Monday, February 28, 2011

"Secure Communities" Threatens DV Victims with Deportation

Advocacy agencies are raising serious concerns about the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program. Many agencies are going so far as to tell undocumented victims of domestic violence never to call the police, because they risk being deported themselves.

Designed to identify and deport dangerous, undocumented immigrants with a criminal history, Secure Communities has removed about 58,300 convicts from the United States since its pilot launch in late 2008, according to ICE.

But 28 percent of the people transferred to ICE custody under Secure Communities from October 2008 through June 2010 were non-criminals, according to ICE figures. Some of the detained people--an unknown number--are victims of domestic and sexual violence.

While federal law protects crime victims from having to reveal their immigration status, if these victims are arrested or have been arrested in the past Secure Communities now discloses that.

This can affect victims in a scenario where a police officer arrives at the home and can't communicate with the couple. Police may arrest both parties or even arrest the victim if the abuser speaks English and twists the series of events that led to the police call.

Victims are also subject to "revenge arrests," when abusers call the police and accuse them of perpetuating the violence.

"The man says, 'Look she scratched me, I didn't do anything.' So the woman gets arrested and if undocumented, she gets reported to ICE," Neugebaeur said. "How can I as a lawyer say now in good conscience, free and clear, 'Don't worry about anything, call the police,' because if you call the police, you can be reported to immigration services."
Several Georgia counties are already enrolled in the program, including all 5 in metro Atlanta, and the entire state will be enrolled by the end of 2012. We hate to have to say so, but if you are undocumented or are counseling a someone impacted by domestic violence who is undocumented, consider the risk of deportation before you reach out to the police. If you choose not to call 911, please get to a safe place and then contact your local domestic violence safehouse. In Atlanta: (404) 688-9436. In Georgia: (800) 33-HAVEN. Elsewhere: (800) 799-SAFE.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

15-year-old Shoots, Kills Girlfriend

The AJC reports that a 15-year-old Clayton County boy confessed to shooting and killing his 16-year-old girlfriend.
Police received a chilling phone call late Monday afternoon from a 15-year-old boy telling them his friend had been shot.

Officers arrived at the scene to find a 16-year-old girl with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest, Clayton police spokeswoman Tina Daniel said. The shooting occurred in a wooded area behind a home in the 4100 block of Dunn Road in Ellenwood.

"There was some sort of argument that ensued and he ended up shooting the 16-year-old," Daniel said. The two high school students apparently were dating.

The 15-year-old confessed to the shooting, Daniel said, and helped lead police to the firearm, which he had dropped in a nearby creek. It was recovered by the Clayton police dive team late Tuesday morning.

The shooter has not been charged but remains in police custody, Daniel said. Because of the nature of the crime, he could be charged as an adult.
A 21-year-old man is also charged with providing the gun to the shooter. This killing comes during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim's family.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Action Alert: State Funding for DV Services

The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence has released the following Action Alert:

Because of YOUR phone calls last week, there are moves in the Georgia Legislature to restore a substantial portion of the state funds to domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the Fiscal Year 2011 Amended budget. This is FANTASTIC news!

However, the key legislators in the budget process need to hear from you THIS WEEK in order to ensure the restoration of these funds!

Please call each of the following State Senators, regardless of whether they serve your district. Thank them for restoring 2.5 million dollars in state funds to domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the Fiscal Year 2011 Amended budget, and urge them to adhere to this position in their budget negotiations.
  • Senator Jack Hill, Chair of Senate Appropriations – (404) 656-5038

  • Senator Chip Rogers, Senate Majority Leader – (404) 463-1378

  • Senator Tommie Williams, President Pro Tempore – (404) 656-0089
Please call each of the following State Representatives, regardless of whether they serve your district, and urge them to adopt the Senate position for the restoration of 2.5 million dollars in state funds to domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the Fiscal Year 2011 Amended budget.
  • Rep Terry England, Chair of House Appropriations – (404) 463-2245

