like me) found himself living in the Washington, D.C., area while still a child. And, he has gotten incredible praise for his own writing. From Currey’s web site, the Dallas Morning News had this to say about his work:
“When Richard Currey writes, he speaks the truth. The poetry of his language, his wisdom, and his compassion, sets us free. His journeys into the human heart are like tiny miracles…”
So the fact that Currey looked at my book and deemed it worthy of such an honor … well, it’s just very humbling. And it also tells me that I need to keep trying.
Part of being a writer – and news reporters are even worse at this (or they used to be, before the trend began for them to become the news!) – means that you are the person behind the scenes. You have pen in hand, notebook drawn, ready to fire with your ink the first time your subject speaks. But as an author (albeit, an unpublished one), you have to step out of the shadows and tell the world: “Here I am. Look at what I’ve done. I have something to say that no one else can.”
I’ve had a hard time doing that. And that needs to change. For in January, with the Sago Mine disaster, I realized that my story is not just about me or women like me. It’s about a people – an Appalachian people – and how their blood, sweat and tears are making their own lives more difficult than they ever needed to be. In turn, other people, in other occupations throughout the country, can glean something from the story those of us with connections to the coalfields have to share.
The reality that I must change my stance from being behind the scenes, to being in the scene, hit me when I received, unsolicited, a fabulous letter from a woman who once worked “as an editorial reader in the New York publishing world.” She pointed out that my book has a great potential to empower others, and as I read her words, I was struck by how important this story – my story – is.
At the same time, I finally received word that one of the top experts in his field (and a retired special agent from the FBI) has agreed to write the foreword for my book. Before last week, it was up in the air. Now, it’s been confirmed.
Then, the other day, a New Yorker himself told me to get off my duff and publish my book. You see, when my trip to NYC was delayed, I was fortunate enough to learn about the Backspace Conference, held at the Algonquin Hotel here in Manhattan just over the weekend. It brought agents, editors and authors together for two days of some of the finest networking I’ve been involved with in quite awhile. Among the people I met and spoke to was Joel Fried, another author (and quite a funny one) who heard about my book and made me promise to get my queries out to agents right away, so he can come to my first book signing in West Virginia.
So the last few days in the Big Apple have been intense, to say the least. And I’m not even talking about the power outage in Queens.


A state of being Dixie

It’s a First Amendment matter, really, when you get right down to it. But it’s also a sign of something that is sorely lacking in our society: The ability to call a spade a spade. I think Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. said it first, when he wrote that “courage is only courage when fear is present.” Speaking about the Dixie Chicks in his May 29th column, Pitts concluded by saying “there’s already too much of that (keeping silent) going around.”

I caught wind of the Dixie Chicks’ newest album, “Taking the Long Way” by way of reading the cover article in Time magazine, written by Josh Tyrangiel, and also published on May 29th. Courtney, my 23 year old, passed it along to me at a family gathering recently – making me promise to return it when I finished reading it. She and her sister, Cassandra, are 20-somethings, young, independent and strong-willed women who are tried and true country fans – but they still listen to The Chicks.

Courtney was just 15 or 16 when she first heard the music of the Dixie Chicks. Songs such as “You Were Mine” and “Cowboy Take Me Away,” were her favorites, but the song that connected us as mother and daughter was “Goodbye Earl,” a rare comedic piece about domestic violence and a woman named Wanda who got even with her abusive spouse.

That was in 1999, just after I returned to West Virginia from California. While Courtney and her track star girlfriends sang the song just before each shuttle relay they ran, as their own personal anthem, (“It was catchy,” she explains.) I recall being fresh out of Divorce Number Two, and replacing the name “Earl,” with that of another man.

Then, in May 2003, with the Iraq War looming on the horizon, they did what some people consider the unforgivable: They publicly stated they were “ashamed” President Bush was from Texas. That resulted in mass uproar from their fans, boycotts from country radio stations, as well as death threats and CD-burning parties of their music. They apologized – and since have retracted that apology.

I am only too familiar with speaking my mind – something that has gotten me into hot water many times. I recall being in a similar situation as a teenager, while writing for the school newspaper. The entire staff was made to march into the lunchroom to face a group of very angry school cooks, who were upset that we dared publish an editorial proclaiming their food as less than delicious. I don’t recall the exact details, but I still recall my belief that it was wrong to make us apologize, when all we had done was speak the truth. Besides, if the opinion page isn’t for opinions, then what good is it?

