January 31, 2012
Posted by Leigh Hofheimer under Safety
| Tags: bullying
, dating violence
, sexual predators
, social media
, substance abuse
| 1 Comment
As a parent of teenage daughters, I worry that being on the internet itself, and especially Facebook, is leading them to make unwise decisions. Like other parents I know, I said “If you want Facebook, I need the password.” But I often wonder―am I understanding what I read? Do I know what is really going on? And when do I talk to them about what I see? I know my daughters crave their privacy even on Facebook, and don’t want any reminders that I am hovering. I want them to have safe, respectful and positive relationships―everywhere they go―is that too much to ask for?
Dr. Danah Boyd studies how youth use social media. I found her recent article “Cracking Teenagers Online Codes” to be both troubling and reassuring. Using social media in and of itself does not put kids at risk — “Teenagers at risk offline are the same ones who are at risk online.” There is a strong fear of sexual predators online, but the reality is that most sexual abuse involves someone our children know, trust, or love. Issues of bullying, homophobia, teen dating violence, suicide, and substance abuse are around, and we need to talk to our children when we see it on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else.
Here is what I found to be most reassuring in the article: “Teenagers absolutely care about privacy . . . like adults, they share things to feel loved, connected and supported . . . teenagers are the same as they always were.” They are using the internet to check out new ideas, see what other kids are thinking about, find someone to relate to. They are trying to relieve the alien teenager feeling. Okay, so even if my daughters’ online lives sometimes feel like a barrier to our connection, I just have to be brave and ask about what concerns me―and keep asking. If I listen with a lot of patience and silence, maybe one or two questions or concerns will slip out, and I will be there ready with love.
January 24, 2012
We are really disappointed with the inaccurate coverage of domestic violence and family court in this Seattle Weekly article. We submitted the following letter to their editor.
We have deep concerns about Nina Shapiro’s January 18th article “Ripped Apart.”
Ms. Shapiro makes the important point that family court is significantly under-resourced, and decisions are being made about “the most precious relationships in people’s lives” with hearings that are far from comprehensive. Yes. This is a real problem in King County and across our state.
But Ms. Shapiro goes on at great length about how domestic violence allegations are used to manipulate the courts against dads and draws conclusions by presenting one side of the story. The Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review has studied domestic violence homicides over the course of twelve years in fifteen Washington counties. Inter-disciplinary groups reviewing these homicides found time and again that―even with the most violent abusers―courts failed to adequately address victim’s safety concerns and failed to understand how abusers’ controlling and violent behavior threatened the safety and well-being of their children. These findings are completely ignored by Ms. Shapiro.
We routinely hear about attorneys advising victims NOT to talk about the abuse they have experienced because it will bias the court against them. They remain silent out of fear that the court will think they are lying or trying to manipulate the system. This silence hurts children.
We agree that family court needs to be improved. But, whenever allegations of domestic violence are present, the focus should be on safety and the best interest of the children. We encourage The Weekly to exercise better judgment and present balanced material on matters such as this.
January 24, 2012
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a policy nerd. I’ve been watching the GOP primary extravaganza and heard something a couple of weeks ago that made me mad. (OK, there was more than one thing, but I’m only talking about one here). Mitt Romney went on the Today show and said that the increase in income inequality in this country is not a topic for public debate, but that it should rather be discussed in “quiet rooms.” And anyway, those that complain about the super-rich are simply envious. WHAT?!?
Don’t talk about it? What a blatant attempt to maintain a position of power and control. Hmmm, power and control―where have I heard that before? Now, I’m not saying that Romney is abusive because he said this (so shoo that bee away from your backside). But I would like to point out how insidious the desire to maintain power for the few is in this country. Whether or not this was intentional or naïve on Romney’s part, I don’t know. But the fact that he said he doesn’t want us talking about our growing economic divide AND that there hasn’t been a bigger showing of public outrage, point to how tolerated this kind of silencing is in our society.
Those experiencing abuse at the hands of their loved ones have for decades been told that it is not something to be talked about in the open—that it is “family business.” And this gives abusers a tremendous amount of control. Silence protects their power.
So what have we been doing to stop domestic violence? Talking about it. Talking in communities, schools, public forums about what domestic violence looks like, why it happens, how we can change it. The shrinking of the middle class is impacting survivors of abuse too, because less money means fewer good options for staying safe. Let’s start talking about that too.
January 17, 2012
I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to say about Martin Luther King, Jr. day, racial justice and equality … and then I came across the video “S*!t White Girls Say … to Black Girls.” Not everyone is amused, but the fact is it went viral. Franchesca Ramsey had her experiences to make this video and said that even impacting one person made it worth it.
