Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Trapped by the Economy

A few weeks ago, the Associated Press published a story about couples who have divorced or separated, but cannot afford to begin separate households and thus are forced to continue living together.

Running into your ex is almost always awkward and stressful. David Snyder and Nancy Partridge deal with it nearly every day.

The Denver couple divorced after six years of marriage but have been forced to live together for months because they can't sell their place or afford to set up separate households in this slumping economy.

Snyder gets the master bedroom, while Partridge gets a smaller one. Snyder watches TV on one end of the house, Partridge on the other. The two split the grocery bill and kitchen duties. Sometimes they eat dinner together, sometimes apart. There are awkward silences, or worse.

"We've had tremendous arguments over things like who gets to park in the garage, but at this point, it's kind of settling down into a routine," said Partridge, 45, who works in public relations. "It's the lesser of two evils. I think the financial stress of a foreclosure, which would probably also lead to a bankruptcy, would be worse."

With the recession and the collapse of the housing market, more and more couples who have broken up are continuing to live under the same roof, according to judges and divorce lawyers. Some are waiting for housing prices to rebound; some are trying to get back on their feet financially.
For some couples, continuing to reside together is not just inconvenient, but dangerous. This is why domestic violence safe house programs are so important. Women are often asked why they do not leave their abusive partners and financial concerns are one of the top reasons cited. The choice between violence and homelessness is not an easy one, and it is a choice no one should have to make.

Monday, December 22, 2008

If you need support . . .

The holidays can be stressful for everyone, but staying physically and emotionally safe during holiday events can be especially difficult for those in abusive relationships. Women's Resource Center operates a 24-hour hotline (which will be in operation on all holidays) that you or someone you know can call if you need to plan for your safety, ask questions about services or your legal options, or just talk to someone confidentially about your feelings and what you are experiencing at home. We also offer two free, confidential support groups each week at our Decatur office where women come to receive support from other women like them. You can get more information about our support groups by calling our hotline at (404) 688-9436.

May you enjoy a happy holiday and a new year of domestic peace.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back Under the Rug

It has taken many years for the anti-violence movement to convince our communities that domestic violence is not just a private family matter. Apparently, we haven't done enough.

Yesterday, CNN ran an article on their website entitled Couple's private wars, public battlegrounds. Though the title sounds encouraging, the content is little more than an excuse for admonishing couples for arguing in public.

Though the article is not exactly addressing domestic violence, it is problematic in the way that it normalizes verbal abuse and simply advises couples to do their arguing behind closed doors where no one else will be bothered. Victims of domestic violence are often silenced in our society, by their partners, family and friends, and by society when they receive messages like these. Rather than advising women to keep their problems to themselves, we should be encouraging them to seek help and support.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Teaching Men

Much like the work done by our partner organization Men Stopping Violence, several colleges are shifting the focus of their anti-violence work from protecting women to training men.

Tyler Jones was tipping back a couple of beers with friends at a Dinkytown bar when he suddenly had to take a stand.

"Hey, see that girl over there?" Jones recalled an acquaintance asking, nodding toward a woman he wanted to take home. "She's almost drunk. Not quite drunk enough. ... What shot should I buy her?"

There was a time, Jones says, when he might have laughed off the remark. Not anymore.

"You want to buy her something really strong to like, basically knock her out?" Jones, a University of Minnesota senior, recalled saying. "Man, that's not right. That's rape. That's sexual assault."

The acquaintance looked stunned. "Whatever," he mumbled, and walked away.

It was one moment at one bar. But it's also a sign of a big shift in strategy on campuses trying to tackle a culture that some say tolerates sexual assault. Instead of teaching women not to walk alone at night or to carry Mace, some colleges are trying something much harder -- changing college men. Jones, fresh from sex assault prevention training, is in the vanguard of the movement.

"The fact of the matter is that prevention comes down to, largely, males. Because males are primarily the ones perpetrating these crimes," said Lauren Pilnick, sexual violence education coordinator at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

More than one in five female students reported that they had experienced an actual or attempted sexual assault, according to a 2007 survey at 14 Minnesota colleges and universities. Nationally, one group estimates the ratio is as high as one in four female students while at college.

Colleges are turning to programs that strive to sensitize college men to sexual misconduct, and there is evidence of some success. First-year fraternity men who saw a specific rape prevention program were nearly half as likely to commit a sexually coercive act as those who didn't, according to a 2007 study co-authored by John Foubert, a professor who developed the nonprofit One in Four, a group aimed at changing male behavior.

Of about 80 campuses receiving Department of Justice grants to address sexual assault and other issues, about 20 have full-fledged men's programs, while almost all the others are on their way to starting them, according to one administrator. In Minnesota, schools including the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Cloud State University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Carleton College are starting men's groups or have them in place.

Some male students at Bemidji State University are involved in a community men's group that has met on campus.

The efforts aren't limited to schools. The Army announced a program in September encouraging soldiers to "intervene, act, and motivate" if they see signs of activity that could lead to sexual assault.

There has been "an interest in getting men involved, men being interested in being involved and a feeling amongst people who had worked in this arena that it was about time," said Frank Jewell, co-coordinator of the Minnesota Men's Action Network, a group initiated by the state Department of Health a few years ago to prevent sexual and domestic violence.

No easy task

Male groups are not a new idea, but colleges and universities are putting new emphasis on them. Getting college men to talk seriously and think about how sexual assault is portrayed around them is no easy task, though.

Jill Lipski Cain leads that conversation about five times a month, sometimes in front of Jones' fraternity. The violence prevention education coordinator at the University of Minnesota's Aurora Center, which focuses on sexual assault, she opens the discussion with a slide show of jaw-dropping statistics, images and sounds.

One magazine advertisement features a gaunt teenage-looking girl in a bikini top, a tube of perfume placed in her cleavage. "Apply generously to your neck," the text reads, "so he can smell the scent while you shake your head 'no.'"

One after another, more ads flash: Women with short skirts and spread legs, muscular men restraining women, scantily clad women posed as if dead.

Overhead, music thumped while the lyrics coached, "Pop a little champagne and a couple E's. Slip it in her bubbly."

Lipski Cain asked: "Is it really sex that is being sold or are there elements of rape in it that's presented to you as sex?"

The answer seemed obvious. But the definition of what constitutes sexual assault wasn't so clear. Students are told they must get consent before having sex. And under state law, someone who is incapacitated can't give that consent, violence prevention leaders said.

Men and women also use different communication styles, educators point out. A woman may not say no to sex, but may freeze up in response to a guy's advances, for instance. That is communicating "no," they say.

The key is to always ask, educators say.

And then there's language some guys use: "banging" their girlfriends, for instance.

"How do you think perpetrators talk about sex?" Lipski Cain asked. "What are we tolerating when we just let a comment or a joke slip by?"

Rob Leeson, a sophomore fraternity member, found the discussion enlightening. "It kind of opens your eyes to what our culture is like," he said. "You kind of pay more attention to those little things you never thought about before."

Expecting challenges

At St. Cloud State, a group of eight male volunteers are committed to trying to make other guys think. Once a week for three weeks they huddled in the basement of the campus Women's Center for training.

Chuck Derry, co-coordinator with Jewell of the Minnesota Men's Action Network, led the training and told the men they are in a unique position to bring about change, but they should expect to be challenged. Men will dwell on scenarios where women seem to be asking for sex, he said. If a woman is dressed suggestively, drinking heavily and rubbing against men on a dance floor, some men will say she's stupid to expect that guys won't try to have sex with her.

Ben Hedlund, a graduate student and Male Peer Education Program Coordinator, suggested turning the logic around in that case: "So you're telling me that a woman is stupid not to think of you as a vulture. Are you telling me that you're a vulture, too?"

Derry told the group they'd have to prepare answers for all types of arguments from men who are reticent to believe the sex assault statistics.

"They're getting all these messages that say that women are bitches and ho's and sexual objects," Derry said. The challenge is to get men to understand the ties between casual comments and a tolerance for violence, he said.

No overnight changes

For Jones, who is helping start a similar campus men's group, the spur to action came partly because his sister arrived as a freshman on the University of Minnesota this fall.

As Jones grew up, his mother let him know that she disapproved of jokes and comments that degraded women. But when he got to college, it was easy to just act like one of the guys and let comments slip by. When the staff at the Aurora Center approached him about starting a men's group, he decided it would also be a good opportunity to promote change and fight stereotypes about fraternities.

And he was exactly the type of guy the staff was looking for: popular in the Greek community, a leader in Delta Tau Delta, someone with instant credibility among other guys.

"When I talk about it, every once in a while people still kind of laugh it off," Jones said. But he said many guys tell him they respect what he's doing.

He understands he won't be changing the world overnight.

