Our discussion with Patricia Driscoll
March 30th, 2015
I struggled for some time deciding if I wanted to do this article/interview and risk being harassed and/or harming Racegear’s reputation in general. My decision to interview Patricia was a tough one for me in terms of facing the possible ridicule and even downright outrage from some of our readers. I’m a staunch NASCAR fan at heart and have been for MANY years. My decision was based solely on my background and experience with mental health and the fact that I feel that there is ALWAYS more to a story than just what the public views on the internet.
My Master’s degree is in Mental Health Counseling and Psychology. I’ve spent countless hours researching, interviewing, and listening to victims of domestic violence and PTSD during the course of my studies over the years. With domestic violence, there are always two sides to the story, often told differently. Sometimes told differently due to various reasons such as denial, past stressors, and down-right lies; and sometimes told differently based on the ugly truth, whatever that may be.
When your life is played out before thousands of people on a daily basis, you learn to cope using different inborn and learned mechanisms. These coping skills, conscious and/or unconscious in nature, positive or negative, are there to help us transition through the stressors that are affecting us. We all live different lifestyles. Some of us have our needs catered to, seemingly barely having to lift a finger in life as assistants/representatives do things for us and yet others of us work our fingers to the bones, slowly building. These attributes also play a huge role in our coping skills. We all cope differently. Some cope openly, trying to do what they believe is best for everyone involved, others cope privately, harboring their feelings inside finally reaching a boiling point and boiling over. Which is right or wrong? IS there a right or wrong?
When I first heard about the Kurt Busch and Patricia Driscoll incident, I heard about it through the same means as the rest of the world – the internet and/or various news outlets. Like everyone else, I had the same doubts, questions, and preconceived notions about the situation. Why did SHE wait to contact the police? Why did SHE bring her son with her? Kurt wouldn’t do THAT! Why did SHE go to his motorhome/bus in the first place? SHE SHE SHE. But first and foremost, I decided NOT to judge. Why? Simply because I wasn’t in the motorhome/bus at the time of the incident and I wasn’t in her (or his) shoes.
Domestic violence is real. I’ve see it on a daily basis. People I know and people that I don’t know; both physical and mental abuse; bruises and no bruises. Statistically, approximately “1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States (1).” It is real. No doubt about it. It happens. It happens in all levels of society, in all realms of the world, it generally happens behind closed doors, but when it happens to someone in the media’s eye, it happens publicly.
Talking with Patricia for some time, I tried to stay focused, on track, and unbiased, trying to NOT develop preconceived notions like everyone else, and kept reminding myself, I’m only trying to bring to surface the MAIN part of the Busch/Driscoll situation that seems to have been forgotten…the reality of domestic abuse and PTSD.
I had no intention of bringing up Kurt Busch in our interview, basing the article solely on domestic violence/PTSD and its general implications in the public/medias eye, but Patricia felt compelled to voice her concerns; which in the long run I admit, I’m happy she did. Again, I am not taking sides, I am only stating the information I was given. I requested an interview with Kurt, and was denied.
The main interview discussion will follow below, after this reflection session; of which I want to bring to light a few points of interest that Patricia brought up during our time together, most of which I admit I had no clue about and feel compelled to relay on her behalf.
- I asked her how she felt NASCAR handled the situation. She stated that she felt that NASCAR did a “great job initially” in the handling of the case at hand, but that in the end they basically handed Kurt “a 3 week vacation, reinstating him as Chase/Points eligible.” She also brought up the fact that AJ Allmendinger, though his case was ‘drug – Adderall’ related, is a prime example. When he returned to racing, he was “out of luck” in terms of eligibility and the Chase. Patricia feels that “NASCAR down-played domestic violence compared to drug abuse in terms of seriousness”, especially seeing that AJ’s case wasn’t a ‘legal’ issue and was handled strictly through the NASCAR governing body.
