On My Body Being a War Zone

It is late, and I am in my writing studio at the Vermont Studio Center. I haven’t checked on my hair, or makeup, or appearance since I left my house this morning. During the time since I’ve left my room, I’ve walked probably six miles and also cried a little bit.

I just went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and realized that my hair is a mess and my face is bare. Still, I felt comfortable. I actually thought that I looked pretty good.

And the truth is that no one here cares what I look like.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone here is attractive in that particular way that artists are attractive, but no one here seems to care about their attractiveness, and there is something beautiful about that.

At the beginning of this summer, I was spending most of my time with a person who fixates a lot on her own appearance. She is a good person with a good heart, but the end result of our friendship was that I was fixating on my own appearance. I was getting my eyebrows waxed. My bikini waxed. Buying brow pencils. Looking at the folds on my stomach.

She said she was a pig.

I was the same size.

Was I a pig?

Am I a pig?

I grew to hate myself in a way that I hadn’t hated myself in a long time. I put Retin-A on my skin. I subscribed to “boxes” that would send me the latest beauty products. I had my hair highlighted.

In the same time period, my hips gave out on me, and I was no longer able to exercise like I had been.

The friendship ended, as friendships sometimes do.

It all felt very hopeless.

I was a pig.

I would never be anything but a pig.

I worked to find other friends. It is summer, and many of my academic friends are gone, I made two really good friends at the gym.

The other day, I was talking to one of them, and I needed to change into my gym clothes. “I am modest,” I said. She said, “Would you like me to turn around?”

“No,” I said, but as I changed shirts, I felt self-conscious because my body has been a war zone, and though that is not visible when I am wearing clothes, it is visible when I’m naked.

I hate my body because it has been a war zone.

How can I ever expect someone else to love my body when it has not been their war zone?

Once, when Caleb was in Greece, and my mother had come to help me with Reed, she brought up my weight gain.

“Caleb doesn’t care,” I said.

She looked at me with pity, “Oh, honey,” she said, “He cares.”

She was wrong though.

Caleb wanted me to be overweight, and I believe this.

He had always felt inadequate, had felt that I was more attractive than him. If I was overweight then he didn’t have to worry about me leaving him for someone else.

So he fed me–plumped me. He fed me everything I desired, but he also held me by the throat.

Once, Caleb looked at me and said, “You are the ugliest woman I have ever dated.”

I have done so much to change my life, but my body still has the scars of my life with Caleb.

My friend who was absorbed with her own appearance told me, “Use your student loans to get a tummy tuck! You can get a breast lift at the same time!” She said, “I will drive you!”

I seriously thought about it.

Then, I said, “I’d rather just find a partner who is okay with me the way that I am.”

She looked at me as though she didn’t understand.

It has been four years, and I haven’t found that person. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t understand.

Who am I to think that I might find someone who loves my  broken body?

But the difference between my friend and me is that, though she will, I’ll never meet the criteria of a standard American beauty.

And maybe that’s freeing for me.

I am already flawed in too many ways for the shallow guys. If someone is going to love me, they’re going to love me for who I am, so I won’t have to get face lifts, or tummy tucks, or breast lifts.

I don’t know if that person exists, and it’s a bummer if they don’t, but I have created a life for myself where I’ll be happy either way. And that is all that I can do, right?

A man hurt me, and he hurt me badly, but, though he might try, I am doing my best to keep him from owning me forever.

When I saw my messy hair and clean face in the mirror this evening, I didn’t hear his voice. Instead, I heard my own voice piping in.

My voice said, “You look pretty.”

Maple creemie


On Abuse That Isn’t Domestic

I have written a lot about the English department where I am getting my PhD. I have found some of my greatest joys in this department. I adore my dissertation advisor who has been so kind and stable for me, but has also helped me to grow as a writer in an infinite number of ways. I know that I would not be the writer that I am today if I did not have this advisor. And then, there are so many other faculty mentors that I have grown under.

