Encinitas resident shares story of hope, courage in new book

This story was reported for Seaside Courier on Dec. 5, 2014.

An Encinitas resident who founded a nonprofit to support burn victims has taken her mission in life one step further with the release of her first book, “Heart of Fire.”

Lesia Stockall Cartelli, who founded Angel FaEncinitas_resident_shares_story_of_hope,_courage_in_new_book_-_Seaside_Courier_News_-_2014-12-05_08.28.38ces in 2003, tells her story of surviving a fire and finding confidence in her book that was released in September.

Cartelli was 9 years old when a fire broke out in her grandparents’ Detroit home, burning more than 50 percent of her face and body. Her injuries forced her into the hospital for months but she said the “real healing” began when she was released.

“The recovery process is very, very difficult,” Cartelli said. “Your whole world shatters open. Everything that was secured in your life is now blown into pieces. The real healing happens when you are discharged because you’re back into the real world. I had to face the teasing, the rejection and the feeling that I didn’t look like anybody else.”

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Cheerleaders call penalty on poor National Football League pay

Cheerleaders_call_penalty_on_poor_National_Football_League_pay_-_10News.com_KGTV_ABC10_San_Diego_-_2014-06-27_09.48.45.pngThis story was reported for 10News in March 2014.

Former Raiderette Lacy worked roughly nine hours per NFL game and earned a flat payment of $125. The wage didn’t factor in time for practice, makeup and hair, and staying in shape.

The highest paid Oakland Raiders player, running back Darren McFadden, earns more in one game than the entire squad’s annual salary. In fact, the lowest-paid players on the same team also earn more at $405,000 annually.

The same is true in San Diego where 28 Charger Girls each earn $75 per game while the lowest-paid player earns $25,312 per regular season game.

When it comes to the numbers, cheerleaders are sidelined and some may argue their pay is too.

Read the full story on 10News.com or click on the picture to the right.

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Well-Heeled Crowd to Walk Against Domestic Violence

FireShot Screen Capture #004 - 'Well-Heeled Crowd to Walk Against Domestic Violence - Volunteering - Poway, CA Patch' - poway_patch_com_groups_volunteering_p_well-heeled-crowd-to-walk-against-domestic-violenceThis story was reported for Patch on Oct. 4, 2011.

Ankle boots may make a larger comeback than expected this fall—or at the very least, a more meaningful one.

Hundreds of walkers, including men, will soon sport women’s footwear at the YWCA’s annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event on Thursday, Oct. 20, in an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence against women.

“This event shows what it means to be a woman,” said Heather Finlay, CEO of the San Diego County YWCA. “We are not going to put a stop to domestic violence with just women; we need help from men, society and the community. Everybody needs to take a lead role in ending violence against women, and this is something that actually works.”

The annual event—a fundraiser for the YWCA of San Diego County—asks participants to wear women’s shoes while walking one mile in downtown San Diego to raise awareness about the issue while fundraising for the nonprofit’s programs.

Read the full story on Patch.com or click on the picture to the right.

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Out of control: Men have few reliable options for birth control

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on May 10, 2010.

See original copy of story.

Fifty years ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill for women — but why isn’t there one for men yet?

Today, more than 100 million women worldwide and 12 million U.S. women may be asking themselves that question.

Experts say there are different reasons why there isn’t a male version of the pill.

Even though it varies, experts can agree on one fact: Many women have the primary responsibility of regulating child bearing, and even if men had the “opportunity” to take their version of the pill, they might not want the responsibility.

“It takes two to tango but the only contraceptive men have is the condom,” said SDSU Women’s Studies professor Kimala Price. “We basically dumped the responsibility on women and when men are done, they’re gone.”

On May 9, 1960, the FDA approved a pill that would change the lives of millions of women. The Enovid 10 mg “freed up” the lives of American women – not only allowing women to have sexual encounters but making it “easier for women to go out into the workforce and not worry about pregnancy,” said Price.

Not only that, the pill allowed for advancements in women’s health research, said Planned Parenthood’s Jennifer Coburn.

“Very quickly, the availability of the pill in America resulted in huge advancements in women’s and infant health, and a decline in unintended pregnancies — particularly among married women,” she said.

