By Lynn Rosenthal
For six months now, I have held the first-ever White House position dedicated to combating violence and sexual assault against women and continuing the important work of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Every morning when I’ve walked into the White House, I’ve brought with me the stories of the many survivors I have worked with over the years. I’ve focused on raising the profile of violence against women issues across Federal Agencies, states, tribal communities, and localities; coordinating interagency collaboration on these issues; implementing victim assistance programs; and integrating these issues into Administration-wide programs such as the White House Fatherhood Initiative, the White House Council on Women and Girls, HUD’s fight against homelessness, and the Justice Department’s recent effort to better combat disproportionate violence in tribal communities.
Yesterday, I met with a group of 16 leaders of organizations that combat violence against women, provide resources for women who face domestic violence and sexual assault, and advocate for victims. During this meeting, I shared with these leaders the same information I am sharing with you -- information on how the White House, through the President’s FY 2011 budget, is making combating violence against women a real priority.
Violence Against Women Act as a Budget Priority
The FY 2011 budget will provide a record total of $730 million to combat violence against women -- a $130.5 million increase in funding from the previous fiscal year. The VAWA, passed in 1994, already provides thousands of victims with life-saving services, improvements in the criminal justice system and increased public awareness. The President’s FY 2011 budget not only continues this strong response, but bolsters current funding and responds to the emerging needs of communities.
Crime Victims Fund
The budget provides a $100 million increase from the Crime Victims Fund, specifically for emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other local services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. By focusing on both immediate safety and long-term housing assistance, we can help ensure that victims don’t have to choose between living with abuse or becoming homeless. Furthermore, the Crime Victims Fund does not consist of a single taxpayer dollar; it is self-sustaining and supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties for Federal offenders. In addition to a fund increase from the Crime Victims Fund, the FY 2011 budget provides $140 million for battered women’s shelters and services, an increase of $10 million from the previous fiscal year.
Victim Resources and Legal Support
The $730 million also provides vital funding for victim resources. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Dating Violence Helpline are receiving increased funding of $4.5 million to ensure every call is answered. The budget also provides $30 million in VAWA funding for victims of sexual assault -- a $15 million increase from the previous year -- which will be utilized by the Sexual Assault Services Program to provide crisis intervention, advocacy within the criminal justice system, support during forensic exams, and other related assistance.
The FY 2011 budget bolsters legal support for domestic violence and sexual assault victims by providing $50 million in VAWA funding for legal assistance for victims, a $9 million increase from the previous year. The Civil Legal Assistance Program will use this funding to help victims more easily obtain protective orders and other assistance available through the court system.
To build upon the above improvements in the criminal justice system, the budget also provides $188 million in STOP grants that provide better training, improved data collection, specialized law enforcement and prosecution units, and courts specialized for domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
Support Across the Board
Ending domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for President Obama and Vice President Biden. I’ve written about numerous fund increases and initiatives that are testaments to this fact. In my meeting yesterday, the White House’s commitment to violence against women issues was clear -- we are increasing support for women across the board.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
May 13, 2010 Vol. 16, Issue 5
Speaking Up is a project of the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Produced by PR Solutions, Inc., Washington, DC. Phone: 202/371 1999; Fax: 202/371 9142; E-mail: email@example.com.
CONGRESS CONSIDERS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMENIn recent weeks, two congressional committee hearings have examined the causes and consequences of violence against women in the United States and around the world. On May 5, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Director Judge Susan Carbon and other experts testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the importance of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) during the economic downturn. A few weeks before that, on April 15, Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Ted Poe (R-TX) testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, urging the U.S. to take action to end violence against women and girls around the world by passing the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA).