There is my Postcolonial/Transnational professor who taught me about shame, and inarticulation, and generational trauma. I received my first book offer while on break from his three hour graduate seminar, and I was shaking. at the end of class, he said, “May I give you a hug?” And it was the kindest thing that he could have done because I wanted that hug.

There are others, but I don’t want to single them out because my department is so divided right now that I cannot draw attention to the generosity of certain faculty members without incurring the jealousy/anger of other faculty members who have not, as of late, been on the right side of history.

And in this situation, yes, there is a right side and a wrong side.

There is more information in the case against the predatory professor in my department. None of this information comes as a surprise to me, but it has finally hit the news.

I really can’t single out a quote from that article, but here are some highlights: There is a seventh Title IX complaint against Escobedo–this time from a faculty member. The complaint alleges that the faculty member reported the harassment to the then-departmental chair, Joe McLaughlin, who dismissed the allegations and said that, Escobedo was “just like that.”

Perhaps, most telling is that the climate survey from 2006 (which the department had sent out in response to a complaint about Andrew Escobedo’s sexual harassment) that had disappeared has mysteriously surfaced (Surprise, Escobedo had it!), and the survey shows that a majority of the female graduate students in the department did not feel safe.

How am I not supposed to feel betrayed by all of this? How am I supposed to feel safe in this environment?

I am at the Vermont Studio Center on a fellowship stay. It has been lovely so far. I have a room, and a gorgeous studio with a riverfront view. They make us such good food, and everyone is so nice. I am surrounded by visual artists and writers, and I feel understood.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my studio, and it hit me very suddenly that I did not feel stressed. I could not think of the last time that I did not feel stressed. So much has happened to me in the past few months–I turned in my book, I messed up my hips from overexercise, and I had to move from one home to another.

None of that even broaches what I’ve dealt with in my personal life.

Today, I slept until late into the morning. I skipped breakfast, got a cup of coffee, walked around, then went to lunch.

At lunch, a woman and I compared PhD programs. She said, “Well, you know that you have a domestic abuser as a PhD student there, right?”

I stopped, fork in mid-air. “Do you know what I’m writing about?” I asked.

She looked at me and said, “No, why?”

And then she told me the story, and I will not write it here because it is not my story to tell, but it is bad, and it is as bad as my own, and my heart hurts so much that these stories keep finding me.

So I came back to my studio, and I texted a friend who had been involved with the abuser, and I told her that I had something to tell her, which I planned on telling her in person, and of course she asked that I call her immediately, which I did, and she then told me things that validated what the other woman had told me.

And my heart hurts–not because I care about the abuser (he was a friendly acquaintance, but not a friend), but because I am tired.

I am a part of this little community, and it is so divided, and that division hurts, and it is going to get worse now.

After my phone conversation, I chatted with my best friend for a while. I wrote to her about what I had heard, about how much that upset me.

She wrote to me that I need to give myself permission to not worry about that stuff while I am on my residency.

I wrote her that being here, and not feeling stressed, has given me time to think (and I have only been here for a day!) I wrote that I have realized that being in my department is like being in another abusive relationship.

She, unsurprised, wrote back that she agreed.

Eight faculty members voted for Escobedo to keep his tenure.

Hallmarks of an Abusive Relationship:

Imbalanced Power Dynamic: My department has a voting block on the faculty that folks call the “Evil Eight.”

Isolation: Grad Students whose faculty mentors were part of the Evil Eight were implicitly or explicitly instructed not to involve themselves in movements to get rid of Escobedo, and there was real risk involved. (Losing the recommendation of a dissertation advisor is a death blow in academia.)

Diminishment: One of the Evil Eight questioned whether what a poet claimed was rape was really rape? Then, when the students said he was sexist, he responded by bringing all of the women individually into his office and and interrogating them as to who had turned him in. And then there are the micro-agressions–such as the female professor who left a card in my mailbox that said that they “didn’t know.”