The Chicks didn’t slander. They didn’t libel. They didn’t blasphemy. They simply stated their opinion, plain and simple, while on stage at one of their own concerts. So what if so many country music fans didn’t agree with it? After three years, I’d say it’s time to get over it.

On their newest CD, they have spoken out, loud and clear, and I think they deserve a standing ovation for speaking their mind. For stating what they believe. In a day and age when almost everyone is afraid to call a sin a sin, and when the whole lot of us have decided that our own personal rights take precedence – even at the peril of the life, health and welfare of others – I think it’s good to have strong women like the Dixie Chicks to remind us that speaking your mind is not only a good thing, it’s down right necessary.

After all, wasn’t the South in favor of breaking free of traditions steeped in what was amoral and inhumane? I thought freedom was a good thing. Or is it only that freedom is good, when it goes along with what the majority wants?

Well, what about when freedom comes face to face with just the opposite – when it flies in the face of “making nice” and smiling pretty, swallowing your values and beliefs along the way? What if no one had spoken out about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany? Or the mass genocide in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina? Or any number of other atrocities that have been visited upon the human family?

I’m grateful to these three women – Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson – for their courage and tenacity, for failing to give in to the status quo, to do what’s expected of them, just to pacify America’s country music fans. I’d rather have women with a backbone, any day, leading the way for women like my daughters.

* * * *

And if that wasn’t enough, their new album is awesome! Filled with songs that might or might not be considered country, which they helped write themselves, the music qualifies as a mix of folk, soft rock, and even R&B. (I know this, because I checked with a brother, who said so!) The songs on “Taking the Long Way” not only keep you awake at night, as refrains of their lilting melodies and provocative vocals play over and over in the mind of any insomniac, but they really make you think.

For instance, the song “Lullaby” speaks of a parent’s love for her child, and how “life began when I saw your face.” And the ballad, “Silent House,” just pulls you in with its vivid imagery, as the singer tells a story of an empty house, through memories that have sustained her.

In “Easy Silence,” the Chicks touch the heart’s tendrils, when they sing of “the peaceful quiet you create for me/And the way you keep the world at bay for me,” clearly my favorite line. I have awakened many times at night, with this very song playing in my head. As an added bonus, this song contains great fiddle work. Perhaps its greatest contribution to serious thinking, though, comes from these lines: “Children lose their youth too soon/Watching war made us immune.”

Another ballad, “Favorite Year,” which sounds to me like a song about an old love, it asks the age-old question that anyone who has had a failed romance must ask: “Would you know me now?” and haunts you with the statement that “love just doesn’t seem to conquer all.”

It’s hard for me to pin down my favorite song on this CD, but “I Hope” clearly ranks near the top. It’s a bluesy song that speaks of hypocrisy and leaving legacies for our children. Lyrics include these lines: “I don’t wanna hear nothing else/About killin’ and that it’s God’s will/’Cause our children are watching us/They put their trust in us/They’re going to be like us/So let’s learn from our history/And do it differently.”

Whether you ascribe to it as a political stance (I don’t.) or a desire for something better in life, which is what the refrain requests: “I hope/For more love, more joy and laughter/I hope/We’ll have more than we ever need/I hope/We’ll have more happy ever afters/I hope/We can all live more fearlessly/And we can lose all the pain and misery,” you come away thinking deeply about what the song is trying to say.

I think it’s trying to tell us something else, as it does in the verse that speaks of a woman named Rosie, who takes abuse from her husband because “he’s a good man … he was just brought up that way.”

It’s a far cry – albeit a much more serious one – than Wanda and the issues of domestic violence in “Goodbye Earl,” but it does what it intends: It causes us to examine the status quo, and walk away trying to figure out how to change it.

And that is worthy of thinking about.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out 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.”

