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.

Nosotros el pueblo (We the people)

Los Estados Unidos han sido mi hogar por los últimos 14 años. Es el país de mi hijo, el lugar que me dió la oportunidad de reinventarme, de iniciar una nueva etapa en mi vida, de ser madre, de desarrollarme profesionalmente. Este país me recibió con los brazos abiertos y cada día me da nuevas oportunidades y libertades para continuar mi crecimiento en todo aspecto. De las cosas que Constitution_We_the_Peoplemás me gustan y respeto de este país es el cómo se formó. Esa esencia donde el respeto a la libertad de creencias, y el respeto a las leyes son principios fundamentales, entre muchos otros el “We the people” (Nosotros el pueblo).

Desafortunadamente la experiencia de millones de inmigrantes en este país, no se compara con mi experiencia como inmigrante. Muchos confrontan abuso y explotación; las familias están siendo separadas, y viven con miedo a ser deportados. Estas familias como la mía, estamos aquí con sueños de ofrecer un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos. Las familias indocumentadas apenas pueden satisfacer las necesidades básicas de sus hijos y el estrés con el que viven ejerce presión en sus relaciones haciendo a veces difícil tener relaciones amorosas y saludables. Nuestro sistema de inmigración es un sistema que no funciona correctamente, simple y llanamente necesita ser reparado o reinventado.

El Presidente Obama, el mes pasado, emitió una orden ejecutiva donde una gran mayoría de inmigrantes que no han tenido la opción de legalizar su estadía en este país puedan hacerlo y así dejar de vivir con el miedo a ser deportados. Con esto, pienso que el Presidente está retomando los principios fundamentales con los que se fundó este país.

La orden ejecutiva es un pequeño paso, un pequeño comienzo de algo que puede convertirse en un verdadero cambio. Es la oportunidad de unirnos y hacer de los Estados Unidos un país aún más rico de lo que ya es. Todos podemos tener creencias y culturas diferentes sin perder nuestra individualidad. Dejemos a un lado el racismo, los prejuicios, y la necesidad de que las cosas tengan que verse de una sola manera.  Cada uno de nosotros tiene un papel importante que ejercer para que este cambio se dé en su plenitud. No nos olvidemos que aquellos que se encargan de aprobar las leyes y hacer este cambio trabajan para nosotros. Vamos a continuar a lo que el Presidente Obama nos hizo favor de iniciar.

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The United States has been my home for the past 14 years. It is the country of my son, the place that gave me the opportunity to reinvent myself, to start a new phase in my life, to grow professionally. This country welcomed me with open arms and every day gives me new opportunities and the freedom to continue my growth in every aspect. The thing that I like most and respect about this country is how it was formed, with a foundation of respect for freedom of beliefs and respect for the law as fundamental principles. “We the people.”

Unfortunately the experiences of millions of immigrants in this country do not match mine. Many face abuse and exploitation, are separated from their families, and live in fear of being deported. These families, like mine, are here with dreams of providing better futures for their children. But when families are undocumented, they can barely meet their children’s basic needs. This stress puts pressure on their relationships making it sometimes difficult to have loving and healthy relationships. Our immigration system is a system that does not work correctly, quite simply it needs to be repaired or reinvented.

Last month President Obama issued an executive order that allows a large majority of immigrants who previously did not have the option to legalize their stay to now do so and stop living in fear of being deported. By doing this I feel the president is returning to the fundamental principles on which this country was founded.

This executive order is a small step, a small beginning of something that can become a real change. It is an opportunity to unite us and make the United States an even richer country than it is already. We all can have diverse beliefs and cultures without losing our individuality. Let’s leave aside racism, prejudice, and the need for things to look alike and be just  one way. Each of us has an important role to play in order for this change to happen. Let’s not forget that the people responsible for passing laws and making these changes work for us. Let’s continue what President Obama has started.

Warning signs

I was watching TV when Jaylen Fryberg shot his friends and himself at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Which meant that I spent too much time—shocked, scared, angry—watching the media cover this horrible situation. The story was that the shooter was popular, friendly, and the homecoming prince. His popularity didn’t seem to fit in with the kind of person we usually associate with being a school shooter. The loner. The one who was bullied, unpopular.Marysville-Pilchuck_High_School,_Art_Mural_in_Forum,_October_2009

So I decided to look at his Twitter account (I am not linking to it because of the graphic content) and what I saw there was a very different person than the one portrayed on TV that day. The boy on Twitter was full of rage and sadness which seemed to center around a love interest. Who knew?

His friends had certainly seen these posts. Social media is where young people live. It’s their community. We adults aren’t doing anyone any favors by ignoring this fact and not taking the time to understand it. Social media can offer something positive. An outlet. A place for youth to express themselves.

A few years ago, someone who was hurting and raging and planning to take it out on people at school might have kept a journal that would be found after the fact. Now, we can all see the warning signs in real time as long as we’re looking. I don’t know what happened in this situation. Maybe someone did reach out to him and he wasn’t ready to hear it. Maybe an adult in his life was trying to work with him to get help.