Escalation: One of the Evil Eight snidely commented on a FB post of mine where I had named no names, “Are you being targeted directly? If so, you should file a Title IX report.” Later, another of the Evil Eight told me in the stairwell, “I gave you something you wanted,” (as though I should have been grateful for getting a scholarship that I earned). This is only what I received. I can’t imagine what the victims themselves survived.

Qualification: The excuses from The Evil Eight who said, He’s an alcoholicThink of his family! The same professor who questioned a student’s rape said this for an on-the-record article about the predator, “People who claim to be certain about how much culpability is involved in the case, or about its fairest outcome, might be overconfident of their own righteousness,”

And here is where I’m going to get real: DON’T TELL ME THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW. YOU FUCKING KNEW.

These white, middle-class faculty members living in comfort, had their worlds disrupted because they have a predator in their midst. That’s not cool,  but there is no way that they didn’t know.

I knew. All of the other graduate students knew. Faculty in other departments knew. Students in other departments knew. Townspeople knew.

Seriously, everyone knew.

If, at this point, you didn’t know, then you need to interrogate your own reality.

This is what I said to one faculty member who had been friends with Escobedo, but claimed that he “didn’t know”: “Did you really not know, or were you just participating in rape culture so much yourself that you didn’t see it?”

He said, “You know, you’re right.”

But the thing is that this guy had already established himself as being on the right side. He had already cut off his friendship with Escobedo. He had already done the necessary work of being an ally.

But I am here, still agitating, and I’m tired. I get the cold shoulder from faculty in the hallway. It’s either the cold shoulder or the overly friendly, “HELLO!”

I get passive aggressive cards in my mailbox, but more than anything, I achieve things that I know my department will never acknowledge. I also apply for awards that I know my department will bend over backwards not to give me. So I quietly delete OU from my Facebook profile. I don’t mention them in my bios. I won’t be thanking them in the acknowledgments of my book, though I will, with all gratitude, be thanking my advisor and committee.

I want to write something beautiful to sign off here, but I don’t have anything to offer. Sometimes, people look to me for something, and all I can offer is my very flawed self, eating an apple cider donut in my studio at 2 am.

Wisdom forthcoming.

On Closure

A year ago at this time, I was in Belgium. It was one of the loveliest periods of my life. I was readying to see some friends, then travel to San Francisco to stay and write in Rebecca Solnit’s beautiful home for two weeks.

When Rebecca had offered to let me stay in her home, I hesitated because I knew that, during that same time period River Guide was going to be in my hometown.

I knew that, when River Guide was in town, we would pretend to be a couple.

River Guide and I made a good pretend-couple. Maybe that’s why we did it for three summers in a row.

I knew that I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like two weeks in Rebecca Solnit’s home for a guy who was only my pretend-boyfriend.

I knew that I had to place my own needs first.

He came to see me anyway. We sat by the river.

He said, “I don’t know what we’re doing.”

The other day, I went to a pub with my friend at 4 in the afternoon. We were going to have a beer and work. We took our laptops. Then, another friend joined us, and we closed the laptops. We had another beer. We ordered some nachos but not dinner.

At 9pm, I had the idea to text a guy that I knew. At 10:00 pm, the pub closed, and he said, “I am going to walk you home.” I cuddled up to his arm while he pushed his bike. He came in, visited with my pets, then left, and I went to bed.

Later, I told my mother the story.

She said, “You two need to talk about what you are doing.”

I told my best friend more of the story, and she said, with genuine fatigue in her voice, “You are bending over backwards to make excuses for this guy.”

On Saturday, I finished my first round of book revisions. I worked in the bakery where I often go. I added some scenes with my parents in the final chapters, and I started weeping.

I furtively wiped away tears in the corner.

I hit the end of my writing and thought, This is good.

I hit “send” to my editor.

