Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve, Renota and Saundra Brown were found dead in the basement of a home in Omaha, Nebraska. Saundra's boyfriend Fabian Hands was arrested in connection with their murders and the alleged rape and assault of Saundra Brown's daughter. According to KETV:

Police said they went to a home at 4213 N. 21st St. on Christmas Eve. When police entered the home, they discovered the bodies of two females in the basement. Also inside the home was a relative of the victims, who told officers that she had been sexually assaulted. While police talked to her, Hands came from the bedroom and allegedly assaulted her in front of police.

As tragic as the story is, what caught our attention were follow-up interviews with the perpetrator's brother:

In my heart of hearts, I know my brother wouldn't have sexually assaulted anyone.

Sandra and my brother, Fabian, were verbally abusive to one another and sometimes it got physically abusive to one another. They had a strange and unusual relationship. They would fight just to make up. They decided to stay together -- even him talking to me recently about getting married.

Fabian was like a sweet giant. He loved people. He loved life, and I know for a fact he loved Saundra.
There was known to be violence in the relationship, the bodies of his girlfriend and her sister were found in the basement, and police witnessed Hands assaulting his girlfriend's daughter. Yet his brother still cannot fathom that Hands would have perpetrated violence against a woman?

It is difficult to think that people we know and love are capable of such acts, but we know that, in Georgia, between 1/4 and 1/3 of all women will be abused or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Each of these assaults has a perpetrator, and though he may be your son, brother, childhood sweetheart, best friend from college, a deacon at your church, your financial planner, or the captain of your child's soccer team, that does not mean that he is not capable of violence. Batterers may look very different in public than they do at home, and one of the most important things that you can do to end domestic violence is to believe women when they disclose the abuse to you, and to stand with the survivors in demanding accountability for violence rather than making excuses for a criminal because he is "such a great guy."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rape is Rape is Rape

Earlier in the week this shocking notion was given a credible face in the UK. For those of you who don't want to visit the link, according to the Daily Mail, John Redwood (a former Tory cabinet minister and currently a senior Tory adviser) has stated in response to the UK's recent conversations on strengthening rape laws:
None of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion.
(emphasis added)

This comes just a few weeks after Tory leader David Cameron said this at the Conservative Women's Organisation:
We have a situation where rapists think they can get away with it, while victims fear not being believed and wonder what's the point of pursuing the criminal process. How can any civilised country, that sees the sanctity of consent to sex as a vital right for every woman, accept these facts?
Good question Mr. Cameron, too bad it is in contrast with the views of one of your top advisors. Redwood has declined to retract his statement and is adamant that anything he said falls in line with Cameron's views.

At least it appears the person in charge of overseeing rape policy (Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker) has it right.
I have made it clear that rape is rape, wherever it happens. It does not matter who commits it or what the circumstances are.

In fact, almost 90 per cent of rapes are committed by men who know their victims, so this type of rape is the biggest problem we have to deal with - not something to be dismissed as a lesser crime.
From the available data it is 73% in the United States .

There is a lot of discussion in the United States concerning the degrees of rape and the rapability of the victim. The attitudes of Redwood have surfaced here in the form of so-called "gray rape", which was popularized by Laura Sessions Stepp in Cosmopolitan magazine and is slowly but surely gaining ground in mainstream culture.The general consensus between Stepp and John Redwood seems to be that if you know him, and dare to be alone with him, he gets to rape you. Stepp casts "gray rape" as something different from date rape, but the scenario she describes is in fact the most typical known version of rape. In the story, she allegedly (her research methods have been found to be quite faulty/disingenuous) interviews a recent college graduate who tells the following story:

Alicia had asked another student, Kevin, to be her “platonic date” at a college sorority formal. The two of them went out for dinner first with friends and then to the dance. She remembers that they got drunk but not what she would call sloppy wasted.

After the dance, they went to Kevin’s room and, eventually, started making out. She told him flat out that she didn’t want it to proceed to sex, and he said okay. But in a few minutes, he had pushed her down on the couch and positioned himself on top of her.