"It's going to take time. It's going to take commitment," he said. "Every once in a while if I can get one person, that's one more person that didn't think that way before."
We've long argued that domestic violence will end when men can be persuaded not to batter. We are confident that programs like these will play a large part in that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Objectifying Women Hurts Men

A new research study out last month found that men who few objectifying images of women actually have in increase in their own body self-consciousness.

In her first study, Aubrey measured male exposure to 'lad' magazines, such as Maxim, FHM and Stuff, which she observes contains two main messages: the visual, which mostly contain sexually suggestive images of women; and textual, which contain articles that speak in a bawdy, male voice about topics including fashion, sex, technology and pop culture. Aubrey also measured male body self-consciousness (a participant's awareness and tendency to monitor one's appearance) and appearance anxiety (the anticipation of threatening stimuli). Participants were asked questions such as "During the day, I think about how I look," and then asked the same questions a year later.

"We found that reading lad magazines was related to having body self-consciousness a year later," said Aubrey. "This was surprising because if you look at the cover of these magazines, they are mainly images of women. We wondered why magazines that were dominated by sexual images of women were having an effect of men's feelings about their own bodies."

To help answer this question, Aubrey collaborated with University of California-Davis Assistant Professor Laramie Taylor. The researchers divided male study participants into three groups. Group one examined layouts from lad magazines that featured objectified women along with a brief description of their appearances. The second group viewed layouts about male fashion, featuring fit and well-dressed male models. The final group inspected appearance-neutral layouts that featured topics including technology and film trivia.

"Men who viewed the layouts of objectified females reported more body self-consciousness than the other two groups," Aubrey said. "Even more surprising was that the male fashion group reported the least amount of body self-consciousness among the three groups."
This is yet another example of why violence against women is not just a "women's issue," but is instead a people issue. We've seen how violence hurts everyone, and now we see how the objectification of women hurts everyone. Join the violence against women movement not just because of the women in your life, but for your nephews, sons, and grandsons too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Teens Killed at Greenbriar Mall

Today, from CBS46 in Atlanta:

ATLANTA -- Gunfire rang out in the holiday shopping season at an Atlanta area mall Saturday afternoon and sent two people to the hospital.

The shooting happened inside Greenbriar Mall in southwest Atlanta where shoppers ran for cover fearing for their safety.

Police said three or four shots were fired and when the gunfire ended, two people were injured with wounds to their legs.

The unidentified victims are described as a black male and female in their late teens.

They were taken by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital.

“I think that's very tragic. It's a tragic circumstance and hopefully they'll find out who it was that did it and bring that person to justice,” said shopper D'Andre Green.

Police said the victims knew the gunman and believe it's a domestic incident and at the time of the accident there were about six or seven officers on the premises.

According to the general manager there were additional officers posted, including bike units, because of the holiday shopping. He say this shooting happened despite security presence.

“It's very hard to defend against those kinds of random acts of violence,” said Mike Weinberger.
Stories like these, which seem so common, remind us that domestic violence is not just a family matter, but instead spills out into the greater community in some very dangerous ways. In fact, at our candlelight vigil in October, we read the names of 7 innocent bystanders - family members, friends or strangers - who were killed in the previous year in the state of Georgia during domestic violence homicides. This number does not include the 5 children of victims and/or perpetrators who were also killed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Newnan Mother Warns about DV

From 11Alive News in Atlanta:

NEWNAN, Ga. -- It's too late for Michela Duplechain, but she's speaking out to warn others about the deadly toll of domestic violence. Last Sunday she lost her only son and her husband in a murder-suicide.

"I wouldn't have married a demon," she said. "I wouldn't have put my son in harms way if I thought that I was marrying someone that wanted to hurt us so bad, wanted to kill us and would do this to us."

Michela met 44-year-old Reginald Hines last March when he walked into the Coweta County barbershop she runs. They fell in love, but she says it wasn't long before he began physically and verbally abusing her.

She took out a court restraining order in September, but he begged forgiveness and she took him back. They married on October 7. She thought she could change him.

"No matter how much you love them, you can't change them and I realize that now," she said. "I hate that it had to come to this point where I lost my husband and my only child."

Her 14-year-old son, Anthony Olbert, Jr. called his new step-father "pop", but she says he was aware of the violence. He sent her a cell phone message on her birthday last month encouraging her and saying he'd always be there for her. Now he's gone.

Sunday afternoon she was moving some furniture out of her home to take to a relative, furniture she says they really didn't need. But then her husband drove up, pulled out a gun and began shooting.

She thinks he feared she was about to move out on him, but isn't really sure what triggered the sudden outburst of violence. When it ended, her son, Tony, was dead and her husband had shot and killed himself. He had also fired at her, but missed.

"When the bullets were coming at me," she told 11Alive News, "when I was running down the street and none of them hit me, I feel that this is my purpose. God put me right here to share my story to save somebody's life, maybe before the holidays."

Michela's cousin called us saying she wanted to go public with her story to warn others. "Look for the warning signs," Michela told us, "Do not stay, do not think in your mind that you deserve this...turn to God, look for the signs, listen to the advice of your loved ones who haven't done you any harm...and leave."

Michela's family has set up a fund in memory of her son. It's the Anthony Olbert, Jr. Memorial Fund at any Bank of America branch.

If you feel you are in an abusive situation like this, you may seek help from the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Their hotline number is 1-800-33HAVEN.
You can also reach Women's Resource Center on our hotline at (404) 688-9436. Read about our services on our website.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Women With Disabilities At More DV Risk

Study shows that women with disabilities are more likely to experience intimate partner violence.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study shows that women with a disability are far more likely to experience a physical assault by a spouse or other intimate partner than those without a disability.

Intimate partner violence is "an understudied issue in much need of attention," Dr. Brian Armor, who led the study, told Reuters Health. "We need to ensure that prevention initiatives designed to reduce intimate partner violence explicitly include the needs of adults with disabilities (e.g. ensuring shelters are accessible).

To estimate disability prevalence and differences in intimate partner abuse among women with and without a disability, Armor and his colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, analyzed data from the CDC's 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System -- a large annual telephone survey of Americans designed to monitor the prevalence of key health behaviors.

They found that women with a disability were significantly more likely than women without a disability to report experiencing some from of intimate partner violence in their lifetime (37.3 percent versus 20.6 percent).

Women with a disability were more likely to report ever being threatened with violence (28.5 percent vs 15.4 percent) and hit, slapped, pushed, kicked or physically hurt (30.6 percent vs. 15.7 percent) by an intimate partner.

Women with a disability were also much more apt to report a history of unwanted sex by an intimate partner (19.7 percent vs 8.2 percent).

"Future work is needed to get at why" this is so, said Armor, who reported the findings today at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in San Diego.

"Perhaps, women with disabilities are vulnerable to intimate partner violence because their disability might limit mobility and prevent escape; shelters might not be available or accessible to women with disabilities; the disability might adversely affect communication and thus the ability to alert others or the perpetrator might control or restrict the victim's ability to alert others to the problem."

Fear is another possibility, Armor said. "That is, a catch-22, stemming from reliance on the perpetrator for caregiving needs that might go unmet or lead to some form of undesirable placement if they tell authorities."

He concluded, "Since intimate partner violence is a public help problem, we need to ensure that prevention strategies for people with disabilities are widely adopted."
If you or a woman you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call our hotline at (404) 688-9436 to speak with an advocate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Supreme Court Considers Gun Ban for Abusers

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week on a federal gun ban making it illegal for those convicted of domestic violence to own firearms.

The Lautenberg Amendment, enacted in 1996, prohibits abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing firearms. In April 2007, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a wife beater's conviction for illegal gun possession by narrowly interpreting the Lautenberg Amendment as only barring gun possession by abusers convicted of laws specifically barring domestic violence, rather than all persons convicted of domestic violence under general battery laws. Most states do not have laws specifically barring violence against spouses or family members, but instead charge abusers under general battery laws. [Source Market Watch]
From the Feminist Majority Foundation:

Both the Brady Center to prevent Gun Violence and Legal Momentum, a New York women's advocacy group, support the current federal ban. According to Women's eNews, Legal Momentum found that when domestic violence abusers are in possession of a gun, they are 12 times more likely to kill their victims. The Brady Center noted the ban also prevents deaths of police officers who respond to domestic violence cases.
If the Supreme Court affirms the 4th Circuit ruling, the names of thousands of dangerous, convicted abusers could be purged from the Brady background check system, enabling them to possess firearms.

"The Supreme Court should follow the will of Congress and protect domestic violence victims and law enforcement officers who risk their lives stopping abusers by affirming that convicted domestic violence abusers cannot have guns," said Brady Center President Paul Helmke. "We should not make it easier for dangerous abusers to get firearms."