The Increased Importance of the VAWA in a Time of Economic Crisis
At the hearing on VAWA, Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) praised the law, but cautioned that there is more work to be done: “The importance of VAWA could not be clearer than it is today as our country copes with a troubled economy. The safety net VAWA has provided survivors over the years is now a lifeline for many. The economic pressures of a lost job, home, or car can add stress to an already abusive relationship. The loss of these resources can make it harder for victims to escape a violent situation. And just as victims’ needs are growing, state budget cuts are resulting in fewer available services, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, counseling, and child care.”
Judge Carbon commended the Obama Administration for funneling stimulus funds to programs that serve victims of domestic, sexual and dating violence and stalking because these funds fill “critical gaps in services.” But she also cautioned that there is still great unmet need for services and supports. “As we think about reauthorization of VAWA, we must fully incorporate prevention as an essential strategy to ending violence against women,” she testified.
Other witnesses included Auburn L. Watersong of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Lolita Ulloa with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office in Minneapolis; and Richard Gelles, Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
Watersong focused on the importance of economic sustainability for victims of violence. “Many VAWA programs contribute to the overall economic sustainability of victims and play a crucial part in victims’ long-term safety and self-sufficiency,” she said.
Ulloa focused on ways that VAWA has benefited victims of violence in the legal system. “When Congress passed VAWA, there was finally federal recognition that crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking would not be tolerated any longer,” she testified. “As a result, there has been a shift in how violence against women is addressed in the criminal justice offices, and also in how it is viewed in the community. Funding criminal justice offices remains, I believe, a critical need – especially when criminal justice offices forge partnerships with community battered women’s programs and social services.”
Gelles testified that VAWA is “likely to have played a role” in decreasing the rates of domestic violence. The most recent federal data available, which predates the economic downturn, show that rates of domestic violence have decreased by about half since 1993, he said. That mirrors the overall drop in violent crime during the same time period. Gelles recommended that Congress make “funding more effective” when reauthorizing VAWA.
Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) also questioned witnesses on issues ranging from the backlog of rape kits, to the needs of victims of violence who live in rural communities, to the programs that work best in ensuring that victims are able to get legal assistance.
To watch a webcast or read testimony from the “The Increased Importance of the Violence Against Women Act in a Time of Economic Crisis” hearing, click here.
Violence Against Women: Strategies and Responses
At the April hearing, Representatives Delahunt and Poe testified that violence against women is a serious human rights violation. Around the world, women and girls are systematically targeted in armed conflicts, communal violence and cultural practices, in the workplace and at home.
Representative Delahunt made a powerful case that the United States has made progress in decreasing rates of violence at home, and should build on that success with I-VAWA. “There is no reason this can’t be replicated internationally,” he said. “The time to act is now.”
Representative Poe answered critics who question allocating funds for international work, when domestic budgets are stretched thin. “Despite the fiscal concerns, the United States should be at the forefront of the fight for human rights, because human rights is our business,” he said. “The international crime of violence against women should end and the U.S. should be the leader.”
Ambassador Stephen Rapp of the Office of War Crimes Issues; Dr. Lydia Mungherera, founder of Mama’s Club in Uganda; Humaira Shahid of Pakistan, former member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly; Retired Major General Patrick Cammaert, former United Nations Force Commander; and Gary Barker, Ph.D., Director of Gender, Violence and Rights at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) also testified.
Ambassador Rapp discussed the horrors that women living in combat areas experience. He called violence against women, “the major if not dominant tactic of war” and said that “in some parts of the world it is more dangerous to be a woman than an armed combatant.” Retired Major General Patrick Cammaert echoed this and focused his testimony on the role of sexual violence in conflict. He called sexual violence a “security issue” because it tears apart families, undermines stability and prolongs conflict when women aren’t a part of the peace process and perpetrators aren’t punished.
Dr. Lydia Mungherera addressed the intersection of violence against women and girls and HIV/AIDS. Women who are in violent relationships are unable to negotiate safe sex practices and can be prevented from seeking health services, she said, commending I-VAWA’s comprehensive approach to addressing violence in HIV/AIDS prevention. “Women and girls cannot wait another year or another political cycle…I-VAWA must be passed,” she added.