“No. Stop,” she said softly — too softly, she later told herself. When he ignored her and entered her anyway, she tensed up and tried to go numb until it was over. He fell asleep afterward, and she left for her dorm, “having this dirty feeling of not knowing what to do or who to tell or whether it was my fault.” While it felt like rape to her — she had not wanted to have sex with Kevin — she was not sure if that’s what anyone else would call it.

“It fell into a gray area,” she said recently. “Maybe I wasn’t forceful enough in saying I didn’t want it.” Even today, she is reluctant to call it rape because she thinks of herself as a strong and sexually independent woman, not a victim.
Let us be clear, if the situation went down as described here, it. was. rape. End of story. If someone says no, and the other person proceeds anyway, it is rape. The only "gray area" is the artificial one created by rape apologists like Redwood and Stepp. Our popular culture and discourse surrounding women, men, femininity and masculinity already fosters a rape culture. We can't let this type of idiocy become public policy in the United States or abroad.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update on Aqsa Parvez

This morning the Herald Sun published this story highlighting more details of the tragic case of Aqsa Parvez which we first brought to you in a post yesterday.

It appears from the story that Parvez's father has been charged with second-degree murder and her brother has been charged with obstruction of justice. Reports from her friends also indicate that this was an on-going conflict and that Parvez had already moved out of the residence a few weeks prior, and only returned home on Monday to collect the remainder of her things.

At the very least, Canada's leaders (secular and Islamic) are recognizing this as part of a pervasive societal problem rather than an indictment of one religion.

But a spokesman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) said he is dubious of opinions the girl's death resulted from a clash of cultures.

"Teen rebellion is something that exists in all households in Canada and is not unique to any culture or background," CAIR-CAN's Sameer Zuberi told AFP.

"Domestic violence is also not unique to Muslims.''

The death of Parvez "was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to colour or creed", echoed Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association.

The two groups and 18 other Muslim groups in an open letter to prosecutors asked for the strongest possible prosecution of her killer, and "zero tolerance for violence of any kind against women or girls".

Inexcusable Journalism from the New York Post

If there was ever any doubt, the New York Post has provided us with concrete evidence that main stream culture doesn't take violence against women seriously. Here is their headline for an article regarding Ike Turner's recent passing.


Bear in mind someone doesn't just slap these headlines up. They have to be approved by a series of editors. This was considered the best possible headline for this story, not by just one idiot, but by a group of successful professionals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Developing Story just put up a link to the story from Toronto of a teenage girl allegedly murdered by her father in a dispute over wearing her hijab, which is a traditional Islamic headscarf.

Friends of the teenager identified her as Aqsa Parvez and said they were shocked by her death but said her family was very strict. “She got threatened by her father and her brother,” Dominiquia Holmes-Thompson told the newsaper. “He said that if she leaves, he would kill her.”

While this is not a case of spousal abuse, the threats above are eerily reminiscent of those leveled at women living in violent situations. This case illustrates why sweeping social change is so important if women are to be viewed as full human beings who have the right to live and make their own choices without fear.

So-called "honor killings" are not condoned by Islam regardless of the situation. This type of violence can only blossom if the surrounding secular cultural ideas support it. Women may be able to drive, but we are still in large part viewed as property which is why these terrible murders happen even in the West.

We at The Big Picture will be keeping tabs on the development of this story as details become available.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stalking is not the new yoga.

Twenty minutes later, we get our shot in profile. She’s aiming for incognito, with the hood of her sweater jacket up and the white winter hat pulled low on her forehead, but there’s no longer much point in trying to hide. We found her. Good thing it’s just us.
These chilling words are the final sentences of Becca Tucker's recent column in the New York Press entitled "I'll Be Watching You." Tucker alledges in her column that she is exploring the increase in celebrity stalking as it relates to the heightened amount of personal information available on the Internet. She picks Claire Danes as her subject and essentially stalks her for a few weeks, discerning her address, her usual breakfast spot, and other personal things about Ms. Danes that make tracking her a relatively easy task.

The principal idea for the column is a good one, and if Tucker had concentrated on how life-altering and terrifying being stalked is, then perhaps this blog entry would be praising her work. However, instead of centering her column on the experts she interviewed, or the disruption and fear that stalking causes for the victim, she essentially published a Martha Stewart style "how-to" guide for celebrity stalkers including what street Claire Danes lives on, and what search terms and websites one might use to find another person's street address. Even when she interviews behavioral experts on stalking, the language Tucker uses and the way she frames their quotes makes stalking look like a new trend or hobby rather than a deadly serious problem.