Pandora causes pandemonium

NOTE: The following Vintage Berry Wine column is a tribute to my daughter, Jocelyn, who turned 24 this month. Jocelyn just returned to her home in San Francisco, after a long stay in New Orleans, where she worked as a volunteer following Hurricane Katrina. This column was never published; it was written 10 years ago, in December 1996.
Most families have a schedule for doing laundry. Some people prefer to set one certain day aside to do laundry – Mondays or Fridays or even Saturdays. Others like to take smaller, bite-sized chucks of laundry and do, oh say, a load or two every day, while undoubtedly others do no laundry at all – preferring instead to hire someone else to do it. I’ve tried it all three ways and I must say we keep coming back to the same old routine. Around here, we do laundry 24-hours a day.
Take the other morning for instance. It was a Tuesday – a cold and damp Tuesday, but other than that, just your normal, run-of-the-mill Tuesday.
With one exception.
This particular Tuesday Jocelyn couldn’t find her shirt. Not just any shirt, mind you, the ONE AND ONLY SHIRT that could be worn on this particular Tuesday. (She had, you see, picked it out about a week ago. That was when she told herself today would be the day she would drive her mother crazy trying to find THE ONE AND ONLY SHIRT.)
Now before I get to THE ONE AND ONLY SHIRT, it would be helpful for you to know we have a new family member. Her name is Pandora and she is a 12-week-old Samoyed puppy. Quite an adorable white ball of fluff, too. As the newest addition to our humble home, she has made an enduring impression. (Especially on Jocelyn, who on this particular Tuesday morning, found that Pandora was the reason she couldn’t find THE ONE AND ONLY SHIRT.)
It would also be helpful to know that, just before school dismissed last June, I told my children in no uncertain terms that when school resumed in September, some things were going to be different. One difference was going to be that instead of running around the house like a crazed lunatic in search of socks or shoes or whatever other article of clothing was needed just five minutes before the school bus was due to arrive, clothes were going to be picked out the night before. This would, I assured them, prevent me from going stark raving mad – and allow them to live a longer life, also. (If you know what I mean.)
Well, they tried, bless their little procrastinatingly-inherited hearts. And for awhile – the first couple of days, anyway – they succeeded. Then the desire to do better and be more organized gave way to a force much more formidable – habit. Everyone went back to the old routine of throwing on rumpled, wrinkled clothes just before they sped out the door to hop on the bus.
Everyone, that is, but Jocelyn. For she continued to try her hardest to select her clothing the night before – or two nights before, or, in this particular case – a full week before she wanted to wear them.
About one hour before she was due to leave for school, Jocelyn came into the kitchen to ask me if I had seen her shirt.
“What shirt?” I asked as I stood there making breakfast.
“You know, (THE ONE AND ONLY SHIRT),” she said, describing it in detail.
“I’m sorry, Honey, but I don’t know where it is.”
“But remember, I hung it up in the bathroom to dry,” she added hopefully.
“Maybe it got carried upstairs with other laundry. Maybe it’s mixed in with your other clothes and you just didn’t see it,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“But Mom, I left it on the rack in the bathroom last week. Remember?” she asked, stomping out of the room when it was clear I was of no help at all.
The minute she was gone, her sister, Courtney, who happened to overhear the entire exchange while seated at the table eating her breakfast, whispered, “Remember, it’s her brown shirt. The one that was in the bathroom on the floor that needed washed.”
It took a few seconds for that to sink in. Jocelyn’s shirt, which had been washed and placed in the bathroom to air dry, was now dirty and awaiting another washing. Oh yes, it had been among the items Pandora dragged down when she was left in the bathroom while we were gone during the weekend. We came home and found quite a few things that needed to be washed. As soon as I was struck by this revelation, I remembered Courtney’s warning, “You better wash Jocelyn’s shirt before she finds out what happened!”
I looked down at the floor, where the shirt was still laying in a heap with other items needing to be laundered. I threw it into the washer and turned it on, hoping it would just need to agitate for a few minutes, instead of several.
“Uh, Jocelyn, we found your shirt,” I said, cautiously going into the living room where she was busy looking through the clean basket of clothes. Then I explained how it was now in the washer.
“So you’re going to dry it?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, adding that I knew it would be done in time for her to wear (while I crossed my fingers behind my back.)
“How long has it been washing?” she asked.
“It just started,” I said.
“It won’t get done in time. I tried that last week and it was six o’clock. It’s six thirty now. I won’t be able to wear it,” she said in a resigned voice.
Ever optimistic and also trying to avert disaster, I suggested we just wait and while she was waiting, she could eat breakfast. She did, thankfully. The minute the washing machine stopped, though, she was there, pulling the wet garments out.
“This isn’t my shirt,” she wailed in disgust as she looked at the garment.
“It isn’t? Then what shirt are you looking for?” I asked, genuinely amazed.
“No, it isn’t. I’m looking for the shirt – you know the one – I wear it all the time,” she said, as she once again gave a detailed description of THE ONE AND ONLY SHIRT. She stomped off for the second time. Her voice came from the living room a few minutes later. “Here it is. It was in with the clothes you just took out of the dryer. It was there all along. Now all I have to do is iron it,” Jocelyn said.
I offered to do it for her, since I had just promised her brother I would iron his shirt. As I began to press it, I noticed it had holes all along the edge of the hem. “Jocelyn, do you wear this shirt tucked in?” I yelled to her, afraid we had another problem to contend with.
“No.”
“You probably should, or the holes will show.”
“What holes?” she yelled, appearing in the doorway to see what I was talking about.
“These holes,” I said, as I showed her several tears in the fabric.
“Those holes weren’t there before,” she said, her face wrinkling.
“I’m sorry, Honey. We found the shirt when we came home over the weekend. Pandora had pulled it down along with several other things that were in the bathroom.”
Instant tears appeared. “PANDORA! YOU DUMB DOG – I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”
She screamed as she ran in search of the puppy. I reached Jocelyn just before she clobbered the mutt with THE ONE AND ONLY SHIRT.
It was awhile later, with just about five minutes remaining before the bus arrived, before Jocelyn calmed down and managed to find another shirt she could wear with the clothing she already had picked out. The shirt incident forgotten, she was all smiles as she went out the door, yelling, “Bye Mom, have a good day!”
I will, I told myself, as I sat down to take a breather before facing any other trials that would come my way. I said a silent prayer, asking only for a reprieve before I had to face another Tuesday like this one.


