Other People's Words

Interview with Susan Murphy Milano, violence expert

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on June 18, 2010

This is a transcript of the Autism Women’s Network’s interview with Susan Murphy Milano, a violence expert.


Sharon daVanport: Okay, everyone. Good evening, and welcome to AWN Radio. This is the Autism Women’s Network official power hour of talk time. I’m your host, Sharon daVanport, and today’s Thursday, May 27, 2010. In just a few moments, we’ll bring on our guest Susan Murphy Milano. But first I do have a quick announcement for our regular listeners. I wanted to let everyone know that the AWN did decide to go ahead and get our grant proposal together for the Pepsi Refresh contest. We are gonna be going for their $50,000 grant. We’ve been working over at the AWN all month on our proposal, along with a couple of fantastic volunteers who are excellent in PR and grant writing.

So AWN wants to send a special thank-you out to Eric Chivali, who helped us with the grant proposal. A lot of you guys in the autism community know him over on Twitter as @myautisticson. Then a special shout-out to our friend over at RethinkingAutism.com, Dana Commandatore. She has been guiding AWN through various ideas on how to design our page for the contest.

So Sunday evening, there’s gonna be a lot of us over at the AWN who will not be going to bed because, come midnight at 12:01, we have to submit our proposal. They only take the first one thousand proposals, and everyone’s gonna have their hand on the button at midnight. If we get this in—if we get accepted as one of the thousand proposals to go for the $50,000—then we will be entered for the July contest. We’ll keep everybody updated on that.

Okay, then. Let’s get right to the show. As I said earlier, we do have Susan Murphy Milano as our guest this evening. Susan is the national spokesperson for victims of domestic violence; she is also an author, speaker, violence safety strategist, consultant and celebrity spokesperson. Susan’s been featured on Oprah, 20/28, The Justice Files, U.S. World News Report, USA Today, the E! network. Oh, my goodness, Susan, I cannot believe this. I can’t finish reading all of this. [Laughter] The Associated Press, Family Circle magazine, CNN, and NBC’s Sunday Today, just to mention a few. Tonight we’re very privileged that Susan is going to be our guest here on AWN Radio. I’d like to go ahead with that and just say “Welcome” to Susan. Susan, how are you?

Susan Murphy Milano: Thank you so much for having me on. It’s an honor, especially with the Autism Women’s Network. I don’t know if people saw the blog on Murphy Milano Journal, which I write on, but if I could I’d like to dedicate it to all the abuse victims. In particular, Frankie Jacobson, who was murdered in January of 2010. She was an autism advocate. Her two sons were also murdered at the same time by an enraged husband. She wrote Mr. Bean’s Birthday Party, released in 2009 in December, and she was someone who gave to the cause so unselfishly.

She lost her life because she had mentioned she was going to get a divorce. She’d mentioned the relationship ending, and when her husband was arrested because he survived, it was tragic, because the system and people that knew him said: “He was distraught over some situations that had happened prior to her being killed and the boys being killed—both [boys] seven years old. Just erased from life. His defense is either gonna be insanity or a crime of passion, and it was all because of a jealous rage. She had a life outside of his; she wanted to end the relationship because he was allegedly violent.

We all need to be aware that prior to saying: “I need to end the relationship” or “I’m going to divorce,” you have to proceed with caution. It’s like, your sitting at the red light and you’re waiting for it to go green. But don’t be so quick to hurry off. You have to have a plan before you see a lawyer. I talk about this a lot; it’s called an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.

Sharon daVanport: That’s what I love about this and your new book Time’s Up. Why don’t you talk a little bit about that, Susan?

Susan Murphy Milano: If you think about a will, or if you think about a document that you leave for your intentions: belongings, money, if something happens to you. A lot of times parents are listening who, if something happens to them, guardianship: Who’s gonna take care of a child if something happened to them, even later in life? It’s the same thing.

You hear when these cases that we read about—the Stacy Peterson, Susan Powells, Lisa Stebbock, all missing, all gone. Rachel Anderson, Venus Stewart—unsolved cases. If they had prepared an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit prior to even saying: “I’m going to end the relationship; I’m gonna start divorce proceedings; I’m going after you for custody,” whatever it is. What you do is, you prepare a document which is in the Time’s Up book. You list your name, your Social Security Number, your date of birth, when you were married, the ages of the children.

In doing that, then there’s no doubt for lovely defense attorney—and I have some friends who are defense attorneys. I have nothing against them, but the Mark Garagoses of the world, who will chop up and dissect things. There’s something called Crawford v. Washington, which is the Sixth Amendment, which says in the law that you have right to face your accuser. What’s going on across the country is abusers who have been sentenced, they’re getting their cases retried, reheard by an appellate court, or retried based on the fact that they weren’t allowed to face their accuser, who they killed.

This cuts through it all. By doing this Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, once you prepare the document—again, it’s very important to have it notarized and witnessed, just like you would a will. You don’t need to do it in a lawyer’s office. You could do it at a church that has a notary; you could do it maybe where you work; you could do it at a bank, somebody that knows you, a currency exchange. It’s very simple. Churches are great, because they usually have a notary there, don’t they? You can’t make the excuse that: “Well, I live in a rural area.” If Venus Stewart, who’s been missing since April who was abducted from Michigan had done this prior to [her abduction,] then the expense of the investigation to find out what really happened wouldn’t have happened. She would’ve had the person responsible arrested from the grave.

But what this also does is it gives a woman a sense of: “Somebody’s gonna know.” Many of the cases that we’ve done these on over the last couple of years…This is born out of Stacy Petersen, basically. I used to tape-record, and when we got video I would just video people. But we didn’t do the paper trail with it. The paper trail was what would hold it up in court, so that it couldn’t be refuted.

