Stories from Nicole's House...

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Words Matter! I Told You To Be Silent!

Words matter. O.J. Simpson's defense team asked Judge Lance A. Ito to order the prosecution to say domestic discord rather than domestic violence or even spousal abuse--already euphemisms for wife-beating--and to disallow the words battered wife and stalker.

Ito refused to alter reality by altering language but some media complied--for example, "Rivera Live," where domestic discord became a new term of art. The lawyer who successfully defended William Kennedy Smith on a rape charge also used that term systematically.

Where is the victim's voice? Where are her words? "I'm scared," Nicole Brown told her mother a few months before she was killed. "I go to the gas station, he's there. I go to the Payless Shoe Store, and he's there. I'm driving, and he's behind me."

Nicole's ordinary words of fear, despair and terror told to friends, and concrete descriptions of physical attacks recorded in her diary, are being kept from the jury.

Insignificant when she was alive--because they didn't save her--the victim's words remain insignificant in death: excluded from the trial of her accused murderer, called "hearsay" and not admissible in a legal system that has consistently protected or ignored the beating and sexual abuse of women by men, especially by husbands.

Nicole called a battered women's shelter five days before her death. The jury will not have to listen--but we must.

Evidence of the attacks on her by Simpson that were witnessed in public will be allowed at trial. But most of what a batterer does is in private. The worst beatings, the sustained acts of sadism, have no witnesses.

Only she knows. To refuse to listen to Nicole Brown Simpson is to refuse to know.

The law, including the FBI, and social scientists used to maintain that wife-beating did not exist in the United States. But in recent years, the FBI acknowledged that wife-beating is this country's most commonly committed violent crime.

Such a change happens this way. First, there is a terrible and intimidating silence--it can last centuries. Inside that silence, men have a legal or a tacit right to beat their wives.

Then, with the support of a strong political movement, victims of the abuse speak out about what has been done to them and by whom. They break the silence. One day, enough victims have spoken--sometimes in words, sometimes by running away or seeking refuge or striking back or killing in self-defense--that they can be counted and studied: Social scientists find a pattern of injury and experts describe it.

The words of experts matter. They are listened to respectfully, are often paid to give evidence in legal cases. Meanwhile, the voice of the victim still has no social standing or legal significance. She still has no credibility such that each of us--and the law--is compelled to help her.

We blame her, as the batterer did. We ask why she stayed, though we, of course, were not prepared to stand between her and the batterer so that she could leave.

And if, after she is dead, we tell the police that we heard the accused murderer beat her in 1977, and saw her with black eyes--as Nicole's neighbors did--we will not be allowed to testify, which may be the only justice in this, since it has taken us 17 years to bother to speak at all.

I was a battered wife; I had such neighbors.

Every battered woman learns early on not to expect help. A battered woman confides in someone, when she does, to leave a trail. She overcomes her fear of triggering violence in the batterer if he finds out that she has spoken in order to leave a verbal marker somewhere, with someone. She thinks the other person's word will be believed later.

Every battered woman faces death more than once, and each time the chance is real: The batterer decides. Eventually, she's fractured inside by the continuing degradation and her emotional world is a landscape of desperation.

Of course, she smiles in public and is a good wife. He insists--and so do we.

The desperation is part fear--fear of pain, fear of dying--and part isolation, a brutal aloneness, because everything has failed--every call for help to anyone, every assumption about love, every hope for self-respect and even a shred of dignity.

What dignity is there, after all, in confessing, as Nicole did in her diary, that O.J. started beating her on a street in New York and, in their hotel room, "continued to beat me for hours as I kept crawling for the door."

He kept hitting her while sexually using her, which is rape--because no meaningful consent is possible or plausible in the context of this violence.

Every battered woman's life has in it many rapes like this one. Sometimes, one complies without the overt violence but in fear of it. Or sometimes, one initiates sex to try to stop or head off a beating.

Of course, there are also the so-called good times--when romance overcomes the memory of violence. Both the violation and the complicity make one deeply ashamed. The shame is corrosive. Whatever the batterer left, it attacks. Why would one tell? How can one face it?

Those of us who are not jurors have a moral obligation to listen to Nicole Simpson's words: to how O.J. Simpson locked her in a wine closet after beating her and watched TV while she begged him to let her out; to how, in a different hotel room, "O.J. threw me against the walls . . . and on the floor. Put bruises on my arm and back. The window scared me. Thought he'd throw me out."