When she isn't giving would-be stalkers advice on how to pursue their victims, she's minimizing the effects and dangers of stalking.

The good news is, celebrity stalkers tend to be nonviolent. While it’s estimated that as many as 40 percent of stalkers do get physical, most of those instances involve grabbing, punching, slapping or fondling, and are targeting former intimate partners, not strangers. There have only been 17 recorded instances of homicide attempts by celebrity stalkers (see sidebar)—ever, anywhere in the world, according to Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and author of a 2006 case study of an obsessed fan who tried to kill Bjork, then killed himself.

Oh, only 17 people. Exactly how many people have to die before stalking is considered a violent crime? Notice that she skims over the affect of stalking on us regular folk. She also doesn't address the fact that most celebrities have security resources (bodyguards, etc.) that people like us generally don't have access to.

Between columns like these and the disgraceful merchandise shown below which was featured in a previous The Big Picture entry on Wal-Mart, it is clear that our society still views stalking as a harmless if somewhat annoying compliment rather than a violent intrusion.

To let the editors at NY Press know that stalking is not a joke, e-mail David Blum at

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Girl Shot 6 Times Protecting Her Mother

A 7-year-old-girl in Detroit was shot six times while attempting to shield her mother from an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Alexis Goggins, a first-grader at Campbell Elementary School, is in stable condition at Children's Hospital in Detroit recovering from gunshot wounds to the eye, left temple, chin, cheek, chest and right arm. The girl's mother, Selietha Parker, 30, was shot in the left side of her head and her bicep by a former boyfriend, who police said was trying to kill Parker.
Teens are especially likely to attempt to intervene in altercations while trying to protect their mothers, but this child was only 7, and the gunman was said to have "pumped" shots into her "without hesitation". Alexis and the gunman were separated when he arrived at her house with a firearm and the apparent intent to kill.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

If I could reach you . . .

In commemoration of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, TakeBackTheTech is collecting virtual postcards that portray women's responses to gender violence.

Check out all of the postcards here and submit your own. If you submit one, post it again in our comments!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TV Rebuff Costs Woman Her Life

Svetlana Orlova was separated from her abusive ex-boyfriend when she was invited to appear on a daytime talkshow.

Svetlana was shocked to find herself face to face with the man who had beaten her for years.

She was further stunned when he produced an engagement ring and proposed. Looking deeply uncomfortable, she shook her head.

The public rebuff cost her her life. Within days she had been stabbed to death and her former lover was under arrest for murder.

This is at least the fourth time that a woman in Spain has been killed after appearing on television to talk about domestic violence in her life. Women’s rights groups expressed outrage last week after a judge gave a reduced sentence to Mariano Navas, who stabbed his girlfriend in 2005, citing his “humiliation” on Patricia’s Daily Show as a mitigating factor.

Monday, November 26, 2007

16 Days of Activism

Sunday marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and was also the kick-off of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international
campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women's Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
  • raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
  • strengthening local work around violence against women
  • establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
  • providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
  • demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
  • creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
Over 2,000 organizations in approximately 154 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign since 1991. We encourage you to visit their website to learn more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Rape of Your Dreams

Did a 23-year old student from the University of Cincinnati accidentally consent to sex with a 52-year old HIV-positive homeless man near an entrance ramp to a major Ohio interstate?

That is the man's defense, that she gave her consent while sleepwalking.

Ford's lawyer, Jeff Adams, said prosecutors told him the woman takes prescription medication and has a sleepwalking condition, a fact that will likely be the core part of Ford's defense.

"It goes to consent," he said. "How is he to know she is sleepwalking, if it's a dream 'yes' or a real 'yes?'"
The victim was asleep when police responded to the scene, after being summoned by motorists who witnessed the assault. If the police could tell she was sleeping, why couldn't the assailant?

Monday, November 19, 2007

GA Boys Ages 8 and 9 Charged With Rape


ACWORTH, Ga. -- Three boys ages 8 and 9 were being held Monday in a detention center on charges of kidnapping and raping an 11-year-old girl in the woods near a suburban apartment complex, officials said.

