A safe home for all DV survivors

We bring you this post by Kendra Gritsch, our Domestic Violence Housing First program specialist, and Marie Sauter, Advisor to the Director, Pacific Northwest Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, from their blog, Impatient Optimists.

Imagine you live in a home where you don’t feel safe. An abusive partner threatens you and your children – but leaving home means uprooting your child, possibly losing your job, and leaving everything behind. You are stuck: do you choose an unsafe home or no home at all?

Domestic violence has long been a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. Service providers in the domestic violence field are beginning to identify more effective ways to work with survivors of domestic violence who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless – by providing supports specifically tailored to help survivors become safer and more stably housed.

In 2009, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many other partners to launch a five-year pilot project testing the Domestic Violence Housing First (DVHF) approach to promoting survivor safety and stability. This marked a major change in the way service providers work with domestic violence survivors. Instead of imposing a pre-determined set of services that each person may or may not need, along with a set of conditions that must be met before housing is available, DVHF is a survivor-driven approach that asks the individual what they need right now. Survivors get to decide which services and supports they receive, and choose where they become stably housed.

DVHF includes mobile advocates bringing one-on-one services to locations that are convenient for each survivor, flexible financial assistance, connections to other community services, and landlord engagement to remove barriers to housing. This coordinated approach gets survivors into stable housing as quickly as possible – often bypassing the shelter system – and then provides ongoing support as they rebuild their lives.

Thirteen domestic violence programs across Washington State – urban, rural, and tribal – piloted the DVHF approach, and found that a significant majority of survivors either safely retained current permanent housing or quickly accessed new housing. The housing and support from advocates meant that survivors could get a job, enroll in school, and heal from the violence they had experienced. Safe and stable housing let children be children again, so they could stay in one school, have their own space to do homework, and invite their friends over without fear. With a place to call home, survivors and their children went from surviving to thriving.

We applaud these thirteen pioneering agencies and the many others who have followed their lead in Washington State and beyond. A recent investment of $2 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice further validates the work of these pioneers by supporting WSCADV in collaborating with Dr. Cris Sullivan to conduct research that seeks to demonstrate what we’ve learned: DVHF prevents homelessness and increases safety and stability for parents and children who are domestic violence survivors.

Survivors seeking services from four agencies in King County and Yakima County (LifeWire, New Beginnings, YWCA of Yakima and Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services) will be invited to participate in a longitudinal study to better understand how DVHF services can optimize housing stability for survivors and their children. Armed with this research, the domestic violence field will be better positioned to forge new alliances with housing/homeless service providers and attract new resources to support their evidence-based DVHF services.

Every person deserves a safe place to call home. This research will advance our knowledge of what it takes to get us there.

Five good things

This week we’re sharing a post from Eleanor Powell, our summer intern.

I don’t think I know anybody who could argue that the first six months of 2016 have been the best months of their lives. The continued police brutality against black Americans, the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States, a rise in blatant xenophobia—all these things have made it hard to be positive and keep fighting for justice.

So, here are five things I have been trying to think about when everything else seems hopeless:

  1. Over $150,000 was raised at the 2016 Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K!
  2. Beyoncé, always.
  3. Leslie Jones, and the love shown towards her after she received hate on Twitter.
  4. Pokemon Go (What can I say, I’m a technology-obsessed millennial)
  5. The WSCADV staff. Thank you for working so tirelessly to end violence against women, and for making this internship special. Since my first day, I felt welcomed and included. I learned so much about the work you all do, and discovered what kind of work I want to be doing in the next five years. I truly cannot thank you guys enough for giving me such a great opportunity.

My plan for healthy relationships

This week we’re sharing a guest column from Henson Burk Fawcett that was also recently published in Sound Publishing community newspapers.

I am a six-grade Rainier Valley Little League baseball player and an aspiring sports journalist. I am interested in how sports shape people’s lives.

Kids look up to athletes. It’s not news. Everyone knows kids have idolized sports figures for generations. We memorize stats, and trade cards. Kids copy elite athletes. We practice their game day rituals—like pre-game dances, warm up traditions, a certain swing—just to be like the people we adore.

So what happens when athletes commit domestic violence? Does it tell a kid that hurting someone close to you is no big deal? Even okay?

Major League Baseball noticed that the sports world is failing to send the message to athletes and fans that family violence is unacceptable, and they want to do better. The MLB has established a new rule that says if you hurt your girlfriend, partner, or child, it will hurt your career. Recently, a MLB player was suspended for 30 games. It’s a big penalty, taking away 1/5 of a season. And it sends a big message to the players and to the kids too.

Watching sports the past couple years has shown us that being good at your relationships takes as much practice as being good at your game. When the MLB refuses to let any excuses go by, they give all of us a reason to start practicing to do our best on and off the field.

This year for my Bar Mitzvah project, I am talking to over 300 youth about healthy relationships. I am also asking kids to take a stand for positive relationships by running the Goodwill Refuse to Abuse 5K inside Safeco Field. It is a one-of-a-kind 5K through the ball park. I hope you join me at the 5K!