The brief submitted by the Brady Center and law enforcement highlights the great danger that armed abusers pose to family members of these abusers as well as law enforcement officers summoned to address such violence. On average, more than three people are killed by intimate partners every day in this country. Intimate partner homicides account for up to one-half of all homicides of females. Every year between 1,000 and 1,600 women die at the hands of their male partners, and 14 percent of all police officer deaths occur during a response to domestic violence calls.

The groups that joined the Brady Center brief are the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs, National Sheriffs' Association, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, Police Executive Research Forum, National Black Police Association, National Latino Peace Officers Association, Legal Community Against Violence, and School Safety Advocacy Council.

We will provide updates when a decision is made in the case.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Domestic Violence - A Veteran's Issue

On Veteran's Day, as we honor those who have served our country, we also honor military families who have made a great sacrifice in loaning us a loved one, often for years of active duty at a time. The sacrifice does not end for either when the loved one comes home, and we have a duty as a country to take care of our veterans and their families as they respond to the long-term physical and emotional effects of serving in a war.

Recently, Science Daily released a report linking the increasing number of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to an increase in family violence risk.

Research in the VA shows that male veterans with PTSD are two to three times more likely than veterans without PTSD to engage in intimate partner violence and more likely to be involved in the legal system.

"Community violence prevention agencies and services need to be included in a veteran's treatment plan to address the battering behaviors," says Hovmand.

"Veterans need to have multiple providers coordinating the care that is available to them, with each provider working on one treatment goal. Coordinated community response efforts such as this bring together law enforcement, the courts, social service agencies, community activists and advocates for women to address the problem of domestic violence. These efforts increase victim safety and offender accountability by encouraging interorganizational exchanges and communication.

"Veterans Day is an excellent reminder that we need to coordinate the services offered by the VA and in the community to ensure that our veterans and their families get the services they need when they need it," Matthieu and Hovmand say.
In October, a group of demonstrators stood outside Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC, staging a nonviolent protest against the violence they feel is perpetuated by our community’s military culture. The Fayetteville Observer reported:

Retired Col. Ann Wright served 29 years in the Army. The Hawaii resident said she came here out of concern for the four female service members slain in North Carolina this year. All were allegedly murdered by their husbands or boyfriends, also service personnel. Three were stationed at Fort Bragg.

“It’s military killing other military,” Wright said. “The military has to address this.”

Bragg leaders say they are doing the best they can. Pointing to a variety of preventive programs available on post, spokesman Tom McCollum said they are proactive in dealing with domestic and sexual abuse.

Soldiers are repeatedly briefed about the counseling services available at Womack Army Medical Center, at Army Community Services, and with Army chaplains. “We are sometimes baffled,” McCollum said. “Why would someone do that and especially with all the help that is available? A divorce is so much easier.”

The murders have attracted national media attention and caused many outsiders to wonder what is going on in our community. Why are so many spouses being slain here? Domestic violence is not exclusive to a military community, of course. Some studies say a third of all women have been abused — physically or sexually.

The recent spate of murders underscores the fact that domestic violence remains a significant problem here. Whatever preventive action is being taken at Fort Bragg, it isn’t enough.

It’s an old argument. We train men, and now women, to wage war, then we are baffled when they do that to each other.

It is driven in times of war by a national culture that can extol violence, conflating it with patriotism. And don’t overlook the general population raised on a steady diet of malevolence disguised as entertainment.

In a way, it’s surprising that there aren’t more bodies piling up at military bases all over this nation. We are certain, nevertheless, that the demonstrators were on to something that we as a community need to address. This may become an epidemic that threatens us all.

It is a problem we, as a community, military and civilian, can’t ignore. It is also a problem that we have not, so far, effectively solved.

The Army has made a good-faith effort to provide programs and services to prevent domestic violence and save lives. But it’s not enough. The effort must be redoubled, the violence studied more carefully, and the intervention waged even more aggressively.
On this Veteran's Day, it is our challenge as an advocacy organization, and yours as a community, to help our military families learn choices other than violence and to make sure that military wives and partners are believed, are not silenced, and are able to access the services and support that they deserve.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

VAWA Joe Becomes Our New VP

As a non-partisan, 501c3 organization, Women's Resource Center does not endorse candidates, so rather than appearing to advocate a certain ticket, we refrained from posting about Joe Biden until after the race was over. Now, however, we can say how excited we are to have someone so dedicated to the violence against women movement in such a powerful position in our country.

Joe Biden, of course, is the author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. VAWA legally protects women from domestic abuse and gender-based violence, and Biden has proclaimed it the "most important legislative accomplishment" of his Senate career.

In a piece in The New Republic, Fred Strebeigh writes about the history of the legislation.

In the spring of 1990, a new staffer in the offices of the Senate Judiciary Committee received a surprise project from her boss. Joe Biden wanted her to figure out what Congress should do to reduce violent crimes against women. Victoria Nourse, the staffer, was then just six years out of law school and unaware of Biden's past efforts along similar lines. In 1981, as he recalls in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep, Biden had pushed for a provision opposing laws that treat rape within marriage as a lesser crime than other rapes. Biden's effort led to a rebuff by Senator Jeremiah Denton of Alabama, who replied, "D*** it, when you get married, you kind of expect you're going to get a little sex."

The late '80s, Biden noticed, showed a rise in violent crimes against young women. Then, in December 1989, a man walked into a university classroom in Montreal with a hunting rifle, divided the students by sex, yelled that the women were all "a bunch of feminists," and killed 14 of them. Biden's aide Ron Klain handed the Senator an article in the Los Angeles Times by a friend who had clerked with Klain the year before at the Supreme Court, Lisa Heinzerling (now professor of law at Georgetown). Heinzerling connected that murder of "feminists" to a gap in U.S. law. Federal law tracking hate crimes targeted only, she wrote, a "victim's race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation." Thus, she argued, "if a woman is beaten, raped or killed because she is a woman, this is not considered a crime of hate"--a legal loophole "welcome to no one but the misogynist."

Biden posed a challenge to Nourse: figure out what Congress should do, and start by looking at the marital-rape issue he had tried to tackle a decade earlier. In the legal reading room of the Library of Congress, Nourse found a twist that shocked them both. Some states had extended the marital-rape exemption to become a date-rape exemption that downgraded a rape charge if a woman was a man's "voluntary social companion." One state that had done so was Delaware, where Joe and Jill Biden were raising a young daughter.

...When Nourse reported this to Biden, she saw a "look of horror on his face."

Looking for a solution, Nourse drafted a proposal for the "Civil Rights for Women" section of what would become VAWA. (The bill's other two parts, "Safe Streets for Women" and "Safe Homes for Women," proposed funding and legal support to assist law enforcement and protect women from domestic abuse.) The goals of the civil rights section were grand: make women "free from crimes of violence motivated by the victim's gender."

...As he listened to a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (where his son Beau was still a senior) talk about efforts to help victims of acquaintance rape, Biden became energized. After hearing the woman say that some male students had harassed her with "nightly phone threats," Biden launched into what Goldfarb believed was an unplanned but revealing narrative. He told of trying to convince his wife Jill, who drove to night school for her graduate degree classes, to park in a place that was safer but illegal. In response, he said he got "almost a punch in the nose." Trying to work out why, he spoke of his wife's "frustration and anger" that she should need to take precautions no man would take. He linked her anger to her sense of "lost control."

Goldfarb felt she was hearing a man grasp a fundamental understanding about "the lack of control that is experienced not only by women who are themselves victims, but by all the women who have to constrain their daily activities to avoid becoming a victim." Biden was expressing, she thought, the "basic insight of the civil rights provision--that violence against women deprives women of equality."

Biden, too, portrayed himself as a man surprised by new knowledge. In Delaware, he found that victims of rape were beginning to "literally stop me in the street" to tell their stories and give thanks for VAWA. More than half, he said, spoke of a "need to regain control," which Biden evidently understood. The loss of safety, home, and control that he had felt himself when he lost his first wife and daughter was something that these women had also been forced to grapple with in the wake of their rapes.

Though the civil rights portion of the law was eventually overturned, the remaining funding and protections have been invaluable to advocates doing this work. The following video was prepared by the Obama/Biden campaign to illustrate the impact:



A partner organization of WRC, Men Stopping Violence, honored Joe Biden a few years ago as a True Ally at their annual celebration event. In recognition of his election as Vice President, MSV recirculated his acceptance speech:


Fred Strebeigh concluded his article by saying:

Joe Biden may have lost in a titanic struggle to expand the civil rights of women. But, along the way, he showed himself ready to follow the lead of female attorneys and judges. As Victoria Nourse told me in a recent e-mail from her desk at Emory Law School, where she is now a professor: "[I]n a day and age when Senators were still fondling interns in the Senate elevator, he not only protected me, he listened to me, my legal advice, and by extension, all the women who talked to me."

