Lessons from Penn State

We bring you this guest post from our sister coalition, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

As many of you know the jury reached a verdict in the Sandusky trial on June 22, finding him guilty on 45 of the 48 counts related to the sexual abuse of ten victims. This outcome would not have been possible without the brave testimony of the survivors in this case. We are humbled by their courage and their willingness to share their stories in order to hold Sandusky accountable and prevent the victimization of other children.

In a press conference following the verdict, Pennsylvania Attorney General, Linda Kelly, stated that “one of the recurring themes of the victims’ testimony was ‘who would believe a kid?’ And the answer is, ‘we here in Bellefonte, PA will believe a kid.'” We hope that this powerful message is heard by children and survivors in all communities. We will believe.

Not our VAWA

This morning we issued this press release by Grace Huang, our public policy coordinator. 

The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) is deeply disappointed by the outcome of the House of Representatives’ vote to pass H.R. 4970, a bill to reauthorize a new version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This legislation weakens or deletes entirely some of the vital improvements in the “real VAWA” S. 1925, passed by the Senate last month by a resounding bipartisan vote of 68-31, including both Washington senators.

The House bill excludes Native women and LGBT people from protections from abuse, and includes devastating provisions that will endanger vulnerable immigrant victims. This bill would weaken crucial protections for battered immigrants that have been a part of  VAWA for nearly 20 years, by allowing immigration officers to consider uncorroborated statements from abusive spouses in immigration cases, putting victims at serious risk. H.R. 4970 would also limit the protections that allow immigrant victims who cooperate with law enforcement to eventually qualify for a green card, undermining law enforcement’s efforts and threatening public safety.

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking impact us all. The Violence Against Women Act should have remained a bipartisan bill that makes communities safer. We hope to continue to work with our delegation towards a strong, bipartisan final bill that builds on VAWA’s long history of successes and strengthens protections for all victims of violence.

When a friend turns creepy

We bring you this post from Summer Carrick, our Crossing Borders project coordinator.

Here is the scene…

Two of your friends start dating. They fall in love, but instead of coming back to the surface they stay immersed.

In a weird way.

In a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, but you can’t quite put your finger on why.

Then you notice that she grows more silent, and he does all the talking. You see less of them. She seems nervous. She makes excuses for him. Her face is stressed. The energy does not feel happily in love, rather, it’s just…tense.

So, what do you do when you are sitting at dinner and he starts to belittle her?

You would think after 12 years of doing this work, I would have the answer. Instead, I fight with what I was socialized to do (nothing, none of my business) and what I want to do (support my friends to have a happy relationship).

But, how?

Many research hours later, this is the best I could find:

– I talk about it when things are good and we are just talking naturally about his relationship.

– I am direct and clear about what I have seen and how it impacts ME as HIS friend.

– I’m not judging you, friend, but this is what happened and how I experienced it.

– So now that you know it’s not working for me, is it working for you?

– I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to be a friend and support you.

– Just know that I’m not willing to watch you be a bully.

If all of that is too much and I don’t know what to say, I default to the truth….I care and I am concerned.

And yes, I’ve seen my women friends using abusive behavior too. I’ve seen it in straight and queer relationships. And you know what?  I’m not scared to call those women out on it. And when I do, they have always gone straight to critical reflection and apologies. So why is it that when I have tried to have this kind of conversation with men, they have become defensive or downright scary? The best I can come up with is the way we socialize men. The scary reaction may be why we avoid talking to men about their abusive behavior. And the cost of that is much too great. So, as scary as it seems to care and be concerned, we can’t afford the alternative.

-Summer Carrick, the coordinator of our Crossing Borders Project

Make a wish

We are pleased to bring you this post from guest blogger Phil Jordan, Elder Abuse Project Coordinator at the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

Last year, my friend Rob, local actor extraordinaire, played the part of Lightning Lad, sidekick to superhero Electron Boy. It was part of a heartwarming story orchestrated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant Erik Martin, a terminally ill 13-year-old, his heart’s desire.

I have to credit Erik and Rob with helping me understand my mixed feelings about the Make-A-Wish phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the kids’ eyes light up when their wish comes true and I honor the people who donate their time and effort to make it happen.

But I also feel a little bit grumpy about the whole thing. For the past 12 years, I have worked to connect domestic violence and sexual assault  advocates to people with disabilities and elders. So many people in this population are abused and no amount of wishing puts a stop to it. The advocates want to be helpful, but they sometimes resist altering how they work, and that can make it impossible for the people I work with to use their services.

For example, advocates often rely on the term “intimate partner violence.” Many elders and people with disabilities are abused by other family members or caregivers. The relationship may be “intimate,” but not in the way the advocates mean.

Also, people with dementia, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or brain injuries need advocates to find new ways to help them explore options, plan for safety, and overcome the abuser’s power and control.

My wish is that elders and people with disabilities no longer experience abuse. But there is no organization that has the wherewithal to grant my wish, and I remain grumpy about that.

But I know that domestic violence and sexual assault programs are the best place to find services aimed directly at eliminating the power and control that abusers exert. That is true for women battered by their intimate partner, and it is true for elders and people with disabilities abused by people they trust. I am grateful for the advocates’ work and wish that all people being abused could benefit from it. And maybe they can grant me my other wish―to be less grumpy.