You know those days (or years — I’m looking at you, 2016) when you have a hard time being positive and remembering that there is good in the world? Well, I am having one of those days. I was supposed to be writing about October (right around the corner!) being Domestic Violence Action Month and instead I found myself reading article after article about how messed up the world is. I couldn’t stop!

But then I took a breath, called my beloved coworker for a reality check, and was reminded that all my ruminating and ranting and despair are not for nothing. Because it only takes a minute to understand that all of this violence is connected. And it takes just another minute to realize that all of our liberation is connected too. So when it feels like we can’t do anything to make a change, know that we actually can. And the opportunity is right around the corner. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Action Month (DVAM). And action is a good thing. Action will propel us forward. Action will make us feel better. Action is what it will take to end the violence.

So next month, let’s work for justice. Let’s take a stand when we can and kneel when we must. And let’s also take action to end domestic violence. Let’s work for relationships that are loving and safe. Let’s do it together.

Here are some ideas to get you started…

Get together

  • When you have dinner or lunch with friends this month, try out and practice having the conversations modeled in our How’s Your Relationship? Conversation Cards.

Get down to business

  • Find out what businesses in your community are taking a stand against domestic violence and offer your support. Or if you are a business owner, you too can get involved. Check out our DVAM sign you can put in your window and reach out to your local DV program to connect customers with resources and information.

Get social

  • Post DVAM-related content on your social media pages. Encourage conversations in your circle about ending domestic violence.

Get real

  • Talk with the people in your life about their relationships. Find out how things are going with friends, family, and partners. Learn how to support those in relationships that aren’t going well and celebrate when things are good. Set high expectations for those around you and love fiercely.

Get giving

  • Donate to your local DV program with money, time, or access to resources.

Whatever you do, know that you are making a difference. Together we can end domestic violence and create a better world!

dvam_graphic

college-just-aheadI dropped off my twins at college. Two separate colleges. They were handed all sorts of orientation materials – maps, rules, class lists. But nothing to orient them to this life transition: learning how to believe in yourself in a competitive environment, trust a friend with secrets, or figure out if a friendship is becoming intimate. There is no syllabus for having a fair fight or managing jealously.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a life transition syllabus? It would be helpful to know something about what is ahead when building new community and habits in an unfamiliar place. Here are a few benchmarks that I would include:

Comfort:

  • People may look fine from the outside, but lots are struggling and not talking about it
  • Finding people that make your heart sing takes time―lots of time
  • You have to introduce yourself over and over again and it is really awkward

Confidence:

  • Say hi to the person sitting alone in the dining hall
  • Exposure to different people and experiences will build your skills for the next time
  • You are stronger than you think
  • Fantastic teachers will inspire you

Autonomy:

  • You will figure out how to balance class demands with all the rest of campus life
  • The first people you connect with may not be your friends at the end of the year
  • How you look, sound, move through the world is unique

I want my daughters and all young people entering college to know that they are good enough even if other people feel smarter or cooler. You are fabulous enough to take up space, get your questions answered by a professor, and be taken seriously by your peers. You, just you, are enough.

baby-diapers-and-wipesJust as I was beginning my career, Lean In was becoming popular. In true lean in spirit, I was told to pursue my ambitions, ask for more, and change the conversation to what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t. I totally bought into the idea that if I put my mind to it I could (and should) do everything in full force.

Then I had a child.

Beyond the baby shoes, ducky washcloths, and teeny tiny onesies, it turns out taking care of an infant is a LOT of work. Even with my husband right by my side, the majority of the care landed on me after he returned to work.  Soon enough I found myself exhausted, overwhelmed, and disconnected. Even if I could do it all, maybe I didn’t want to?

There is no denying the level of pressure women feel on a daily basis to be a certain kind of mother, partner, friend, and professional. I’m all about encouraging women to ask for what they deserve but expecting women to be more, do more, and lean in more is not always sustainable.

I wish we would stop asking women to do more and instead ask ourselves what we can do to give women more choices. And not just choices but also the resources and support to make choices work, like how to end an unhealthy relationship without losing your housing, how to stay in a career but still be able to spend time with the ones you love, and how and when to start a family.