I went into the church where Stacy Petersen had met with a pastor just prior to her vanishing. She was the wife of Drew Petersen, who is a police officer who’s actually standing trial for wife number three, Kathleen Savio, in the next couple of months depending on what the judge decides. When Stacy vanished, I had met with the pastor and I looked at the equipment; I was in the church; I was in the back. I said: “Why didn’t you tape her?” He goes: “I didn’t think about it.” I said: “Well, you’ve got all this equipment here.” And then it just dawned on me that if we did this, then a defense attorney like Drew Petersen’s defense attorney would not have the capability of tearing anything up saying that his client’s guilty.

I know that we’re innocent until proven guilty—I know that in a court of law. I’m not trying to say that. But I’m saying that, had she done this, he would’ve been charged with murder right away, no question about it. She would’ve left her words, her voice on this Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit. You can use your iPod Nano; you can use your cell phone, if you have that capability; you can use your computer; go to the library; video tape it; go to the church. They can do it. It doesn’t take a lot of technology to do this very simple thing. It’s very important.

Again, it’s before you say: “I want to divorce you.” Then you read what you’ve written and say the date that you finish it: “I hereby swear, witnesses acknowledge this date if something happens to me.” And then you include in that hair from [your abuser’s] hairbrush and mark it and put it in the freezer, or give it to somebody; their razor. These guys that are possibly guilty of these crimes don’t have to submit blood tests right away; they don’t have to submit DNA. This is automatic. Then you fuel the fire with the defense attorney, who doesn’t have very far to go with that. You’ve already preserved and prevented anybody from dissecting this and chopping it up and saying it didn’t exist. Your words mean something. That it in a nutshell.

Sharon daVanport: That’s what I love about your book Time’s Up, Susan, and I wanted to have you on our show. Most of our audience is in the autism community, and a lot of the people at the Autism Women’s Network, we’re self-advocates; we’re somewhere on the spectrum ourselves. What I really liked about your book is that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the spectrum or not when you’re dealing with abuse—when you’re dealing with ongoing abuse, especially. You’re sensitized so much more to your environment and surroundings, and oftentimes we hear about women will shut down and they end up coming off wrong to police officers. Their behavior ends up being questionable, because they’re under such stress due to the violence.

Then when you add in the autistic characteristics and things that a lot of people deal with on the spectrum, what I really appreciated about your book is that it takes care of the different things that break down with us who are on the spectrum. I can say for myself, having endured some domestic issues in my past, that I know that when it comes to making choices or even seeing the choices that are right there in front of me or the steps that I need to take, it just goes away. I can’t even see it sometimes, when I’m under a lot of stress. But what your book does, is it tells us exactly what to do. It tells you how to get a lawyer.

Susan Murphy Milano: But for the caretakers that are there, the caretakers that are listening: there’s an extra burden on them, the mothers who are listening. They’re trying to shield and protect that child, and if there is abuse going on in the home, they have greater difficulty, as you know. It’s difficult enough to get through abuse, but when you have a child that you need to protect—Frankie Jacobson couldn’t protect her children. They were killed. She did everything right as an advocate.

And sometimes, too, as we all know, when you have a child like that, somebody that’s abusive or gets angry over time, what do they do? They say: “It’s your fault this child turned out this way. It came out of you, didn’t it? Who on your side has this issue? Who on your side is mentally not fit? That’s your chromosome; that ain’t my baby.” I’ve heard people say that, who have children who are disabled in some way or have a disease of some sort. They blame the person there, because of something that is an act of God that is out of everybody’s control. But they want you to own it and pay for it, because they’re about control. That’s what an abuser’s about. And that’s so important.

Sharon daVanport: When it comes to Frankie Jacobson, Susan, I was reading an update today. I heard that they released his suicide note. Did you read about that? That they released it now, and it says in his suicide note. (He didn’t commit suicide, obviously. He took like 10 Xanax or something, he said, and they ended up saving his life). You’re right; they’re going for the complete: “Oh, he was a wonderful man. If he would’ve gotten Father of the Year, I would’ve thought that he would’ve done it.”

But they said in this article that I read that he explained how she begged for her life. When he went to the closet to get the gun, she was begging for her life and said that she wanted to live, and she didn’t want him to hurt her or the boys. And he put three bullets in her. I’m thinking: “She was out there advocating in the autism community, but she couldn’t save herself.” Like you said earlier, you have to be smart. I’m not saying she wasn’t, but I’m saying that there are certain things that we don’t often know.

Susan Murphy Milano: I got involved with this because my own mother was murdered back in 1989 by my father, who was a Chicago violent crimes detective. I wrote a post last week called “Dead Eyes Tell the Story”. I used my mother. It could’ve been Frankie; it could’ve been Venus Stewart; it could’ve been Rachel Anderson. I thought about in the last moments of my mother’s life, what may have happened. I believe that when my mother came in, my father grabbed her, the gun was to her temple. He pulled her by the hair, as he always did. Even though they were now divorced, he had tricked her into believing that she had to sign documents for property that she had signed in court and she had claimed it. That he had grabbed her by the hair and said: “[Sign the paperwork?], Bobbie. This is what’s gonna happen to you.”

What these guys do, as Jacobson’s husband did, was that last look, that fear, that terror. He wants to see her go to Heaven looking at him. That’s the control, and that’s what’s wrong. So if I could, something happened earlier today, because of the show.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. Tell us about that, Susan.