And then I felt this intensity of emotion that I can’t explain. I couldn’t tell if I was happy or sad. Only that I felt euphoric and miserable. That I wanted to break into sobs. That I wanted to run a marathon.

Mostly, I felt grief.

I thought, I have to let this story go. 

I thought, I have to move on now.

I thought, I have to move on by myself

I thought, I am all alone in this.

I went to the grocery store. I stood in line in a fugue state.

I was completely out of it when I heard, “Hey, Kelly.”

It was the guy who had walked me home the week before. I told him that I had turned in my book and was feeling a little overwhelmed. He asked if I was going to go out and celebrate.

I hesitated for a long while, thought of what my friend had said about me bending over backwards, then said, “I have not really thought about it.”

He said, “Well, if you want to meet up, I will celebrate with you.”

I said, “I will think about it.”

I texted him when I got home.

We sat in my backyard and talked. Fireflies danced in the bushes. A fat Mimosa tree hung blossoms above our heads.

He said, “You said that your book is personal, and it’s a sad story, and I know that it’s a memoir, so I don’t want to pry, but is this about recent events?”

And then, I told him my story. I told him about why I decided to write my story. I told him that I wanted to write about how I stayed out of love, and not fear.

He said, “Everyone must be really happy for you.”

“Everyone, but my ex-husband,” I said.

“Fuck that guy,” he said.


I didn’t tell him that, during the week before, Caleb and I had argued. Caleb is moving, and I had asked him for details. Because we share custody of Reed, he’s legally required to disclose those details, but he wouldn’t share.

I said to Caleb, “I think that you hiding this information is an abusive tactic that is intended to make me feel powerless.”

He said, “Yeah, you just go fuck yourself.”

I broke into angry sobs. I was angrier at myself than I was at him. I was angry at myself for caring.

But what I realized is that it is not normal to tell another adult, no matter who that person is, to go fuck themselves. I realized that no one in my life would talk to me that way now, but that, for so many years, I lived with a man who talked that way to me almost daily.

I realized that I have been blessed with an opportunity for reinvention.

I realized that I have been blessed with an opportunity for safety.

Reed told me that, after Caleb told me to go fuck myself, his new wife took Caleb outside.

I wondered how she felt about being married to a man who tells his ex-wife to go fuck herself.

I knew that she probably thought that I had brought it upon myself.

I knew that this move will likely isolate her. I knew that she will be away from her friends and family now.

I knew that her time was coming.

In my backyard, I told that guy, “I live in a really calm home now. My son and I get along great, and we live in a quiet way.”

He looked back at my house, at the double french doors that lead into the dining room, at the wooden deck with a grill on it, at the pond in the corner of the yard, at the lawn chairs. He held out his arm and motioned to all of it.

He said, “What you have done is incredible. You really have your shit together.”

I had to cut off communication with River Guide. I couldn’t be friends with him. I told him in January after Reed and I had dinner with him in Salt Lake City. When I had hugged him goodbye, Reed had said, “Mom, you stood on your tiptoes for him.”

River Guide and I had one more communication in April–a friendly text exchange, just to let each other know that we were doing okay.

I will always care about him, and maybe that’s the problem.

All I know is that I needed to put my own needs first.

When the guy who visited the other night got up to leave, I said, “Are you sure that you don’t want another beer?”

He looked at me for a while, then said, “I deliberately didn’t ice my shoulder, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to stay.”

I thought, I don’t know what we’re doing.

The next day, my friend said to me, “What do you want?”

I said, “I want four weeks away, so that I don’t have to think about this.”

I thought, but did not say, I want to be the type of person who doesn’t bend over backwards to make excuses for someone.

Tomorrow, I leave for a two-week writer’s residency at Vermont Studio Center. Shortly after I return, I leave for another two-week writer’s residency at Mineral School. By the end of those four weeks, my book should be going into production.

And then, I can move on. I can start a new project.

Maybe I can finally have closure.