- Patricia is especially aggravated with the fact that people are labeling her as a “gold-digger”, that she “provoked him”, was/is trying to “extort”, and that she is “very tired of hearing this and having to defend herself”. She stated that “Kurt lived with HER for 4 years and never paid a bill towards the living expenses” and that she “has built her own life and is a professional woman that can and does take care of her own needs, building herself from the ground up, just as the rest of us have in life.” She stated that she “tried to keep it quiet” but Kurt insisted on “going the route he chose or was advised to.”
- We discussed the amount of hateful and downright evil messages, Tweets, and mail that she has received. She is basically “annoyed” by this and commented that the “majority of it comes from NASCAR fans defending their driver and that she has been shown much love and support by her friends, community in general, and inner circle” and now only reads about half the comments from various outlets of hate, she ”just laughs it off”.
- When asked why there weren’t any pictures of her alleged injuries, she replied, “There are pictures/photos of my injuries, but I was advised not to release them until the trial” – which we now know won’t happen.
- She DID “seek assistance from the Chaplain the night of the incident and he administered first aid to her.” This has been greatly downplayed.
- She states that she is “moving on with her life and letting it go while Kurt is the one who is reopening and appealing” and that he should take heed as he was “given a free pass from NASCAR and why appeal a free pass?” And lastly, “Kurt is displaying the vicious cycle that people with depression and destructive behaviors classically exhibit, along with poor decision making and that she hopes he gets the help that is being offered/mandated.”
- She also finds it very odd that “Kurt’s key witnesses included two that he brought with him to the Daytona 500 for an all-expense paid trip and one that works for him.”
Michelle Hoskin: Do you feel that social media in general hinders or helps victims of domestic violence?
Patricia Driscoll: Both. Social media has the potential to help women tell their stories and encourage other victims of abuse to come forward. It also helps connect women to great organizations like the National Network to End Domestic Violence. But I’ve experienced first-hand, and I know so many others have as well, that it is more often used to bully and silence victims. In my case, since I have a pretty public profile, I probably experienced more of it in terms of sheer volume, but the viciousness is the same. They did everything from hound me on Twitter and Facebook to repeatedly vandalize my Wikipedia page. After a while I just had to stop looking.
MH: What do you feel social media could do in order to be more of a tool/resource for victims of domestic violence, instead of doing the opposite?
Patricia: I know so many victims of domestic abuse who fear that going public will cause permanent damage to their lives, their personal relationships, and their reputation. So there’s a natural hesitation to come forward at all, let alone using social media to encourage others to do the same. As far as what social media platforms can do, I think they could provide victims with more security as far as policing posts and comments that cross the line from free exchange to harassment and bullying. Strong opinions are one thing, but a lot of it goes beyond that.
MH: Rehabilitation/counseling plays a huge role in the treatment of the abusers in domestic abuse/violence. Do you feel that the victim also requires/needs assistance in terms of PTSD?
Patricia: Absolutely, the aftermath of an assault can be as traumatic as the assault itself. First there is the courage needed to come forward. Next, you have to deal with the attacks on your character, your past, your choices, and the people out to prove that you were “asking for it” or that somehow it’s your fault. Again, in my case, the sheer volume, and the attention from the media to wild accusations about me was outsized, but these are things a lot of victims deal with in more personal contexts. Then the victim has to stand tall through the pressure to back down. So in a lot of cases the PTSD framework is a useful way of looking at it. I can say that especially after my work with military families dealing with PTSD.
MH: He Said/She Said is typically what domestic abuse/violence boils down to when it comes to the justice system. If it’s not witnessed first-hand or there isn’t physical “proof”, the victim often is ‘stuck’ in terms of providing the burden of proof so to say, that abuse took place. Do you feel that placing such a huge burden on the victim sets him/her up for more public ridicule and increased abuse over-all, thus failure?
Patricia: Definitely. Too often there are cases where women go and hide after being abused and then it becomes a matter of He Said/She Said if they do eventually decide to come forward.
