[Hpn] ptsd

john mcculloch jmcculloch48@hotmail.com
Thu, 12 Jul 2001 10:49:29 -0700


After reading the articles about PTSD from the Denver Voice yesterday, I 
decided to share something I wrote on a related topic four years ago. It was 
the second of a series called "Homeless Battered Women" that was published 
in Eugene's The OTHER Paper in August 1997. Here it is, minus the first two 
paragraphs:

Battered Woman Syndrome is a recognized form of post-traumatic stress. A 
woman who is a veteran of a violent relationship is one who was not 
originally combat-trained, but has nevertheless learned to live in war-zone 
conditions. If she ends up on the street after fleeing from, or being 
ejected from, a battering relationship, she is naturally going to feel as if 
she is still living in a war zone. The last thing she needs is cops 
violently banging on her camper door in the middle of the night, which gives 
her the feeling of being further battered.

An awareness of this reality must be incorporated into the police 
sensitivity training (if they receive any) of how to deal with homeless 
people. If they imagine every homeless woman who is single and childless is 
a hooker feeding a drug habit, they need to be made aware that many of us 
are homeless because of domestic violence and certainly don't need any MORE 
harsh treatment. And if they imagine all those beat-up old campers are 
occupied by macho drug dealers, then they should realize that such a vehicle 
might be the only refuge of a battered woman who has been deserted by her 
partner (as is the case with me).

The last few times I have had visits from cops, they always seemed very 
surprised that a woman answered the door. The first question they always ask 
is, "Are you the only one in here?" while they're peeking inside the camper 
as if expecting to see a man lurking in the corner with a shotgun. They seem 
quite disarmed when I reply calmly and matter-of-factly that yes, I'm all 
alone. Then when they run my ID and find that I have absolutely no record 
and no warrants, it takes all the wind out of their sails.

When I explain that I have been stuck in that parking space for a long time 
because my engine isn't running, they think, "Of course--a woman doesn't 
know how to fix a truck, and she obviously doesn't have the money to have it 
fixed at a garage." Nevertheless, they are still required to "inform" me 
that "camping" is illegal (as if I didn't know) and that I still have to 
move the truck even though it doesn't run. But they walk away feeling like 
fools. They had been prepared to confront a violent, desperate criminal, 
probably male--and instead they find a woman who is all alone and simply 
trying to survive.

I have never been bothered by the same cops twice; once they have met me, 
they learn. And certainly they must realize there is something wrong with 
the camping ban, if it requires them to enforce this law against people like 
me in a way that makes absolutely no sense.

Bridget
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