Gary Barker with ICRW emphasized the role of men and boys in addressing violence against women: “We are finding men who don’t believe in violence” and evidence of programs that work. He said I-VAWA would build on effective programs and cited the Family Violence Prevention Fund and ICRW’s work to change attitudes and culture norms in India through cricket. Learn more about the Parivartan and Coaching Boys into Men here.
In addition to Co-Chair James P. McGovern (D-MA), Representatives Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) attended the hearing.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that one of every three women globally will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. A 2005 World Health Organization study found that of 15 sites in ten countries – representing diverse cultural settings – the proportion of ever-partnered women who had experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime ranged from 15 percent in Japan to 71 percent in Ethiopia.
As of today, I-VAWA has 95 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 29 in the Senate. Click here to send a message to your Senator or Representative and encourage him/her to co-sponsor I-VAWA.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS AT THE RECENT HEARINGS
“In some countries women are met with violence simply because they want to go to school, work to support their families or marry a man of their choosing. This must change.”
---U.S. Representative and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission James McGovern (D-MA), “Violence Against Women Strategies and Responses,” April 15, 2010
“It is socially unacceptable and criminally responsible to treat women and girls like property.”
---U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), “Violence Against Women Strategies and Responses,” April 15, 2010
“I hope our colleagues will join us in supporting the International Violence Against Women Act. This isn’t a partisan issue, or a women’s issue. It is a human rights issue.”
---U.S. Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA), “Violence Against Women Strategies and Responses,” April 15, 2010
“Violence against women is a destabilizing factor around the world and this violence impacts us.”
---U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), “Violence Against Women Strategies and Responses,” April 15, 2010
“When women are able to live a life without violence, they can build strong communities and families.”
---U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD), “Violence Against Women Strategies and Responses,” April 15, 2010
“While I fully recognize that tough decisions need to be made about spending federal dollars in the current economic climate, federal investment in protecting women and children from domestic violence is especially necessary at times like this. It is no secret that domestic violence becomes more pervasive in times of economic distress.”
---U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) in a statement, “The Increased Importance of the Violence Against Women Act in a Time of Economic Crisis,” May 5, 2010
“I am really pleased to work with my colleagues to get VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] reauthorized. Although an economic crisis does not cause domestic violence…I have concerns that the current economic downturn affects violence.”
---U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), “The Increased Importance of the Violence Against Women Act in a Time of Economic Crisis,” May 5, 2010
OUTREACH – TIME TO ACT ON JJDPA
Now that Congress has passed health care reform, it’s time to urge Members to turn their attention to other crucial issues that affect our health and safety, including the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). It’s time for violence prevention advocates to speak out and tell Congress to make juvenile justice reform a priority this year and help youth who have been exposed to violence!
The JJDPA was first enacted in 1974. It provides federal funding to states that comply with a set of best practices aimed at avoiding the detention and incarceration of young people in juvenile and adult facilities. However, this law is three years overdue for reauthorization! The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a JJDPA reauthorization bill (S. 678) but the full Senate has yet to act. The House of Representatives Education & Labor Committee has held hearings, but they have not yet moved reauthorization legislation.
This reauthorization marks an important opportunity to more adequately address the needs of young women who have experienced violence and trauma. Nationally, studies show that a history of sexual victimization and physical abuse is one of the most commonly shared attributes of girls in the juvenile justice system. According to The Brookings Institute, 92 percent of incarcerated young women are victims of abuse. In fact, often a young woman’s contact with the criminal justice system is a result of behaviors she adapted to overcome poverty, racism and abuse. For the first time ever, the this reauthorization could mean that JJDPA addresses the specific needs of girls who have been exposed to domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
If you agree that it we should develop gender-specific services that include prevention, intervention, education and awareness-raising about domestic and dating violence and sexual assault for young women in the juvenile justice system, and develop effective juvenile justice programs such as alternatives to detention and incarceration, contact your Representative now and urge him/her to introduce and move a bill in the House this year!