Still, no matter how much things stay the same, my life keeps growing, keeps blossoming outwards.

Maybe I can finally have closure, but more likely, it will be an opening.

On Fear

Reed said, “I don’t think I’ll ever have a stepdad.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I think you’re just going to always be single,” he said.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

“Because I’ve heard you say that.” he said.

Then he got very serious, and he said, “But I feel like you would be afraid. I have a hard time imagining that you would want to try that again after what happened with my dad.”

Reed is usually right.

I am afraid, and at this point, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of.

Am I afraid of being alone? Am I afraid of being with someone? Am I afraid of being with the wrong person? Am I afraid of being with the right person? Am I afraid of being a failure? Am I afraid of being successful? Am I afraid of not getting an academic job? Am I afraid of getting an academic job? Am I afraid of not publishing my book? Am I afraid of publishing my book?

The truth is that I am afraid of it all, and I am so tired of being afraid.

I had dinner plans with someone tonight, and he cancelled, but he waited until the last minute to do it, which peeved me.

A good friend stepped in and went to dinner with me, but as we were leaving the restaurant, a car drove by and almost veered into the car in front of us.

We nearly watched a head-on collision, then the car that was driving wildly veered around us, sped up, and gunned up a one-way street.

It was all very deliberate.

The car in front of us pulled over, and I pulled in behind it because I assumed that it knew what to do. Then, I realized that I wasn’t even in a parking spot, so I pulled out very slowly, and I looked at the driver, and he and I just stared at each other.

The driver of that dangerous car didn’t seem to be drunk. He had too much control (veering away from the car he was going to ram just in time). I told my friend that, to me, the situation looked like domestic violence.

I said, There was probably a woman in the passenger seat. He probably wanted to scare her. Being in control of a car is the ultimate control.

I said, I know this because Caleb did this. Maybe once. Or maybe twice. I don’t know. Maybe more times than that.

My friend laughed nervously, which was the proper response because my tone, as usual, was matter of fact, though I was describing something horrific.

I no longer feel fear in the same way that others do.

Last summer, at this time, I was in Europe.

The night before I left for Europe, I stayed with the only man I’ve actually cared about since Caleb. That man picked me up from my bus. We had dinner. We laughed. We watched some HBO. Then, I sat closely to him.

Then, we stayed up all night.

The next day, I went to the airport. I had a book advance shortly behind me, a residency ahead of me, and I had been fucked the night before.

I got a massage and a glass of wine at the airport.

I thought that I could escape my past, but I cannot escape my past.

So many people reach out to me about my writing. I am having some difficulty responding. I have real friends I have not written back to because I am so overwhelmed. People I have never met send me letters and presents. I am so blessed. Who else can claim to be so loved?

I do not deserve this love, yet I am afraid of losing it. Because, no matter what I receive in the mail, I am here.

On my couch alone in the early morning after someone has cancelled dinner plans with me.

When Caleb and I were together, he drove me everywhere–to the grocery store, to work and back.

He drove me to the point that I grew fearful of driving.

When I left him, I had to learn how to drive again, but then, I drove across the country, almost 4,000 miles, by myself, and I don’t think that’s something that a lot of women can say.

Suddenly, my fears felt conquerable.

And soon, one day, I was driving in the Badlands of South Dakota by myself.

The sky was large, and the grasses were full. The highway cut through the landscape like a ruler, and I was following its direction.

I have never regretted my decision.

I may be afraid, but I am not scared.


On Growth

What is the difference between growth and change? Change is something that happens to us, and growth is something that we create ourselves.

Reed woke me up this morning. He is a morning person, and I have trained him to wake me up. We then packed him for summer camp, and I let him mostly pack himself, which meant that he was overpacked, and I knew that he was overpacked, but I wasn’t sure in what ways that he was overpacked, so I didn’t intervene.

The truth is that I do not know how to be a mother.

I didn’t have a baby and then just know how to be a mom, you know?

