News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

The Abuse Of ‘Feel-Good’ Cop Videos “These videos, combined with the countless videos of black men and women and children shot dead by cops, serve to remind us that we should both fear and love them if we want to survive. And if we don’t survive, we have nobody to blame but ourselves—see how capable of not killing us they can be? Anybody who has been in an abusive relationship will recognize this behavior. It’s a raised hand that might be a slap but then lowers for a pat on the shoulder.”

President Barack Obama Says, “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” “Yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”

Middle School Students Push For a Gender-Neutral Dress Code—And Win “The loss of educational time disproportionately targets girls,” says Carlson, who’s now 14. “It’s a very embarrassing and shaming moment, to get dress-coded. We’re still doing that to girls in school right now? We’re still measuring their clothes and telling them to change? That seems ridiculous.”

College bound

It is senior year of high school for my twin daughters and I find myself talking about college applications with all kinds of people. I was getting my nails done when the owner of the salon―a Vietnamese immigrant―asked me for information about the application process and due dates. She was relying on her son to translate and she wasn’t sure that she was getting all the information she needed. It took me several days, but I managed to find a free college counseling resource that could communicate in Vietnamese.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to try to navigate this process when English is your second language. We had to hire a college counselor to help us. We filled out 28 pages of different financial aid forms. We checked our daughters’ online applications and read their college essay questions. Even with the resources, time, and teamwork at our disposal, it was still hard.

And what about people who have another whole layer of chaos in their lives? How do you manage this transition in your child’s life if you are in an abusive relationship? What if you have to anticipate and work around a partner who humiliates and controls you? When all your decisions are undermined by your partner, how can you figure out what questions to ask and if there is help to get answers?

College boundSending your kid to college is a dream for many parents, and it can feel even more pressing if it is their ticket out of an abusive home. But that’s not possible if it takes professional help just to fill out the forms. We can change this system and we must make it accessible. The vision of all girls moving forward depends on us.

Something stinks

And it’s diapers. Or more specifically what happens when parents can’t afford to buy them. In case you don’t have young children, you might not realize how much diapers cost (up to $1000 a year)! Yikes. That’s a big percentage of someone’s income if they are making $20,000 a year or less. But that’s not the kicker. Many childcare facilities won’t let you leave your child if you cannot provide an adequate supply of diapers. And if you don’t have childcare, you can’t go to work. For parents in low wage jobs, they often have to choose between diapers or food in order to get their kids off to daycare and themselves to work.

Babies are gonna poop, so lawmakers in California proposed a bill that would give families on public assistance money for diapers. Because you can’t buy diapers with food stamps (they are considered a “luxury” item like booze and cigarettes).

Leslie Knope saying WHAT?

It remains to be seen if this California bill passes, but I think it’s great to see this issue being talked about. A friend of mine is grouchy that they are talking about such a small change, when we really should be talking about the big problem of poverty and exploring big solutions. And he’s not wrong. But I’m excited about the potential for this to spark bigger conversations. Addressing poverty and barriers to work are critical to people being abused. Having money gives women more choices about their relationships. If talking about diapers is the window that opens our eyes to the bigger issues of poverty, that’s fine with me. Diapers for all!

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

Moving from Fear to Empowerment “Abusive partners can come on hot and heavy, or can play hard to get. They can be charming as hell, or slightly mysterious. Basically, there’s very little about an abusive partner that screams ‘RUN’, right off the bat.”

Lily Allen felt ‘victim-shamed’ over stalking “She…had first alerted police to the problem in 2009 and gave them the notes as evidence. She assumed that they would be used as part of the 2016 court case, but was told that they had been destroyed ‘according to police protocol’.”

Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’ “These days, she’s often approached by victims of online bullying, ‘when I’m on the subway, in line for coffee, at dinner parties.’ Shamed people tend to seek each other out, the cure for shame being empathy.”

Some advice

List from Excellent to The Worst with a checkmark next to The WorstThe moment I announced my pregnancy it began: the crazy comments from close friends and strangers alike. What I should do, what I should eat, and how my body looks. Like when my friend leaned across the table and whispered in my ear, “You shouldn’t eat that ceviche because it might kill your baby.” This was one of the first things she said to me after I told her the news!

I like to believe that it all comes from a well-intentioned place. When people don’t know what to say, sometimes they say things that are wrong and unhelpful. I’ve had to deal with this for seven months and it’s infuriating.  It makes me think about survivors I’ve worked with in the past. When they tell their friends and family about the violence in their lives,  they don’t always get the best response or support. The unfortunate outcome is that people walk away from conversations feeling further isolated, misunderstood, or judged. Not the end result either party wants.

So here are some tips on how to support your loved ones in good times and bad:

  • Acknowledge what the person told you and what they are experiencing.
  • Ask how you can provide support.
  • Tell them you are there for them no matter what.
  • Ask if they want advice before you give any.
  • Think about what you are about to say. Is it helpful? Will it come across as supportive?

It’s okay to not have the perfect response. Being a good listener is sometimes worth a thousand words.

A new kind of New Year’s resolutions

2016 in sparklersEat healthier, read more, save money, get organized. Welcome to 2016 and New Year’s resolutions! I have been a sucker for resolutions for a long time and like many who make them, I break them.

My resolutions for 2016 weren’t going to skew much from the traditional list. Then I received news that one of my friends had been killed in a tragic car accident. The day after Christmas my family went to her memorial service. It was one of the saddest, raw, and full experiences I’ve had in a long time. People shared stories about Katie, how she had impacted the lives of her students, her family and friends, and her community. No one talked about how healthy she ate, how much she read, how organized she was. It’s because at the end of the day that’s not what matters.