This video resonated with me because I have my own collection of things people say to me. For example, when I get asked if I’m from India, I usually answer “I’m from Zambia.” Then, I hear things like “Wow, you’re black?” (an attorney) OR “My best friend in college was from India.” (a well-traveled person) OR “Oh, so you’re a Zamboni-an.” (a person of color).
Women are often judged or undermined because of what they said, what they drank, or what they may be wearing. Similarly, survivors of domestic and sexual violence have heard “why don’t you just leave?”. It’s just s*!t people say … even some well-intentioned people. It’s me, it’s you, and yeah, it’s the people you hang out with.
So be informed, use your own strategy to educate yourself and others. And be willing to be educated, whether it’s acknowledging a thoughtless remark or asking good questions about what you don’t know.
January 10, 2012
My girlfriend and I used to have four breasts between us. Then 16 years ago, we lost one. Then another last year. As of December 21, we are down to one.
Quite honestly, breast cancer is not the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it is painful, time consuming and expensive. I doubt this cancer is going to kill me―though several of my friends have not been so lucky.
Because I had weeks to sit around and think about it, I connected even more dots than the last time I blogged about this topic. My cancers were caused by all the toxic chemicals I’ve encountered in my lifetime. As a woman, I’m at a huge disadvantage in a toxic world. As one of my radiologists said to me “I hate to break it to you, but breasts are mostly fat.” Get it? Fat = storage. My breasts were like bank accounts for a ready flow of chemical cash.
Okay, that’s gross, but do you want to hear something super ironic? This from Barbara Ehrenreich in her brutal essay “Welcome to Cancerland”―one chemical company that manufactures carcinogenic pesticides is the same company that makes one of the most common treatments for breast cancer. Causing and curing cancer―flip sides of the same profit.
Profit. Corporate greed. Follow the thread.
Sitting in twelve clinic waiting rooms last month, I also got a big dose of magazine popular culture. All I can say is &^@*$. One ridiculous manifestation of a woman’s image after another selling absolutely nothing that anyone really needs. Profitable images. That’s all. Profit. And again women are paying the price.
Enough diagnosis. Let’s get on to the treatment plan.
The main thing I want to say about this is that there is absolutely NOTHING you can do as one lone individual to create the level of change our world needs. Individual actions serve as a reminder of the immediacy of the problem, but they don’t solve it.
The other main thing I want to say is that you as an individual are the ONLY person who can create the change our world so desperately needs. Yes. You. And you. And you. All of us―together.
Editor’s note: We are remembering Ellen Pence, who died last week of breast cancer. We note with sadness our growing losses.
January 9, 2012
In 1986 or ‘87, Ellen Pence came to Los Angeles, where I was working at the time, and did a training for advocates. I remember she asked us: “Are we trying to domesticate these women, or liberate them?” From there, she talked about how shelters should and could create space for women to claim their power, dignity, and visions for their own future.
That was the first time I met Ellen and it impacted me profoundly. I have always remembered that question and it has informed much of what I have done since then. The other gift Ellen gave was to always be so clear that if we wanted to know what would be helpful to battered women, we needed to ask battered women, not think it up in a separate room. So simple, so profound, and so right.
Over the years, I have seen Ellen speak at various conferences and gatherings. Each time, she led me to think deeply, and offered such substantial insight that it shifted and shaped my work. The humor, compassion and loving-kindness she brought to everything she did and said was completely disarming, breathtaking and delightful. Ellen’s life was a blessing for all of us who knew her, and had the privilege to learn from her. And it was a blessing for so many people across the world who don’t know her or of her, but whose lives are better because of all she did.
I am so, so, soooo sad she is gone; she has always been one of my heroes, ever since that first time I saw her speak.
January 3, 2012
First post of the year (again) and I thought I’d take a moment to reflect. Last January, I wished for some simple messages to accompany our collective efforts to end domestic violence, and lo and behold, I got what I asked for! It turns out that “Domestic Violence is preventable!”
It sure is.
While there are lots of explanations for the pandemic of violence against women and girls, there aren’t any acceptable justifications. It happens, but it doesn’t have to.
We actually can stop this violence before it starts―by promoting healthy relationships, shifting culture, building skills, and addressing root causes of violence.
So as a new year begins, I’m excited to reflect on the paths that we laid this past year―paths that will bring all of us closer to a world where boys and girls know that they are loved and know how to love, gender doesn’t define how we treat each other, and everyone experiences healthy, loving, and safe relationships. We made great progress in 2011: highlighting new ways to talk about prevention, learning about teen relationships, talking with our own kids, sharing messages about respect, joining national ventures, and making plans to end violence against women and girls.
We (yes, that includes YOU) are now in a position to make incredible leaps forward. Onward to 2012, huzzah!