Someone asked me if the current national conversation about sexual assault is helping our organization with increased interest or support. The answer is, not really. And I think the reason is that it’s hard for human beings to connect individual responsibility with community responsibility.

Often, I get supportive comments when I say that I am employed at a non-profit that works to prevent domestic violence. The term “domestic violence” can have different meanings; but usually people tell me that they believe that violence is rooted in individual behavior and poor choices. They don’t see what I see―that preventing violence requires, in part, government policies that support safe, affordable, accessible housing, child care subsidies and a livable wage for everyone. I guess it all sounds too impersonal and far away from daily life. And, yet, it matters. And it follows then that who is on the Supreme Court matters also. And who is in charge of Health & Human Services. If how you treat people does matter, than our leaders’ behavior and ideas matter.

I hear people say it is hard to vote at all with two imperfect presidential candidates. But this election reminds me of the importance of voting. People who came before me literally died for my right to vote. And, the right to vote is facing increased restrictions across our nation. Maybe your ability to vote isn’t restricted, but it could be happening to someone else in your community.

This October is Domestic Violence ACTION Month. Having a conversation with my children about the potential for abuse happening to them or their friends can be overwhelming. But, just like with voting, doing nothing is the worst choice. It is always harder to make things better after the worst happens. Exercising your right to vote and starting a conversation with your children about domestic violence are actions that matter. Your actions can be part of preventing more bad things happening and creating a world we all want to live in.


My kids are at that age where they are starting to have playdates, so I’ve had to figure out how to ask about guns in their friends’ homes. Ohmahgah, it’s so hard! I mean, I’m socially awkward anyway. And an avid conflict avoider. (I’ve had decades of practice with my very conservative family). So when it came time to ask, I was terrified. But I had to do it. My experiences growing up in a house with guns and the constant news stories about kids being killed gave me the courage I needed.

This is how I do it. “So, do you keep your guns unloaded and locked away?”

Photo by Geraint Rowland

Photo by Geraint Rowland

Yikes! It’s hard every time. Responses so far have ranged from a calm and understanding “Nope, we don’t have any.” to “What!? We don’t have guns in our house. Do YOU?” to “Actually, we have one that is dismantled and unloaded and locked in a storage unit that the kids don’t have access to.” So far I haven’t gotten a response that would make me feel like my kids couldn’t play at a friend’s house, but I’m sure that will happen at some point, because I’m going to keep asking. My kids’ lives depend on it.

So now I’m inspired by my new found bravery to dive into other tough conversations, like talking about relationships with my kids. Not just the birds and the bees, but age-appropriate ways to talk about love, consent, and bullying.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Action Month, I’ve decided to have at least one conversation a week with my kids about this stuff. Here are some things I will be asking them:

“What does it mean to be a good friend?”

“What do you do when you don’t like what a friend is doing?”

“Who do you play with on the playground? What do you like about playing with them?”

Hopefully it will become a habit that lasts. One more thing I’m going to do—talk to my parent-friends about talking to their kids. Hmmm, that sounds hard too. Maybe I’ll just show them this blog post and say, hey—wanna join me? That’s doable. Because the more the merrier when it comes to helping kids learn how to be respectful, kind, and loving adults.

I am going to interrupt the first paragraph of this blog to tell you the aftermath of writing it. This is simple too ironically delicious to pass up.

Go to Google images and search “Fire Drill 1960s.” I mean, really.

I went looking for a good picture idea to illustrate a story of growing up in the 1960s and doing fire drills at my little rural school. A story I don’t need to tell you now.

What I found was NOT a fire drill 1960s style, but rather an atomic bomb drill 1960s style.

duck-and-coverWhat tickled me so much about these pictures of children huddling under their desks (which, by the way I did not experience as funny at the time) is that how we prepare our children these days for the actual threats they face is very much like this google-search-gone-sideways result: we are leaving our children huddled under their desks when the real problem is that the building is on fire.

I thought of a couple stories to illustrate how we can use the notion of the fire drill to practice things with our beloved kids before it is an actual emergency. And to show how weirdly odd we grownups behave in the face of actual emergencies.

Fire drill: unintended pregnancy

I once asked a young woman friend of mine who was headed off to college what kind of birth control she was using or thinking about using. She’d had a serious boyfriend in recent months and I was thinking they were likely sexually active so I was just curious. She looked at me with a stricken look on her face and didn’t say anything for a long moment. Then she blurted out, “I’m not opposed to abortion.”

“Um, sweetie” I replied “you know there are ways to avoid getting pregnant if you don’t want to be right?”  And the conversation unfolded from there.

We grownups waste unimaginable quantities of energy and money arguing about whether abortion should be illegal or legal. Available or unavailable. In the meantime this is the stupidity our children are saddled with. By losing our focus on what is actually happening with our kids, we outright deprive them of meaningful access to the information they need. Metaphorically, we leave our teens huddled under their desks. Come on. We can do better than this.