Sago media speaks out

Journalists were in the hot seat about two months ago, when national headlines made a coal mining tragedy here in West Virginia much worse. Everyone knows that. But what many people may not know is that some of those journalists came to Morgantown six weeks after the Sago Mine disaster, on February 13, to discuss what went wrong. You can hear the entire two-hour panel discussion at the Podcast on this site. It’s well worth listening to, and you may even learn some things you didn’t know.

Like I did, when one panel member spoke about how he was deeply affected by the media mess, as he told the audience how relatives and friends of the Sago miners covered their heads with clothing, to keep from being photographed; kicked over news cameras; and even made obscene gestures to the media.

I think I can understand their reaction. I was swimming the night of January 3, when someone told me the miners were alive. My initial response was disbelief. However, eager and hopeful, I went home and turned on the tube. The reports were everywhere, and they all sounded the same: 12 miners had been found alive.

Three hours later, what had begun as a coal mining disaster had changed into something else: a media fiasco of the worst possible kind, the kind that no editor wants to have happen on his or her watch. Some questions, such as how the wrong information got out to begin with, will never be answered. The fact that such a tragedy could be compounded by erroneous news reports that then spread like wildfire, shows what a delicate balancing act is performed by today’s media. And we don’t always get it right. Unfortunately.

The panel discussion, hosted by West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, and part of this year’s Festival of Ideas, looked at the media’s role at Sago and what went wrong. It featured six people who worked on stories that came out of Sago. This includes Mike Solmsen, a producer, and Sharyn Alfonsi, a correspondent, with CBS News; Derek Rose, a general assignment reporter for New York Daily News; Randi Kaye, an anchor and correspondent for CNN; Scott Finn, the statehouse reporter for The Charleston Gazette and; Mark Memmott, who covers media issues at USAToday.

While the entire evening was captivating, for me, reporter Scott Finn’s comments stood out at night’s end. Because January 2 was a holiday, he was the only person in the newsroom when word of the explosion was received. As he drove from Charleston to Buckhannon, Scott said his thoughts went to what he would find when he arrived, and how he could do justice to a story of this kind:

“I was really concerned about getting it right because I know – and I’ve learned in the last month – just how much West Virginians know about coal mining. How many people have coal mining in their history, in their families. And if people have been around for three or four decades, they’ve been through mine disasters before. And so my main concern was trying to get the story right. To understand enough about what was going on to convey it to an audience that knows about coal mining and also, conceivably knows the miners involved.”