Here’s how you can help:
• Meet: Ask for a meeting with your representatives in the House and Senate to discuss the JJDPA;
• Write a Letter: If you are not able to get a meeting scheduled, send a letter to your Members of Congress to support JJDPA reauthorization. Sample materials can be found here;
• Join: Join the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign Fan page on Facebook here;
• Share: Spread the word with your friends and share this Action Alert!
For additional information including sample letters, click here.
OHIO TEEN WINS NATIONAL THAT’S NOT COOL CONTEST
Lara Beck, a junior at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, has been named the winner of a national contest to design a new “Callout Card” – a brief, creative message in “teen speak” that raises awareness about preventing digital dating abuse. The contest is part of the That’s Not Cool campaign, a national public service awareness effort designed to help teens recognize digital dating abuse and take steps to prevent it. The contest was sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). As the Grand Prize winner, Lara attended and walked the red carpet at the NFL PLAYERS Gala in Washington, D.C., which honors players for their commitment to team, family and community, in April.
The FVPF, Advertising Council and R/GA launched That’s Not Cool last year. Each month the campaign generates nearly 70,000 website visitors, and thousands of those teens send That’s Not Cool Callout Cards (e-cards with a brief message like the one Lara created) to their friends and dating partners.
“I’m so excited that I won this contest and that I get to go to the NFL PLAYERS Gala,” 16-year-old Beck said. “Dating violence is a serious issue and I designed a Callout Card to convey, in a straightforward way, that teens who are in bad or dangerous relationships should get help and get out.”
Digital communication is central to teens’ lives and relationships. With these new technologies come the risk of digital dating abuse, which includes unwanted, repeated calls or text messages; hacking into e-mail; spying on social networking accounts; or being pressured to send private or embarrassing pictures or videos.
“Our That’s Not Cool campaign has reached thousands and thousands of teens like Lara, all across the country, helping them recognize that controlling behavior can cross the line and become abuse,” said FVPF President Esta Soler. “We are delighted with Lara’s powerful and creative entry, and so proud that she is representing the campaign at the NFL PLAYERS Gala. Her Callout Card will help start conversations about textual harassment and digital abuse, give teens the tools to recognize and talk about it, and encourage them to define what is and isn’t okay.”
“Our organization and the players we serve understand the importance of education and prevention as it relates to dating violence,” said Teri Patterson, NFLPA Special Counsel to the Executive Director.
The four runners-up, Liz Burton from Melrose, MA, Andrea Hovetter from Carlisle, PA, Madeline Rauch from Lexington, SC and Thadeus Bradley from Whitesburg, GA each received autographed NFL memorabilia. Honorable mention winners received That’s Not Cool t-shirts and NFLPA hats. Teens age 13 to 18 were eligible to enter the contest. The FVPF received entries from teens all around the country.
According to Technology and Teen Dating Abuse Survey, 2007 (conducted by Teen Research Unlimited and Liz Claiborne), one in three teens say they have been text messaged 10, 20 or 30 times an hour by a partner wanting to know where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with. One in four teens in a relationship have been called disparaging names, harassed or put down by a partner through cell phones and texting. More than half of teen girls (51 percent) say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images, and 18 percent of teen boys say pressure from a girl is a reason (Sex and Tech Survey, conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2008).
That’s Not Cool includes an interactive website at www.ThatsNotCool.com, mobile phone component, television, radio, posters in schools and malls, and online ads all designed to help youth recognize digital dating abuse and give them tools to avoid it. On the site teens can find resources to “draw their own digital line” and a forum to discuss this form of abuse and seek help. That’s Not Cool is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women.
HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER PASSES
Rhonda Copelon, a human rights attorney and City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law professor who helped convince United States federal courts and key international tribunals to recognize gender-based violence and international human rights violations as illegal forms of torture, has died of ovarian cancer.