No one can pretend that getting Biden as vice president lifts women's spirits as high as they may go with the election of the first woman president. But no one will doubt that, on that wet day on the slippery Supreme Court steps, beneath his senatorial umbrella, Joe Biden was there--trying to stand tall for the rights of women.

Update: RH Reality Check has more information on the work Senator Biden is doing related to an International Violence Against Women Act.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Atlanta Homeless Shelters Overloaded

From the AJC:

It was dinnertime inside the Gateway Homeless Services Center and the lobby was crowded with women and children dining on baked fish, rice and beans.

There were 166 people on the list to stay there on this cold October evening in downtown Atlanta.

...In recent months, Gateway has had at least 200 women and children seeking shelter. Center employees put cots on the lobby floor and ask the women and children to make do.

Across metro Atlanta, homeless advocates say they’ve seen an uptick in the number of women and children seeking shelter as the economy has faltered. Although they have no statistics to back up their conclusions, they point to the Gateway lobby as
evidence. Most area counties will conduct a census of their homeless in January.

The Rev. James Milner said the number of people seeking help seems “infinite.” Milner runs Community Concerns Inc., an organization that has an apartment complex in DeKalb County where homeless women get job training, clothes for work and other services.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad, particularly with women and children,” he said. “We’re seeing too many grandmothers [without a home].”

Homeless advocates say they’re trying to help, but their coffers are low, and they’re getting little additional financial help.

Ellen Gerstein, executive director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, said a staffer was in tears in her office one day last week, frustrated by the inability to help the rising number of women and children in need of shelter, food and health care.

Stories like these are common for us. Children under 9 are the fastest growing homeless population in our city, and many of these children are homeless with their mothers because of violence faced at home. Though we don't call our safehouse a homeless shelter in the traditional sense, women and children stay there because they have no other options for housing at the time. For many families, it is literally a choice between violence at home or no home at all.

For others, homelessness comes after a period of trying to make it on their own with limited resources and supports.

In an interview, [Mayor Franklin] said single women with children typically suffer first when the economy falters.

“They feel it first,” she said. “So we’ve seen in this increase of women and children, many of the women … work for low wages until a child gets sick or they get sick and they lose their job. They don’t have the flexibility of sick time. They don’t have the flexibility of vacation time to support their families.”

Franklin said she and mayors from cities such as Boston and Denver who have worked on homelessness issues believed things were getting better. That was until early 2008, when the mayor noticed an economic downturn in the city.

“All of us thought we understood the problem and thought we were making progress and all of a sudden we see this increase [of homeless women and children],” Franklin said. “We’ve seen the cracks in the economy. Now, it’s like an avalanche, and children often suffer the worst.”

Homelessness due to family violence is also a problem in rural areas in Georgia and in other states, but many of these families migrate to Atlanta because they hope to find more opportunities here.

“They hear it’s the home of Martin Luther King, and it’s the city too busy to hate,” Milner said. “They think there’s an advocacy movement that will take care of them.”

Teresa Miles is one of those newcomers. Miles, 47, moved here from a Baltimore suburb three months ago, hoping to keep her two teenage sons away from increasing gang violence there. Unable to find housekeeping work and without a support network in Atlanta, Miles and her children sleep in the Gateway lobby.

DeKalb County resident Tasha Bell, 36, a mother of two girls, moved into a transitional housing facility near Doraville in May after getting evicted a month earlier. She was laid off from her job a year ago and couldn’t find another job where the hours allowed Bell to pick up her daughter, who’s about to turn 3, from day care.

Bell said what troubles her most about her current situation is not being able to buy things for her 14-year-old daughter, who’s in her first year of high school.

“That makes me feel very sad, like I’ve failed,” she said.

Women and children are one-third of Georgia’s homeless population, according to the United Way Regional Commission on Homelessness. Children under 9 are the fastest-growing group of homeless, they say.

In recent years, Atlanta has often ranked among the meanest cities to the homeless, partly due to its law aimed at curbing panhandling.

At the time of this post, there are 2 beds (at two separate shelters, meaning no room for women to bring children) open in domestic violence shelters in the five-county metro area.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DV Survivor Brings Complaint Against US For Human Rights Violation

Last Wednesday, Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales), appeared before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to discuss Castle Rock v. Gonzales, a 2005 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that local police departments are not responsible for enforcing restraining orders.

She guest-posted on Feministing.com to explain the hearing and why she sought it:

My name is Jessica Lenahan and I am a survivor of domestic violence. On Wednesday I will make my second appearance before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC. The IACHR is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights throughout the Americas. I turned to the IACHR three years ago because the justice system in the United States abandoned me.

In June 1999, my estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, abducted my three young daughters in violation of a domestic violence restraining order I had obtained against him three weeks before. I repeatedly contacted and pleaded with the Castle Rock Police for assistance, but they refused to act. Late that night, Simon arrived at the police station and opened fire. He was killed and the bodies of my three girls were found murdered in the cab of his truck.

I sued the town of Castle Rock, Colorado for failing to enforce the restraining order I had against my husband at the time. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court, but they ruled that the enforcement of a restraining order wasn't mandatory under Colorado law. I felt utterly abandoned: the police had failed in their duty to protect me and my girls, and the government told me there was nothing wrong with that. I was sure that I would never have my day in court or a proper investigation of what happened. I nearly gave up at that point - I had gone all the way to the Supreme Court, and I thought that was the end of the line.

But in December 2005, with the help of the ACLU and the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, I filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In March 2007, I testified before the IACHR - the first time I was allowed to tell my story in a legal forum.

Before this case, I never knew this regional system existed and never thought of my private issues as human rights violations. I am the first survivor of domestic violence to bring an individual complaint against the United States for international human rights violations. I want other people like me out there to know that this system exists to protect all of us, and that our government cannot just turn its back on us and get away with it. Although the U.S. is always pointing its finger at other countries for their human rights violations, there are plenty of violations occurring right here at home. International human rights bodies like the IACHR give U.S. citizens the opportunity to have a voice, particularly those who have lost everything.

It is fitting that my hearing is being held in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important marker of what continues to be one of the most dangerous issues facing women today.

For more info, here's a video the NYACLU made about the case.

According to StopVAW, at the merits hearing on October 22, the Columbia/ACLU team made several legal arguments on Lenahan’s behalf (click here to read the brief), all based on the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

First, Lenahan argued the United States has an affirmative duty to protect the rights of its citizens that are enumerated in the Declaration, but the United States failed this duty when the Castle Rock police did not act to prevent her daughters’ murders. In particular, she argued the United States had duties to respond to her complaints when her daughters were kidnapped, to protect her daughters and to conduct a timely and thorough investigation into their murders. The United States’ failure to uphold its duties violated her and her daughters’ rights to life and personal security, and to family and private life. These failures also violated Lenahan’s rights to a remedy, humane treatment, truth, and equality.

The United States government argued that the petitioners had not demonstrated that the United States government, through its representatives in the Castle Rock police, breached its duties under the American Declaration. The government argued that the police acted reasonably and in good faith.

A decision on the merits of this case has not yet been made.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Video Game Combats Cultural Acceptance of Domestic Violence

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Creating a fun game may seem an unlikely way to tackle the serious problem of domestic violence. But that's the task facing a team of college students in quaint Vermont. An added challenge: The digital game has to be appealing and accessible to young people half a world away, in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa.

As part of a broader campaign against gender violence, the United Nations wants to reach children, particularly boys, before stereotypes sink in. Seeing the global popularity of gaming, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) decided to partner with two media centers in Vermont. They hope to make a game available by the end of next year that can be adapted for various cultures.

"Games have evolved beyond entertainment and are a wonderful environment for exploring complex issues," says Suzanne Seggerman, president of Games for Change, a nonprofit in New York. "They let players try on new roles, new perspectives that they don't otherwise have access to. And for difficult subjects like domestic violence, there isn't a lot of opportunity for kids to explore other kinds of behaviors."

Interviews with the Cape Town boys revealed that they competed for girlfriends and believed many sexual myths.

"Some of the girls didn't want to ever get married because of domestic violence," says senior Amanda Jones. "When we asked them about the ideal husband, they used phrases like 'won't abandon the family,' 'respects me,' etc. The boys say [the violence] is not right, but at the same time they're like, 'Well, a lot of times women run to the police when it's not necessary.' The U.N. cites surveys showing that domestic violence affects between 10 percent and 69 percent of women around the world, depending on the country in which they live.

The dramas are based on the Sabido methodology - creating a story with characters that evolve to match positive role models.