We don’t need to pressure ourselves to lean in, we need people and resources that support us to make the choices that are best for ourselves.

school-backpacks

This week kids across Washington State headed back to school.

According to our state constitution, educating our children is the paramount duty of government. It is the greatest collective responsibility we share as a community.

Of course, there is no lack of debate or dispute over what that duty requires.

Washington State has been ordered into court on Sept 7th by the WA Supreme Court to answer questions about the ongoing impact of the McCleary Decision, which has been fining WA State $100,000 a day for over a year for not making significant progress on special education, teachers’ salaries and a host of school basics.

Arguments over “teaching to the test” continue to brew. School bathrooms have taken center stage in the growing conversations and controversies over gender. The Department of Justice has pointed out the dangers of the “preschool to prison pipeline” where African American children, poor children and foster children disproportionately find public education not a path to stability and achievement, but a process of escalating surveillance and criminalized discipline that results in imprisonment rather than empowerment.

And a recent study by the NW Network and the National Domestic Violence Hotline demonstrates that fear of mandatory reporting to police or CPS by reporters such as school teachers and counselors results in young people delaying or avoiding seeking help when they are experiencing harm.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the storms that surround education. But, instead of turning away from the challenges that face our schools, let’s get educated about these challenges and the positions on education held by every candidate seeking office this fall. Let’s make sure we have all our kids’ backs as they head back to school.

olmypics-rings

I loved the Olympics as a kid, and they are still a big deal in my house. My husband is Greek so there’s a lot of “we invented this” pride happening (insert loving eye roll here). But these Olympics have left me deflated. It’s not that there weren’t many AH-MAZE-ING performances and stories. I mean, the US gymnastics team, Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, the women’s 4X400 relay team, and so many more.

WOW.

So why am I feeling a bit jaded? (That’s a rhetorical question, the answer is sexism). US women were huge winners at the Rio games, and it seemed like no one knew how to properly react. The media were atrocious in their commentary on women athletes—reducing the US women’s gymnastics team to giggly teens at the mall or focusing on athletes’ husbands or marriage proposals instead of their accomplishments.

Seriously, what’s the deal with public proposals? I mean, this one, where a Chinese diver had her Olympic metal moment upstaged by someone who supposedly loves and respects her? And then the media gushed about how getting a ring and this dude was a waaaaaay bigger prize than the silver was?  What a disaster. Even she states in an interview that her feelings about it are “complicated.” Gymnast Ali Raisman got a public proposal for a date while live on a talk show and people thought it was romantic (nope). And there was also a Brazilian rugby player who received a public marriage proposal that even gave me, your local feminist killjoy, some warm fuzzies. But then I promptly had to reevaluate my feelings because public proposals are not good.

We’ve been told over and over (mostly by cheesy movies and TV) that proclaiming your love from the mountaintop is romantic. But the thing about public proposals is that they don’t give the person a real chance to say no. And those who do say no are questioned and criticized. This is coercive behavior and an all too familiar technique used by those who abuse their partners.

I’m not saying that everyone who makes public proposals is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But I am asking that we shift how we think about this. If you are thinking about making a grand public gesture of love, think twice. Do you know how this person feels about public displays of affection? Have you previously talked about the thing you are asking? I love seeing the love, really. I want more love. Love for all! But that means having relationships that are built on respect and space to speak your truth.

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

What Can You Do to Broaden Your Worldview? Have Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor “One participant at the dinner suggested that it shouldn’t be the duty of the oppressed to educate the oppressors, but Saab dismissed that, explaining that it is one of the pillars of Islam to stand up for all people and to advocate for any marginalized people.”

The hotly contested Olympic medal table of sexism “Detailed commentary setting female gymnasts up against one another and reducing them entirely to their leotards, including references to how “dainty” or “ultra-feminine” they were and even comparing them to Disney fairies.”

Leslie Jones, we’ve got your back! “Racism is not new, but it’s happening in new and different ways. Hateful people have a huge platform to spew their racist hate, and they have no remorse.”