Susan Murphy Milano: Because of the show, a lot of people e-mailed me personally and wanted to tell me their stories of success surviving or thriving, and then some not so lucky. A lot of times, people send me their lives after their loved one’s been killed, so I can look at stalking letters, documents, police reports, so I can put it together.

And that’s what this book Time’s Up is comprised of. It’s comprised of people who are no longer here. I’ve been very lucky that since the murder of my mom, on my watch, my mother is the only person that’s died. I’ve been very lucky by the grace of God to work with these women across the country all these years, and not treat these cases the same. Like your DNA, no two cases of abuse or stalking or violence are the same. But the methodology is, so it’s a shell and then you have to fit what the puzzle is. That’s what Time’s Up is: What’s best for you? What’s Plan A? What’s Plan B?

I was taken aback earlier today when a colleague…I got a phone call third-hand of someone who I term “Mary Jos.” Not “Jane Does,” ’cause Mary Jo’s still alive. To the Mary Jos that are listening right now that are in an abusive relationship and I know you’re out there, in this case, my Mary Jo, she is an advocate in the way of violence and has been with me for a long time. I was devastated, and I shouldn’t be, because I’m not caught off guard very often.

Sharon daVanport: She caught you off guard, Susan?

Susan Murphy Milano: She caught me off guard because we’re very close. She didn’t really keep a secret; I knew. I knew she was doing certain things, and she had been really coming out and going on the speaking circuit and putting together things pertaining to violence. She was really making a mark for herself, and a name for herself in this advocacy role.

But at the same time she was doing it, this woman’s a business owner. A big business owner. When she got married, [the guy]—and we can all related to this—he was Prince Charming walking, and this guy happened to be Greek, six-foot-five. She’s five-foot-four. She probably weighs 100 pounds soaking wet; he probably ways 230. You’ve got a height difference; you’ve got a weight difference. She’s out of college, she’s got a Master’s in business. She’s got a minority-owned business—one of the only ones in the country of a specific product. She does this out of the garage right after giving birth to her kids and becomes bigger than them.

It’s the wonderful things; it’s the Prince Charming. But then over time, but pretty quick, when she says: “I don’t like this decision that you made for the company,” he says: “What are you gonna do about it?” The distance between them starts far apart from across the room, but then it goes closer and closer, so he gets in her face, which people can relate to. So he’s in her face telling her: “What are you doing? Why are you questioning me?” almost like a child. And then he starts using his open hand and slapping her.

This morning, she was almost not so lucky. She’s still alive, but she was badly beaten and is gonna have to have some major plastic surgery to repair the damage. She didn’t tell anybody. Again, she knows about and was part of the birth of this Time’s Up book. The first thing I said was: “Get somebody over there and do the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.” What he said to her the day before yesterday was: “What cemetery would you like to be buried in? Let me know now.”

Sharon daVanport: It escalated. That was a couple days ago. He says that to her, and then look what he does today. Wow.

Susan Murphy Milano: That’s right. And she thought: “Susan’s really busy. I don’t wanna bother her.” She was empowering herself, though, all this time. She was moving things; she had gotten a cell phone outside the one that he knew about; she keeps the battery off, so that he can’t hear a ring. She was trying to maneuver and move things around in her life, financially. She was looking at life insurance polices to see if she could cash them in, because this was a business that they hadn’t used very many credit cards [with].

The economy made certain things difficult, but so she’d have a thriving business. Now he’s taken total control of something that she began herself. He’s taken away her power and said: “You are worthless; you are no good.” She had been having various episodes, not really telling anybody. When she would talk to me, she would be very vague. But she was gathering her courage; she was gathering her strength. So the arguments between the two people—and this is what happened with Frankie—is that you start with: “Oh, I’m so sorry. Okay, honey,” like you said, too. In that suicide note when he said she begged for her life. She begged for her life. And he’s gonna get off—

Sharon daVanport: —on a mental defense. That’s how they painted it in the article today: His suicide note shows that he’s just a desperate man who fell apart after a friend of his who was his partner died.

Susan Murphy Milano: If you look at the post I wrote back on January 23 or 25 of 2010, I lay it all out: exactly what’s coming out today. It’s a no-brainer. It’s sad to be able to do these cases for so many years and smell them. I smell them. There’s cases where I see, even on television. I don’t always jump up and down saying: “Oh, he did it.” But there are certain things in a case that when you’ve been doing this long enough, you just know.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Susan Murphy Milano: Think about when you walk in someplace, and you get a sense that people don’t like you, or maybe you feel out of place. You don’t get that warm greeting. A woman knows in her gut how to be safe. She knows in her gut, but she doesn’t act on it. So the Mary Jos who are listening right now. And this is where my Mary Jo made a mistake. She said: “I’m gone; I’ve had enough of you; I’m disgusted.”

Sharon daVanport: She tipped her hand to him. She told him what she was up to.

Susan Murphy Milano: No, no. She didn’t verbalize it, but she did it in her actions: by talking back; by saying: “I’m tired of this. Leave me alone,” instead of saying: “Oh, please, oh, please,” and “Stop it. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll be a good girl.” She’s in a different way begging now, and he knows it. So he’s now going through all her e-mails, her phone. He’s now stalking her, and she’s a very attractive woman.

Sharon daVanport: Was he caught, Susan?

Susan Murphy Milano: No, no, no. She’s still in the relationship. So like I said, for all the Mary Jos who are listening: Before you tip your hand, you have to click your heels and pretend you’re in another world. When you’re planning and plotting to leave the relationship, you do not just throw it out there and say: “I’m leaving.”