Another time, some friends and I were talking about Plan B (the emergency contraceptive) when their teenaged son walked in. It struck me suddenly that teenagers may not even have any idea what the concept of a plan B is. I mean, do you? Plan A is we meet at the corner to walk together to lunch. Plan B, we meet at the restaurant and I’ll save us a table. Right?

No surprise, the young man didn’t have any idea what plan A and plan B meant. But then, poor thing, I subjected him to some questions about the contraceptive Plan B. What followed was a wildly entertaining conversation which I will leave for another time.

Back to Plan B which is, after all, the fallback. It is not the first line of action for young heterosexual sexually-active people. And yet we adults leave our children huddled under their desks while we argue about regulating the actual drug of Plan B–in fact, all the way to the Supreme Court. The building is on fire people. Grownups get your act together and help kids with Plan A for sexual health and wellbeing, contraceptive and otherwise!

Fire drill: gun violence

I don’t own a gun, but I got a free gun lock at a recent event and gave it to a friend of mine who has school-aged kids. She doesn’t have guns either, but we gabbed about if and how she asks about guns when her kids go to play in their friends’ homes. She said she has struggled with this in a mighty way but has not yet figured out how to ask. It is just so hard to talk about it.

And this is completely understandable. We have locked down the conversation around guns rather than the guns themselves. Even the most basic common sense actions are taboo because any mention of guns leads straight to the second amendment. Even when all we’re talking about is keeping our children from accidentally shooting themselves or someone else. Children have a natural curiosity around guns, secured or not. Again, we leave them huddled under their desks while we argue about politics.

Fire drill: rape and domestic violence

Let’s face it. Even approaching thoughts about a beloved child raping or being raped—being battered or battering is more than most of us can endure.

And yet, no victim or rapist, no victim or batterer comes into this world as such. We unintentionally put our children on a path the moment they are born with our ideas about what it means to be a boy or a girl. And we follow that up with a million actions, individually and culturally.

But we do not need to fix all of our million transgressions against our children at once. One at a time works. Each one of us doing one at a time.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Action Month. And I’m here to tell you that in the same way that we don’t have to wait until our daughter or son is accidentally pregnant or our child shot to do something, there are simple ways to help kids learn about and navigate healthy and unhealthy relationships. You may never know if something very simple that you say or do plants a seed for a child or young person and helps them avoid a small problem or a large catastrophe.

Grownups. We can do this. It is not hard. It is actually really fun and, I have found, often hilarious. Try these ideas and let us know what happens. Write about your stories in the comment section below, or on our Twitter or Facebook page. We can help each other learn how to safely usher our kids out to the playground!

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!


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!

I’ll admit it. It’s a work day, and I am goofing off. It’s one of those days where every task looks either insurmountably difficult or just too eye-rollingly boring. I pick things up and put them down again and again. Do you ever have days like that, or is it just me?

Super frustrated, I wander down the street for some caffeine. Maybe a reset will help.

Coffee in hand, and still not convinced I have it in me to get a single useful thing done, I follow a delivery guy back into my building. He holds the elevator door for me.

I study the four boxes on his handcart. They’re for us! Inside squeal. I know what these are. Things are definitely looking up now.

I start talking with the guy. I talk to everyone. This works exceptionally well for me because I have no children to embarrass.

So while I’m yammering with the delivery dude, I unlock and hold open the door. He hands me the electronic thingie to sign and he says, “So what do you guys do here anyway?”

Me: (blah blah blah my brief and generic answer about what one would do at a domestic violence coalition if one were not goofing off.)

Him: “I ask ‘cause I’m the victim.”

Me: (nonverbal tell me more signals)

Him: “Well, I’m really kind of on both sides.”

Me: (more nonverbal now-we’re-on-the-right-track signals)

Him: “Do you have places to send people? Like counselors? I mean I’m willing to be accountable for what happened. She’s not, but I am.”

Me: (Wow, he actually said the word accountable. I wonder where he learned that word and what he means by it?) “Well, you can only be responsible for yourself. You can’t control other people.”

Him: (Surprisingly knowing nod.)

Me: “SafePlace knows a lot more than me about who the good counselor folks are in town. Give them a call.”

Him: “It was my drinking.”

Me: (more sympathetic signals) “Yup, all those things get tangled up with each other.”

Him: “Yeah, I got 90 days.” (From the context, I assume he means sober, not jail time.)

Me: “That’s great! You have kids?”

Him: “Four. They’re proud of me. 90 days.” (I’m right, sober.)

Me: “Yeah, grownups need to get their acts together for their kids.”

Him: “Yeah.” (Gathering up his stuff.)

