Thursday, May 19, 2011

Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn

By now you have probably heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted to fathering a child with a household employee while he was married to Maria Shriver. You have also probably heard that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French economist and politician, has been accused of raping a housekeeper at a hotel in New York. At face value, these stories may seem unrelated, but we'd like you to look at them a little closer.

The reason that most companies have strict rules about intra-office dating, especially between a boss and a subordinate, is that, by nature, a power difference exists between a person and the person that he or she works for. The boss has the power to fire, reprimand, promote, give raises or other perks, or to make work life miserable for his or her employees. If an employee fears even for an instant that saying no to an advance made by her or his boss will result in a negative on-the-job consequence, it calls into question whether the act or relationship is truly consensual. The mother of Schwarzenegger's baby was his household employee. Because of the power he held over her merely by virtue of providing her paycheck (especially in a time when employment is harder and harder to come by), not to mention that he is a powerful man politically and because of his celebrity, we will never know if the relationship or the act that produced a child was truly consensual. We do know that Schwarzenegger has a history of being accused of violence and harassment toward women.

The woman accusing Strauss-Kahn of rape is making it clear that she did not consent.

These women are both domestic workers, and domestic workers all over the world are particularly vulnerable to violence. Just like in rapes, just like in domestic violence, assaults on domestic workers come from a place of unequal power and are able to continue because those using violence do not fear punishment. Just as scores of people, including Ben Stein in a truly abysmal article, rush to defend Strauss-Kahn against the accusations leveled by a women who, as Stein says, is "just a maid", most people in a position to stop violence against those who are vulnerable just can't bring themselves to believe "just maids" over the fine upstanding citizens who employ them. Violence against women happens to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and income levels and is perpetrated by people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and income levels. Yet, in both of these cases, the women in question are working class women of color, where the men are wealthy and white. Yet another difference in power as afforded by our society.

We're not the only ones who have noticed that men in power sometimes abuse that power, but instead of painting it as men "behaving badly", we call it what it is - a culture that perpetuates violence against women. If any man, powerful or no, thinks that he can get away with abusing women, he is more likely to consider doing so. That doesn't mean that all men will abuse their partners, but you're more likely to consider doing anything bad if you don't think you'll get punished. If a man also thinks that a woman's purpose is to please a man, or that women aren't as smart are as valuable as men, or that being a man means that you have to be in control at all times, or that being a man means using violence, he especially will take advantage of opportunities to violate women while escaping punishment. We have to challenge those mindsets, but we also have to make sure that men who use violence against women are punished. Otherwise they'll do it again and again and again, just as these men have been accused of doing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

LaGrange Man Charged with DV Murder

According to the LaGrange Daily News, a LaGrange man has been charged with murdering his estranged wife.
Officers were called to Sun Ridge Apartments at 1235 Hogansville Road to reports of gunfire and the sound of a woman crying in her apartment about 10 p.m. Officers found Shelley Renee Johnson, 37, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

Her estranged husband, Jacob Johnson, 43, of Dadeville, Ala., turned himself in at the Troup County sheriff’s office about 11:30 p.m. and was returned to LaGrange police for an interview.
Anyone with additional information on this case is asked to call LaGrange police at (706) 883-2603 or Troup County Crime Stoppers at (706) 812-1000 or text an anonymous tip to 847411, keyword LAGRANGE. Tips also may be submitted online at or

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Johnson family.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why Pastors Struggle with DV

It seems like all we have been doing lately is sharing other people's work, which is great, because that means all sorts of people in the media are paying attention to issues including and surrounding violence against women.

The article we want to share today looks at reasons why many pastors struggle when trying to address domestic violence among their congregants. The author comes up with six:
  1. Domestic violence is fundamentally unbelievable (that a person would be capable of hurting someone they love).
  2. Wife abusers are masterful manipulators.
  3. Pastors think spousal abuse only happens in certain kinds of families.
  4. Pastors haven't thought enough about the gray area between "submit" and abuse.
  5. Pastors believe what they preach.
  6. Pastors simply aren't trained about domestic violence.
The only fault in this article is that it, unless it is meant to be implicit within the last point, the author offers no solutions for pastors who want to become better at helping both abuser and survivors address the abuse going on in their relationship. That's where we come in. If you are reading this post and belong to a church, synagogue, or other faith-based institution and you would like to help your religious leader increase his or her skills in addressing domestic violence without causing more harm, please call us at (404) 370-7670. We would love to provide the training needed to make our community's faith leaders part of the solution.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Don't Hate Men

Organizations like ours often get accused of hating men. We must admit, sometimes it gets tempting to get mad at all men. After all, we've spent 25 years helping women pick up and start over after the damage that men have inflicted on them financially, emotionally, and physically. But each of us have men in our lives whom we love - fathers, brothers, husbands, friends, children, etc. We also know that the vast majority of men don't use violence.