When Susan Powell of Utah went missing on December 7, in my opinion she was murdered. She started to move things around. She would get into arguments with her husband Josh. They had two small children. What she started not to do, which is his cue to see she was up to something, was she would just shut the door and go to bed after an argument. She wouldn’t combat him. She wouldn’t be this scared little girl. She had enabled herself to get this power because she was putting things in place.So my Mary Jo was putting things in place. Or the Mary Jo listening right now is putting things in place.

But what they have to do is stop right then and there, click their heels, and go back to that life. It’s called a smell change. These guys can smell it a mile away. You know how when you’re happy and you’ve just landed something, or you’ve just got something really great in your life happening? Maybe you’re pregnant; maybe you won the lottery, whatever it is. You have that wonderful glow about you; you’re happy. You can’t be that way when you’re making these plans to get out. You can’t be that way and tip your hand, because, again, anybody’s capable of snapping.

I’m not saying that all people in abusive relationships are women, but 97 percent of them are. We have more crime victims that have lost their lives than those combined in the Iraqi and Vietnam wars. And yet, the epidemic continues. So what this book does is it teaches you what you have to do. If we think of fear, we live in fear if we’re an abuse victim.

Think about what you’re doing to your kids, everybody that’s listening. I’m an adult. I hate to say “survivor,” ’cause I don’t like that word. But I’m an adult survivor of a woman who kept secrets. It’s 20 years later and I realize now that I was part of her. I was the other half of my mother. My mother was the left hand and I was the right. I was the keeper and protector of her life. I was the keeper of her secrets; I moved her out. I planned and did things, and I had said to her: “You’re leaving now.” Five months after they were divorced, in the childhood home that I grew up in, I had known something was wrong. It was all those things from when I was a kid—from the things my father did behind closed doors. I was a grown up.

When you have that much violence going on, you spend a lot of time in the emergency room and you’re the keeper of secrets. I never said I was a love expert. I’m a violence expert. So my track record for relationships ain’t too good.

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] I love your honesty, Susan.

Susan Murphy Milano: I’ve been married as many times as people change their underwear in a week. I’m not proud of that, but I say that to say that I didn’t know what a relationship was. I have an understanding now. I have an understanding, and I’m too trusting. Even to think that all these years later that when somebody asks me something, it’s not that I’ve told a lie or a fib. I will shoot from the hip and say something that I know.

I was an investment banker when my parents “passed,” and my partner of five or six years at the time had no clue. We were like brother and sister; we did everything together. When he found out that my father was still alive, that I had grown up in this environment (I’d always just say, even in high school: “My dad’s passed.”) I didn’t want anybody to know my father was violent; I knew someday he would murder her. I knew it, and he came close to murdering me that night.

I wanted to keep that secret, so here I am at the wake, and I’ve got a room full of people yelling at me, that didn’t know. How dare I keep [it a secret]? It a) wasn’t their business at the time. b) I was embarrassed by the way I grew up. I had worked very hard and diligently to get past that. But the secrets and the lies and the different things that my mother had ingrained in me. Worst of all, she showed me there was no hope in my life. I didn’t know what hope was. I know how to give it to the rest of the world; I know how to save somebody’s life; I know how to give them the tools they need to be out safely; I know how to do all that, but when it comes to me, I still don’t know if I know what hope is. I’m learning.

Sharon daVanport: You know, I just thought of a lot of children who grow up in that. They really don’t know what hope is. I’ve heard that said from a little girl, recently, myself. I heard her say that with my own ears, that she doesn’t know what hope is.

Susan Murphy Milano: I worked so hard to keep her alive, to keep her among the living. When she died, I damned God and said: “Well, why is this even happening? If there is a God, why does he allow this? If I say my prayers, I go to church, I’m a good person, why is evil allowed into our lives?” That’s something I don’t have an answer for. The things that she did to keep her secrets, so that nobody knew. Even at school, kids didn’t come home with me. When she was in the hospital, I said she was having surgery. But she was beaten up a few times almost beyond recognition, recovering from her injuries. I didn’t want [detestment?] of that.

And what’s wrong in society is, the attachment of this is: “It’s icky; it’s wrong.” We don’t cause this, but yet, we’re made to feel that it’s our fault.

Sharon daVanport: It’s a secret shame.

Susan Murphy Milano: Yeah, it’s a secret shame. But why? Why is it so difficult? Why do we wanna put it under the carpet? Why isn’t it something that’s talked about? Why do we give these offenders the ability to harm and to hurt? An officer spends more time if somebody is possibly drunk and driving down the road. What do we do? We pull them over; we give them a test; we read them their rights; we try to secure what we can, and then if we arrest them for drunk driving, they’re put through the system.

But it doesn’t happen that way for victims of violence. In the first chapter of Time’s Up, I have the acronym for “fear.” Fear means “facilitating ending the abusive relationship.” You have to be your own best advocate. So to all the Mary Jos out there: as much as you empower yourselves, as much as you try, you need to be so diligent and so careful. Technology also is your enemy. It can be your friend if you understand it. People don’t realize that there’s a tracker and a tracer on cell phones now. They ping sometimes even when they’re off. You need to disable it or not take it with you. Or go get a throwaway phone.

You need to know that there could be a tracking device in your car. OnStar is another device. Now with keys in cars, they’re not keys anymore, are they? They’re just this thing that you put in and you turn it in the new cars. There has to be a chip in there, I’m thinking. Nobody’s talking about it. And how long was it before we all knew that there was a GPS tracking device in cell phones? It wasn’t talked about, was it?