Taking a cue from that method, "we're really not preaching to them," says game-design student Lauren Nishikawa. "The issue [of gender violence] comes up as part of the story line. The important part is, if anything negative happens, there is a punishment ... and a solution offered."

If only life also worked that way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Domestic Violence and the Economy

Women's Resource Center has had a deluge of calls this week asking us to comment on the media's new favorite story: increases in domestic violence during tough economic times.

What we know is that when batterers are placed in negative situations that they cannot control, loss of their job or retirement savings for example, they seek out situations and people that they can control. Those most accessible are often their spouse or partner and their children.

However, tough economic times or feelings of being out of control do not cause domestic violence, and putting the financial situation in our country back under control will not be a magical cure. Poverty has long bred domestic violence (though abuse effects families of all income classes) and a lack of monetary resources for survivors trying to leave their relationships makes finding safety that much harder. What we do need to cure domestic violence is a world full of men and women who respect one another as partners and equals, and who are willing to commit their limited resources to providing options for women and children seeking safety.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Batterers as Parents

At the recent Georgia Commission on Family Violence Conference, attendees heard a keynote address from Lundy Bancroft, an author, workshop leader, and activist on trauma, abuse, and healing, about the effects of domestic violence on children. He has a number of articles on his website discussing the negative effects that children experience when parented by a perpetrator of domestic violence. We specifically recommend The Batterer as a Parent, where he writes:
Most of the characteristics that are typical of men who batter have potential ramifications for children in the home. Batterers often tend toward authoritarian, neglectful, and verbally abusive child-rearing. The effects on the children of these and other parenting weaknesses may be intensified by the children's prior traumatic experience of witnessing violence.
Influence of Battering on Parenting
  • creating role models that perpetuate the violence
  • undermining the mother's authority
  • retaliating against the mother for her efforts to protect the children
  • sowing divisions within the family
  • using the children as weapons against the mother
Safely fostering father-child relationships: Except in cases where the children are terrified of the battering parent or have been abused by him directly, children tend to desire some degree of ongoing contact with their fathers. Such contact can be beneficial as long as adequate safety measures are provided for the mother and children and the abuser is not given the opportunity to cause set-backs to the children's emotional recovery. These goals can be fostered through custody arrangements that take into full consideration the violence in the home caused by the battering parent and through the use of professionally supervised visitation, ideally based in a visitation center. Where unsupervised visitation is found to be safe, the use of relatively short visits that do not include overnight visits can reduce the batterer's ability to damage mother-child relationship, limit his negative influence on the children's behavior and value-systems, and ensure that the children feel safe and secure—while still allowing them to feel a continued connection to their father.
Women's Resource Center will begin to provide these supervised visitation services this month through our newest program, Nia's Place.

We encourage all of our readers, and especially judges and others working in the legal field, to read more from Lundy Bancroft, including Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes and others.

In response to the increased media attention surrounding the release of Alec Baldwin’s book entitled, “A Promise to Ourselves,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and StopFamilyViolence. org released the following:

(September 29, 2008) Washington, DC – The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), Stop Family Violence, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, four of the nation’s leading domestic violence victim advocacy organizations, call on the media and the courts to rectify the misunderstanding and misuse of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in custody cases.

“Child custody cases are among the toughest cases courts have to handle. And in custody cases where domestic violence is involved, the judges have an even higher responsibility to ensure that the safety of family members is not dangerously impaired by misleading – and legally unjustifiable – ‘parental alienation syndrome’ theories,” said Sue Else, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Parental Alienation Syndrome” is a claim that has been used to suggest that some parents try to undermine their children’s relationship with the other parent, typically the noncustodial parent, by making false statements about that other parent, most often in the form of abuse allegations. In fact, actor Alec Baldwin made that claim about his own child custody case in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer.

“PAS is being used by some abusers as a tactic to demonize parents’ attempts to protect their children from abuse, denying victims of domestic violence justice in the courts. The fact that some parents behave badly in ordinary cases is no reason to ignore real abuse when it is presented to the court,” also stated Else.

Joan Meier, DV LEAP’s Executive Director, said, “PAS was invented to defeat child abuse claims - and it has been remarkably successful in misleading family courts into believing that women who are sincerely trying to protect their children and themselves from abuse, are just seeking to end the children’s relationship with their noncustodial father.”

According to NNEDV, DV LEAP, SFV, and NCADV, victims of domestic violence face a surprisingly uphill battle in family court to win custody of and safety for their children. All too often, courts award custody and unsupervised visitation to parents found to have committed domestic abuse. Many courts handling custody cases do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and fail to properly factor in the impact of abuse when considering the best interests of the child.

“The most important factor judges should be weighing in making custody decisions is the safety of the mother and children, and the introduction of PAS overshadows this critical need for safety,” said Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Meier states that research has shown that children become “alienated” from a parent for a variety of valid reasons, most often resulting from the parent’s own negative behavior and relationship with that child.

“The proponents of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ are purveying invalid junk science is not even legally admissible. PAS has been emphatically rejected by the Presidential Task Force of the American Psychological Association and by the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges. Leading researchers in the field of custody have agreed that PAS has no scientific validity and the only courts to address the issue have found it inadmissible,” said Meier.

“With the increased media attention surrounding the release of Alec Baldwin’s book, it is important to let the public know that victims of domestic violence are being silenced through the use of ‘parental alienation syndrome.’ We cannot afford to consign thousands of children to unsafe custody or visitation with abusive parents because family courts have come to believe that abuse allegations mean nothing more than a campaign of alienation,” said Else.

For more information regarding abuse of the legal system by perpetrators of domestic violence, see our post on judicial stalking.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was in 1987. The goal was to coordinate efforts nationwide to educate communities about domestic violence, the effects on community, and the resources available to help survivors. The first national domestic violence hotline began that same year.

In 1989, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation was passed by the United States Congress. Since its enactment, state legislatures across the nation have done the same as well.

Read Obama/Biden and Sarah Palin 's comments regarding DV Awareness Month.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is also a time to encourage the public to take active steps to address domestic violence. The hope is that a month of intensified awareness efforts combined with the broad spectrum of anti-domestic violence work throughout the year will bring us closer to ending domestic violence.

In honor of awareness month, we suggest you read our DV 101 series to learn more about domestic violence, and join us for our annual Candlelight Vigil, where we remember those who have lost their lives in our state and renew our commitment to anti-violence work. The Vigil will be held on October 16, 2008 at the Gazebo in Decatur Square. You can park at the DeKalb County Courthouse or take Marta to the Decatur Station. More info can be found on our website.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Macon Teen Murders Ex-Girlfriend, Kills Self

From Macon.com:

Family members say 17-year-old Shenerica Brown enjoyed listening to music, dancing and hanging out with friends, much like other teenage girls.

An 11th-grade student at Washington County High School in Sandersville, Brown wanted to be a registered nurse after graduation, said Nastacia Taylor, Brown's cousin and friend.

Brown's plans were cut short Sunday morning when her ex-boyfriend, 19-year-old Ardavius Foster, fatally shot her and then turned the gun on himself.

"They had been having domestic problems for quite a while," said Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith.

Brown's family said the couple had a 4-month-old daughter, Ardasia Foster.

Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, Foster went to Brown's great-aunt's house at 156 Mayview Drive and the two argued, Smith said.

Smith said deputies aren't sure what Brown and Foster argued about, but they previously had engaged in arguments about visitation with Ardasia.

During the argument, Foster took the baby to his car where he retrieved a .45 caliber pistol, Smith said.

Brown followed Foster outside where the two continued to argue until Foster fired two shots at Brown hitting her in the chest and face, Smith said.

He then turned the gun on himself, firing a single shot into his head, Smith said.

Brown's great-aunt and two other people witnessed the shooting and called deputies about 12:15 a.m., Smith said.

Washington County Coroner E.K. May said Brown and Foster were taken to the hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Taylor said Brown ended her relationship with Foster about two weeks ago.

Foster showed up with a gun at the Sonic Drive In where Brown worked last week and threatened her, she said.

"He said if she ever tried to leave him he'd kill her and kill himself," Taylor said.

Smith said murder-suicides are uncommon in Washington County, especially ones with such young victims.

"It's very, very rare," he said. "Our prayers go out to both families. Both families are really suffering."

Funeral services for Brown will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at The Word of Life Ministries in Sandersville. Services for Foster are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Marshall Grove Baptist Church in Sandersville.

So far this year, 34 people in Georgia have died in 18 murder-suicide incidents, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Violence at the Emmys

Ten minutes into this Sunday's Emmy Awards, many past victims of sexual violence turned off their TVs. Why? Because memories of the violence they experienced were retriggered by a tasteless bit by the show's hosts.