Much as we may try, we don’t always get it right. The Sago story has been a huge lesson learned for all of us. It has taught us that a hallmark of good journalism is, and has to be, accuracy. When the Challenger disaster occurred, an investigation into NASA’s space program later found that groupthink was a contributing cause. Groupthink occurs when several people don’t think independently, but instead allow themselves to be carried along on a wave, with the majority. All too often, that majority turns out to be wrong – leaving the people riding the wave with nothing to do but crash.

I still can’t help but believe – even after listening to the panel members who spoke here – that in the end, groupthink is what caused the wrong headlines, as many journalists lost their ability to be objective.

Maybe the media, along with everyone else, just wanted a miracle a little too much.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out 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.”

The McCloy Miracle

When doctors released Sago miner Randal McCloy on March 30, a news conference was held at the Waterfront Radisson, here in Morgantown. Satellite trucks lined up next to the Monongahela River behind the hotel, and media came from near and far to cover the story. I wanted to be there, so I went and taped the conference using my iPod.

Other than seeing the McCloys, and hear what they personally had to say, I’m not sure what I expected to get from the experience. Perhaps it was just the culmination of more than three months’ efforts, in following what has become one of the biggest news stories of 2006. Perhaps it was because of my own coal mining connection, or because I know close friends of the McCloys, and have kept in contact with them, so as to learn how McCloy was doing, after he was rescued.

It could be because from the time he entered Ruby Memorial Hospital on January 4, I had to walk through the hospital every day for a month and deliberately not search out Anny McCloy – and as a journalist, that’s pretty hard to do, when you know there’s a potential news story waiting, right there, behind the next door. But I didn’t, out of respect for their privacy, and because they surely had been inundated by the press, and other people who came to visit.

So attending this press conference was a way for me to hear the final outcome of the story – though in many ways, for McCloy and his family at least, it’s just the beginning. And the room was packed. I overheard hotel staff saying they hadn’t expected so many media folks to come out for it. I managed to wedge myself into what seemed like the last remaining spot there, just under the WVU news camera located behind me, where, if I wasn’t careful, I could move my head just a few inches to either side and block other cameras.

For the next several minutes, I listened along with the rest of the room, as McCloy’s doctors and Governor Joe Manchin discussed his care and prognosis. The “Miracle Team,” who treated McCloy is composed of Drs. Julian Bailes, Russell Biundo and Larry Roberts and their collective staff. The doctors spoke about McCloy’s condition at great length, and what they all said can be heard at the Podcast which is found on this web site. What was interesting to me was that, in spite of their combined medical knowledge and skills, they don’t know how it was that, first of all, McCloy even survived, and second, how his condition after such an injury could have improved so much in such a relatively short time. They admitted this, and speculated on the possible reasons behind it, but in the end, they said they don’t really know.

McCloy’s own comments were very brief – just a quick but sincere thank you, and his wife Anna elaborated on that word of thanks with expressions of appreciation to everyone who offered
support to their families. Ever the gracious and compassionate woman she has proven herself to be since the world first learned about her, Anna McCloy then caused the room to take a collective pause with her next words.

“However, there are 12 families who are in our thoughts and prayers today and every day. They families of Randy’s coworkers and friends are celebrating with us today just as we continue to mourn with them. Please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers.”

This mention – one of many throughout the news conference – of faith, made me go up to Gov. Manchin after the event and tell him what I have been thinking for the last three months: I am happy to know that West Virginia has as its governor someone who not only realizes the importance of faith, but isn’t afraid to say so, out loud, to the world. He said he really believes McCloy’s survival is a miracle, and that we as West Virginians aren’t afraid to stand up for our deep faith.

“That might sound corny in other states, but not in West Virginia,” Gov. Manchin added.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out 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.”

Going gaga over a Gameboy

NOTE: The following Vintage Berry Wine column was never published; it was written in February 1993, after the author found out how addictive her son, Zach’s, electronic toys could be. Zach was then eight.