So you have to be technology-smart. This isn’t about getting on the internet and looking at a laundry-list of what you gotta do. Your life isn’t a laundry-list. You have to figure out the best plan of strategy, and so what the book talks about…Even when the kids get sick and you’re ready to leave him [after 4:00?] Maybe you can’t. What’s Plan B? The lawyer that you’ve possibly hired has not been able to serve the person yet, because they got sidetracked. You need to know all of that; you need to pay attention. You need to be strong. It’s not a pretty thing to do. They don’t wanna be strong. It’s devastating. But you also have to try to enlist friends in your process of doing this, but you have to be careful.

Sharon daVanport: You need a support system, and you have to be careful who they are, yeah. Absolutely.

Susan Murphy Milano: Because there’s someone you could go to who you think has the best of intentions; they don’t know what’s going on. And what do they do? They go back to Joe and say: “I just wanna save your marriage here. I want you to know what’s going on.” And then you’re cooked.

Or even your children. I still haven’t figured out how to tell or deal with the kids. I don’t have all the answers. But recently I had not that long ago, a case where I know somebody with two kids, ages 12 and 7—two girls. The younger one was Daddy’s girl and the older one was not. I moved Mom to a different state, and because the older girl had never had a good relationship with her dad like she saw her younger sister have, she wanted that love and affection. She thought if she told Dad where they were—texted him—that he would come get them and then it would be fine and she would get in favor with him again.

So she put Mom in jeopardy. She didn’t do it knowingly, and it wasn’t her fault. But she was trying to get the love of her father back, any way that she could. So you have to weigh how to tell the children, if you tell the children. She’s since been able to do this again, but it was a greater difficulty. The cases in the book, the little vignettes, are actual situations where they got out and this is what they did, and how they did it.

Again, even if you go to your clergyman that’s supportive, figure out a support [unknown,] but don’t be embarrassed. You didn’t cause the abuse. You didn’t deposit that like a bank deposit into your system; the other person did. So why do we own it? Why do we want to own what somebody else tries to give us?

Sharon daVanport: It takes a long time to get that stigma away, though, don’t you think, Susan? That secret shame? It’s that victim-blaming; I think it’s kind of a mindset. Is it just ingrained so much in our society, where there’s so much victim-blaming that people just accept that responsibility when they don’t need to? I don’t get it.

Susan Murphy Milano: I still blame myself for not saving my mother. I still blame myself for not being there on time. I was newly married and newly pregnant when I found the body. To have my father’s partner, a police officer say: “She drove him to this.” I looked at him and I said: “God damn you. Nobody drives anybody to pull the trigger. And I’m gonna have the last word in this whole thing.” [I will also have the last word] against that system trying to quiet me down. I remember thinking: “I have nothing to lose.”

Almost in this cavalier kind of attitude, I probably didn’t really give much thought about if something happened to me; I was okay with it. And even now with certain things that have happened, I’ve put more into one lifetime than probably most people. But I’m okay with whatever happens. I’m very much at peace now. I wish I had learned this earlier in life. I wish I had learned joy; I wish I had learned hope. But that’s also because I’ve surrounded myself with [hope] and am in an environment that is hope, that is a bright light that perhaps I didn’t see shining. I understand that if I wanna keep the light burning, I have to do certain things. Once you move, and you put these little one-word sayings all over the place.

Sharon daVanport: Positive affirmations?

Susan Murphy Milano: Positive affirmations. I know it sounds hokey, but—

Sharon daVanport: It works. It does; it works.

Susan Murphy Milano: I never smiled for a lot of years. I don’t wanna say how long. People used to call me “stone-faced:” “You’re not happy.” But that was because of my environment. Maybe I was this tall woman who walked in heels and was just real tough and cold when I was going to court, and I’m not a lawyer. But when somebody has that presence of strength, then you command a different respect from the legal system.

When you have to go into court—if you’re served with papers for a divorce—it’s very important to dress appropriately; to be in your best Sunday dress. My mother was as short as she was round; she was about five-foot-four. She looked like a Mamma Mia pasta label and she loved food, and she looked like it. And I loved her. But how people looked at her when I was a child was not good. Somehow I thought to myself: “That ain’t gonna be me. I’m gonna get people to respect or pay attention.”

I never dreamed I’d be doing this work. That in 30 seconds, my life was over: how I had lived, the happiness of it, whatever I knew was now gone in an instant. I didn’t realize how much of my life was entangled in her, and it still is. When you had written the piece on the book, and you had e-mailed me and we were going back and forth and you said [I was] memorializing my mother, I [gasped.] I did that; I still do it.

Sharon daVanport: You were taken aback a little bit by that. That’s how it comes off when you talk about all this, Susan. That’s how it comes off. It might be even the feel of it that keeps you going and keeps things like this happening. When I see people like you do books like this and then they have the history like you do, an intimate history with abuse like this, it’s easy to see where it all comes from. And that’s a good thing. People like me and others have benefited from it, so I’m not complaining. [Laughter]

Susan Murphy Milano: But like I said to you, I still gasp because she lives in my heart in secret, and I forget that. For a lot of years, I never said why I did this. [I did] at the beginning for a few years, and then I stopped. And then with the internet and different social medias, people had said that they didn’t know that’s why I did this. I was too strong. When I began, I remember thinking: “My mother made me believe that when I walked into a room, I owned it.” She made me feel proud; she made me feel like what she couldn’t give herself is what she gave me—although I [unknown] a few screws with some things, as far as the hope and the joy. I always believed that around the corner, things would happen, things would manifest, things would be good.