During the opener, hosts Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, and Ryan Seacrest are all dressed in tuxedos. As the only female host, however, Heidi Klum cannot be allowed to remain fully clothed for long, and, in a display that can only be described as horrifying, Bergeron and his guest on stage William Shatner proceed to rip her clothes off, revealing a skimpier and sexier outfit underneath.



Attention Emmys: Violence against women is not a joke. It is not shtick. It is not funny. Heidi Klum is more than a body to be displayed, and by reducing her to such through an act of violence, you have communicated to the entire country that ripping a woman's clothes off against her will for your own sexual gratification is not only acceptable, but amusing.

This is why violence against women is still a common occurrence.


h/t to Shakesville.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Murder-Suicides Hit Fourth Family in Central GA

From WMAZ 13 in Macon:
Domestic violence resulted in murder, then suicide for at least the fourth time this year in Central Georgia.

The most recent tragedy happened Monday in a Bonaire home where deputies say Edmund Rowe shot his wife Allison, then turned the gun on himself.

Lt. John Holland says the couple worked at Robins Air Force Base and married last May. They did not have children.

Holland says they're still trying to figure out what led to the violence.

Counselors at HODAC say in most cases, there's no indication of trouble to outsiders. But on the inside, the violence almost never comes without prior warning.

In a Perry neighborhood where a domestic murder-suicide happened in August, Crystal Busching can't forget what happened two doors down. That's where the father of two children murdered his sons, shot his wife, and then killed himself.

Busching said, "I knew those two little boys. I sit out here and read now. It's sad not to see them out riding their bicycles. They were sweet little boys."

Tuesday, Busching heard about a similar incident in Bonaire. The murder-suicide there brought to mind another case of the same crime at a Fort Valley apartment in late August. Also in January, a Warner Robins man also killed his wife and himself. Busching said, "You think of it happening in Atlanta and places like that, but never in this area."

Nicole Poss at HODAC can't recall a string like this either. She said, "It's unusual for our area. It doesn't happen."

But four times this year, it did. Poss said people on the outside usually find out about the trouble inside after it ends in tragedy. Poss said, "People keep it to themselves. People don't want to publicize it if they're having trouble in their marriage. I'm not sure what signs people think there should be."

She says there not always easy to spot, but warning signs can include a temper, jealousy, acting bossy, trying to control money and forcing sex on the partner.

Busching says she never knew of problems down the street, but now she says no one in her neighborhood can forget. She said, "I don't think we ever will. I think were really just all trying to let it sink in and cope with everything that's happened, even though it's been awhile. It's still fresh on your mind."

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 94 percent of the offenders in murder-suicides are men. 74 percent of murder-suicides involve intimate partners, such as a husband or boyfriend. 75 percent of them occur in the home.

Those statistics held true for all four of the recent cases in Central Georgia.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Street Harassment Update

From Salon:

Sure, snapping a cellphone picture of a street harasser is good for humiliating the lech -- and alerting other women to his modus perverandi -- on the Web site Holler Back NYC. But, as a story in the New York Times shows, it can serve him with far more than embarrassment.

Last month, a 28-year-old woman was walking up a set of stairs -- wearing a skirt -- at the Dyckman Street station when she noticed a man suspiciously close to her. He just so happened to be fiddling with his cellphone and someone nearby told her that the man had snapped an up-the-skirt shot. The woman told the Times: "I said I had to do something. Since he is taking pictures of me, I am going to take pictures of him." So, she followed him onto a train and readied her cellphone. "And I told him 'smile' because I am going to the police," she said. She took a photo of his mug, e-mailed it to police and filed a criminal report. Bravo!

It's the kind of admirable act hardened city dwellers expect to lead nowhere -- except, thanks to the snapshot, a police officer recognized the suspect in a subway station earlier this week and he was charged Wednesday with attempted sexual abuse, harassment and unlawful surveillance. How's that for bursting your bubble of cosmopolitan cynicism!

See our original post on the topic here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Woman Murdered, Devalued

For this week's blog posting, we refer you to Womanist Musings, who comments on this article as well as we ever could:
Elizabeth Acevedo died on August 22. She was only 38 years old, far too young to die. Very little is known about her, but what the New York Post wants their readers to be aware of is that she had one leg, and that she was a prostitute. Throughout the brief article they only bother to refer to her by name twice. It seems that her profession did not entitle her to even the dignity of being assigned a victim status.

---

When researching to see if I could find out more information about her tragic passing, I came across a post at Bossip wherein Acevedo is further demeaned. They have a mock picture up and refer to her murder as, "some pure comedy indeed." Only in a world where women are routinely devalued could the death of a prostitute be referred to as a joke.

---

The devaluation of women is a world wide phenomenon. The patriarchy tries to assure us that we are not oppressed. They offer the women of the middle east as examples of real oppression. The blood of Osborne, Acevedo, Caldwell, Robertson and Beck assure me that misogyny and violence against women is a real and ever present danger here in the so-called enlightened west. These women are no different than you or I, there only fault was to be born female in a world that is obsessed with phalocentric worship.

This is not a case of hysterical whining. Yes women can vote, we even have the right to make seventy cents for every dollar a man makes, but now is not the time for complacency. Now is not the time to be lulled into the false belief that because some things have improved that we are living in a utopia of ovarian freedom. The reality is that daily women are beaten, raped and murdered. We have not come close to dismantling male privilege. We must stand up and demand justice. It is not okay to slaughter us, and it is not okay to treat us as disposable bodies. The blood of one woman is the blood of all.
Please visit the Womanist Musings blog to read the whole post.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

18% of Young US Women Have Been Raped

A new report issued by Child Trends found that approximately 18% of women aged 18 to 24 years report having been raped at least one in their lives. The summary to the report reads:

Forced sexual intercourse is, unfortunately, a somewhat common experience among young adult women – almost 1 in 5 have reported having experienced forced sexual intercourse at some point in their lives. It is also an experience shared by all groups of women, including women of all racial/ethnic groups, and women of all socioeconomic statuses. Women who have experienced forced sexual intercourse report a number of different types of force used during the incident, and most commonly report experiencing verbal or physical pressure and being physically held down. Approximately a third of the women reported being given alcohol or drugs, being abused by someone who was bigger or a grown up, or being threatened, and approximately a quarter of the women reported being physically hurt.

Know More Say More is an initiative by the Family Violence Prevention Fund to educate people about rape and birth control sabotage in violent relationships. The site allows women like "Kylie" to tell their stories:

I had a serious experience with birth control sabotage. When I first met my ex, he never wanted to use condoms. He did want me to use the ‘morning-after pill,’ I’ll admit. I was quite young and didn’t know how to stand up for myself, so I became pregnant after coerced sex.

For the next four years, I stayed with my ex for the sake of the baby, suffering the most horrific kinds of abuse—physical and emotional. His “reason” for abusing me? Because I “trapped” him through pregnancy. Although the only thing I’d been doing since the pregnancy was begging him to let me leave, he threatened to kill me, the baby, and my entire family if I ever attempted it.

At the time, I really believed him. I had no friends, no phone, and no Internet for information. If he caught me calling anyone, he would become extremely angry, which is why he burned all of my address books in front of me and changed our phone number constantly. I couldn’t help but wonder at times if instead of me trapping him, it hadn’t been the other way around.

The good news is that I’ve been single for three years now, live on the opposite side of the country, and will never be trapped again. I just wish I’d had more information when I desperately needed it.
According to the site, 51% of adolescent mothers on public assistance in one study, and two in three of those who experienced domestic violence at the hands of their boyfriends, experienced some form of birth control sabotage by a dating partner. Some 25 to 50 percent of adolescent mothers experience partner violence before, during, or just after their pregnancy. Forty percent of pregnant women who have been exposed to abuse report that their pregnancy was unintended, compared to just eight percent of non-abused women.

In addition, violence is linked to a wide range of reproductive health issues including STD and HIV transmission, miscarriages, risky sexual health behavior and more. Women disclosing physical violence are nearly three times more likely to experience a sexually transmitted infection than women who don’t disclose physical abuse.

Visit Know More, Say More, to learn more.

H/t to Feministing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Save Funding for Girls who have been Prostituted

From the Interfaith Children's Movement:

During this year's Georgia legislative session, one of ICM's proudest accomplishments was helping win inclusion of $560,000 for a Regional Assessment Center for prostituted adolescent girls. The center opened in June with 12 beds and already has a waiting list. On average, one girl a week is referred for help.

Now the $560,000 you helped secure for the Regional Assessment Center is frozen. Without action the program will run out of funds in 3 months.

Because of the state budget shortfall, the Regional Assessment Center is one of the programs being recommended for elimination.

In September the Governor will decide what state program cuts become final. We have a small window of opportunity to raise concerns about cutting 100% of 2009 funds for this critical program.