The alleged attack happened Thursday and the girl's mother reported it to authorities Sunday, Acworth police Capt. Wayne Dennard said.

"The juvenile victim stated that an 8-year-old boy and two 9-year-old boys that she had been playing with earlier pulled her into a wooded area, where one of the boys raped her," Dennard said.

The three boys were charged with rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment and sexual assault, Dennard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Their names were being withheld because of their age.

Prosecutors have not decided whether to try the suspects as adults.
For those who would argue that we do not live in a culture that promotes and encourages violence against women, WRC asks you what would compel 8- and 9-year-olds to commit a sex crime. These children very obviously need as much help as the 11-year-old victim, but the idea to perpetrate this crime against a female playmate was given to them somewhere. They didn't just beat her up as they might another boy, but specifically chose to rape her. If this isn't a wake-up call for our community then I don't know what is.

Playboy's Sexiest Sportscasters

Playboy is hosting its second "America's Sexist Sportscaster" poll, and voting is currently underway on their website. ABC Sports Corespondent Suzy Shuster reflects on the ridiculousness of the list, as well as the double-standard to which women in sports-related fields are held. She writes:

That reminds me of one of the most bizarre and consternating moments of my career. On the way to a game at Ohio State a few years back, one of my ABC Sports broadcast colleagues, a former SEC Head Coach says to me out the blue, "Suzy, you think you'd do better in your career if you got a boob job?"

As insane as the question sounded at the time to me and my other partners, maybe he was on to something judging by the tone of the posts. It shouldn't take a $15,000 procedure to get ahead in the world of TV sports, but that seems to be the only thing being debated, not the quality and content of the reporting.
Read the full post here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Marital Rape on Oprah

Sexual assualt by a husband or partner has been long known to advocacy communities as a facet of domestic violence, but it wasn't until 1993 that rape within a marriage became a crime in all 50 states. Before these laws were passed, it was generally believed by the legal system that, once married, a woman gave irrovocable consent to sexual activity of any type at any time with her husband.

"It doesn't matter if you're wearing a wedding ring" says Lisa Bloch Rodwin, an attorney who prosecuted a landmark case in New York where a husband was sentenced to 50 years in prison for raping his wife. "It doesn't matter if he's the father of your children. It doesn't matter if you've been living together for 20 years. If somebody is threatening you or forcing you or you are fearful that you have to do this, it's rape. It's as if somebody pulls you under a bush in the dark with a knife at your throat."
Yesterday, The Oprah Winfrey Show gave national attention to the issue on a show devoted to two women who chose to share their stories of marital rape. You can see clips and transcripts of the show here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Big Brother Africa Airs Sexual Assault

South Africa has the world's highest rate of sexual assault with 1.7 million women sexually assaulted each year, only most of the assaults aren't broadcast on national television. Last week, the popular African version of Big Brother broadcast an episode featuring one cast member penetrating another cast member's vagina with his fingers while she was clearly unconscious and unable to consent.

M-Net, which airs the show to a million-plus subscribers in South Africa, disputes the audience's version of events in the Big Brother house in Johannesburg, saying that if a "non-consensual physical relationship" began there, the producers - Endemol SA - would have intervened. "There is no indication that she was unconscious at the time," said Joseph Hundah, an executive at M-Net.

However, viewers of the incident, which took place on Saturday afternoon after an extended drinking bout which ended in copious vomiting and apparent blackout for Molokwu, remain adamant about what they saw: Bezuidenhout lay down next to the comatose young woman and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. He carried on despite the pleas of another female housemate for him stop. Under the law in South Africa - where, on average, a woman is sexually assaulted every 40 seconds - such an act constitutes rape.

Bezuidenhout, who is married, finally desisted and went off to sit by himself while drunkenly sniffing his fingers. At this point the producers of the show did intervene, sending paramedics into the house and cutting the live feed.

When confronted about his attack, Bezuidenhout responded, "Well, this is Africa."

Friday, November 2, 2007

TV Show Seeking to Exploit Battered Women

We received the following email this morning:

Recently the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence has become aware of a new television show that appears to be seeking to exploit battered women.