Though like any good American issue, the birth control pill is political (court cases making it legal for married couples or single gals to use the pill), a new CBS poll shows, “Men (59 percent), women (54 percent), and women who have ever taken the pill (54 percent) say that women’s lives were improved as a result of the birth control pill.”

In the age of cute little pills and a bevy of other options for women, men have but four options to prevent themselves from being a baby’s daddy — abstinence, coitus interruptus, the condom or sterilization – according to a study titled “Gender Roles and Male Contraception” by University of Utah philosophy professors Christopher Peterson and Margaret Battin.

So if the pill is such a good deal, why isn’t there one for men?

While inequality does exist when considering which sex is forced to carry the responsibility of birth control, Peterson and Battin point out in their study, men are “faced with an inequality of opportunity.”

“It cannot be doubted that men gamble every day that the contraception currently available to them will be sufficient to protect their choices about when, how, and with whom to reproduce, and every day men end up wrong.”

Besides, it’s just not as easy to make a birth control pill for men, said experts.

The answer lies more in the physiology of male reproduction, said Population Council’s senior scientist Narender Kumar.

In women, the ovulation process is “easy to stop,” given the fact that only one egg is released each cycle. Whereas in men, “millions of sperm are produced and it is a continuous cycle,” Kumar said.

“So I would say it is not that less is being done/researched in (the) male contraception field but it is just the difficulties in arresting spermatogenesis in male that is responsible for not having a male pill,” Kumar said. “Even now, we do not have any solid leads for male pill.”

But there’s still hope.

Last Monday, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute announced that it received a $1.5 million grant to study a male contraceptive that “uses a combination of two hormonal gels applied to the skin of the arm and abdomen.”

Christina Wang and Ronald Swerdloff — who are leading the research of the contraceptive — are currently enrolling 60 men between the ages of 18 and 50 to take part in the study.

The researchers will test the two gels to find out if they can successfully suppress sperm production to “near zero levels.”

“If this combination lowers sperm counts to levels compatible with contraception, then it will be followed by a study to see if pregnancy protection is actually demonstrated,” Swerdloff said.

Swerdloff hopes that the contraceptive will not only prevent unwanted pregnancies but men will get “more involved in their personal health care.”

“Just as women gained greater control over their reproductive choices and their health with the advent of the birth control pill, a male contraceptive would get men more involved in their personal health care and would give them greater reproductive choices,” he said.

Though it’s been 50 years since the pill hit the market, Swerdloff said there has been progress with the creation of the male contraceptive.

“We have shown that the various testosterone preparations (that) protect against pregnancy are safe, and are reversible,” he said. “We are now trying to refine the process to give earlier onset, greater ease of administration and even greater effectiveness. Developing new approaches to family planning [is] done carefully to assure safety.”

But don’t hold your breath — the doc said it usually takes about seven years for “this class of drug to move through the approval process.”

Though the male version of the pill wouldn’t hit the market for another few years, the study by the University of Utah professors shows men may not even wish to use the contraceptive if given the choice.

Peterson and Battin also point out that because of the gender roles which have been established over the years, a mindset has been created that contraceptive responsibility must primarily be given to women. (But men still have legal responsibility; See gray box).

So, “whether men could share responsibility, even if they wanted to, the answer, quite simply, is no.”

“The lack of a reliable male contraceptive option sends a message to all society about the role of women,” stated the study. “This message tells each of us that women are primarily responsible for maintaining the conditions necessary to prevent the conception of children.”

So what’s the lesson from this article? Well, let’s look at the facts first. (1) Women are given the ultimate burden of preventing mama drama. (2) A male version of the pill won’t exist for another few years. (3) Men may not even want to use their version of the pill even it was available. (4) If we want to see change in the “mindset” of gender roles, it’s time we talk about it more.

Until we see that day, the lesson is simple: Make sure the thug, at least, buys you two drinks before you make love in the club.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.

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Domestic violence victim Steiner to tell all in San Diego

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on March 8, 2010.