We need to hear how he "threw a fit, chased me, grabbed me, threw me into walls. Threw all my clothes out of the window into the street three floors below. Bruised me."

We need to hear how he stalked her after their divorce. "Everywhere I go," she told a friend, "he shows up. I really think he is going to kill me."

We need, especially, to hear her call to a battered women's shelter five days before her murder. In ruling that call inadmissible, Ito said: "To the man or woman on the street, the relevance and probative value of such evidence is both obvious and compelling . . . . However, the laws and appellate-court decisions that must be applied . . . held otherwise."

The man and woman on the street need to hear what was obvious to her: The foreknowledge that death was stalking her.

We need to believe Nicole's words to know the meaning of terror--it isn't a movie of the week--and to face the treason we committed against her life by abandoning her.

When I was being beaten by a shrewd and dangerous man 25 years ago, I was buried alive in silence. I didn't know that such horror had ever happened to anyone else. The silence was unbreachable and unbearable.

Imagine Nicole being buried alive, then dead, in noise--our pro-woman, pro-equality noise; or our pro-family, pro-law-and-order noise.

For what it's worth--to Nicole nothing--the shame of battery is all ours.

Andrea Dworkin Los Angeles Times (January 1995)

Twenty Two Years After THAT Verdict and the Protest Continues!

This is THE post that I should have shared on October 3 2017 but I did not on account of a lack of time, natural light and inclination!

Despite the issues of time and natural light notwithstanding for as I had published six (yes, six!) stories about the anniversary of THAT Verdict by yesterday evening; the only inclination that remained was for me to crawl away into the dark night and watch a trashy movie with only a huge slice of cake for company…

And no, the trashy movie that I watched was NOT about the Simpson Matter!

For even though the Late (and great!) Dominick Dunne had once argued that the Simpson case was like a ‘great trash novel come to life, a mammoth fireworks display of interracial marriage, love, lust, lies, hate, fame, wealth, beauty, obsession, spousal abuse, stalking, brokenhearted children, the bloodiest of bloody knife-slashing homicides, and all the justice that money can buy’; THE movie that I enjoyed featured quite a number of the above, although thankfully minus the bloodshed for the only ‘corpse’ at the finale was a metaphorical one!

However, enough of my Saturday evening television viewing habits and back to the matter in hand - THE Simpson Matter and the incredible realisation that yesterday, October 3 2015 marked an incredible 22 years since the reading of THAT verdict; you know, the one that begins with: "We the jury... find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, NOT guilty of the crime of murder... upon Nicole Brown Simpson, a human being..."

For it was on a cold and dark Tuesday evening and I was returning home from my flower shop in the City of York in a car packed with fellow travellers including school bags, grocery shopping and a 11-week old baby, (thankfully silent!) as I turned on the radio to listen to the reading of THAT verdict from some 5,000 miles away.

In her brilliant memoir Without a Doubt, prosecutor Marcia Clark shares the reaction of Simpson’s defence attorney to THAT verdict as ‘not the verdict I would’ve thought.’... You can say that again Bob Shapiro!

I was so convinced that I would still hear a ‘Guilty’ verdict despite those allegations of LAPD incompetence and the charges of racism that tried (and failed!) to obscure the powerful circumstantial evidence and Simpson’s long history of domestic abuse…

Alas, as it was not to be and at a distance of twenty years, I thought it would be interesting to share the reactions of some other Simpson supporters and detractors and of their feelings about THAT verdict that I have published on my other blogs and as I felt that a little mischief was entirely appropriate, some ‘creative’ imagery has also been included.

If you click on the links at the end of this post, you will be able to read the stories from  Kris Jenner and you can join Dominick Dunne as he takes a walk along the tiled walkway at 875 South Bundy Drive to Nicole's House.

I have also included a controversial essay by the fabulous Elizabeth Wurtzel from her book Bitch on my No Excuse for Abuse blog and of her observations about the complicated relationship between Nicole and Simpson.