Even in this process, because of what I was doing for the women, I lost custody of my child when he was young. I was costing the system millions of dollars in lawsuits, because I wouldn’t back down and I wouldn’t be quiet. People were threatening me—they were threatening my life because I was assisting in putting police officers and people away that were committing these acts of crime. I didn’t care. But it was about my child’s safety, and up until about a year ago, people didn’t know that I had lost custody of my child. I don’t live there; I don’t play there. Just like I don’t play in my parents’ deaths. I was drafted into a place I could do nothing about.

Sharon daVanport: I heard you say that one time; I heard you say that.

Susan Murphy Milano: Any time that I’ve tried to leave this arena, there were many times that it has brought me back. I was orchestrating things and doing things from behind the scenes, very quietly, and in a different way, and very effectively. I took a couple of years to do that and move to a different state and did more hands-off type of situations, and just would do the work on these cases and assist women across the country.

But then when [the Stacy] Petersen [case] happened and that tragedy took place, I was healed by it. I had been talking about police officers who commit crimes—it’s not just police officers who are violent offenders; it’s every segment of life—and I said: “This is the case. I’m coming back in. This is ridiculous. This has to stop. The bloodshed has to stop.”

And again, for those listening, what is important is the plan. What is important is that you need to be careful. So if you’re Mary Jo and you’re listening, what I want you to do is to sit and think about what you have to do. Don’t do it from your house if you don’t have to. Do it from the library. Don’t do anything on a computer that you wouldn’t normally do. Don’t speak to anybody on the phone and then go down to a little whisper: that’s a sure sign that you’re up to something, or doing something. You know how we uncomfortably giggle? I do that when I’m doing something maybe I shouldn’t be.

Sharon daVanport: Don’t change your routine in any way around the person. Just try not to.

Susan Murphy Milano: That’s how you begin that. And that’s where my Mary Jo made a mistake: she changed her routine, he smelled the change. When you have an intimate relationship with somebody, they know you pretty well, don’t they? You don’t think about that.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah, but they do.

Susan Murphy Milano: They do, and they’re able to just control. They want you to think about them. When you stop thinking about them, they know it.

Sharon daVanport: I wanna make sure that you touch on this. I know something over at our forum at the Autism Women’s Network, that we do get a lot of. I’ll see conversations going on over there, and I’ll end up having to Private Message somebody and ask them if they realize they’re actually talking about a situation that they’re being stalked. They may not even realize it; they’ll start talking about a situation and they think they’re talking about a relationship or an ex-boyfriend. And then they’re talking about something. I’m thinking: “Sounds like they’re being stalked,” so I will Private Message them and have a private conversation with them—not out in the forum, and come to find out I’m having to refer them to some kind of shelter. I’ve had to do that to a couple different people. Can you talk a little bit about stalking and why people need to take it seriously?

Susan Murphy Milano: Well, we think, you know, all these movies and things. Again, it’s society, it’s the media. Stalking is not just somebody that’s unknown to us. It’s somebody that wants to know what we’re doing and our every move. Stalking is a crime. In some cases, it can be a felony. Let’s say that we’ve ended a relationship and we’re gonna start to date again. We meet somebody right away, and: “Oh, he likes me; we’re going out; we’re having a great time.”

And then he drops me off, and maybe a couple of days later, we’re talking to him. We do this; we shouldn’t. We give too much information about ourselves away immediately. We’re so desperate, in a way, for that love; that connection; that human response, that we don’t realize that we’re just laying our cards on the table and saying: “Here you go. Take the poker hand, ’cause you just won.”

And then what happens is, the person starts calling and then they may show up at your door: “I just thought I’d be here. I just thought that I would show up and see what you’re doing.” Or if you say: “I’m gonna go to dinner; I’m going out with my friends,” and then they happen to drive by and wave and come out of the car and say: “Oh, how you doing?” They’re starting to figure out what your pattern is, what’s going on. That’s stalking.

Sharon daVanport: That’s stalking. Hello. [Laughter]

Susan Murphy Milano: Hello. We take that as somebody that’s interested in us. Ladies, I’m telling you right now, that’s not interest.

Sharon daVanport: That’s not at all. They’re not well. Yes. If they’re doing things like that, it’s not right.

Susan Murphy Milano: No, and you have to be able to disarm that. You don’t wanna say: “What are you doing?” You don’t wanna scream in their face. You wanna say: “Oh, it’s so nice that you came. You know what? I have to take a call right now” or “I have to go help somebody. Can I talk to you later?” And then you figure out a way to disconnect them: change your number, do whatever you gotta do. You’re done. If they continue it, you fill out a police report. You make out a police report.

Sharon daVanport: You talk about this in your book; I like this.

Susan Murphy Milano: I talk about a case where a woman had broken up with a relationship, and she had two younger kids. She’d come home from work and he’d just brought them back from ice cream. He was in the home. She went: “Oh, my goodness! It’s so good to see you! Oh, thank you!” She goes: “Let me just change.” Her heart’s racing; she’s sweating; she calling me and she’s texting somebody. She goes: “What do I do?” I said: “You gotta call the police. Call your girlfriend that’s right there”—’cause she was in another state—and within ten minutes, the police were there to arrest him.

He had wiggled his way in because of the children. You can’t [unknown] a dangerous situation: you’ve got kids. Even if you’re going through a divorce and the person’s trying to get back with you. They’re gonna make you feel guilty about it; they’re gonna [say]: “Well, what was our life about? You’re gonna throw it away. Why?” They’re gonna make you feel as guilty as you can. Your role is to be strong; your role is to go to counseling; your role is to get your kids in counseling. That’s person’s gonna manipulate the children. You have a boyfriend manipulating the kids, and they’re okay with it.

