LOCKPORT – When Linda Dynel wrote a book about her experience as a battered wife, she was hoping to help other victims.
So far, it looks as if her goal is being accomplished.
“Leaving Dorian,” subtitled “A Memoir of Hope,” has been adopted as a classroom text in a psychology course at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, and is being distributed to local shelters for battered women.
Dynel’s book goes easy on the details of her abuse after a fairly graphic description of the first time she was beaten. Instead, much of the book focuses on what she was thinking during the time she was spending her days hoping not to be assaulted again, and after she escaped.
“We can talk about battery all day long, but what women need to hear is there is a life beyond battery and that you don’t deserve to be treated like this and you’ve done nothing to instigate this, and it’s the batterer’s issue, not yours, and life will go on, and you can have a very full and happy life without the batterer,” Dynel said.
That’s what she has achieved since leaving her batterer in April 2000. A year to the day after she gathered up her two preschool daughters and walked out, she married again.
Now Dynel, 46, rejoices in her new life and how her work can help other women.
“It’s just nice to know that everything I went through wasn’t just for nothing,” she said.
The 176-page book is written in the third person, with all the names of those involved having been changed. Dynel’s abusive husband is given the alias Dorian, while Dynel calls herself Krissy. And since the book is written in the third person, it reads like a novel, which is the literary form Dynel has used in her other works.
She published a novel this year called “Sunrise and the Seven One Six,” and has another novel, set in Niagara County, which she expects will be released next month.
Dynel’s books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in two Lockport stores, Ticklebridge and Crafts and Creations.
Dynel said “Leaving Dorian” was first published as an e-book in February 2014. When operators of domestic violence programs showed interest in the book following an email blast, she needed to find a way to have copies printed. Ella Bard Press of Lockport, a publish-on-demand operation, released the paperback last year, and it has gone into a second edition.
She said she read other books in the field before writing “Leaving Dorian,” and was turned off by those that offered pages and pages of detailed descriptions of abuse.
“If my book cannot be read from beginning to end and generate understanding, empathy and a general feeling of hope, then it’s not going to get read and it’s not going to do the job that it needs to do,” Dynel said. “I’m not writing this to purge myself. People say, ‘Was this therapeutic, to write this book?’ No, it wasn’t. It was terrible to write this book. But this book was written to help other women, to let other women know they weren’t alone and to let people know that domestic violence is real, it happens, and just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls is using the book in its upcoming program, “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence,” from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, according to Bonnie Mazur, program and service chair.
Mazur said the club has bought copies of Dynel’s book for donation to Passage House and Carolyn’s House in the Falls, and is hoping to obtain permission to donate it to school libraries and homeless shelters.
Dynel addressed a Zonta meeting and left the women speechless. Mazur recalled, “We were stunned by Linda’s presentation and feel she is an important ally in Zonta’s desire to reach women with programs bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence against women in our communities. My church purchased ‘Leaving Dorian’ and gave them out for free, and asked that church women pass the book to friends and family.”
After a rocky relationship of nearly a decade in Erie County, including five years of steady beatings, Dynel finally decided to leave one day. She told her two preschool daughters that they were going on “an adventure” and took refuge in an apartment owned by her brother in Orchard Park.
Dynel said her family and friends had been systematically pushed out of her life by “Dorian,” to the point that when they were married, no guests were allowed. They were married in a chapel in a local Catholic church, and the priest had to provide witnesses. “She suspected she’d made a terrible mistake,” the book says.
Dynel said she had to support the family financially, as her husband kept losing jobs. The book says he became involved in a combination of extreme Catholicism and survivalism. The argument that led to the first beating came when Dynel contracted a urinary tract infection shortly after the birth of their first child and was prescribed antibiotics that would have required her to stop breast-feeding the baby.
“He said, ‘You should pray that God takes the urinary tract infection away from you,’” Dynel recalled. “He strapped our daughter into her baby seat and battered me … (It was) very much his own version of Roman Catholicism.”
He attacked her many times thereafter, in a skillful way that prevented people from finding out. “He made sure I was not bruised where clothes would not cover,” Dynel said. She writes in the book that she became an expert in coming up with excuses for wearing long sleeves in hot weather.
There was no real “last straw,” although Dynel recounts in the book a 1999 New Year’s Eve toast after work at a local chain restaurant with a female co-worker who wished them both divorces in the New Year.
In April 2000, Dynel left with her daughters while her husband was at work for once.
“I had a very clear thought one day, that I did not deserve to live like that,” she said. “I decided that it was time to go, and I left.”
But why didn’t that happen sooner?
“People don’t understand,” Dynel said. “I stayed for a variety of reasons. I stayed because we had two children. I stayed because I was afraid to go. I stayed because I didn’t know if I could take care of my children on my own. There’s 100 reasons why women stay. The more important question is, why did he batter?”
Dynel’s answer to that question is, “Batterers batter because they can, because they want to have control over another human being. They believe they are entitled to have control over another human being.”
And as for calling the police, which she never did, Dynel said. “Until I was ready to leave, the only thing calling the police would have done would have been to make him more angry, so if I wasn’t ready to leave, it just would have made my situation worse.”
Even though she is divorced, and according to her book also obtained a Catholic Church annulment, Dynel is still reluctant to reveal too many details about her life and her whereabouts. She didn’t want to use her real married name – Dynel, her pen name, is her middle name – and said her new husband, Ray, owns a safety training company. She remains a practicing Catholic.
She still has unwelcome souvenirs from her experiences, however. She believes she has some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as an eating disorder, which she wrote about in The Buffalo News Viewpoints section on May 3.
“I’m always very anxious. I’m paranoid. I’m hypervigilant. I’m always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. You cannot think that you’re going to live through a very tragic situation and come out unscathed,” she said. And although she is “a healthy weight,” she said, “Every day I wake up and I say, ‘Today I will eat because you have to eat to live, and I want to live, so I’m going to eat.’ ”
Dynel added, “I have five children and a wonderful husband and a very happy life, and I want to be present in my very happy life.”