Last month GCADV received a fax on letterhead from the Jerry Springer Show endorsing The Steve Wilkos Show, a nationally syndicated television show. In the letter, Mr. Wilkos described himself as a passionate former police officer and military man cares about tough issues such as domestic violence. He stated that he intended to highlight the issues of battered women during DV Awareness Month. He also asked for us to refer to him women interested in telling their stories on national television. The fact that this came on Jerry Springer’s letterhead caused GCADV to elect not to distribute the appeal.

This week, the Steve Wilkos Show sent another appeal (attached). The show now wants to find battered women who have made the decision to leave their batterer. They want to film the entire act of leaving and they want to “confront” the batterer. Producers, allegedly lead one shelter program to believe that during the “escape” the children would be left behind, although this is not evident in the advertisement.

You can get a hint of the Springer-like atmosphere of the show by going to his website and watching a short clip. In his myspace page, it is apparent that Mr Wilkos intends to build his new show around the misfortunes of others and make himself look like a rescuer.

GCADV believes this show can be dangerous for battered women.

In the event you are notified by the Steve Wilkos Show, we encourage you to refuse to discuss helping them find victims (of any sort). We also believe it will be effective for all programs to become pro-active and get as many people as possible to call NBC Universal. The number is 312-321-5936. Ask for Associate Producer April Altenritter. The FAX is 312-321-5363. The Assistant is Tanya at 312-321-5373. Please express disgust over using victims for commercial gain. To be effective, it will take a lot of calls.

If you have any questions or concerns that we can answer or research, please do not hesitate to call GCADV at 404-209-0280.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Suicide - A Solution for Victims?

Many times when we talk to community groups about domestic violence, women insist that they would kill their partners rather than endure prolonged abuse. In the UK we are seeing a different shift: women killing themselves rather than allowing their partners to do it.

A large number of Asian women in Britain are committing suicide by taking to railway tracks, a report has revealed. One third of the total suicides in Britain now happen on a particular stretch of track going through Southall, west London, which has a large Asian community...

A women’s rights organisation, Southall Black Sisters, has claimed that domestic violence is forcing more and more Asian women in Britain to commit suicide on railway tracks. "The high instance of Asian women suicides is linked to abusive practices within Asian families. There is a correlation between these suicides and violence in homes. Psychiatric research has shown there are rarely cases of mental disorders in these cases, suggesting they are the result of social circumstances. These women are often isolated and find it hard to escape."
It is also true in this country that immigrant victims of domestic violence become isolated and are afraid to report abuse because of the risk of police harrassment or deportation. If the victim doesn't speak English, well or at all, this additionally complicates her ability to escape. This truth also applies to other minority populations who do not traditionally trust the police or the court system, and therefore would not seek their assistance if they chose to leave.

We would love to hear comments from our colleagues at Tapestri, Caminar Latino, The Center for Pan Asian Community Services, and others about how members of these often isolated populations can work against domestic violence in their communities.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Being a Woman

The objectification of women in both rock music and video games has been discussed over and over again, but what is interesting in this post by Cara at The Curvature is her description of the hurt that she felt when she was confronted with it unsuspectingly. Warning: the article linked contains some strong language.

Cara writes:

Unlike most similar horrors that I run across, I don’t know how to be cute or sarcastic about this. Because I take it personally. Very personally. I’ve sunk a lot of money into this game. I’ve invested a lot of time and effort. I just spent $50 on this thing, which, for the record, I couldn’t really afford. And I get the game home to have it say to me “oh, by the way — we hate you.”

I’m more than pissed off. I’m hurt. I feel like I don’t exist. . .

I’m sure that many of you out there can relate — have seen shows, or book series, music, etc. that you love and have been faithful to suddenly turn against you without notice, attack you with misogynist or racist imagery/ideas. It seems silly on the surface, but it is violating and painful. I genuinely do feel betrayed right now, like I’ve been handing my money and loyalty to someone who doesn’t want to admit that I even exist.

I still haven’t been able to bring myself to play.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Forced Pregnancy as Abuse

Sometimes the articles we post won't need any commentary from us. This is one of those times:


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Not DV If She Liked It

A judge on Friday acquitted a Maryland man of an assault on his girlfriend in the parking lot of a gas station because she refused to testify against him. It isn't at all uncommon that domestic violence victims refuse to testify against their partners in court, for fear of retribution, because incarceration would remove her family's source of income, or for other reasons. This case was different, however, because a police officer witnessed the assault.