So what do you do? You never have the opportunity to allow anybody to see you sweat. There have been many situations, even for me, where people said: “How’d you do that?” I said: “I don’t know.” When you can sense that fear, let something else kick in and disarm the person in such a way that your sweetness overtakes them. They think that they’ve gained something, but you have gained your safety, and then figure out how to contact the authorities. Your cell phone is a great way to take a picture, if you have that capability. Your iPod nano is another way. Record, document that that person has stalked you.

When the domestic violence laws were not enough, the stalking laws [are], which in Illinois I was instrumental in implementing. The domestic violence laws didn’t have enough teeth to them. In my mother’s case, it was too late for her, but my father had been stalking her for several months before he killed her. There was one time I was picking her up and I’m looking out the rearview mirror as I’m getting gas, and I’m like: “There he is across the street. Oh, my God! He’s stalking her.” I didn’t say anything to my mother, ’cause she would’ve reacted incorrectly. I saved Tom, and I was now aware of what was going on.

Then they can still stalk you with your cell phone. Don’t let anybody give you something. Don’t let anybody [say]: “Oh, here, I have an extra cell phone,” or “I don’t use this one. Just take it.” You’d better know what you’re taking.

Sharon daVanport: Right. A lot of people don’t know that these are methods of stalking: picking your kids up when you don’t know and taking them for ice cream. Excuse me, that’s stalking. That’s actually kidnapping your kids. There’s a long of wrong things that in that whole scenario that people may not even realize. It was good that she did, but a lot of people who might have somebody that just shows up out of the blue—when they know that they’re not supposed to be with you at that time, but they just show up—I’ve actually had somebody who was flattered by it. I’m thinking: “Flattering? No, no no no no. It’s not flattering. There’s something wrong with that person.”

Susan Murphy Milano: That’s how we’re raised. That’s what society says: “That’s Prince Charming.” That’s those stories. Those are stories we were read as children: “Someday my prince will come.” That doesn’t exist in the real world. This is not playland; this is real life. I know that the internet brings a lot of resources and it brings a lot of things to people, to have activities for people that they wouldn’t know them if they saw them.

Sharon daVanport: Networking sites are dangerous.

Susan Murphy Milano: That’s right, and so you’ve got the cyberstalking. Somebody gets your IP address. You’ve gotta be very careful. If you’re going to date again, do not put your children’s pictures up. Do not release anything to do with your personal information. On the other hand, if you’re going through a divorce, do not talk about what a dirty SOB this person is. Do not lay your laundry out there.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah, don’t do it. Do not.

Susan Murphy Milano: Because it’ll come back to you. It will come back to you. Why? Why are we such a society that we have to have revenge? We wanna get back at someone for what they did to us. It’s easier to walk away. I know that sounds tough. It took me a long time to forgive what my father did. I didn’t wanna own it anymore; I didn’t wanna give in to him. I’m probably still alive only because he’s not winning.

He was a great police officer; he was a great detective. He solved one of the largest serial crimes in the history of this country in the ’80s. He was good at what he did. But I didn’t know him. I don’t have hate in my heart for him, I can say that now. I know that when I first gave lectures and talks the first few years, I think that people saw right through it because I was angry. I think that my work at that time reflected that.

But it was after dealing with these cases…and all I say that for is to highlight the fact that it’s a terrible thing that I carried a business card with blood on it, but there’s a reason for it. So if you can learn off of this; if you can learn off of all these other women that you’re reading about and seeing about on the news; if people can band together. There’s Bruce Bereford Redmond, who, in my opinion, murdered Monica Redmond while on a second honeymoon, allegedly in Mexico. What’s going on is the CW network has a show called Shedding Wedding. He’s got a new reality show that the CW network just bought. What does that say about our lives? People need to be boycotting that.

The blogs that I write, the radio show I do every Wednesday afternoon, I don’t get anything for that, other than I want people to be alive. The more people respond to those type of things and leave comments, that says to the media and to the world: “This is important. You’d better pay attention.” Women and victims and supporters of this issue have to also come out and support what people like me do, because that’s what saves lives.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. There has to be something behind all of this. There has to be momentum going in the right direction to keep this out there. It just can’t be the Susan Murphy Milanos of the world; we really do need to be out there together doing it.

Susan Murphy Milano: So if you listen to this, I don’t care if you’re going through a situation; I don’t care if you’re not. To support this means that you’re showing the media that you have a voice. Get behind people like me; get behind what I’m doing. Get behind this Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.

On my website, SusanMurphyMlano.com, there’s the Evideniary Abuse Affidavit. If everybody could take that and pass it along, or send it to the media and say: “Here.” Because if every one of those women that I mentioned had been able to do this, either they’d still be alive or the person responsible would be caught. That’s key, and we can be that voice, if we come together.

It’s worked before. There’s been a lot of cases where on the blogs that I write or the media appearances that I make, it’s fueled by what’s behind it, that you can’t see but you know it’s there. Stop making this issue so invisible like it doesn’t exist. Stop making it silent, because that’s what’s continuing to get people killed.

Sharon daVanport: It is a silent crime, isn’t it, Susan? It really is.

Susan Murphy Milano: I won’t be around forever. We don’t know how long we have, but I won’t always be here. I’m an adult who survived who came very close to being murdered myself that night. I survived this for some reason; I don’t understand why. I don’t question it, although every once in a while I wonder. There’s gotta be something to this. I don’t give up with this. I continue to go out there, and I continue to speak, and I continue to teach, and I continue to work these cases that need a voice.