During her 40-year career, Copelon worked on a range of legal cases involving gender-based violence, racial discrimination, government wiretapping, employment discrimination, and women’s reproductive rights.
“Rhonda Copelon was a passionate and powerful legal advocate for victims of gender-based violence in the United States and around the world,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “She dedicated her life to helping women who suffered human rights violations. It would be impossible to overstate her impact on how courts deal with these atrocious crimes. She was an inspiration to so many of us. We feel this loss deeply and pledge to continue Rhonda’s tireless work.”
Copelon co-founded the CUNY Law School’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR). Under her leadership, the clinic enabled students and activists to participate in a range of precedent-setting legal and advocacy campaigns. Working with these students, she filed briefs before the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia that contributed to recognition in international law that rape is a crime of genocide and torture. Copelon told The New York Times in 2002 that, until then, “rape was considered a kind of collateral damage” and “seen as part of the unpreventable, fundamental culture of war.”
IWHR’s work with the United Nation’s Committee against Torture and other international bodies contributed to worldwide recognition that gender crimes, including domestic and other forms of violence, can constitute torture under the United Nation’s Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Copelon was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1944. She graduated from Bryn Mawr with a degree in history and political science, and received her law degree from Yale.
For more information on Rhonda Copelon’s life and legacy, click here.
FURTHER EVIDENCE OF LINK BETWEEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & REPRODUCTIVE COERCION/CONTROL
Reproductive control – when a partner imposes his reproductive intentions through intimidation, threats or actual violence – is a common problem for women who experience intimate partner violence, according to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute on April 6.
Three in four respondents (74 percent) in the new study – of 71 domestic violence victims seeking services at a family planning clinic, an abortion clinic and a domestic violence shelter – reported that their partners had threatened to get them pregnant, forced them to have unprotected sex, sabotaged or interfered with their contraception, threatened them with sexual intercourse, tried to control the outcome of their pregnancies if they became pregnant, or in other ways tried to coerce their reproductive outcomes. These abusive behaviors can lead to unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and a host of other problems.
“This study adds to the growing body of evidence that partner violence often includes reproductive coercion and control, which can lead to unplanned pregnancy,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “We make a mistake by putting these issues in silos and promoting solutions that ignore the connection. If we are serious about stopping unplanned pregnancy in this country, we simply must address the sexual violence and reproductive control that often cause it. If we are serious about stopping dating and domestic violence, we must recognize that many victims grapple daily with sexual violence and reproductive coercion. And if we are serious about improving women’s health, we must address the violence that too many young women experience.”
The authors of “Male Reproductive Control of Women Who Have Experienced Intimate Partner Violence in the United States,” conducted in-depth interviews with 71 women aged 18–49 who had a history of intimate partner violence; they were recruited in 2007 from a domestic violence shelter, a freestanding abortion clinic and a family planning clinic providing a full range of reproductive health services.
“We believe that reproductive control is, itself, a form of intimate partner violence, and one worthy of public health attention,” said Ann Moore, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute and one of the study’s authors. The study recommends that providers assess their patients in order to identify women who may need to hide their contraceptives from their partner, conduct prenatal care and abortion counseling in private, and ask questions designed to ascertain if anyone is pressuring the woman either to terminate or continue the pregnancy.
The FVPF’s ‘Know More, Say More’ initiative, which examines the consequences of reproductive coercion and violence, is online at www.KnowMoreSayMore.org. For tools on how to assess and respond to violence and coercion, click here.
“Male Reproductive Control of Women Who Have Experienced Intimate Partner Violence in the United States” is available online. It will be published in a forthcoming issue of Social Science & Medicine.
ROUND-UP OF NEW STATE LAWS
State legislatures around the country are wrapping up legislative sessions and sending bills to governors to be signed. This year states have passed many bills address dating, domestic and sexual violence. The following are some of the new laws.
Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 80 on April 12. The new law fills a gap between civil and criminal law to include family pets under Colorado’s protection orders. Representative Jerry Frangas, one of the new law’s chief sponsors, said “By legally protecting animals, we decrease the use of a common manipulative tactic used by domestic violence abusers in the coercion of his/her partner. For many of us, pets are part of our families, and clarifying the law to protect them makes sense and is the right thing to do.”
On April 12, Governor Mitch Daniels hosted a ceremonial signing of “Heather’s Law,” which requires the Indiana Department of Education to develop teen dating violence educational materials and model dating violence response and reporting policies. “Heather’s Law” is named after Heather Norris, who was killed by her estranged high school boyfriend in 2007. After Heather’s death, her mother, Debbie Norris, created a website www.heathersvoice.net and began advocating for Indiana to adopt a dating violence law.
Governor Chet Culver signed legislation on March 22 that will help protect Iowa families by taking guns out of the hands of abusers. Senate File 2357 prohibits a person who has been convicted of a domestic abuse crime, or is subject to a permanent civil protection order, from possessing firearms or other offensive weapons. “It is our duty to do whatever we can to keep Iowa families safe, and this common-sense legislation provides an important tool to do so,” Governor Culver said. “I am proud to sign this bill in the name of all who have suffered at the hands of domestic abusers, and in the memory of all who have sadly lost their lives.”
On April 14, the Kentucky General Assembly and Senate passed “Amanda’s Bill” a measure that would allow authorities to attach GPS monitors to suspected abusers who have violated domestic violence orders. The bill is named after Amanda Ross, who was murdered outside her home last year; former State Representative Steve Nunn has been arrested and charged in her killing. Governor Steve Beshear called for lawmakers to pass the measure in his State of the Commonwealth address in January and signed the legislation on April 28.
Governor John Lynch signed legislation making attempted strangulation a felony on May 4. The bill (HB 1634) quickly moved through the state legislature after the story of Melissa Cantin Charbonneau made headlines last November. Cantin Charbonneau was shot to death by her husband two days after he was arrested for choking her and released on $30 bail, the Manchester Union Leader reports. The new law will make strangulation a second-degree assault, which is a felony that can carry prison time. It takes effect on January 1.
In April, Governor David Paterson signed a law allowing victims of domestic violence to cast special ballots in an election if they leave their residence because of domestic violence. Earlier this month, Governor Paterson signed a law that authorizes courts to order that voter registration records of victims of domestic violence be kept confidential in certain cases.
IN THE NEWS
NATIONAL – The United States will have its human rights record judged by the United Nations Human Rights Council this fall. “Human rights are universal, but their experience is local. That is why we are committed to holding everyone to the same standard, including ourselves,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Washington Post. Some argue that the commission has been overrun by human rights violators like China, Cuba and Egypt and the United States should not participate, but the Obama Administration counters that the U.S. will be in a stronger position to critique human rights violators if we complete the “universal periodic review” process. Each of the 192 United Nations member countries is supposed to go through the review process every four years.
AK – Governor Sean Parnell is heading up a new campaign that calls on Alaskans not to stand by when they see or suspect domestic violence, and to make it a social norm that it is everyone’s business to report and stop such acts. The new “Choose Respect” campaign is in response to Alaska’s high rates of domestic and sexual assault. “Our violence and assault stats will plunge when Alaska men in every corner and every culture in the state think about what it means to truly be a man,” the Anchorage Daily News editorialized.
DC – On Mother’s Day, mothers from across the United States and advocates for abused children gathered in front of the White House for a silent vigil to draw attention to the fact that family courts ordered them to give full custody or unsupervised visitation to their abusers. “We decided that Mother’s Day was the perfect time to stand vigil in front of the White House with mothers from all over America whose children are either dead or living in harm’s way because of the broken family court system,” said Connie Valentine, vigil organizer and co-founder of the California Protective Parent’s Association.