So this year my resolutions are different:

  • Tell the people who I love how I feel about them
  • Be kind to myself and others
  • Listen and connect deeply with those in my life

Looking at these resolutions, I realize that it’s really all about relationships. If we were all to prioritize these things, it would not only make our own lives better, but it would help anyone in our lives who is experiencing abuse. A person who is being abused most needs to hear that she is loved, that she deserves kindness, and that you will stay connected with her no matter what.

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

What does it take for a woman to succeed in science? Evelyn M. Witkin, who was recently awarded the Lasker Award for groundbreaking work on DNA, has this to say:

When I was pregnant with my first child, [my boss] came to my lab and said it was important to make scientific careers possible for women. What did I need? I told him, maternity leave and to return only part time. He said, “Done, and we’re not going to cut your salary because I know you’re going to do a full-time job.” That act alone made it possible for me to stay with my research.

An NFL star gives a brutally honest account of the abuse he endured daily from his father as a child and, even worse, how no one around him tried to help.

I’ll never forget this moment when I was 10 years old…when my mother pulled me aside and whispered, “You better play well out there today, because if you don’t, it’s going to be bad tonight.” Right then, it dawned on me that my mother was never going to do anything about it. Our neighbors weren’t going to do anything about it. The other hockey parents weren’t going to do anything about it. I was going to have to stop it myself.

The Marshall Project has an in-depth look at a story we’ve talked about before: a young woman is raped and instead of believing her, the police convict her of the crime of false reporting. Years later, proof of her rape comes to light.

Recently, Marie was asked if she had considered not reporting the rape. “No,” she said….She wanted to help the police. “So nobody else would get hurt,” she said. “[So] they’d be out there searching for this person who had done this to me.”

And lastly, the story of Las Patronas, the women who feed immigrants on their way to the border:

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Here’s a great story: Malyk Bonnet, a really smart seventeen-year-old, saved a women from her violent ex-boyfriend.

A look at some of the creative and powerful ways communities have responded to sexual violence outside of the justice system.

A lost film has resurfaced showcasing the kickass feminists who agitated at the 1972 Democratic convention: Shirley Chisolm, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and more!

I just can’t even…

Today I saw the story of a woman who was shot and killed by her (recently) ex-husband who is a police officer. And I got angry and started to write about how leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time, and about how the news reports didn’t even call this domestic violence. I started to write about how this murderer’s fellow officers saw the whole awful scene take place and waited it out for 30 minutes, so they could end this situation without using deadly force despite the fact that he was yelling and brandishing his gun. I probably don’t need to tell you that he is white. But as I wrote, I got so depressed about the amount of work we need to do to end the violence. Sometimes it’s hard to stay hopeful.

So I just can’t write that post today. Instead I’m going to tell you how excited I am about a 5K run. (For those of you who know me, you can pick yourself up off the floor. I still only run if being chased and occasionally for the bus).

For the 4th year, WSCADV in partnership with the Seattle Mariners is hosting a 5K run/walk at Safeco Field. Yes, it’s a fundraiser. But it’s really turned out to be so much more. Over a thousand people come together on one day—some because they love to run, some because they have a personal connection to the issue—to have fun and rally for healthy relationships. How great is that?! One runner said “By far the most fun event all year!” See? Working to change this culture of violence doesn’t have to be depressing. I am excited because the hope that springs from the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse 5K at Safeco Field will refuel me. It will inspire others. Bringing people together to have fun and talk about healthy relationships is a great way to carry on the conversations that we want—no need—to be having to change the culture of violence.

“I have a friend who has a sister who…”

Photo by Justin Jensen
Photo by Justin Jensen

I used to do a lot of domestic violence trainings. In fact, someday I’ll tell you the story of when I did 36 trainings when I was pregnant and barfing. But recently I have been training again. And I remembered something. At some point, without fail, a participant will come up to me with some version of this question: “I have a friend who has a sister who has been in a domestic violence situation for years and my friend just doesn’t know how to help her. They’ve tried everything but she just won’t leave and everyone is worried about her and her kids’ safety and it is just a mess. What can they do?”

Every time my heart breaks. Again. My heart breaks for the asker, the sister, the survivor, the kids, the abuser. All of us. And I wish I had a better answer. But here is what I say:

It is hard to see someone you love and care about struggle. It is painful to see people making choices that we disagree with or find unfathomable. I get it, I do. And I also get that it is really hard for the survivor to make those choices and know that people disagree with them. We cannot imagine what it must be like for her. But I know that she is making decisions based on what she thinks will keep her safe or safer or sane. And in order to stick with her, we all need support. We need help to be there day in and day out. The good news is that there is support available. Domestic violence programs offer support to friends and family, not just to survivors themselves. The most important thing that all of us can do is to stay connected to the survivor. Connection directly counters and resists the abuse and isolation that survivors face.

So go forth. Reach out. Ask her: “What would make things better? How can I help with that?” I know it is hard to offer help and be turned down. But know that each offer is planting a seed and reminding her that you are there. Be there so that when she needs you, she can find you. No one deserves to be abused.

So hang in there and get support for yourself because when she calls on you, I want you to be ready.

Thank you. No really, thank you for staying connected and breaking that isolation. We need you. It takes all of us and we’re in this thing together.