We need services and programs for children who have been prostituted, because metro-Atlanta has become a national hub for the prostitution of adolescent girls, with the trafficking of girls from across the state and across the nation becoming an ever-increasing problem. Right now, child-victims are sent to Youth Detention Centers (YDC) because enough appropriate services do not exist.

The Regional Assessment Center needs your help.
  1. Write or call Governor Perdue to restore funding for the Regional Assessment Center.
  2. Call, write, e-mail or visit with your senator and representative in the Georgia General Assembly.
  3. Write or call the members of the Joint Committee on Child Sexual Exploitation.

Information on making these contacts can be found here.

More information on the sexual exploitation of children in Atlanta can be found here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Take it to the Streets

Jennifer Kesler, who writes for the Hathor Legacy and Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, has written posts directed at both men and women regarding catcalling, and why street harassment should not be considered a form of flattery.

In her post to women she writes:

Strange men do not hoot at, yell at, or leer at you because they think you’re hot. They do those things because they think you’re vulnerable and needy. If you think they want you sexually, you need some serious education on power psychology. They want to feel like they’re on top of you, but not in the way you imagine.

When you see someone attractive, it’s natural to look. But not to stare - there are rules against staring throughout the animal kingdom. And you don’t talk unless the person you’re looking at says something to you first, because when you get caught looking, it would be aggressive to follow that up with verbalization. This is something your cat understands, for pete’s sake. Stop reading Cosmopolitan and get in touch with your animal instincts. Discrete looks are flattering because they reflect only a natural aesthetic reaction. Leering - staring overtly at someone who’s watching you stare - signals aggression. Uninvited verbalizations are also aggressive - that’s why when the salesman at the kiosk leaps out to ask you if you ever get split ends, you feel pressured and cornered (until you realize you’re entitled to tell them to back off and leave you alone because they started the hostility and you’re only responding in kind).
To men, she says:

If you’re honest with yourself, you know it’s not really about how attractive she is. It’s about one of two things:

* The men. Most often, catcalling at a woman is a way men socialize with each other. You’re trying to impress each other with who can say the most outrageous things, or who can get a smile or glance from the most passing women. The woman is just part of the scenery, so it’s no surprise you’re oblivious to her feelings. Her responses don’t represent a person with sensitivities to you; they represent a finish line, and tell you whether or not your verbal volleys are scoring.

* Intimidating women. For every bunch of guys who thinks catcalling is harmless because they know their own motives aren’t hateful, there’s one guy who really hates women and revels in feeling that a woman is afraid of him. He thinks his buddies feel the same way, and when they engage in the same behavior, they are (perhaps unwittingly) encouraging him.

Whether you’re merely insensitive to what strange women feel or actually hate them doesn’t really matter. The behavior was invented by men who hate women, and by participating in it - in fact, by not calling on other men to stop doing it - you’re encouraging misogynistic attitudes whether you mean to or not, whether you share them or not.
Kesler's posts come in response to a May CNN article entitled Catcalling: creepy or a compliment?, in which some women report feeling threatened by men yelling at them on the street while other women express insecurity with their appearance if they are not catcalled.

But Kimberly Fairchild, 29, an assistant professor of psychology at Manhattan College in New York, says catcalling can take a larger emotional toll than many women realize.

"There seems to be some evidence that it increases self-objectification," said Fairchild, who surveyed 550 women both online and at Rutgers University in 2006 and 2007. The women -- who ranged in age from 15 to 64 in the international online component and from 18 to 24 in the Rutgers survey of women from central New Jersey -- were asked about their experiences with street harassment.

Catcalling "encourages women to look at themselves as body parts instead of as full, whole, intelligent human beings" and can cause women to fear for their safety, Fairchild says.

"When a man catcalls you, you don't know if it will end at that point or if it could escalate to assault," she added.
The CNN article also discusses HollaBackNYC, a site which encourages New Yorkers to snap pictures of street harassers and then post them to the blog as a way of fighting back.

Emily May, 27, and six of her friends were inspired to create the site in 2005 after a young New York woman used her camera phone to take a photo of a man who was looking at her while touching himself on the subway. The picture led to his arrest. (Such behavior is, according to New York state law, a misdemeanor offense). The blog has spawned similar sites in other major cities such as Chicago and San Francisco.

The site is a way to encourage dialogue, May says. "I think sites like ours can help women see that they're not alone, that it happens to women in all walks of life by men in all walks of life, and that it's not okay."
We encourage you to visit the links included in this post, especially those to Kesler’s posts and HollaBackNYA, to learn more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Because alcohol causes domestic violence

As an interesting follow-up to our discussion of victim blaming in rape cases where the victims had been drinking comes this ad from the Bernard Brewery in the Czech Republic.


The difference here is that alcohol absolves the drinkers of blame, the drinkers in this case being abusive men. Elle, Phd writes:

Somewhere, I'm sure, someone had a good intention. But the execution of said intention leaves MUCH to be desired. Here is the logic behind the ad:

Men in Czech Republic consume the most beer in all of the Europe. Unfortunately, the beer changes many of them into aggressors upon arriving home. In order to stop this domestic alco-violence, we redesigned the trademark beer mugs of our client Bernard brewery to reventatively warn its beer drinkers to not lose control over their drinking.

Because the one thing that will stop a drunken abuser is having already had his fist pressed to a woman's face all night.

This feels like a ready made excuse to me--"Honey, you know how I get when I drink. That's not the real me." People always search for ways to rationalize and justify men who are assumed to be "good" except for that little abusive streak.

I don't think beer "changes" you. I know there are people who are exceptionally mean when they drink, and I know alcohol can exacerbate a situation, but abusers don't need validation for one of their most common ways of shifting responsibility for their actions.

Besides, I think the post on which I found the ad says a lot--I get the creepy feeling lots of people would find this mug funny, a sort of kitschy/novelty item.

Something else I thought about upon seeing the picture? Her bland, semi-smile does little to communicate how devastating someone's fist to the middle of your face can be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Drunk Rape Victims Deserve Less Sympathy

As a follow-up to last week’s article in the Daily Mail regarding British rape victims having their crime victim’s compensation cut if they had been drinking prior to the assault, the Mail Online has begun a “debate” on the topic, with this gem as inspiration:

Women who get drunk are more likely to be raped than women who do not get drunk.

No, this does not excuse rape. Men who take advantage of women by raping them, drunk or sober, should be severely punished for this wicked, treacherous action, however stupid the victim may have been.

But it does mean that a rape victim who was drunk deserves less sympathy.
Without citing any source for his assertion that women who drink are more likely to be raped, Hitchens continues:

Of course she is culpable, just as she would be culpable if she crashed a car and injured someone while drunk, or stepped out into the traffic while drunk and was run over.

Getting drunk is not something that happens to you. It is something you do.
We are certainly not this first blog to notice the story. Melissa at Shakesville writes:

At this point, as you can see, Hitchens has totally lost the plot. Indeed, "getting drunk" is not something that happens to you—but getting raped is. Comparing getting behind the wheel of a car and getting held down and forcibly penetrated without consent is patently ludicrous, not to mention about as divorced from the actual experience of being raped as I can imagine. Essentially, Hitchens' argument is that women should be responsible for their choices, without ever acknowledging that rape isn't a choice.

And the only way his tortured argument to hold women responsible for their rape if they've been drinking is by arguing that being intoxicated puts a woman at greater risk of being raped, which isn't even true. But what if it were? Women aged 18-22 in the US who attend university are more likely to be raped than women who don't. Would Hitchens argue that female university students are therefore "partially culpable" in their own rapes?
Hitchens seems to miss the point that intoxicated women don’t rape themselves. A woman could be passed out drunk for several Friday nights in a row and never be sexually assaulted. Another woman might never drink and may still get raped. The difference: the presence of a rapist! It’s time that we stop blaming victims of violence for what they have experienced and instead work to hold those who commit violence against women accountable.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Britain tells victims of rape they are "partially to blame"

Rape victims in Britain are seeing their victim’s compensation benefits for their assault reduced if they were drunk at the time of the attack.

Officials at the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority told women their drinking was a 'contributing factor' in their ordeal.

The standard taxpayer-funded payouts of £11,000 were cut by as much as a quarter.

The rules of the CICA scheme allow payments to be reduced in cases where victims are partly to blame - such as by provoking an attacker.

But revelations that the rules have been applied to at least 14 rape victims in the past year alone drew furious protests yesterday, with lawyers branding the approach 'appalling'.

----

The issue came to light after one rape victim, referred to only as Helen, received a letter from the CICA saying her compensation was being cut from £11,000 to £8,250.

It said: 'The evidence that we have shows that your excessive consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in the incident'.

She said the letter 'felt like a slap in the face', adding: 'It felt like I was being punished for having the audacity to step up and say "I don't think this should have happened to me". It was like going back to the 1970s, saying "she was asking for it".