And finally, a little musical parody to entertain you:

Let’s be real, most of us think of an abuser as an easy-to-spot evil monster. So it’s hard to admit or even recognize when someone we care about is being abusive. When we do start to see it, some of us want to vote them off the island and some of us want to stick our head in the sand.

But what if we want to continue to be in community with folks who have done harm? What if they are our family? What if they are our friend? What if we love them?

How do we convey that we won’t tolerate this behavior while staying connected and asking them to change?

We believe the answer lies in having conversations and being real. We hope to encourage you to talk with a person in your life who is struggling in their relationship, who maybe isn’t their best self, and who has the will to change.

It might seem kind of scary and it might be uncomfortable, but YOU CAN DO IT. Think of yourself like a farmer; no matter what happens, you planted the seeds and gave it your best shot.

Here are some strategies that will help you to have the conversation that you want:

  • Address their behavior privately. Be direct but loving as you challenge their actions, words, or violence.
  • Focus on the behavior. Talk about the behavior and how it impacts you. Be clear that you don’t think they are a bad person.
  • Ask a question, listen up and stay connected: “Hey, I’m worried about you… is everything ok?” “Things don’t seem right in your relationship. What’s going on?” “Sometimes I’ve noticed… How do you feel about that?”

Remember, it’s not your job to change someone. You can’t make someone change, but you can hold up a mirror and support them. You can also get help! Talk to your trusted people and reach out to experts.

You can do it!

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

From the Editor: Why We Won’t Be Reviewing ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ Upon Its Release “It is the only way I know to attempt holding my fellow Black men accountable for the violence we sometimes initiate.”

Lindsay Lohan’s Domestic Violence Problems Aren’t the First to Be Ignored, and They Certainly Won’t Be the Last “our collective response to incidents of celebrity domestic violence tends to vary according to who’s on the receiving end and who’s alleged to have committed it.”

Hunger strike enters second week for 22 immigrant mothers stuck in family detention “We are already traumatized from our countries of origin. We risked our own lives and those of our children so we could arrive on safe ground. While here our children have considered committing suicide, made desperate from confinement,”

My colleague said this at a meeting yesterday. I first heard it at our conference last year when the incredible Alissa Bierra was talking about Marissa Alexander. Hearing that sentence again stopped me in my tracks. It is so powerful. Especially in light of the story of Korryn Gaines who was recently shot and killed by police in her own home, in front of her five year old son. (On a tangent, did it not occur to the police that perhaps they should come back another time? Does failure to appear in court really warrant a death sentence?)

But back to that phrase. For years in the domestic violence field, we have struggled to say what we want vs. what we don’t want. We don’t want abuse. We don’t want coercion. We don’t want assault. But that phrase is a gift. It is part of our end goal. It is the way.

home should be a place of liberationHome should be a place of liberation. An absence of violence is not enough. You should be treated with respect by those who proclaim to love you (and those who are “sworn to protect”).

Home should be a place of liberation. You can have opinions in your home. You can disagree about things and have a voice.

Home should be a place of liberation. It should be a place where you can be who you truly are. If you are different from your family (for example a gay or trans teen), you should be loved fiercely.

Home should be a place of liberation. That is what I want. For me. For you. For all of us.

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

New Allegations of Sexual Abuse at Fordham Prep Remind Us That Men Can Be Victims, Too “Movements for rape survivors have a history of forgetting that men can suffer sexual violence as well as perpetrate it.”

Simone Biles on Her Legacy: ‘I’m Not the Next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the 1st Simone Biles’ “Don’t compare her to Michael Phelps, or any other gold medal winner, because she’s not them. And during her post-win interview, she made it a point to make sure people knew that.”

A South Carolina Student Was Arrested for ‘Disturbing a School’ When She Challenged Police Abuse, So We Sued “Every year, more than a thousand students in South Carolina — some as young as 7 years old — face criminal charges for not following directions, loitering, cursing, or the vague allegation of acting “obnoxiously.”