I had some comfort in knowing that there are photos and a witness that support the facts of what took place when I was assaulted, as well the testimony of several people who saw me afterwards that same night. Having the judge who heard my case affirm everything I said helps too. Look, we have an innocent until proven guilty criminal justice system, and I fully support that. But too many people seem to think that if criminal charges aren’t filed it means nothing happened. That’s not just a disservice to victims; it’s a basic misunderstanding of the system. The whole point is that it leans toward letting guilty people go free to prevent putting innocent people in jail.
In my case, the police who investigated my assault recommended that the state file criminal charges. For whatever reason and I’ll never really know, the state rejected that recommendation. I have heard a lot of people, including people I’ve worked with for years, who I thought were friends, say that somehow means I “falsely accused” my attacker. That’s ignorant and sad.
MH: What steps do you feel should be taken in order to protect the integrity of the “public profiled” victims in terms of their reputation when it comes to media coverage?
Patricia: Well in cases like mine there is only so much that can be done if you’re dealing with someone who is wealthy and powerful, and can hire lawyers and spin doctors to divert the public’s attention away from the facts of the case. It’s really disappointing to see the media give space to attacks on my integrity, especially when you notice that the facts of the assault itself are never challenged. As far as steps that can be taken, I think victims of domestic abuse should be given same protection as victims of sexual assault. By protecting the names of the victims and allowing the legal process to play out, it would go a long way towards upholding the personal integrity of each victim as well as encourage many other victims to come forward.
MH: “That Which I Love Destroys Me” & “Hidden Battles on Unseen Fronts” both deal with the struggles of PTSD in terms of the life of returning soldiers/families etc. Having been through a situation that also causes PTSD for many women/men, domestic violence, do you feel that you have a better idea of how to deal with/confront the demons of PTSD for yourself?
Patricia: Yes. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with service members and doctors who have taught me a lot about treatment, and what really works. The hard part is that I still have to go through it, which I know will be a tough battle.
MH: Do you feel that a PFA order actually does any good in terms of protecting victims? To some it seems it is regarded as a ‘piece of paper’…
Patricia: I know that my protective order gives me and my family protection wherever I go, as it’s recognized in all 50 states. This process of going before a judge and having him determine if abuse happened and then acting on it is important.
It’s important to have someone hear your case and hold your attacker responsible, to see your attacker put on notice that his actions will not be tolerated. Although it appears to be “just a piece of paper” it’s a piece of paper that has brought the abuse out of the darkness. It’s affirming and important to hear a judge say “No More.”
Note: Reports indicate some “86% of the women who received a protection order state the abuse either stopped or was greatly reduced.” (2)
MH: What would you have done differently in your own situation?
Patricia: I’ve thought about that question a lot. I don’t regret coming forward for a second, even though the consequences of coming forward have been hard to bear at times. Defending my personal integrity was more important.
The only thing I would do differently is—I gave my attacker a second chance. This was the second time he had hurt me. I didn’t report it the first time. So what I regret is that I listened to people around me that had enabled Kurt in the past, and waited longer than I should have to report the crime to the police.
I gave Kurt the option of getting the help he needs with mental health and substance abuse, instead of going straight to the police, as this wasn’t the first incident, but when it became clear he wasn’t going to do that on his own, I had to make sure this would be the last time this ever happened. I could never live with myself if he ended up hurting another woman and I had remained silent.
It shook me when the judge ruled that he believed Kurt was likely to assault someone again, as he stated in his order of protection. So I am grateful the judge saw the issues and ordered him to get help. I hope that he will do to the hard work like he did before and get himself back on track personally.
- Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 183781, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, at iv (2000), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/183781.htm
- James Ptacek, Battered Women in the Courtroom: The Power of Judicial Response (1999), (reviewed in Meda Chesney-Lind, James Ptacek, Battered Women in the Courtroom: The Power of Judicial Response, 35 Crime, L. & Soc. Change 363 (2001).