I read all of the books. I did everything right–according to the books–and I intuited the rest, but my parenting intuition was crummy when I started out.

And then, Caleb stepped in. Caleb knew everything, it seemed. And soon, he was the better parent, the better partner, the better person.

And, soon, I was just crying in the bed and wondering what happened to the strong woman who married Caleb.

After Reed was fully packed, I took him to brunch at a local restaurant. We ran into a woman, and she asked me about my book. She said, “I finally read your essay. That’s what the book is like, right?”

I explained to her that the essay and the book are different, that the book necessarily references a lot of what happened in the essay, but so much more happens. I explained all of this without ever saying directly what the essay and book are about. Still, Reed stood there next to me. He has an iPad. He could find that essay if he wanted.

That is why I had already told Reed, “My book is about your father’s abuse of me.”

At the time, Reed said, “I already knew that.”

Reed and I had to move out of our house in the holler because my landlord and his wife were separating. They came over to say goodbye, but hadn’t yet told their children about the separation.

I said to Reed, “[The boy] doesn’t know, so don’t say anything.”

Reed said, “He might know.”

“Why?” I asked.

Reed said, “Because kids know. We can tell.”

His face was serious.

I knew what he was referencing.

When that family came over to say goodbye, the boy wouldn’t look at us. He asked to leave early, even though we had only been there for a moment.

He knew what he was saying goodbye to (and it wasn’t Reed and me).

When we had moved into that house, I thought that we were the broken family moving into the shadow of the perfect family.

I wanted to be in that shadow.

I wanted to believe.

Maybe if we were in the shadow, we could someday be in the light.

My landlord would come and fix the sink, or the outlet, or whatever. Reed would stand by him and talk to him, hand him tools. It felt like Reed had this father figure.

The boys would run between each others’ homes.

In all honesty, I have been unreasonably devastated by the break-up of my landlords.

I wanted what I thought they had.

All of these years of growth, and what has it gotten me?

Or anyone?

How does our growth measure up against circumstance?

How does our growth measure up against change?

I sent Reed off to summer camp this morning. He wanted to do this camp with his best friend, and I had asked Caleb if he would let Reed do it. I said that I would pay (I make a lot less money than Caleb), and Caleb only needed to drive Reed, but Caleb refused, and it turned into an ugly argument. He said that he couldn’t possibly drive for that long, and he alienated his child in the process.

In the end, because I knew that it was so important to Reed, I offered up my own time with Reed. Reed told me that, when he got to his dad’s, his dad said, “I would have driven you,” as though Reed wouldn’t have remembered what his father had previously told him.

Reed is smart.

At one point, he said to me, “I’m pretty sure that my dad’s an alcoholic, but he says that he’s never been drunk. He’ll ask me to bring him six beers in a day, then tell me that he’s only had three.”

We were in the car on the way to school–not the place for deep conversations–but I said, “When your father says stuff like that, you are allowed to believe your eyes and not what he says.”

“I know,” he said. “My dad is kind of a liar.”

How does one explain gaslighting to a child?

I revised the worst written chapter of my book tonight. It had been the most painful chapter to write. I had called it “Playlist For a Broken Heart,” and it included an annotated playlist that Caleb had made for me when I had seriously considered leaving him for the first (maybe second or third time).

I had initially quoted the playlist verbatim, then my agent advised me to just pick one or two songs and show the moments in scene.

She told me not to shy away from the sexual chemistry that I had with Caleb.

Here’s the thing: When I initially transcribed the words of Caleb’s annotated playlist, I sobbed.

But describing those moments in more detail and in-scene made me sob even more.

I described the flimsy shirt I wore the first night that Caleb slept at my house with me.

I described the way I could always turn on Caleb, just by putting on that shirt.

I described the Valentine’s Day when I wore that shirt and stripped for him.

I described the way that my hands dug into his back as he came into me again, and again, and again.