Although I agree with her belief that Nicole’s death was a ‘stupid waste of a life of a woman’; I do NOT support her assertion that her death supported ‘well-intentioned but still fruitless attempts to make it into a clarion call for domestic-violence awareness’ and here's my reason why: for since 1994, I have been a witness to subtle and positive change that despite the divisive issues that had surrounded the trial of Simpson, Nicole’s tragic death was to illuminate a much needed awareness about domestic abuse and that many women who upon learning about Nicole’s life and death were to find a renewed strength and resolve to leave their abusive partners and this STILL continues to be the case, more than twenty years later.

Do you recall the ‘11-week old’ baby who slept his way through the reading of THAT verdict, I told you about? ....

Well, this is him in the image above and in his 17th year as THE poster boy for the Real Man Campaign in which to raise awareness about domestic abuse and on behalf of the UK charity Women’s Aid

The Nobel Laureate and political activist Elie Wiesal once said that “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

And on that note, I bid you 'Adieu' for now and thank you for Remembering Nicole Brown Simpson!

Monday, 28 August 2017

White or Nothing! The Bubble Bursts...

The O.J. Simpson case has become such a public obsession that most people can recite  the location of the bloody glove, the time Nicole called her mother or the number of stab wounds inflicted on Ronald Goldman. 

But the man who will be tried next month on national television remains something of a mystery of his own making. In fact, Simpson lived a double life.

The corporate spokesman who drank an occasional beer with hertz executives was also a hard partyer, NEWSWEEK's reporters found, who cruised bars and indulged in drugs and random sex. His wife believed he was a cocaine addict; his friends who saw him on the prowl at wild parties in Los Angeles, thought his real addiction was white women. The smooth talker took lessons to make his diction more "white." The family man was seldom home...

Simpson was smug about his womanizing. "Groupies would have been a problem in my youth, when I was insecure and needed to prove something," he told People magazine in 1977. "Now, that I'm older, let's say I'm more selective. My wife knows I'm under control."

Asked by a New York Daily News reporter the same year what he considered sexy in a woman, Simpson answered, "Health and innocence. California types... I'm in love with Farrah Fawcett-Majors' looks."

Nicole Brown, a nubile teenager from Dana Point, California was close enough...

Simpson met the 18-year-old homecoming princess in 1977 while she was waitressing at a Rodeo Drive disco, and they started dated immediately. He separated from Marguerite a year later - about the time he and Nicole began living together.

Just as the divorce came through, OJ and Marguerite's baby daughter, Aaren, drowned in their swimming pool. Simpson blamed Marguerite, and was quoted at the time as saying that he hadn't known his little girl very well.

He later credited Nicole with helping him to get through the transition from football to show business.

After living together for six years, they were married in 1985, and had their first child eight months later. Blond, well-dressed, she looked impressive on his arm as they arrived at a party in Beverly Hills or Brentwood. But not everyone was fooled.

A black actress who worked with Simpson on the TV docu-drama "Roots" recalled seeing him around town "so happy-go-lucky with his young white wife, pretty clothes and fancy cars, all I could remember was the black wife I met him with years ago and how sad she looked then. That was a bubble bound to burst."

Simpson's world offered plenty of opportunities to wander... "I never saw O.J. connect with a sister," said one NBA player who ran with Simpson on the party circuit. "Most womanizers I know go for any woman, but not O.J. - it was white or nothing."

Nicole was not shy herself, and she enraged O.J. by flirting with other men. Some accounts say she was brazen, almost taunting Simpson, but Nicole's friends say that she was just fighting back in the only way she knew how.

The cycle escalated and became openly confrontational. The NBA player recalled a party at a beach house in Malibu: "O.J. was on his usual prowl and Nicole seemed to be cool about it for a while. Then she just snapped and went over to him and yelled 'You aren't s--t,' along with some other choice words. The party was pretty low-key so it got everyone's attention. O.J. was really burning up and led her outside, but they left moments later."

Simpson's black friends were wary of Nicole, whom they regarded as a gold digger with "an attitude."

"I mean, from a black male's perspective, a woman - any woman - publicly yelling at you is just too much to deal with and very insulting," said a pro-basketball player who often saw the two spar with each other at parties.

Nicole threatened Simpson's desire for control. "I don't believe in equality in a relationship," Simpson told an interviewer a decade ago. Someone, he said, had to have "the upper hand."

The Double Life of O.J. Simpson for Newsweek Magazine 
August 29 1994