Sometimes it’s a simple as somebody saying: “Is my lawyer doing the right thing? Can you just look at this and see?” Or in some cases, the abuser wants to win. I know it sounds crazy, but in a few cases, I’ve said; “Sighn over parental rights, because then things are gonna change.” If you sign over parental rights, then the court’s gonna go: “Wait a minute.” They may not, but if your children are old enough, they’re gonna come back to you. Kids aren’t property, and that’s what the abuser wants. They want to control it. Again, in Fankie Jacobson’s case, she did everything that she could. He put three bullets into her and murdered two seven-year-old children.

Sharon daVanport: Right. His own children.

Susan Murphy Milano: Yes. But I don’t think that he looked at them that way. I think he looked at them as tainted; he looked at them as having a disability; he looked at them as something else. Here she was, making a name for herself, a career and having a voice, and he murdered her.

Sharon daVanport: Right. That’s right. Before we sign off here in just a moment, Susan, I want you to be able to tell everyone where they can get your book. I know that they can order it through Barnes and Noble. Amazon.com. You can also reach me if you want at murphymilano AT gmail DOT com.

We’re also doing what’s called a battle cry that you can respond to. I’m asking for people’s help. I need graphic artists; I need people that will volunteer a little bit so that when these cases come out, we’re all one voice. All I am is a quarterback. I wanna throw the ball so you make the touchdown so that women and their children stay alive. We can do this. It’s possible. A lot of women are not dead because my mother died, if I could say that correctly. A lot of women are alive today based on what I learned.

I don’t always say that I know what I’m doing. It’s that I followed my gut and saw something that needed to happen. When they would give me the credit, sometimes I would say: “It’s not me.” In a lot of situations, it was that I felt I was guided to that—not that that was the correct decision. I bucked the system with saying: “Well, if we do it this way in your situation or your case, then he’s gonna do this.” This is a chess game for these abusers, and I’ve learned how to play chess really well.

I lived with the worst human piece of garbage that there is, which is my father. I lived with a serial abuser, not just my mother. I lived with somebody who was clever and knew the system. I’ve been able to take that and utilize that for other people. I’m asking for everybody else to please come on board. My show’s on Blogtalk Radio at 4:00 PM Eastern, 3:00 PM Central. If you have a case or you wanna be on the show—you [Sharon] have been a guest as well—I’m just asking for people’s help, please.

The more we can get the word out, the more we can fill these blogs up with comments, then again, the media pays attention. And then they start shifting, and they won’t put these people out like they’re glorified criminals. They won’t make the commercials that fuel and rocket their shows.We have to have a voice. Again, boycott CW network. I know the show The Vampire Diaries is on there, and some other popular shows. But send an e-mail in outrage that they would buy Bruce Redmond’s Shedding Wedding as a reality show and schedule it for their September lineup. That says that murder victims don’t count.

Sharon daVanport: Right. That’s true. Well, Susan, I really wanna thank you.

Susan Murphy Milano: No; thank you.

Sharon daVanport: I wanna thank you for being on the show tonight and for coming on and talking about this. We really need more outspoken peole out there, and for you to lead the way. We really need to just have people come together and give a voice to all of this. I wanna thank you, Susan, for coming on and talking about your book, and talking about the Mary Jos and taking about your personal Mary Jo story, too. It can happen to any of us. And you’re gonna come back, for sure.

Susan Murphy Milano: Thank you. And God bless everybody, and be safe, please.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Thanks, Susan.

Susan Murphy Milano: Uh-huh. Bye-bye.

Sharon daVanport: Uh-huh. Bye-bye.

[Susan hangs up]

Okay, everyone, that was Susan Murphy Milano. I really have to say to all of our listeners: The whole subject of domestic violence and domestic abuse, it’s so complicated. And then when you throw in the challenges with executive function and autistic inertia, when you throw in all of that, you have an extra set of challenges because of the sensory responses that we have when we’re under stress. Be smart. Go out, get this book Time’s Up.

We’re gonna have a contest. It will be over the next month; everyone who comes into the chat room and signs in on our show, I’m putting everyone’s name in, and at the end of the month I’m going to draw names to give away Susan’s book, Time’s Up. I wanted everyone to know that we’ll be drawing for that in three weeks. I’ll give the exact date on that show next week.

Get out, buy the book, really. It takes you step by step, tells you along the way everything you need to do, from the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit that Susan was talking about; she talks about how to properly hire an attorney; how to get your own apartment. And she talks about how to do this and how to do it the right way.

You really do have to play it smart—I’m not kidding you. People who have the kind of mentality where they need and want that control, the abusive personality, they know what they’re doing. You have to be able to play the game smart. It is a game to them. I don’t mean to trivialize it and make it sound like that, because it’s really not. But if you’re gonna get on the same level playing field and you’re really gonna get out there and do it right, you really do have to start thinking ten steps ahead. I know for those of us on the spectrum, it’s not always easy to do. We have to have that outline for us in a lot of situations, especially under stress.

I can’t stress it enough: get out there, get Susan’s book. In three weeks, we’re doing a giveaway on Susan’s book Time’s Up. I thank everyone in the chat room for being involved with the show tonight. We had some really great quotes, and I’m gonna leave the show tonight with this one quote that we had from someone in the chat room. It’s by Emma Wise, and it says:

“What we keep inside us turns to poison. Still, most of us go on sheltering our fatal secrets because we don’t want to run the risk of ridicule or condemnation. Whatever I am afraid to share spreads out until I am not sure what it really is—where it begins and where it ends. It is so true that the first obstacle to communication is really inside each of us.”

All right, everyone. Thank you again for joining us on AWN Radio, and we will be posting our show in the next couple of days. Until then, have a great night. Bye.



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