Editor’s Note: This is a part of a collection of stories SDNN will publish throughout the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. Join us as we recognize Women’s History Month by sending in your stories too and checking SDNN every day for stories from other women in our region. Happy Women’s History Month!

See original copy of story.

Leslie Morgan Steiner’s memoir “Crazy Love” didn’t immediately capture my attention or interest.

But I knew Steiner’s work; she’s the best-selling author of “Mommy Wars” and the author of a 1980s Seventeen magazine article that chronicled a young girl’s struggle with anorexia nervosa. The article stirred up a vital conversation that had never been addressed so candidly until then.

And I knew from reading Steiner’s work, she would be fervently honest in “Crazy Love,” a book about a four-year marriage in her early 20s and the verbal and physical abuse she endured. I know, too, she would take responsibility for her choices and wouldn’t play the victim.

She’s candid about her ex-husband, a man who used the word “retard” as a term of endearment, and about identifying as a domestic violence victim.

Two days after starting it, I finished reading the novel I would have passed on had it not been written by Steiner.

Steiner and her book highlight the struggle with domestic violence that 1.3 million women (and 835,000 men) face each year in the U.S.

Though Steiner escaped her abusive relationship more than two decades ago and released “Crazy Love” about a year ago, her journey against domestic violence continues. She created “The Crazy Love Project,” which allows victims to share their stories anonymously. And on Thursday, she’ll be the keynote speaker at the YWCA’s annual benefit, “In the Company of Women”; 100 percent of proceeds will benefit domestic abuse programs.

In our Q&A, Steiner opens up about her ex, the Rihanna-Chris Brown relationship, and the project that’s giving voices to victims.

Many courageous women have shared their stories about domestic violence. What makes you and your book different?

There are a couple of things. One is that, I think I’ve had enough distance with what had happened to be really honest about myself and the role that I played in my own destruction. I think the other memoirs that I’ve read have been sort of more angry and wounded. But, I think I had the distance to be really fair; I think; I hope. Also, I don’t think I demonized my ex-husband — I didn’t want to do that and I’ve never done that. I’ve always seen him as a really troubled person who had really good qualities but who had a bad deal by being so abused as a child. I wanted to write a book that wasn’t black and white and that just really tried to show the reality of what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship.

You know, looking at me from the outside, it looked like I had everything – I had a degree from Harvard, a supportive family, a great job. I had so much going for me. I think that’s really contrary to most people’s stereotype of abuse victims, who tend to think of victims as poor immigrant women with lots of children who can’t leave. There are definitely women who fit that description and men too but what makes my story different is that I had so much privilege you thought I could have left at any time. I still thought I couldn’t leave him until the very end when I had to leave him – when it was a choice between him or me. If I would have stayed he would have killed me.

How did your friends and family react to your novel given the sort of image your father attempted to portray of you and your family?

My mother and my siblings were incredibly supportive of it, they are really proud of it. I think it’s particularly amazing because my mom doesn’t come off easy in the book – she comes off as wonderful mother with a lot of flaws but she loved it and was so proud of it. My brother and my sister felt the same way.

I don’t know if my father has read it. We’re not close and he has never said anything about my writing or my work.

I have to say, I hate it when people use the r-word. It’s the term for an actual disorder but has been used for negative connotations. How did it feel the first time Connor [the name given to Steiner’s ex-husband] called you that and then he kept calling you that?

I have to tell you, so many people hate that part. It really gets under their skin that he called me that and that I took it. I think it captures really well the paradox of our relationship that he could say something really mean to me like that and convince me that it’s a term of endearment. I think it shows what a psychological trap I had fallen into, that when he called me that it made me laugh and made me smile.

It also captures a paradox of the self-esteem I had. I know I’m not stupid and the entire world could scream at me and tell me that I’m stupid and “retarded” because I know I’m not. So it didn’t hurt my feelings that he said that but I was vulnerable enough that I didn’t say to him, “Don’t call me that.” I also wonder if it said something about him that he had to put me down in a passive-aggressive manipulative way.

During your marriage, you interviewed an expert who studied abusers. He told you, not one of the men he studied stopped abusing women despite therapy and counseling. If that’s the case, when will the violence end? What does it boil down to?

