Experts Urge Women to Emulate Nicole, Keep Proof of Abuse

Article excerpt

Three years after escaping the man who beat her, a woman living in the San Francisco Bay area still carries around photos of her own battered face.

"She looks at them every time she's tempted to go back," every time supporting her children alone gets to be too much, said Lisa Dobey of Battered Women's Alternatives, based in Concord, Calif.

Dobey and others who run area shelters and crisis lines for battered women agree that keeping diaries, photographs and other documentary evidence of their abuse - as Nicole Brown Simpson did - is a good idea, for legal as well as psychological reasons.

And just as Simpson kept her evidence in a safe deposit box - evidence that became a chilling voice from the grave when it was disclosed last week - advocates of battered women tell their clients to keep their documentation where their abusers won't find it.

It's for their own safety, especially if they're still living with their abuser.

Kenneth Theisen of the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation says most of his clients are so poor they can't afford a safe deposit box, so they leave their evidence with a relative or friend.

Theisen says he's received calls from abusive husbands who've gone berserk, accusing him of having affairs with their wives, simply because they've found his card among the women's possessions. "I can't imagine what they'd do if they found a diary," he said.

The main reason to keep records is a legal one. Women need evidence - diaries, police reports, hospital records - when they go to court for restraining orders, to press criminal prosecutions and to fight to keep their children.

Beckie Masaki, executive director of the Asian Women's Shelter in San Francisco, said, "When women don't have that kind of documentation, it's often her word against his, with no other kind of proof."

Diaries, while still her word, can increase her credibility and rise to the level of admissible evidence, Theisen says.

"When we get a restraining order, we have to recount to the court about the past violence," Theisen said. …