DC – American University’s student newspaper is apologizing for publishing a March 30 column that called date rape an “incoherent concept” and said that any woman who attends a fraternity party, has five drinks and goes back to a man’s room is “indicating she wants sex” and should not “cry ‘date rape.’” Students were outraged after sophomore Alex Knepper published the column. A day after it was published, Knepper told the Washington Post that he enjoyed “stirring the pot” and doesn’t “mind being hated for his views.” In response to students’ protests, The Eagle’s editors are organizing a forum on the issue. They also announced that Knepper will be required to follow a stricter set of guidelines to ensure that his arguments are coherent and reasonable.
FL – Two judges in Sarasota County have created a controversial new policy that requires domestic violence victims to contact police before they grant them a restraining order, reports the Sarasota Herald Tribune. The victims also would be ordered to pursue criminal prosecution as a part of the civil court process. Violence prevention advocates fear that this requirement could discourage victims from seeking protective orders. Circuit Judges Robert McDonald and Andrew Owens countered that they’ve ordered dozens of petitioners to report their allegations to law enforcement, but haven’t imposed any sanctions on victims unwilling to do so.
IL – The man charged with spying on ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison last month. At the sentencing Andrews said, “You violated me and you violated all women… you are a sexual predator, a sexual deviant and they should lock you up.” Michael David Barrett pled guilty last December to interstate stalking after prosecutors accused him of following Andrews to at least three cities and filming her through hotel peepholes. The footage is still posted on the Internet.
KY – As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Louisville Metro Criminal Justice Commission has been awarded $170,000 to develop a system to issue emergency protection orders electronically. In the current system, protection orders must be physically delivered to judges for approval, returned to the domestic-violence intake center, and then a sheriff’s deputy has to pick them up and serve them. The process can take a few days. The new system will allow the orders to be processed in a matter of hours and served the same day, the Courier-Journal reports. The program is expected to start in February 2011.
MD – A Baltimore County judge was suspended from hearing cases last month after he presided over the marriage of an alleged domestic assault victim and her accused attacker. Frederick Wood was charged with assaulting his fiancée in November. The assault case came to trial on March 10 and District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. allowed Wood a recess to obtain a marriage license. Another judge who had no knowledge of the charges against Wood waived the 48-hour waiting period for the marriage. When Wood returned to the courtroom, Judge Russell married him. Wood’s new wife invoked marital privilege so she would not be forced to testify against her new husband. Wood was then found not guilty. The House of Ruth Maryland and the Women’s Law Center of Maryland have filed a complaint with a state panel that disciplines judges, the Baltimore Sun reports.
MN – The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier this month that the police department has launched the “St. Paul Blueprint for Safety” – a new approach so that all parts of the criminal justice system will work together on domestic violence crimes. The “Blueprint” calls for everyone involved, from the 911 operator to judges, to assess for signs of danger. Patrol officers are being trained to ask three key questions: Do you think he/she will seriously injure you or your children? When were you hurt or most afraid? And how frequent is the violence and is the frequency changing? The Minnesota legislature appropriated half a million dollars in 2007 to St. Paul to write a comprehensive plan and a more general guide that other cities could customize.
OH – Last month, Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd ordered teenage rape victims to take polygraph tests even after finding their accusers delinquent, which is the juvenile court equivalent of guilty. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett called the case “unbelievable,” and wrote “The federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005 prohibits forcing a rape victim to take a lie detector test.” Judge Floyd has not commented on the case or her motives for ordering the polygraph are unclear.
MALAYSIA – Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was sentenced last July to caning after being caught drinking beer at a beach restaurant by the morality police. In April, the state’s sultan commuted her sentence to three weeks of community service, the Associated Press reports. Human rights activists had been protesting her punishment, and many in Malaysia say that Islamic laws should not intrude in personal matters in the country, which is known as a moderate and progressive Islamic society.