What I really learned from writing the book is that it really breaks the silence about what I went through. I really think that’s the answer and that’s the simple thing to do – to talk about it, write about it and to be open about it.

The first group I spoke to were a bunch of salesmen at St. Martin Press, who had to go out and sell my book. I broke the silence by reading the book and talking to them about it. I would say 90 percent, nearly every man at that meeting went on the table and said, “I was abused” or “My sister just got out of an abusive relationship” or “My mother was married to an abusive man before she met my dad.” Every man was so touched by it.

Experts estimate:

One out of every four children in California is exposed to violence as a victim or witness

21,000 domestic violence calls or cases were reported to law enforcement in 2004 in the County

The County’s domestic violence hotline receives over 5,000 calls annually

Every year, 1,510,455 women and 834,732 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate.

Men are more likely to be injured in reciprocally violent relationships (25 percent) than were women when the violence was one-sided (20 percent).

Source: San Diego Domestic Violence Council

Everybody needs to just break the silence about it. That is the answer. That is how victims will get out faster. That is how abusers will be able to seek the help that they need faster. But I don’t think it will ever end until we stop asking “Why a woman would stay with her abuser?” and ask “Why would anybody beat the people who they love most in this world?”

It seems so easy to blame the abusers though. Do you think they deserve a little sympathy for their situation?

I do, I do. I know it’s sort of a strange position to take but they absolutely deserve our sympathy. They deserve sympathy because so often they have been victims themselves and I think demonizing them doesn’t do anybody any good. Also, in a strange way, it makes the victims feel really guilty. Like when people said to me, “He’s such a monster.” Then well, you’re telling me, I love the monster and I would’ve never fallen in love with a terrible person. He was half good and that’s who I fell in love with. So, I think they deserve sympathy and understanding but not excuses. It’s wrong and it’s criminal to abuse anybody.

During the news of the Rihanna-Chris Brown relationship, you spoke out in support of Rihanna and elaborated on your story — what sort of reaction did you get from that?

The reaction to everything I had written about Rihanna; there were a lot of people who had been in abusive relationships themselves and they were very grateful. The whole Rihanna-Chris Brown situation while awful for both of them was wonderful for this country because it educated people so much about what domestic violence is really about. It showed us that you can be young and beautiful and talented and still be a victim and still be an abuser.

I’m very, very proud of the way Rihanna has handled everything. I think that it’s terrible that so many people expected her to speak out right away and become a champion for victims when she was going through her own private kind of hell. But she really spoke about it candidly, much of the way I try to speak about it in “Crazy Love” and she doesn’t demonize Chris Brown, which I think is important.

I think it’s really wonderful that she can be sympathetic to him despite being the victim because he was abused as a child just like how my ex-husband has. He has confronted his problem quite honestly and I hope that he gets the help he deserves. I’ll tell you, I think Rihanna has a simpler problem to solve: she just has to avoid abusive men but Chris has to ask why he was abusive even though he opposes abuse himself.

Tell me about The Crazy Love Project. What do you hope will come from the project? What have you learned so far from the project?

It has just been so great. I felt so empowered by speaking out that I wanted other people to have the same experience even if they couldn’t write a whole book or didn’t have the opportunity to publish their book or were afraid to and needed to protect their anonymity.

So, as soon as it was published, I got hundreds of e-mails with most people who told me their whole story. I’d write back and say, “I have this thing called ‘The Crazy Love Project.’ Do you want to share your story?” Almost everybody said yes. It was wonderful for them I hope and for people to realize that victims come in all ages, races, ethnicities and life stories. I’ve heard from grandmothers, gay men, Ivy League graduates and people who were barely literate enough to write an e-mail and they’ve all told the same story.

For me personally, it made me feel not alone. I think one of the things you want more than anything when you’ve been through a traumatic experience is to feel like somebody else was there with you. By hearing from so many people, I feel like they were there with me during the relationship and I feel like I don’t have anything to be ashamed of because I’m in such good company with people who lived through it and put it behind them.

If there is one thing you could tell everyone in the world about domestic violence and those involved, what would it be?

To talk about it and to talk about it anyway that you can whether you’re a victim or not; you never know who is listening.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.

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