It's the MRAs (Men's Rights Activists) that really seem to hate men. For example, men who wear this label are the type of men who feel that women are to blame for their own sexual assaults if they wear sexy clothing that sends men mixed signals. When feminists are saying that men are rational human beings who are able to make the conscious decision not to rape (because most men don't rape), MRAs say that men are animals who are ruled by their libidos and thus just can't restrain themselves if the see a thigh or a little bit of cleavage. Who sounds like they hate men?

Hugo Schwyzer is an ally to women who wrote an article for the Good Men Project claiming that MRAs have their ideas of feminism all wrong and that feminism is actually good for men, too. An excerpt:
The cause of men’s very real unhappiness isn’t a biased family court system, or feminist college professors, or the perceived injustices of Title IX athletic funding. The source of men’s anguish and uncertainty is the straitjacket of traditional American manhood. Men are suffering because their emotional, psychological, intellectual, and sexual potential is stunted by their own efforts to live up to an impossible masculine ideal.

Whether they got it from their fathers or their older brothers, whether they learned it from peers or pastors, coaches or drill instructors, almost all American boys grow up learning the “guy rules.” As Deborah David and Robert Brannon first showed in their landmark 1976 book on men, The Forty-Nine Percent Majority, the rules are crushingly simple: Big boys don’t cry. No sissy stuff. Be a “sturdy oak.” “Be a big wheel.” “Give ’em hell.”

Being a man, in other words, is defined by divesting oneself of anything remotely associated with femininity (like kindness, sensitivity, intuition, empathy). When heterosexual masculinity is defined by violent obtuseness, these “guy rules” rob boys of their chance to develop emotional skills to thrive in relationships with others. This frantic effort to shut down a whole aspect of one’s potential isn’t caused by testosterone or Y chromosomes. It’s caused by the longing to live by the “man code.”


Most MRAs agree that the “man code” exists and that it does great damage to young men. But they blame women for these cruel and limiting rules. According to many MRAs I’ve spoken to, it is women’s sexual desire for the alpha male that forces boys to compete ruthlessly with one another. “Women say they want one thing but choose another: they always go for a**holes,” so many guys say. If women would broaden their sexual appetites to include “betas” and “omegas,” their reasoning goes, boys would feel less compelled to compete ruthlessly with one another. (The men’s rights activists tend to be wildly off-base about what women actually want, but that’s another topic.)

It’s a typical but tragic mistake: MRAs wildly overestimate women’s power, sexual or otherwise. Men, they insist, are helpless by comparison. But that claim ignores a long and unmistakable history of male domination in human history. And if there’s one undeniable truism about our species, it’s that the rules are made by the dominant group. The “man laws” or “guy rules” were created by and for men. Historically, winning validation from other men has mattered more than getting sex or love from women. (If you don’t believe that, think for a moment about how hard boys will work to please a demanding football coach.) Males are raised to be “homosocial,” which means they’re taught to get their primary affirmation from other men rather than from women. Working too hard for female approval just makes you a “mama’s boy” or “p***y-whipped,” and the frantic efforts young men make to ensure neither of those labels apply to them tells you all you need to know about who it is they are really trying to impress.
Amanda Marcotte on the same site breaks it down even better and with more detail. She looks at four examples of causes that MRAs take very seriously and shows how the feminist solution to all of them is better for women and for men. Those issues include:
  • Men are more often the primary or even sole breadwinners of nuclear-family households.

  • Men have to do all the work asking women out, and women are often hostile to men’s overtures, which hurts men’s feelings.

  • Men are more likely to get killed at work.

  • Ladies Night, where bars often extend a drink special to women and not to men.
Still think we're the man haters?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sex Slavery In Atlanta

As we have mentioned before, Atlanta is an international hub for sex trafficking. Last week, the Marietta Patch ran an excellent article examining the specific problem of child sex trafficking and debunking some of the myths regarding where trafficking takes place in Atlanta and who the men are who participate in the sexual enslavement of children.
The Schapiro Group is a data‐driven strategic consulting firm based in Atlanta. They produced a study that shows the largest group of men who purchase sex with young females is found in the north metro Atlanta area, outside I-285 (42 percent). It also shows that 23 percent of buyers are from the south metro area, 26 percent are in the city’s core and only 9 percent come from the airport area.