I broke down sobbing at my writing desk.

The revised chapter is titled “I Left You Crying, or We Fit Together, or A Playlist For a Broken Heart.”

I hate him, but in a way, I still love him.

No one yet has excited me like he did, and at this point, I don’t think anyone will.

Caleb’s father used to talk about his ex-wife, about how much she had hurt him, about how awful she had been. He used to say to me how, at his own mother’s funeral, his ex-wife had told him that she would never love anyone like she had loved him. He said this with both glee and disgust.

Even back then, when I was still married to Caleb, I remember thinking, I don’t want to be her.

I remember thinking,  I am already her.

While I was typing the previous paragraphs, Caleb texted me “Thanks. Reed looks so happy” (about a photo of Reed at summer camp that I had sent him).

That was when I broke down sobbing.

I am already her.

My husband–my person–the person who was my person–has a new family, and I am not allowed to grieve that because he abused me, and I am the idiot who allowed that abuse to happen, and who continued to have feelings for him after he abused me, and who still stupidly cares what he is up to after all of this time, and who left him and freed him up to meet someone cuter and younger, and possibly with a better disposition.

I am the person who is still alone, though he is not.

I have changed, but have I grown?

I honestly don’t know.

On ———


Dear Officer ——,

On November 20, 2012, my husband who was the Resident Faculty Leader of Summit Hall was arrested for Domestic Battery. I would like to take some time to express some concern to you about the police handling of that case.

My husband had thrown a bowl at me, which shattered against my foot and resulted in a very serious injury that left me in a cast for a month. I called 911 because I was panicked. At that point, he had been battering me regularly for a very long time. As I’m sure you know, domestic violence victims generally don’t report it until the behavior has become very, very dangerous.

I spoke with Officer —–, and my husband spoke with the other officer whose name I don’t remember.  Officer —— asked me if my husband had ever hit me before, and I admitted that he had, but I begged Officer —— not to arrest my husband, as I loved him and did not want him to lose his job. Officer —— then asked me to describe the events as they had occurred, and I said that I was walking away from my husband, and he threw a bowl at me. Officer —– said “I understand. These things happen. Things get crazy. It happens with my wife and me too.”

I did not say this, but I thought “Do you beat your wife too?”

Despite my serious injury, Officer —— then said that they would send my husband to his parents house for a couple of days to “calm down.” He then asked me if he could see my driver’s license. When I stood up, I was unable to walk. I hobbled into the other room to get my driver’s license.

At that point, the other officer saw my foot. He said “Ma’am, can I look at your foot?” As he was looking at my foot, he looked to Officer —– and said “That’s bad. That looks broken.” The other officer then asked me what had happened.

Again, I described the events as they had occurred, I was walking away, and he threw the bowl at me. Officer —— then said, “Well, did he just knock the bowl off of the counter and it hit your foot?”

I was confused because I had just described what had happened, and I said “No, he threw the bowl at me.”

The other officer then asked if my husband had a phone number they could reach him at, and I realized that they were going to arrest him. They went outside and waited for my husband to return, and during that time, I called my husband and told him they were going to arrest him. My husband then left his phone on, either on purpose or by accident, and I could hear everything that happened. The other officer said, “Did she hit you too?” My husband said no. The other officer then said “Because we can arrest her too.”

At that point, both my husband and I had told our stories, neither of us had said anything about me hitting him, and still, the officer offered to arrest me. I have researched this issue, and I have learned that an officer is never supposed to make that kind of suggestion if it is not brought up on its own.

Later, when my husband returned from his arrest, he told me that he had written a statement where he admitted to throwing the bowl. Officer —–, however, wrote a statement where he said that my husband had knocked the bowl off of the counter and it hit my foot. This was in direct contradiction to what both the victim and the offender had stated. I do not know if Officer —-= was trying to protect my husband, or if he was trying to protect himself because he realized that he never should have sent my husband away, but he was clearly trying to protect someone.

