By now you’ve all seen the photos, the devastation, the air quality alerts, and heard the awful news. Washington (and much of the west) is on fire. My heart goes out to all those impacted by the fires and I am sending love and appreciation to the many folks helping out.

Now, I know that even in the midst of the fires and emergencies, people’s lives must go on. But a Facebook post from a domestic violence program in the fire/evacuation zone stopped me in my tracks:

A tweet detailing the closing of one domestic violence program due to encroaching wildfires.

A coworker and I commiserated by asking questions into the air:

“Can you believe that someone would have the audacity to continue abusing someone when their community is up in flames?”

“What must it be like to need DV services at a time like this?”

“What is wrong with people?”

But mostly we were just struck with the obvious: Fires happen and are not always preventable. Domestic violence happens and is 100% preventable.

When lightning strikes a dry forest, a fire will likely emerge. That is the cruel reality of nature. But violence is not lightning. Violence is not inevitable and in fact it is a pain of our own creation. There are countless miseries that we can’t avoid, but I know that we can avoid this one. So, let’s all commit to helping out where we can and pledging once again to end a 100% preventable problem – domestic violence. Hugs to all those impacted by both the fires and violence, we’re thinking of you and working to make it better.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Hundreds of Detained Children and Mothers Could Soon Be Released “I continue to feel let down by the response from DHS, which really seems to be clinging to a model that doesn’t work and harms children,” said Clara Long, U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch. “And they have a lot of money sunk in that model. So I guess it’s understandable that they want to cling to it.”

Amelia Boynton Robinson, a Pivotal Figure at the Selma March, Dies at 104 “I wasn’t looking for notoriety,” she said. “But if that’s what it took,” she added, “I didn’t care how many licks I got. It just made me even more determined to fight for our cause.”

Head Lice, Red Flags, and Emotional Abuse When I was pregnant, I asked him: “Please, don’t talk down to me the way you do in front of our children when they are born.” He responded “Then don’t be someone I have to talk down to.”

I can’t wait to see this documentary:

August is typically a very slow, quiet month for me. Everyone is out on their summer vacation, the office is nearly empty, and my work load is low. But this August was different and by the time my own vacation approached, I felt overwhelmed and overloaded. There was a lot of work I didn’t have time to complete and I knew there would be more waiting for me when I got back. There were a few moments when I seriously considered canceling my vacation. But I didn’t. I packed my bags, and piled into a minivan with my husband, our best friends, two dogs, and supplies for the week. We hit the road to Iowa! The first two days I responded to emails and stressed about all the work I wasn’t doing. The morning of day three, when I woke in the Badlands to bison rolling in the dirt, it hit me: I needed a time out.

As a child I got a time out when I did something I wasn’t supposed to. My parents sent me to my room to cool off and think about my actions. This is not a practice I’ve self-employed often but like kids can get wrapped up in emotion and mischievousness, I had become trapped by the stress of the daily grind, to-do lists, seemingly endless emails, and deadlines.

The very important work I do every day to end domestic violence can seemed infinite. The idea of vacation was grand but when it came down to it, it was hard to take. I’m not alone. A lot of Americans don’t receive vacation benefits, and those who do often don’t take it, even though it’s clear that taking a break can reduce stress and mitigate burn out. I’m part of a movement that promotes self-care all the time, but I wasn’t taking time to care for myself.

four people sitting on a large statue of a jackalopeSomething very powerful and liberating happened to me when I told myself to take a time out. I calmed down, thought about what I wanted to be doing, and then I enjoyed every moment. I swam in algae-saturated lakes, watched friends get married, ate ice cream at Mt. Rushmore, and sat on a giant Jackalope. Today is my first day back at work and I have a ton of work on my plate (including this blog post). But after putting myself in time out, I feel more enthusiastic and determined than ever to be part of this work on ending domestic violence.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Here’s a great story: Malyk Bonnet, a really smart seventeen-year-old, saved a women from her violent ex-boyfriend.

A look at some of the creative and powerful ways communities have responded to sexual violence outside of the justice system.

A lost film has resurfaced showcasing the kickass feminists who agitated at the 1972 Democratic convention: Shirley Chisolm, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and more!

We bring you this post from Sandi Scroggins, WSCADV’s Executive Assistant.

April 5, 1984. I was 14 and it was 18 days before my 15th birthday. I had transferred to Foothill High School six months prior. I was making some friends, was a member of the band, and was tinafaelzfinalstarting to fit in. Then it happened. The thing that you only read about in Stephen King novels. My classmate, Tina Faelz, was murdered. This terrible act of violence changed me but it would take years to figure out the full extent of its impact.