Judge Paul Harris's excuse for acquittal:
The judge said that without the woman's testimony, he could not be sure that she hadn't consented to the attack. "You have very rare cases; sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up."
Because the victim wasn't willing to testify, despite other witnesses, the judge assumed that the attack was welcomed and that a violent man should therefore go free. Other legal experts disagree:

"Unless he found that the officer was not credible, it appears that there would be enough by which a typical fact-finder, a reasonable fact-finder, would have found the element of second- degree assault to exist in that case beyond a reasonable doubt," Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said. "The notion that you can't possibly try this case without the victim there is incorrect. What would we do in a murder case?"
Later Harris said the sadomasochist comment was intended as a hypothetical. "I'm probably as against domestic violence as anybody, when the case is proven." Comforting.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Remembrance

Tonight, Women's Resource Center will hold our 16th Annual Candlelight Vigil, where we will read aloud the names of 70 individuals whose lives were taken in the past year in incidents of domestic violence. Statistics show that somewhere between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 women in Georgia will experience abuse by an intimate partner during her lifetime. Georgia also ranks 7th in the country in the number of women killed by men.

Please join us and approximately 200 other community members as we remember these women, men, and children. The Vigil will take place at the Decatur Gazebo behind the historic courthouse at 101 East Court Square beginning at 7pm. If you cannot attend, please observe a moment of silence and solidarity at 7:30, when we will begin the candlelighting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vote Expected Today on Amendment Harmful to Immigrant Surivivors

Via the National Immigrant Justice Center:

Vote expected today: Senator Vitter has offered a harmful amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill that would undercut community policing and endanger public safety, particularly the safety of immigrants who are victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Sen. Vitter's amendment #3277 (read it here) attempts to deny Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding to cities and states that pledge not to ask about the immigration status of crime victims and witnesses.

Both Legal Momentum, an advocacy organization for women and girls, and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) sent letters to senators this morning warning that battered immigrants would be hurt by the proposed legislation.

"Victims of domestic violence need to trust the police to seek assistance, but fear of being reported to immigration officials is one of the most significant factors preventing immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking from seeking help," writes Lisalyn Jacobs, Legal Momentum's vice president of government relations.

NAESV President Monika Johnson Hostler points out that sexual assault is already one of the most under-reported crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, she says, only 36% of rape and sexual assault victims report the crime to the police. "As a result, NAESV absolutely opposes this measure which will create additional barriers to victims coming forward," she writes.
Contact your senators and explain that the Vitter amendment #3277 will harm our cities by decreasing support for law enforcement and public safety. The Senate switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Domestic Violence Memorial Vandalized

A memorial display for Domestic Violence Awareness Month at a Wisconsin Women's Center has been vandalized. The display consisted of 21 full-sized purple silhouettes representing those killed in that county in domestic violence fatalities. Sometime on Sunday, a vandal or vandals snapped off one of the silhouettes at the legs. Another one was knocked over and had an arm broken off.

"I don't know if this is some horrible prank" or worse, said Mary Hennis, the director of counseling services for the Women's Center.

The worst part, Hennis said, is that someone might have been trying to frighten women at the center, or "re-victimize" the families of those killed in domestic violence incidents.
This malicious act of destruction reminds us that there are individuals in our communities who continue to think that violence is acceptable, and who want to share that message with us in a hurtful and harmful way. We stand in solidarity with our sisters in Wisconsin, and will remember them at our own domestic violence memorial on Thursday evening.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Preaching the End of DV

In an insightful post, blogger Bob Carlton calls for pastors and youth pastors (mostly male) to be more Jesus-like by taking a stand against domestic violence:

What I am saying is that:

  • perpetuating a mindset where women are treated like property
  • where masculinity is equated with power and dominion
  • where jocularity and "radical" trappings are used to mask privilege and oppression
all of these things are the breeding grounds for the manner in which religion is far too often a co-conspirator in the domestic violence that is rampant in our world.

Rather than swaggering proudly as a provocateur, how Jesus-like would it be if pastors & youth ministers - who are still predominately male - used their pulpits to draw awareness to the epidemic and to encourage people who follow their word to use [community resources].