  • Rep Jan Jones, Speaker Pro-Tempore – (404) 656-5072

  • Rep Larry O’Neal, House Majority Leader – (404) 656-5052
Background: The Georgia Senate and the Georgia House of Representatives are currently considering the Governor’s budget proposals for Amended FY 2011 and FY 2012. Included in each of these proposals is the elimination of all $4.5 million in state funds for domestic violence and sexual assault centers. In its deliberations, the Senate Appropriations Committee restored $2.5 million of those state funds. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee did NOT recommend the restoration of these funds. Now, key legislators in the budget process are scheduled to come together early next week to make their final decisions about the FY 2011 Amended budget, based on the recommendations from the Senate and House. In order for this partial restoration of funds to become a reality, these six legislators must adopt the Senate position.
For additional information on how important it is to ensure that state funding be restored, please click here. Please make your calls as soon as possible.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Victim Blaming is Alive and Well

By now, everyone has probably heard of Laura Logan, whether you were previously aware of her career as a journalist or not. Unfortunately, if you've heard her name recently, it was probably connected to the fact that she was sexually assaulted while covering the revolution in Egypt. You would expect those mentions to be offers of support or condolences for the violence that she experienced. However, way too many people have used this tragedy as a platform to victim-blame.

Journalist Nir Rosen used this as an occasion to complain that Logan will somehow be basking in the attention – as if there's a human alive who wants to be remembered for crime that is basically about humiliating, if not destroying, the victim. (Following an outcry about his remarks, Rosen has resigned his post as a fellow at the New York University centre for law and security.) But another blogger, theblogprof, objectified Logan in an attempt to blame CBS for allowing pretty female journalists to take the important assignments. The Gateway Pundit went the same route, suggesting that the response to sexual assault should be to institute formal discrimination against female journalists, keeping them at home and restricting their possibilities for raises and promotion.

In other words, men use sexual violence to put women in their place, and then a chorus of voices rises to blame women who get attacked for not knowing their place. Sadly, it wasn't just rightwing channels that used this as an opportunity to call for more limits on women's freedoms and opportunity. Simone Wilson of LA Weekly pounced to cast aspersions on Logan's professionalism and to imply she asked for it by taking tough assignments.

As feminists have forever said, sexual violence is a crime of power, committed to control and intimidate women. When people react to sexual assault and rape by suggesting women brought it on themselves, they finish the job the attacker started. It's sad to say that the assault on Lara Logan didn't end when she was rescued in Egypt, and to note that it's now being expanded as an assault on all women who have ambitions, or who are willing to be out in public while looking attractive.
One site is running an opinion poll that asks the question outright: Is Laura Logan to blame for her sexual assault? Over 500 people like it on Facebook.

Even if they are not victim blaming, many others are using this assault to attack Muslims or Egyptians, as if sexual assault isn't perpetrated by those professing to be Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or of another faith in the US.

In her otherwise good response to this tragedy, the Washington Post's Alexandra Petri does regrettably also give the "us v them" narrative some juice, arguing that in the United States, unlike Egypt, women can walk the streets "unmolested". But the very website she uses correctly to identify the problem of street harassment in Egypt also has studies that show up to 100% of American women suffer street harassment, as well. It's not uncommon in the US for groups of men to take jubilatory occasions and crowds as permission to sexually assault and rape women, either. Such attacks occur at college parties, high school dances and rock concerts, usually with a crowd of onlookers who don't intervene, as happened with Logan until the army and a group of women saved her.
What we should be doing, besides supporting Laura Logan and perhaps making a contribution in her name to a group that fights violence against women, is blaming those who perpetrate sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence and the cultures that spawn them. Those people, and cultures, can be found right here in our own neighborhoods.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Albany Marine Accused of Killing Wife

WALB in Albany reports that a local Marine stands accused of killing his wife.
Our cameras were there Sunday morning as officers handcuffed 25-year old Sergeant James Eppler outside his West Gordon Avenue home.

Officials say around 1:30 a.m. he and his wife 23-year old Natalie Eppler were arguing, Sergeant Eppler pulled a gun and shot her in the head.

She was taken to Phoebe Putney Hospital where she later died. Eppler is charged with Murder, Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Firearm during the commission of a crime.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Eppler family.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Police: Father Kills Children During Custody Dispute

The AJC reports that a father is accused of killing two of his children and wounding another while involved in a custody dispute with their mother. He tried to blame the killings on the mother's new boyfriend.

Police arrested Noe-Garcia Saturday morning and charged him with two counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Police did not know whether he had a lawyer.

Three-year-old Bradley Garcia and 1-year-old Edward Garcia were found stabbed to death in the home. Bradley's twin brother was hospitalized with stab wounds.