To find the domestic violence program in your community, visit wscadv.org or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

To raise money and awareness for domestic violence prevention, register today for the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K at Safeco Field at refusetoabuse5k.org.

Don’t forget Orlando

This week we’re sharing a post from Eleanor Powell, our summer intern.

I could write about how angry I am. I could write that I had more faith in this country, that I believe people are fundamentally good and honest, not born with hate in their souls. I could, but I won’t.

The truth is I don’t expect much better from this country. At a mere 18 years of age, after witnessing countless incidents of racialized police brutality across the country over the past few years, I have already become numb to gun violence against the oppressed, and the shooting at Pulse in Orlando is no different. I wish I could say with the fervor of straight allies that I’m shocked such a hate crime could happen in the year 2016… but I’m not. Blatant hatred towards LGBTQ+ folk is never surprising to me. Even in a city as liberal as Seattle, I am afraid to walk out of my house looking too gay/dykey/gender non-conforming. Public spaces are always places of anxiety for LGBTQ+ folk, and with the added intersectionalities of being a woman of color, I very rarely feel safe outside of my own home.

For many LGTBQ+ folk, their homes are not safe because they live with abusive families or partners. While abuse occurs at the same rate in same-gender couples as it does in straight couples, bisexual women are almost twice as likely to be rape or abused by their partners than straight or lesbian women. Now, one of the few safe spaces for LGBTQ+ folk, especially survivors, has been compromised. After Orlando, I did not go to any more Pride events. I am even more conscious of what I wear and how I act in public―I am terrified. And so are the rest of the LGBTQ+ folk, the people of color, and the women in this country, because our oppressors keep telling us through hate speech and hate crimes that our lives are not worth as much as theirs.

I am not just angry, I am sad. Really, really, really sad, and scared, and just plain tired. I am tired of being hated, tired of hating myself, tired of trying to not hate myself while others like me are being murdered in safe spaces.

Staying hopeful after events such as Orlando happen is difficult, but not impossible. Pride Month is almost over, but that does not mean all LGBTQ+ folk go back in the closet until next June. Nor does it mean that we will forget Orlando. If it is safe to do so, be out, be proud, be who you were destined to be.

To the 49 people who lost their lives, may you rest in love and peace and power. To those still alive, may you find the strength to continue living.

Anti-violence organizations call for an end to discrimination against transgender people

We bring you this post from the executive directors of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault ProgramsThe Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse, and the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

As leading anti-violence organizations in Washington, we support public policies that promote and protect the civil rights and human dignity of all.  For over ten years, the Washington State Law Against Discrimination has protected people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The current wave of legislative bills that attempt to take away transgender people’s access to sex-specific facilities, such as emergency shelters, restrooms and locker rooms, would roll back the progress we have made, not only here in Washington, but all around the country.

Anti-violence organizations are leading the nation in creating inclusive programs and ending discrimination against transgender people because we decided as a field not to leave any survivor behind. Every person has the right to access critical domestic violence and sexual assault services in our state. Every person has the right to live as their gender. Every person has the right to freedom from fear and violence. We must reject any legislation that threatens the safety of survivors of violence and we must continue to recognize transgender people as part of the fabric of our communities.

Andrea Piper-Wentland, Executive Director of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs

Connie Burk, Executive Director of The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse

Nan Stoops, Executive Director of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Teen activists in action

We’re excited to bring you a guest blog post from Quinn Angelou-Lysaker of Franklin High School’s Feminist Union, an energetic student-led group that has been tackling teen domestic violence along with other feminist issues.
On January 13th, Franklin High School’s own Feminist Union lead a class we called “Intersectional Feminism 101.” Five members of our leadership team created an activity based on WSCADV’s game In Their Shoes. In Their Shoes takes participants through a story about an abusive relationship, where they’re asked to make decisions as the story progresses. We used this idea and wrote our own stories in which sexism and other forms of oppression intersect. One story was about a black girl who was forced to resign from a theater program because she wouldn’t straighten her natural hair. Another followed the story of a boy with two gay mothers who makes some homophobic friends in school. We also used one of the original stories from In Their Shoes about a Mexican girl whose relationship with a boy becomes abusive.

franklin-feminist-union-teensThere was a healthy turn out of both boys and girls, which we were glad to see. As I spoke to groups participating, I found that it was easier for them to detect the racism, classism or homophobia in the stories than the sexism. But as groups went through more and more stories, it became more clear to them how multiple kinds of discrimination could exist in the same situation. It was interesting to hear how people identified with the characters, like to “Cassandra,” the gay daughter of conservative Chinese immigrants. They had insightful comments about how if she were straight, she would have more resources (like her parents) to get her out of her abusive relationship. Overall, people seemed to enjoy the activity and learn a lot.

Shattered community

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.

Why I support the WSCADV

Guest blogger: Mike C. This post originally appeared on CauseCords.com.