Rather than use our power to bully or sit silently or perpetuate violence, how Jesus-like would it be if men of faith worked to end violence and include women to their rightful place as 'full humans, emotional and rational, leading and being led, protecting and protected, gifted and limited".
We encourage everyone to visit his blog for the full post.

Follow-up: We also encourage you to read these remarks by Reverend Casper James Green, made at a domestic violence awareness rally.

... Let us rally today, in the hope of domestic peace, and the assurance that it is never God's will that anyone of God's precious children, whether boys or girls, men or women, old or young - it is never God's intention - to use boyfriends and husbands as instruments of divine punishment or retribution. It is never God's intention that anyone live in fear in their own home. It is never the intention of God that anyone should live in captivity and fear. So let us rally in the hope of domestic peace, knowing that peace in our time is God's will. Let us rally in the hope of domestic peace, knowing that the kingdom of God is not reflected in notions about the home being a man's castle. Let us rally in the hope of domestic peace, knowing if you are a Christian, that Christ came to bring peace to you; knowing that if you are Jewish, that the peace of the house is the shalom of right relationships; knowing that if you are Muslim, that in Islam is peace; knowing even if you are not sure what you believe, or if do not believe, that there can be no justification, no excuse, no rationalization for harming those you have made a solemn promise to love.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who Pays?

In a what we intended to be a more lighthearted post, we wanted to take a look at this article from the New York Times that discusses the difficulties that high-earning professional women face when dating. What does it say about our society that men can be so threatened by their female partner's earning power that it is the sole reason for ending a relationship?

The lightheartedness ends, however, when we remember the many women who come to us with no financial resources to begin a new life of safety, because her husband or partner insisted on being the sole breadwinner. We can't help but think that the mindsets are connected, and that it is no surprise that some men can't relinquish that feeling of power that he has in a relationship where he is the "provider."

Financial abuse is not new, but abusers are learning to use more creative means in asserting their control. For instance, we are seeing a new population of women who are victims of identity theft by their partners, and are now dealing with the long-term credit consequences of that abuse.

We challenge you to examine the ways that money is handled in your household. Does one party make all the decisions regarding how it is spent? Does your partner try to prevent you from working outside the home if you want? If so, it may be time to look honestly at other aspects of your relationship too. If what you discover raises some questions, you can call our 24-hour hotline at 404-688-9436 to speak to an advocate.

Can brain damage cause domestic violence?

A string of articles available online last week question if possible brain damage caused by numerous concussions in the ring may be the cause of the Benoit family murder-suicide. Our question is this: can external factors like steroids, brain damage, or even alcohol use cause domestic violence?

International Tribunal to Consider US Domestic Violence Case

An international human rights tribunal has accepted a petition by a US mother of three small girls who were murdered by her estranged husband after local police refused to act. The case marks the first time the tribunal has indicated that countries in the Americas, including the US, may be responsible for protecting victims from private acts of violence under the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the human rights doctrine adopted in 1948. Visit The Feminist Majority Foundation for the full story.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Some Call It Stalking, I Call It Love

Now being sold at Walmart. These shirts, marketed at teens and young adults, are clearly sending the message that stalking isn't dangerous, but is instead proof of love. But far from simply not wanting to be apart, stalking can be terrifying and haunting for its victims. A stalking victim quoted in the above article had this to say:

"People don't realize how serious stalking is," she said. "You
constantly live in fear, look over your shoulder and suffer from psychological
and physical symptoms due to the stress of the stalker."

She wondered aloud: What's next? "Some say it's rape, I call it hot sex"? Or: "Some call it domestic violence, I say I'm just teaching her a lesson"?
As of today, we have found no indication that Walmart has taken the shirts off the racks, even after numerous complaints have been filed. If you are as outraged as we are, feel free to give the Walmart Corporate Headquarters a call or an email to let them know what you think.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Italian Policewomen Get High Heels

Some 14,750 Italian policewomen received high heels this week as part of an attempt to make their uniforms look "younger and sexier."