Police arrested 28-year-old Antonio Cardenas-Rico shortly after the attack and charged him with murder and assault, based on Noe-Garcia's accusations. But they quickly noticed discrepancies between Noe-Garcia's statement, the evidence and Cardenas-Rico's alibi.

After spending hours recreating the scene, examining the evidence and re-interviewing witnesses, police arrested Noe-Garcia.

Authorities have dropped the murder and assault charges against Cardenas-Rico, but he remains in custody on a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Batterers often use court processes surrounding custody and visitation to further harass and intimidate their victims. Unfortunately, some batterers will take their intent to hurt their victim to this degree, because the best way to hurt a woman is to hurt her children. If you live in or near Atlanta and are afraid for your safety or the safety of your children during visits or custody exchanges, please contact Nia's Place Supervised Visitation and Exchange Center to learn if our services are right for you.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Garcia family.

Monday, February 14, 2011

V-Day, the Non-Harassing Way

Valentine's Day is all about love and, for singles, finding your special someone. However, our culture is rife with books and movies that teach us more about how to become a stalker than they do about how to approach someone new with respect to their personal boundaries. Comment is Free has some great tips for how to approach women without being harassing.

Perhaps you think there is no way you could be considered as harassing. Maybe you're just giving someone a compliment or trying to be friendly. Well, consider this:

In one of the first street harassment studies ever conducted, Carol Brooks Gardner, associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis, interviewed 293 women in Indianapolis, Indiana, over several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The women were from every race, age, class, and sexual orientation category of the general population in Indiana and the United States. She oversampled women of color to better represent their experiences. Gardner found that every single woman (100 percent) could cite several examples of being harassed by unknown men in public and all but nine of the women classified those experiences as “troublesome.”
In her Comment is Free article, Holly mentions that talking with young men about appropriate stranger interactions in public is especially important.
Society often suggests that in heterosexual relationships, it is men who should approach women. Men's peers, family members and the media may tell them that it is OK, and even flattering, to be aggressive or to sexually objectify women whom they encounter (no matter the men's or women's sexual orientation). I doubt most men want to be harassers, but if they take these messages to heart, they may become harassers.
The most important thing a cisgender man can do to be an ally to women and to the movement to end violence against them is to realize that intent doesn't always matter, and that the way you view a situation through a male lens is often not the same as a woman will view it. If a woman sends you clear signals that she feels harassed, or threatened, don't mock her for overreacting. You will never understand what it feels like to live under the constant threat of violence just because of your gender, so don't presume that you can tell her how she should feel. Instead, learn from her reactions to you and listen to her if she is willing to explain her feelings. After all, the quickest way to a woman's heart is to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Domestic Violence and the "Princess Problem"

You might think that there is no way in the world that princess culture amongst little girls has anything to do with violence against women as adults, but Hugo Schwyzer at the Good Men Project thinks it does.

Scwyzer, responding to an article in Redbook titled “Little Girls Gone Wild: Why Daughters Are Acting Too Sexy, Too Soon", argues that even princess culture contributes to an earlier and earlier sexualization of girls.
You may balk—what’s sexy about a little girl in a pink princess costume? But sexy, as it turns out, is not the same thing as sexualized. Sexualization is not just imposing sexuality on children before they’re ready and viewing girls as sexual objects, but also valuing a girl for her appearance over her other attributes. “Princesses are just a phase,” Orenstein writes, but they mark a girl’s “first foray into the mainstream culture. … And what was the first thing that culture told her about being a girl? Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart, but that every little girl wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.”

As Orenstein and others point out, little girls take their cues about what is desirable by looking at how boys and men respond to older girls and women. The father who lavishes adoration on “Daddy’s little princess” but ogles high-school cheerleaders is sending his daughter a clear message. The message is that the princess phase won’t last much longer, and if you want to grasp and hold adult male attention, you need to be sexy.