The expression “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” has been echoed many times, for various reasons. I have recently found myself uttering the words, and what’s more, enjoying being a participant.
For years, I thumbed my nose at the idea of going into a place, generally referred to as an arcade, and playing video games. I could not see the sense in throwing money away on such trivial pursuits, and I knew such activities weren’t for me. I even questioned the sanity of those who could spend hours, entranced, before the machines.
Many has been the time, while walking through a mall, that my children have requested a trip to the arcade and although I may have given in a few times, I didn’t do it very often. I certainly didn’t stand around to see what the attraction was, and if I did, it was with a rather “all right, machine, hurry up and turn off so we can get out of here” attitude. I just couldn’t see the significance of standing before a video game trying to earn points by shooting this missile or clubbing that foe.
As an avid anti-violence supporter, I still agree with that last statement. However, there are, I am finding, video games that can be played that involve very little violence (although these are the exception).
And how, you may ask, did I come to this conclusion, since I’ve rarely ever set foot in an arcade? Well, suffice to say I’ve been converted. Once staunchly opposed to video games, I’m finding they can offer a pleasant diversion. The thanks goes to my son Zachary, and our little friend Chad, who showed us both just how much fun he had while playing something called a “Gameboy.”
Earlier this summer, I found myself watching Chad playing with his toy, and I soon found myself eager to give the thing a try. It wasn’t long before I was hooked – quickly trying to push the buttons so I would get ahead in the game; vocalizing my discontent when I wasn’t able to do so, and finding there is some enjoyment to be had in video games after all. We were on the highway at the time, and Chad had brought along the game to keep himself occupied. It wasn’t long, though, before his dad remarked that he may not get it back from me.
More recently, Zack was in school and I had a few minutes to relax and unwind. Picking up his video game, I sat out on the porch in the sunshine, trying to see how dexterous I could be while playing a game that builds walls out of falling blocks. The kids, when they arrived home on the bus, I thought vaguely, would surely laugh to see me sitting there with his game. But I hardly noticed – so engrossed was I in building walls. I reluctantly put it aside a few minutes later, to chat with my children about their school day. (Their thoughts were still on the electronic toy, asking me how many points I had, and what level I was at, and so on. They were, I had predicted rightly, quite amused to see their mother playing with a toy.)
The fun that was enjoyed by both Chad and Zack has been responsible for my actually playing a video game in an arcade, too. I must admit I now know why so many people lose their quarters in such places. There’s just something exciting, and definitely pleasurable, about moving the knobs, pushing the buttons, and seeing the figures move about on a video screen. While I haven’t entirely figured out what the attraction is, I’m more understanding now of the kids who hang out in arcades, or spend spare time with an electronic toy in hand. I no longer look down on such activities, and plan to partake from time to time myself.
In fact, during the weekend, I’m sure I’ll have enough time to kick back my heels and relax. Now, I know I could probably finish that novel I started reading awhile ago, or do some much needed studying, or maybe I could put on some soft music and just sit and think about absolutely nothing at all.
I can just see it now – such a peaceful scene. But wait, what’s that – over there on the buffet? Could it be that Zack has somehow forgotten to take his Gameboy to his father’s, during weekend visitation? Why, it certainly appears that way. Well, I guess I could finish that novel later today, and the studying can best be done at bedtime … just give me a few minutes with the toy, that’s all I want!

Mining jobs: Domestic violence increases with rising unemployment rates

THE deaths of 12 miners in the Sago Mine disaster and then four additional miners in other mines made international headlines. But below the radar, unemployment and uncertainty in the U.S. coal mining industry leak an invisible poison, claiming silent and stoic victims in the frustration and rage of domestic violence.

I know because I was one of them. I was married to a coal miner for 10 years, from 1980 to 1990. In 1991, I moved to Buckhannon, not far from the Sago Mine, to be managing editor of The Record-Delta. As a coal miner’s wife, the quality of my week depended on how much coal the mines produced. In 1982, my husband lost his job, and we nearly lost our home, located not far from the site of the Jan. 21, 1866, Newburg mine explosion in which 39 miners died. My husband’s verbal abuse of me soon turned to physical abuse.

As the number of coal miner jobs in West Virginia has decreased, domestic violence has increased. By 2004, employees in the West Virginia coal industry numbered a little more than 20,000, less than half the 1983 figure. And the number of domestic violence incidents documented numbered 14,489 in 2004, up from 1,232 in 1983, according to the West Virginia State Police’s Uniform Crime Reports.