You might be asking why this topic is raised on a domestic violence blog, but we wanted to examine the motives behind a decision that would make female police officers look sexier while impeding their ability to do their jobs effectively. Are Italian police departments saying that it is more important for female officers to look pretty than it is for them to combat crime? And what values is this communicating to women in Italy? Maybe that their ultimate value, even over professional success, comes from their attractiveness?

How might this relate to domestic violence? Does viewing women as nothing more than sex objects somehow contribute to society's acceptance of violence toward them? And even though Italy is considered a fashion capital of the world, is it so far-fetched to imagine something similar happening here?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why is violence her fault?

We often get asked why women stay in violent relationships, as if a woman's decision to stay with the person she loves somehow makes her responsible for all of the violence she has endured. David Cox at the Guardian poses the same question about rape:

Rape isn't the only crime that's unresponsive to law enforcement. We don't imagine that prosecuting drug dealers will solve the drugs problem. We urge their potential victims to "just say no". We advise that those receiving emails from Nigeria that promise large sums of money in return for smaller upfront payments should exercise caution.

When our houses are burgled, we're hardly more likely than rape victims to see the intruder end up behind bars. So what do we do? We fit locks to our doors and windows. We keep our valuables out of sight.

To suggest any comparable behaviour in the field of rape is considered outrageous. Yet, why shouldn't women be encouraged to think twice before visiting footballers' hotel rooms late at night? Why shouldn't they be advised that to get themselves into a drunken stupor in the company of a frisky male could carry risks? Whatever the polite classes may feel, a large proportion of the population continues to see sense in such admonitions.
With whom do you think the responsibility should lie? Is it her fault if she "puts herself" in a potentially unsafe situation? And what if a woman stays with her abusive partner? Does she then deserve the violence she faces?

When did torture become sexy?

We first got our idea for creating a blog when our staff began reading about a backlash against the advertising campaign for the movie Captivity. So even though the fervor has died down and the movie is out of theaters, we still wanted to post about it briefly.

In her article at the Huffington Post, Jill Soloway described the billboards she saw as she was taking her young son to school:

The first image had a black-gloved hand over her mouth, titled CAPTURE. Next, her eyes begged for rescue as her mascara ran and her bloody finger tried to pry its way out of a cage, titled CONFINEMENT.

In the next picture, titled TORTURE, she was encased in a strange mask, with tubes coming out of her nose, draining blood.

The last frame was Elisha, may her career rest in peace after posing for this, hanging dead, lying on her back with one breast prominently displayed. The word in this frame was TERMINATION.
What's the big deal, right? It's just a horror movie. Jill's assessment:

This wasn't just horror, this wasn't just misogyny... it was a grody combo platter of the two, the torture almost a punishment for the sexiness.
So when did torture become sexy? We've seen it in a gradual movement leading to Hostel, a film that explicitly associated torture and violence with erotic gratification, but this is the first time that we've seen a torture film marketed in such a way. Joss Wheadon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had this to say about the film in his own letter to the MPAA:

I've watched plenty of horror - in fact I've made my share. But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered. . .

But this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It's like being mugged (and I have been). These people flouted the basic rules of human decency. God knows the culture led them there, but we have to find our way back and we have to make them know that people will not stand for this.
The backlash, described in Soloway's article and in news and entertainment pieces across the nation, reached a fever pitch, with tens of thousands of calls and letters made to the MPAA.

How can we create movement like this in our own community?

Welcome to the Big Picture

In June, WRC introduced our community to Snapshots, an original theatre production that told the true stories of domestic violence survivors who came into contact with our Center. Each story showcased the strength of a woman who endured violence, or a child who witnessed violence, and inevitably led the audience to question why abuse was still so prevalent in 2007.

In answering this question, we must move from looking at snapshots of individual lives, to examining the bigger picture of systems, values, and social trends that perpetuate violence against women. Though every woman's story is important, and though each batterer should be held accountable for his actions, there is a larger piece to the puzzle that we hope to put together here.

This is a new endeavor with lots of possibilities, but we are counting on you for its success. We are challenging you, our readers, to keep your minds open and to be willing to consider new ideas, but also to question us if you don't understand or disagree. We want to create genuine community dialogue, and we encourage you to post comments, or to suggest story ideas by emailing Please tell your friends and colleagues about our site and check back weekly for updates.

From everyone at Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, welcome to The Big Picture!