This sexiness has very little to do with sex, and everything to do with the craving for validation and attention. While all children want affirmation, princess culture teaches little girls to get that approval through their looks. Little girls learn quickly what “works” to elicit adoration from mom and dad, as well as from teachers, uncles, aunts, and other adults. Soon—much too soon—they notice that older girls and women get validation for a particular kind of dress, a particular kind of behavior. They watch their fathers’ eyes, they follow their uncles’ gaze. They listen to what these men they love say when they see “hot” young women on television or on the street. And they learn how to be from what they hear and see.
Both articles are worth a full read, because they paint a dangerous picture of how we as a society value women primarily, and in some circles exclusively, for our appearance and not for the myriad of other talents and values that women can bring to table. It is this view of women as not fully human, or not as valuable as men, that empowers men who use violence against women to do so. If a woman is not fully human, is not valuable, or is not worthy of the same respect as men, why is it wrong to treat her accordingly? As parents, we need to raise our kids to believe that men and women are equally valuable and, as peers, we need to hold others accountable for any words or actions that would suggest otherwise. Only after we change these attitudes as a society will violence against women be brought to an end.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Georgia House Bill Addresses Human Trafficking

On a better note than our last post about the Georgia legislature, a bipartisan group is tackling human trafficking and underage prostitution in our state.

According to the AJC, "House Bill 200 is designed to help law enforcement and prosecutors go after people who traffic in people, especially minors, for sexual servitude."

The proposal increases penalties for the crime to those similar to drug trafficking, with offenders facing up to 20 years in prison for human trafficking and 50 years in prison for trafficking in minors.

The bill also treats those in sexual servitude as victims, not criminals, by offering them recovery under the state crime victims fund and an affirmative defense when coming forward.

“Human trafficking for sexual servitude is one of the most serious criminal problems facing our state,” said Lindsey, R-Atlanta. “[The bill is] designed to make it easier to go after this crime and treat the victims with compassion and give an avenue to get out of the trap that was laid for them.”
Atlanta is a nation-wide hub for human trafficking, and it is nice to see the problem being addressed on a statewide level. The focus on treating women and children who are trafficked and prostituted as victims of their traffickers is also a very welcome change. Though our organization focuses on violence against women by their intimate partners, all forms of gender-based violence are intrinsically linked, and we cannot have freedom from one while others still exists. To learn more, visit the Atlanta Human Trafficking Project.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Guilty Until Proven Victim

We're used to using and hearing the words "domestic violence victim" and "rape victim", but when does a person become a victim under the law?

According to Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta), a victim should not be called a victim until the person who victimized them is convicted of a crime. Therefore, you cannot be a victim of rape until a person is proven guilty of raping you.

It almost makes sense. After all, in this country, our legal system is meant to assume you are innocent until you are proven to be guilty. Therefore, until a crime is proven to be committed, there is no victim of that crime.

However, the lawmaker in question isn't applying his objection to the word "victim" to every crime. Robbery victims still get to remain victims. Trespassing victims are still victims. According to Representative Franklin, only the victimhood of rape, stalking, obscene telephone contact with a minor, and domestic violence victims should be called into question. We wonder why he chose those specific crimes.

Melissa at Shakesville has a theory.

Could it be because those are the only crimes around which we have narratives about multitudinous false accusations, despite the fact that false reports of sexual violence are lower than false reports of auto theft, and despite the fact that there is a higher threshold for convincing law enforcement to take action on reports of sexual violence and harassment than any other crime, and despite the vanishingly low percentage of reports that go to trial and the minuscule conviction rates?

Could it be because implying that people who report sex crimes and/or harassment are liars is an integral tool and prevalent narrative of the rape culture, which exists to protect rapists—a pretty significant constituency of any politician, since around 12% of men (pdf) have, by their own admission, committed sexual assault or rape, which is certainly much higher than the percentage of the population who commits auto theft, or bank robbery, or fraud?
Georgia ranks 11th in the nation for incidences of forcible rape and 10th in the nation for the number of women killed by men. We cannot afford laws that further stigmatize the reporting and prosecution of crimes against women by assuming that victims are liars. If you think our state congress should concentrate more on protecting women than on men who have been accused of committing a crime, call them and tell them so. Visit to find your representative.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DV and Other Things That Won't Get You Fired

According to an article on Gawker this week, the FBI considers domestic violence committed by its employees to be less worthy of a firing than fudging an expense report or shoplifting.

If employees of law enforcement agencies know that committing a violent crime against their spouse won't even get them fired, and we know that batterers who are law enforcement officers are less likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and/or found guilty of domestic violence, there is nothing in place that lets battering cops know that those actions are anything less than perfectly socially acceptable. And if their employers tell them that domestic violence isn't a big deal, even if they aren't batterers themselves, how might your average police officer or sheriff's deputy respond to a DV call?

If our nation's top law enforcement agencies don't take domestic violence seriously, how can we expect local officers to do so?