'How else could you read the letter but as saying it's my fault I was raped?'

Helen was raped four years ago, when she was 25, after a night out in London's West End during which she believes her drink was spiked.

She told the Guardian the cut in compensation 'was just so cruel and unthinking and so wrong because there is nothing you can do to prevent yourself being raped.

The good news is that the authority has agreed to stamp out the practice, insisting the cases identified so far had been isolated errors. The bad news is that someone with enough power in the CICA to reduce benefits still holds the notion that women are somehow to blame when they are attacked. "Helen" says it best when she says:

'It is not illegal to go out and have a drink, it is illegal to rape somebody.'

Update 8/24 - Take Action. Sign the petition to tell the CICA: Take responsibility for your initial mistake and restore benefits in all 14 cases!

Friday, August 8, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

A surgeon in New Jersey is being sued by a patient for applying temporary tattoo of a rose to her pelvic region without her knowledge while she was under anesthesia.

"She and her husband were getting her dressed to come home and when she took off her gown, that's when she recognized that she had this tattoo below her panty-line," Mateo's attorney Gregg Shivers said.

During the operation for a herniated disc, Mateo was on her stomach, so Mateo and her lawyer claim the tattoo was placed on her by her doctor, Steven Kirshner, at some point afterwards when she would have had nothing on but a hospital gown.

Shivers claims Kirshner violated Mateo's right to privacy.

"Both her and her husband pretty much freaked out and they had no idea how it got there, she had been alone in the hospital, heavily medicated for pain the night before," Shivers said.
The surgeon claims that he has applied tattoos to many of his patients in order to "lift their spirits" after surgery.

Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University who was read a summary of the lawsuit, speculated about why a surgeon who had performed an operation on the back would leave a red rose on his patient's belly.

"It is not part of the doctor-patient relationship in that case," said Farley, a former president of the American Psychological Association who studies risk-taking personalities and behavior. "Unless you think you are Georgia O'Keeffe and you think people's bodies are your canvas," he said, "why would you take that risk?"

In her post on the story, Karnythia at Angry Black Woman writes:

But the idea that women’s bodies are public property doesn’t stop there. Catcalling, comments on weight, comments on hair or makeup from strangers are all just symptoms of a larger societal delusion that women’s bodies are a commodity first. Somehow we’ve gotten stuck in this idea that a woman’s valuing of her body as a part of her self comes second because her first role is to belong to the world at large. Women who refuse to accept that paradigm and insist on being recognized as people first whether it be by yelling back at catcallers, refusing to let strangers touch them, or filing suit when they feel they’ve been violated are then castigated for having the temerity to think that they can dictate what happens to their bodies. Apparently we’re just supposed accept these “lesser” intrusions and not take steps to reclaim that sense of safety because nice girls know their place and don’t delude themselves that they have a right to feel safe and comfortable.

Well, I’m with the women who yell back, who walk away, who press charges and file lawsuits. Because it is past time we got past this idea that being nice = being a willing victim that never complains. I don’t want to live in a reality where people think marking an unconscious woman without her permission is a-okay because it’s temporary, or he didn’t mean any harm, or there’s no proof that he “actually molested her” so she shouldn’t seek legal recourse. I know I’m talking crazy, but wouldn’t be nice to live in a world where women were viewed as people first?

We're with you, Karnythia.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Un-Funny Rape of the American Teenager

ABC Family’s new show The Secret Life of the American Teenager has created quite a stir because of a July 22nd episode that showed a teenage girl who was almost a victim of rape. The scene takes place from 1:56 – 5:00.


The character, who is very religious, says a short prayer and is then able to ward off her attackers with a broken bottle until a friend arrives and scares them away.

What is remarkable about this clip is that the thwarted assault was captured on a security camera and the footage was shown on all of the local news channels – for laughs. Apparently it’s funnier to see a cheerleader fend off a would-be attacker with a broken bottle than it is horrifying that a teenage girl barely escaped being raped.

Send ABC your comments letting them know that you don’t think rape is funny.


H/T to The Brat Queen

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fat Acceptance and Domestic Violence

There is a pervasive way of thinking in our culture today that seeks to undermine women's fight for empowerment. Women are being attacked at every opportunity by messages designed to make them feel bad about themselves, in hopes that these women will then buy what the messenger is selling. At the Media Awareness Network, this problem is defined quite clearly:

Why are standards of beauty being imposed on women, the majority of whom are naturally larger and more mature than any of the models? The roots, some analysts say, are economic. By presenting an ideal difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. And it’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty. If not all women need to lose weight, for sure they’re all aging, says the Quebec Action Network for Women’s Health in its 2001 report Changements sociaux en faveur de la diversit√© des images corporelles.
While this kind of shaming is a popular advertising tactic in general, it is most often directed towards women.

The American research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders, Inc. says that one out of every four college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control—including fasting, skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, and self-induced vomiting. Researchers report that women’s magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance—by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.

Television and movies reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s worth. Canadian researcher Gregory Fouts reports that over three-quarters of the female characters in TV situation comedies are underweight, and only one in twenty are above average in size. Heavier actresses tend to receive negative comments from male characters about their bodies ("How about wearing a sack?"), and 80 per cent of these negative comments are followed by canned audience laughter.
Thus, the message that is largely received by women and girls from magazines, television, and film is that not only is something inherently wrong with their bodies, but that these "flaws" also constitute a personal moral failing which renders them deserving of any humiliation that comes their way.

In and of itself, there is nothing linguistically harmful about the word "fat". It is a generic descriptor much like tall, short, blond, brunette, etc. The reason that "fat" is such a loaded term is that our culture has framed fatness as practically a crime against humanity, especially if the owner of the fat is female. We're taught from a very early age that fat is not a simple descriptive term, because fat is culturally synonymous with lazy, unpleasant, stupid, unlovable, etc. This correlation is made not only by many thin people, but often by fat people who firmly believe they deserve the disrespect being thrown at them.

But what does body size and weight have to do with domestic violence?

Sandra Kiume on Psych Central wrote a letter to the editor detailing an event she witnessed where a man on the street demanded that a woman he knew follow him and called her fat along with a few other insults. Kiume's response deftly illustrates why body image is a subject central to the fight against domestic violence.
First, she wasn’t fat. But all mean kids and abusers know that the easiest way to hurt a young woman’s self-esteem is to attack her body image, especially with that cruel three-letter “f” word. It’s verbal abuse in our thin-obsessed culture. The other two words he called her are just more obviously abusive.

Verbal abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual violence–the American Psychological Association classifies all three as wartime torture methods. In their daily wars women come to view themselves as worthless and powerless and internalize the loathing. They may develop serious medical problems like depression, anorexia/bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and more, all while afraid to leave the abuser. A woman is ten times more likely to be murdered by her abuser in the six months after she leaves him. Those threats are dead serious, and they’re a means of control that answer the common and naive question, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”(Emphasis Added)
Fortunately, there is a movement that those of us in the fight against domestic violence can look to, to promote women's ability to feel comfortable and worthy in their own skin. Providing information about the inaccuracy of the obesity crisis and other weight-related scientific findings, shining a light on medical abuse, debunking of stereotypes about fat people, and creating a safe community for women to celebrate their bodies are just a few of the things the Fat Acceptance movement has to offer.

More specifically, Kate Harding, in The Fantasy of Being Thin, thoroughly discusses the power of the myth that having a stereotypically perfect body is somehow attached to your ability to be a good or worthy person, and the fact that many times the hardest part of accepting your body is that it means accepting and appreciating all aspects of yourself.

But exhortations like that don’t take into account magical thinking about thinness, which I suspect — and the quote above suggests — is really quite common. Because, you see, the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.” See also:

When I’m thin, I’ll have no trouble finding a partner/reinvigorating my marriage.
When I’m thin, I’ll have the job I’ve always wanted.
When I’m thin, I won’t be depressed anymore.
When I’m thin, I’ll be an adventurous world traveler instead of being freaked out by any country where I don’t speak the language and/or the plumbing is questionable.
When I’m thin, I’ll become really outdoorsy.
When I’m thin, I’ll be more extroverted and charismatic, and thus have more friends than I know what to do with.

Et cetera, et cetera. Those are examples from my personal Fantasy of Being Thin, but I’m sure you’ve got your own

....The thin person inside me finally got out — it just turned out she was actually a fat person. A reasonably attractive, semi-outgoing fat person who has an open mind and an active imagination but also happens to really like routine and familiarity and quiet time alone.

Embracing our bodies for what they do for us rather than punishing them into submission is a long process, but the benefits are well worth it. For a powerful introduction to celebrating yourself and living in the now, check out Joy Nash's Fat Rant Video below.