The conduct in this situation was so egregiously wrong, unethical, and reveals a lack of training in regards to domestic violence. Domestic violence can happen at all ages, and it is important for campus police to be trained in that area.

When I spoke with Officer —–, I still loved my husband and wanted to remain married to him, so I didn’t want him to arrest my husband, but that is symptomatic of the domestic violence relationship, and I was clearly in a dangerous situation. It was Officer —-‘s responsibility to protect me, and instead of protecting me, he protected a violent and dangerous man.

I have since left and divorced my husband, and I live in another state. The past 14 months have given me the time and perspective to see how wrong the situation I lived in was, and also, how much police misconduct contributes to the pervasive and systemic problem of domestic violence in our country.

I hope that you will deal with this issue, and I am going to work to educate others about my situation so that this does not happen to someone else in the future.


Kelly Sundberg


Dear Officer ——,
I forgot to include my photos of the injury in question.
Kelly Sundberg

I will have an internal affairs investigation start and one of command staff should be in touch with you.  We will keep you posted on our investigation.  Thank you for contacting me.

Ms. Sundberg,

I am Lt. —– with the West Virginia University Police Department. I am an investigator that has been forwarded a copy of an e-mail that our department received, reference concerns you had with the campus police handling of domestic violence, particularly an incident in which you were involved with in November of 2012, reference case # 12-0016621. I have been assigned to formerly investigate this complaint.

I have included in this e-mail a copy of our form for filing a report of complaint against police personnel, which I will need you to complete and send back to me. I will also need to speak with you sometime to verify your identity and clarify details of your complaint. It is my understanding that you are now residing out-of-state, so I will need you to give me a call at your convenience at the number listed below, as I do not have a current contact number for you.

Lt. ———-

[Scheduling and logistical stuff redacted]

Hello, Lt. ——-,

Could you please scan the police report and email it to me? I would like to read it since I have received different information from you than I had from my ex-husband about what is contained in it.
Thank you.
I am not allowed to give out copies of reports to anyone. I will forward your request on my supervisors.

Ms. Sundberg,

I have been authorized to send you a copy of the report along with a copy of the criminal complaint. They are attached to this e-mail. Any further questions or communications regarding this matter should be directed to my supervisor, Capt. ——–.

Police Report

[I never saw this police report until after the case was settled (two years later), and it is full of falsehoods from the police officer, including that I declined to show up for court (I didn’t even know that court was happening because no one, including the prosecutor, informed me.) Caleb also told me that he had written a statement in his own handwriting where he admitted to having thrown the bowl at me, but, despite that, the police officer said that Caleb had accidentally knocked the bowl off of the counter (though he had contradicted himself in his own report).]

Ms. Sundberg,

An internal investigation was conducted by Lieutenant ——- into your allegations of inappropriate and/or unprofessional police conduct against Sergeant—– concerning UPD Incident Report #12-0016621, Domestic Battery.

Both Sergeant ——- and the other involved officer, Sergeant ——–, were interviewed. Lt. —–= also spoke with you. At the conclusion of this investigation the facts show that all applicable department policies and State of WV laws were adhered to by both of our officers. No wrongdoing was found.

At the conclusion of this investigation, I find that your complaint is unfounded.

If you need or desire additional information please schedule an appointment with Chief ———— and myself at ——-.



Dear Major ——–,

I thought you might be interested in this essay, which I recently published, which has received a lot of attention. I did not realize when I filed my formal complaint that your officer had not recorded the fact that I had called 911. Instead, he said there was a complaint of a loud disturbance, which was not true [I received this information later from the prosecutor’s office]. That technicality, in large part, led to my abuser getting his charges mostly dismissed.
I am just so disappointed in your department’s understanding/handling of domestic violence. I hope that you will distribute my essay, and I hope that it will educate your officers on how difficult it is for victims to come forward.
Kelly Sundberg