I did not know Tina personally, but I knew who she was. She was a normal girl with normal dreams and aspirations. She was also bullied. In fact, she started taking karate lessons to learn how to protect herself. This was back in the day before “Zero Tolerance.” Some of her classmates would actually throw rocks at her when she tried to get on the school bus. Thus the reason she wasn’t riding the school bus anymore. Thus the reason she was walking home, by herself, that day.

I became sick to my stomach when I found out about Tina’s murder. I was in shock. I cried—a lot. And I was afraid. I had nightmares. Although I have never seen the crime scene photos, my mind was able to concoct horrible images. Those images still haunt me. I was afraid to be alone. I was afraid of the dark. I just knew someone was waiting around a corner to hurt me, or worse, murder me. I was afraid of missing the bus. I became leery of people. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way. And I certainly did not know how to express these feelings. So, instead, I suppressed them and never discussed them with anyone. How could I, a person who was not even friends with Tina, be so affected?

What made the whole situation worse was that we all knew who did it. Another classmate of ours,  Steve Carlson. He had bragged about it. But he wasn’t arrested. In fact, no one was arrested. It became a cold case and our lives went on. But I thought of Tina often. I thought of her when I went to our senior ball. And when I graduated from our high school. And when I got married. All the things she never had the chance to experience because her life was stolen.

The total effects of Tina’s murder did not become fully apparent until my son was born. I became THAT mom. The one you would call paranoid. When Joshua was a baby, I was afraid someone would kidnap him. When he went to grade school, I was afraid he would be bullied. When he went to middle school, I was afraid something bad would happen to him. When he went to high school, I was afraid someone he knew would hurt him, or worse, murder him. I was told I was irrational. I was told that things like that don’t REALLY happen. Except they do.

Twenty-seven years later, Steve Carlson was arrested and charged with Tina’s murder. DNA evidence connected him. We were right. He did do it. On October 30, 2014, Steve Carlson was found guilty and he was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison. It had taken 30 years. I am grateful he is behind bars. I hope he is there for the rest of his life.tinatombstonefinal

I still think of Tina often. I still cry when I think of her. And now I know why her murder affected me so dramatically. She was part of my community. Steve Carlson was also part of my community. An act of violence affects the community as a whole. It doesn’t matter if you were best friends with the victim or the perpetrator or if you did not know them. Violence has that effect on people. And it ripples out. The impact of those ripples may never be fully realized. But they will be felt.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Here’s why we at Amnesty backed the decriminalisation of sex work “Any foray into the lives of sex workers reveals so many crucial human rights issues that urgently need addressing. .. these questions about health, safety and equality under the law are more important than any moral objection to the nature of sex work.”

Immigration detention is inhumane. But for pregnant women, it’s trauma “The government spends over $2.4bn each year to detain immigrants, many of whom – like me – have family and friends here who can support us at no cost to the government while we make our case to an immigration judge.”

Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter and the racial divide in Seattle “Black people in America are fighting for their lives. These protests aren’t just about an election, these protests are about a voice — a voice that will no longer be silenced. It may make some people uncomfortable, it may make some people angry — and if it does, you should ask yourself, why weren’t you angry already?”

I recently wrote this guest column for publication in Sound Publishing community newspapers.

nomoreThose of us who work at domestic violence programs hear this question all the time. The truth is, they do. Every day we hear from survivors of abuse who were able to find the support and resources they needed to be safe and self-sufficient.

Every day we also hear from people who are unable to leave because they fear the abuser will be more violent if they do. This fear is very real. According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review, in at least 55% of homicides by abusers, the victim had left or was trying to leave.

Many people are unable to leave an abusive relationship because they have nowhere to go. Our communities don’t have enough affordable housing, and shelters and transitional housing units are limited. On just one day last year, domestic violence programs in Washington could not meet 267 requests for housing. People often stay with or return to an abusive partner because they don’t have the money to support themselves or their children.

We also hear from people who don’t want to leave, but want the abuse to stop. Research consistently shows that people in an abusive relationship make repeated efforts to be safe and self-sufficient, but there are many barriers—both external, such as limited resources or support; and internal, such as an emotional connection to their partner or a desire for their children to be with both parents—that makes this very difficult.

But here’s the thing: This is absolutely the wrong question to be asking, as it implies that victims are responsible for ending violence. They aren’t. Instead, we should be asking what we can do to stop abusers from being violent and controlling.

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