Black and purple survival paracord bracelet from CauseCords. Featured in May 2015, $10 from each sale that month will go to the WSCADV
Black and purple survival paracord bracelet from CauseCords. Featured in May 2015, $10 from each sale that month will go to the WSCADV

Ever since I could remember, fundraising to support local charities was always something I was motivated to do. Whether it was racing up a building to support cancer research, selling cookies and pies to benefit people with Multiple Sclerosis, or walking amongst thousands to support children with autism; I enjoyed knowing that I could play a small part in changing someone’s life for the better. It wasn’t until I started collecting donations for victims of domestic violence that I realized how big of an impact I was making.

Being a survivor of domestic abuse is not something that is commonly advertised, such as beating cancer. Most victims work to move away from the painful memories of their past, even though that means leaving behind many beloved aspects of their lives. Domestic abuse does more than just inflict physical damage; it tears apart families, causes emotional distress, shatters trust in others, and leaves scars that can have an lasting effect for generations. Unless you or someone you love has experienced it, most people aren’t aware of other victims of domestic violence, and yet they are all around us.

I am lucky. I am not a victim or survivor of DV, but in my efforts to support the WSCADV I’ve received testimony from those who have survived. People that I have known for years, but was unaware of their suffering, confusion, and pain. For the first time, I could see how my charitable efforts changed lives for the better. I could see how the power of advocacy and awareness could help those around me and truly change my community.

The resources are in place, the network for relief and rescue is in order, and there are people who want to help. All we need is the funding. That is why I support the WSCADV and victims of DV.

When is it ok to beat your wife?

We bring you this post from Karen Rosenberg, a Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence consultant.

Ever wonder how people justified wife beating as an OK thing to do? For Women’s History Month let’s look back on a bit of legal history that provides not one, but two justifications for wife beating.

old-legal-documentIn State v A.B. Rhodes (North Carolina State Supreme Court, 1868), the Court considered a case involving the married couple Elizabeth and A.B. Rhodes. We can assume they were white, though the legal record does not say. A.B. hit Elizabeth and—unusually for the era—assault and battery charges were brought against A.B. The case went to trial. In the words of the jury, “We find that the defendant struck Elizabeth Rhodes, his wife, three licks, with a switch about the size of one of his fingers (but not as large as a man’s thumb), without any provocation except some words uttered by her and not recollected by the witness.”

So the judge found A.B. not guilty. “His Honor was of opinion that the defendant had a right to whip his wife with a switch no larger than his thumb, and…he was not guilty in law.” (And yes, this is why some people avoid the phrase “rule of thumb.”)

In the appeal, the State Supreme Court challenged the lower court’s rationale, stating that it wouldn’t affirm the right to beat a spouse. But it gave another reason to find A.B. not guilty—maintaining the household’s privacy:

For however great are the evils of ill temper, quarrels, and even personal conflict inflicting only temporary pain, they are not comparable with the evils which would result from raising the curtain, and exposing to public curiosity and criticism, the nursery and the bed chamber.”

In other words, sure he hit her, but it would be more damaging to society if the state intruded on family life. This sounds dated and wrong to modern ears. Thank goodness. Or, more accurately, thank the Battered Women’s Movement. Want to learn more? Check out Susan Schechter’s amazing Women and Male Violence or this tribute to her work.

What does it take to believe a woman?

We bring you this post from the Executive Director of a domestic violence program in rural Washington.

The domestic violence agency I work at often buys supplies that our clients need but can’t always afford, like diapers, toiletries, and contraceptives. Easy access to birth control supports a survivor’s control over their body, and promotes their safety and independence. Recently, I walked into our community’s only pharmacy to buy some Plan B. The young woman behind the counter asked me for ID and went into the back room.

planb2Her: Here you go, all set.

Me: What did you do with my ID?

Her: Checked to see if you are over 18.  (I think this is funny – I’m 39.)

Me: There are no restrictions on buying Plan B, so you don’t need to know my age. I work at the local domestic violence agency and for my clients, being asked to show ID can be scary if their abuser monitors what they are doing and checks public records. It is also scary for people who are worried about their immigration status.

Now the pharmacist comes out and joins the conversation.

Pharmacist: That’s not true. On the Plan B package it says “For Women Over 17 Years of Age.”

Me: It’s old packaging (wondering just how old the packaging is). The law has changed. Plan B should be able to be purchased as over-the-counter medication. I don’t have to show identification.

Pharmacist: That’s not true and it is my choice how to dispense it.

This same conversation continued over a few more visits. I brought in articles and the new federal regulations—none of it seemed to matter to the pharmacist. Then my town gathered a small team of community members interested in women’s reproductive health services that were available locally. One community member went back to the pharmacy, and while the same “it’s just not true” argument ensued, another visiting pharmacist broke into the conversation and said we were right. He confirmed the changes in law we had already shown the local pharmacist.

This pharmacy—the only place in town to buy Plan B—is now in compliance with the law. And while I’m very happy about that, I still find it frustrating that my local pharmacist would not listen to what we were saying (read: what we women were saying) and would not change the pharmacy’s practice until a man said our information was correct. How many laws that affect women’s health are ignored when women are telling the truth?