Ann Shaver, professor of behavioral sciences at Fairmont State University, recognized a connection between unemployment and domestic violence as early as the 1980s. Students from coal families confided to her fears about the violence that “seemed to be beginning or escalating in their families.”

This is in no way an indictment of the coal miner or the unemployed. Many of my closest friends are from mining families. At Sago, my family lost a good friend in miner Terry Helms. But it is testimony to the ripple effects of unemployment. And it is a warning to Ford, Sago and other company families.

Experts are only now recognizing what a critical component unemployment can be in domestic violence. Unemployment doesn’t cause abusive behavior but exacerbates stress, relationship tensions and insecurity about failing to be “a true man in our society,” says Jacquelyn Campbell, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. She has studied domestic violence for about 25 years. Her 2003 study involving “intimate partner violence” and the abuse or murder of 563 women in 11 cities revealed unemployment was the only significant social, or demographic, risk factor.

Unemployment makes it four times as likely a woman will be killed, Campbell found. In overall risk factors, unemployment was second only to a man owning a gun as risks for family violence. Until recently, law enforcement didn’t consider a man’s employment status when conducting investigations.

In October, at the 13th Annual West Virginia Children’s Justice Task Force in Charleston, Mark Wynn, a decorated Nashville, Tenn., police officer, advised police handling domestic disputes to ask about employment. That way, they can assess how deadly the episode of family violence might become. Unemployment, he says, is “a possible aggravator” and a “double whammy” that exacerbates other issues such as alcohol use, marital woes or depression.

History shows that the life of a coal mining family follows the ups and downs of King Coal. In 1976, West Virginia had nearly 65,000 employees on the mining payroll, its highest number during my lifetime. In 1980, my husband was employed in a union mine as a section foreman, earning about $40,000 a year. Life was good, and my worries were few. By 1981, however, he was making much less working in a non-union mine. As a journalist, I reported facts and figures about the cycle of unemployment within the coal industry. But as the wife of a coal miner, I knew what happened only too well when a man came home with a pink slip.

My husband joined the growing number of unemployed coal miners. And I joined the growing number of women suffering domestic violence. We were among the many mining families who stood in long lines at the Newburg Senior Center in Preston County for free food, including “Reagan cheese.” My husband was stressed and depressed at being unemployed. He often took it out on me.

By 1983, the state’s unemployment rate hit 18 percent, nearly double the national figure, largely the result of layoffs in the coal industry due to changes in regulation, technology and profits. The industry employed 42,483. According to the West Virginia State Police, the number of reported domestic violence incidents rose from the 1,232 cases in 1983 to 2,565 cases in 1989 – a year when West Virginia saw the biggest fall in the number of people employed in the coal industry. Police say most domestic violence incidents go undocumented.

Domestic violence in West Virginia has deadlier consequences than in the rest of the nation. From 1993 to 1999, only 12 percent of the nation’s homicides were related to domestic violence, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources. But in West Virginia, that figure is almost 40 percent. The State Police say a domestic homicide occurs every 14 days – a figure that has held steady since the late 1970s.

In Upshur County, the Sago disaster adds stress that can exacerbate domestic violence. “Tensions run high. People become more irritable, and then you have explosions,” says Harriet Sutton, director of HOPE Inc., a women’s shelter in neighboring Marion County that has seen increases in domestic violence after layoffs.

In West Virginia, the unemployment rate has decreased to 5.3 percent in 2004, or 41,900 people out of work, according to the Bureau of Employment Programs. But the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, a part of the U.S. Commerce Department, says unemployment is a much greater issue in Appalachia, especially in central counties of West Virginia and Kentucky, compared to the rest of the country.

Shannon Wamsley’s husband, Alton, survived the Sago mine disaster, one of 16 men who rode out of the mines just before the explosion. She said the families are very fortunate that International Coal Group has provided jobs and counseling. But she – like everyone – is worried about the long-term effects, especially among those who are too spooked by the tragedy to return to work.

“They can have all this pent up emotion inside of them,” she said, “which turns to anger and frustration because you have to blame something.”

NOTE: Reprinted with permission from Charleston Newspapers (West Virginia). This op-ed originally appeared February 9, 2006, on page 5A. (Copyright 2006)

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out 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.”