Child sex trafficking is just as huge a problem for affluent families in Marietta as it is in the inner city of Atlanta.
When we think of sex trafficking, we often think of children from a foreign land being brought here to serve foreign men coming to Atlanta via the airport. This study shows that this is categorically not the case. Atlanta's men are creating the market for the slavery of children and Atlanta's children are often the ones enslaved.

Any young girl is at risk for being enslaved for sex. Factors such as childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence at home, poverty and running away lead to a much greater threat.

An estimated 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the United States. The average time it takes before a trafficker or a solicitor approaches a runaway is only 48 hours.

And 90 percent of runaway girls in Atlanta become part of the city’s sex trade, and 70 to 90 percent of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of childhood sexual abuse.

Girls are lured in by recruiters and pimps; other children are also used as recruiters. At times, a girl’s own family may be the sellers.

The article also includes information regarding how children are accessed by traffickers. We recommend reading the whole thing and then contacting an organization like A Future Not A Past for more information on how you can help.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Triple DV Murder in Iron City

A Seminole County, Georgia man is in police custody after he allegedly murdered three people, one of whom was his former girlfriend.

Seminole County Sheriff Heath Elliott stated store video showed the 3 victims were in their car at the Iron City convenience store. Larry Easterwood pulled in and walked up to the drivers side window and opened fire on the occupants.

The driver of the car, Christy Scott, was dead at the scene. Her husband, Rodney Scott, was transported to Donalsonville Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Easterwood's ex-girlfriend, Stacy Dismuke, was life-flighted to Tallahassee Memorial where she died. The 3 victims were in their thirties. The Scott's 5 year old daughter, also in the car during the shooting, was unharmed. The murders occurred at about 5:30 pm.

One hour later. Easterwood drove his jeep by the crime scene. Bystanders yelled there he goes and deputies, GBI and GSP all rushed to their cars and took off after him. Moments later he was located and arrested at his home about 2 blocks away. A bystander on scene stated they believed that Easterwood had returned to the area and sat behind a building close by and watched the scene before driving home.

Larry Easterwood had been released from federal prison about 1 1/2 years ago and was on parole. Very upset family members spoke with us saying that Stacy Dismuke and Larry Easterwood had lived together for about a year until about 3 weeks ago. Drugs, alcohol and domestic violence was said to be the cause of the breakup.

Stacy Dismuke then moved in with her best friend and her husband, Christy and Rodney Scott, the other 2 murder victims. Since that time, there appears to have been ongoing harassment between Stacy and Easterwood. They lived only 5-6 blocks from Larry Easterwood's home in this small community. Family members felt the Sheriff's office should have done something before it escalated to this point.

"There was just so much we could do." Sheriff Heath Elliott stated. "It's very frustrating that we can not do anything to stop this type situation before someone actually does something to be arrested."

Sheriff Elliott stated a criminal trespass notice had been issued to Larry Easterwood and he had been warned to stay away from Stacy. Sheriff Elliott stated that he had personally spoken with both parties in an attempt to stop the ongoing harassment. He stated the he even spoke with Easterwood's federal parole officer in their attempt to handle the situation.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dismuke and Scott families.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You Shouldn't Laugh

As a fitting wrap-up to our discussion of rape myths for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and especially in the light of our last post discussing rapists in particular, we refer you to this excellent post at Shakesville.

Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.

If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can't tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It's not like they announce themselves.

But, here's the thing. It's very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn't mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.

Or maybe you didn't laugh. Maybe it just wasn't a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn't say anything at all.

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?

That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.

This can be true about any joke, really. It certainly applies to domestic violence. If you're hanging out with a man who batters, and he makes a joke about knocking some sense into his wife, and you laugh, you just reinforced his belief that hitting his wife is OK. It's as simple as that. So the next time you are confronted with a situation like this, and it might be awkward to speak up, think about this: who would you rather defend, the victim or the batter? The victim or the rapist? Whose side would you rather have people think you're on? As Shaker Time-Machine said in her post, "If you're doing something that is more likely to make rapists feel comfortable, then don't do it!"