Me: “Really, call SafePlace. They’ll be able to help you. Good luck and hang in there.”

Him: (Friendly departure.)

Still wondering what was in the boxes that I was so excited about? Irony of ironies, and honest for real. Here’s what he was delivering: How’s Your Relationship? Conversations with someone about their abusive behavior.

cards in box

This weekend, we gave 1,500 sets of these cards out to the crowd of people who showed up to run or walk or volunteer at the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K at Safeco Field.

My fondest wish is that you hear my story of the delivery dude and imagine that you can have a conversation this casual and kind. Support your friends, brothers, or delivery guys to take tiny steps. Help them because you can. Talk so they’ll figure out what they are doing that hurts themselves and others and how to turn it around. You can do it!

P.S. Feeling inspired to donate some money to this prevention campaign? Here’s a link to the fundraising page I set up for the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K. Donate today!

You’ve probably seen the “See something, say something” signs on the bus or at the airport. It’s about preventing terrorism, of course, but the sad reality for women in this country is that their biggest risk doesn’t look like an oddly placed backpack at a bus stop.

Thankfully, some women hitting happy hour in Santa Monica recently did see something and said something. They witnessed a man slip something into a woman’s drink when she was in the bathroom. One of the witnesses promptly went to warn her. She was stunned but glad to know. When they asked how well she knew the guy (expecting a ‘we-just-met’ scenario), the woman said, “He’s one of my best friends.”


This, my friends, is where we need to open our eyes. With so much fearmongering out there about strangers in the bathroom, this story brings us back to the actual problem. Who’s committing rape? People we know.

This guy broke several of these rape prevention tips, but the quick thinking ladies-who-happy-hour and the wait staff acted swiftly and decisively and the guy was arrested before he left the restaurant. Kudos to everyone who chose not to ignore or second guess what was happening. Thank you for believing that this was possible and that you could and should do something about it!

I want a world where it wouldn’t even cross someone’s mind to drug their friend. But until that happens, let’s do what the fine folks in Santa Monica did: See something, say something.

see something, say something


You know that moment when you read an article and you’re like, “Aaagh, everything is terrible!” but then you realize that there is a solution and it is surprisingly simple? Well that just happened to me while reading how breast and body changes drive teen girls out of sports. I love a simple solution. They are not always easy to find but when they are, I hold onto them and dream big. Such is the case for my new 3B Plan for world domination empowered, happy, and safe women. Here goes: bras, birth control, and Benjamins for us all!

Let’s break it down. It turns out that “research shows that girls tend to start dropping out of sports and skipping gym classes around the onset of puberty” and one reason for that is ill-fitting or non-existent sports bras. We know that participation in sports can help young women feel powerful and proud of their bodies so it just makes sense to help them stay active. And if bras are the way to do that, then let’s make good sports bras a priority, people! Now imagine me in my Oprah voice yelling, “You get a bra! You get a bra! EVERYONE GETS A BRA!”

Next up: birth control. Access to birth control helps women choose if, when, and with whom they have children, thus enabling them to write their own futures! I say YAAAS to autonomy and power! You want the pill? You got it. You want an IUD? Ok. You want rainbow condoms? Sure. You need emergency contraception. Here, let me get it for you. For reals. Let’s make this happen.

It's all about the benjamins, baby!And finally, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s all about the Benjamins, baby. We know that access to money is THE thing that helps people escape and recover from abuse. And it can help women to walk away from relationships that give them the uh-ohs before things get worse. So I say, let’s increase wages to a meaningful living wage. Let’s increase our welfare grants (at least back up to 2010 levels―sheesh!) and let’s encourage young women to have careers that make bank AND do good for the world.

It’s my 3B Plan. Are you in?

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.

In honor of Domestic Violence ACTION Month I’ve blogged all month about what it takes to end domestic violence. It is our view (at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence) that to prevent violence we need to:

Address root causes of violence, Shift culture, Build Skills, Promote healthy relationships

Earlier this month I tackled root causes, shifting culture, and building skills. For our last week, I’m diving into promoting healthy relationships.

So I started thinking about what kinds of relationships I see when I’m watching TV or movies. I already notice when what I’m watching doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.


It seems so simple and yet it’s amazing just how many movies DON’T pass it, even though it is a pathetically low bar. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a similar test for how relationships are portrayed in the media?

So, here it is, the HR* test (*Healthy Relationships):

To pass the HR test, a movie or TV show must at least have:

  1. Two characters that care about each other,
  2. where both people get to talk and have opinions,
  3. and they support and encourage each other’s interests and outside relationships.

Like the Bechdel test, this is a really low bar. There’s so much more that makes up a healthy relationship. How you talk to each other matters. How you listen to each other matters. But what if we started here? What shows would pass the test?

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