YEMEN – In late March, hundreds of women protested in support of a bill to ban the marriage of girls under age 17. Some of the country’s most influential Islamic leaders oppose the legislation and it is putting the government’s ruling party in a delicate position, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The government fears being branded “un-Islamic” or “full of infidels.” Child marriage is widespread in Yemen, especially in rural areas. A decision is expected this month.
SAVE THE DATE
May 24-26, 2010, Richland, WA
Hand in Hand through a Lifetime
The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs annual conference will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Richland Hanford House. Olga Trujillo is the featured keynote speaker. A pre-conference institute (on May 24) addressing issues involving children with sexual behavior problems will be offered. For more information, contact Grant Stancliff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-754-7583 or visit the website.
July 21-23, 2010, Washington, DC
From Theory to Practice
Men Can Stop Rape’s most comprehensive Strength Training – From Theory to Practice – has provided more than 9,000 professionals with the skills to engage men in the prevention of dating violence and sexual assault. Learn how to build individual, organizational and community capacity for prevention of violence against women and how to approach primary violence prevention from a public health perspective at this event. Men Can Stop Rape’s approach is based on the social ecological model, advocated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information and to register, click here.
August 1-4, 2010, Anaheim, CA
Changing Faces of the Movement
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is holding its 14th National Conference on Domestic Violence: Changing Faces of the Movement at the Hilton Anaheim. Advocates are encouraged to join hundreds of domestic violence survivors and other allies for critical discussions, networking and vital information aimed at providing services and support for victims of domestic violence. The discounted registration rate has been extended until May 25. For more information about attending the conference or presenting a workshop, click here.
September 1-3, 2010, Los Angeles, CA
2010 National Sexual Assault Conference
The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) is hosting the 2010 National Sexual Assault Conference in Los Angeles. CALCASA is asking participants at this educational conference to imagine the world in which they want to live – a world free of sexual violence. CALCASA will create space for attendees to share public service announcements (PSAs), and will show PSAs developed by agencies and organizations across the country. For more information about submitting your organization’s PSA, click here. For more information about the conference, click here.
October 14-16, 2010, Tacoma, WA
Paving a Rocky Road: Removing Barriers to Men’s Engagement
Pacific Lutheran University Men Against Violence will host a national conference to engage professionals, religious communities and student activists in the process of identifying and strategizing how to remove the barriers that have traditionally kept large numbers of men from joining violence prevention efforts. Experts will discuss innovative approaches to anti-violence work and how to empower men to explore masculinities which support a just and equitable society. For more information or to submit a workshop proposal, contact Jonathan Grove at email@example.com.
Does your organization sponsor a conference that you would like to highlight in Speaking Up?
If so, please let us know about it! Send conference information to Speaking Upeditor Luci Manning via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via fax: 202/371-9142. Be sure to include the registration deadline!
Copyright © 2010 Family Violence Prevention
We need to stay informed about proposed laws and what's happening around us with domestic violence, abuse and human rights if we are to know how to help ourselves, our loved ones and protect our families. If you want to stay informed about the latest legislative alerts and updates effecting domestic violence in the United States, go to the Family Violence Prevention Fund website by clicking here or copying and pasting this url: http://capwiz.com/fvpf/issues/ . Templates have already been designed by FVPF that can be emailed after filling in your information. The letter will be emailed directly to your representative after you click on the send message button. If you choose to mail the letter, the site will provide you mailing details based on your location.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) also watches the face of domestic violence and abuse policies. Visit their Public Policy page also contains the following: Policy Issues, Understanding the Legislative Process, Take Action and Action Alerts.
It is worth the few minutes to get the latest news about what's happening in the world around us. Send your letters of support for the issues affecting the safety of every person. Learn and take action!
Let's show the world that domestic violence is a crime and not a part of life, especially when it can result in taking one's life.
Be a blessing because you are already blessed.