Teens are learning how to navigate intimate relationships, and we don’t give them a lot of help. Jaylen retweeted a post that said “I’m not jealous. But when something’s mine it’s mine.” For those of us who work with survivors of domestic violence, this statement is an enormous red flag. When giving an update on this story, a local news anchor said the words “He was heartbroken.” We’ve all been heartbroken. But framing his actions that way minimizes violent behavior motivated by jealousy and rage.

What if we equip young people and their families with tools to recognize unhealthy relationships and where to get help? My heart breaks for the families of the students hurt and killed in this shooting. I hope it can open doors for more and better dialogue about healthy relationships for teens and what friends and family can do when they notice the warning signs of dating violence.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

The high school senior that was kicked out of her prom for her dress tells the story of her experience:I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives.” (explicit language)

Families receiving public assistance are often criticized for how they spend their money. The actual data, however, shows just how uncalled for this criticism is.

As doctors debate whether screening for domestic violence helps or not, I’m wondering why—given how prevalent it is—they don’t just routinely provide information about local domestic violence advocacy programs. That way, patients will know where they can get help regardless of whether they choose to disclose to their doctor.

Don’t overthink it, $15 an hour could fix a lot

There is something afoot in the fight to raise the minimum wage—the increasingly visible voices of low-wage workers. The Fight for 15 started in Chicago and has spread to 50 cities including Seattle. At SeaTac Airport, baggage handlers, shop workers, and folks transporting people using wheelchairs, are all asking for a $15 minimum wage to provide for their families.

American_Flag_&_SloganAs a country, we say that all work is honorable, no job is beneath anyone, and that if you show up and do your best, you will be rewarded. Not if you are a low wage worker. Nancy Salgado confronted the U.S. president of McDonald’s and asked “It’s really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day. Do you think this is fair, that I have to be making $8.25 when I’ve worked for McDonald’s for ten years?” She was ticketed for trespassing.

McDonald’s minimum wage employees recently received a Practical Money Skills Budget Journal. Perhaps this is their answer to Nancy’s question. But it’s not exactly going to help her situation. To begin with, the sample income is NOT based on a full-time minimum wage (more like 2 minimum wage incomes). Their example doesn’t include groceries or childcare, and healthcare is a hilarious $20 monthly expense. Rent is only $600 a month. Where is this city? The smiling teenager on the front of the budget journal does not represent the vast majority of people working minimum wage jobs. It is adults (and more women than men) who are trying to make a living and care for children on minimum wage. $15 an hour is closer to what it actually takes to support a working family.

When you support a $15 minimum wage, you are also helping women and children live violence-free lives. People are always telling women who are in abusive relationships to leave—don’t stay for money, leave because your life will improve and you will be a better parent. But that’s not true if you walk out the door into homelessness. So they tell them: go get a job, find an apartment, find childcare, get new credit cards, open another bank account. Oh, your partner trashed your credit? You must not be trying hard enough.

$15 an hour means you can take care of yourself and your children and you won’t have to face the decision of either returning to an abusive relationship or becoming homeless. We all benefit when everyone around us can go to bed each night knowing that they can provide a loving home and have the resources to face whatever lies ahead.

What we talk about when we talk about guns

In the wake of last week’s Navy Yard shooting, we enter another round of the now familiar national conversation about gun violence in America.

Image from Demand Action To End Gun Violence
Image from Demand Action To End Gun Violence

Mother Jones has an in depth analysis of mass shootings since 1982. According to their criteria, the Navy Yard shooting is the fifth such incident in 2013.

According to another compilation of gun violence incidents by reddit users, the fifth mass shooting of this year happened back in January, and the Navy Yard shooting was #247.

Why the huge discrepancy? Whether there have been 5 mass shootings this year or 247 depends on how you define the terms.

Most of the time, “mass shootings” and “gun violence” are defined by the stories that get the most attention and that get under our skin. The stories that are hard to shake because the randomness makes it feel like any one of us could be a target. Studying domestic violence homicides, I am used to thinking about violence as anything but random. But even I was surprised to find out that 57% of mass shootings (defined as 4 or more people killed) involve domestic violence. More than half.

When I heard that number, I thought how is it I have never heard this before? Domestic violence is actually behind most mass shooting deaths in America and yet it is almost never part of the conversation. Until just recently, most analysis of mass shootings doesn’t include domestic violence. Mother Jones defines the term in a way that excludes shootings that happen at home, even if the same shooting in a public place would count.

The media coverage is different too. We read about the deeper social significance of random, public violence. What it says about our society. Domestic violence rarely prompts the same soul searching. That double standard reinforces old myths. That the “real” danger is outside your home, not inside. That men’s violence against their families is a private tragedy, not a social injustice, not a matter for collective action and public policy.

Focusing on men’s violence against women won’t make the solutions to gun violence easy or obvious. But at least it will help us see the problems more clearly.

The bare minimum

Since Labor Day, I’ve been reading a lot about our country’s minimum wage. This is probably not a newsflash (but just so we’re clear), it’s at $7.25, and is not a livable wage. Even here in Washington State, where our minimum wage is the highest in the country at $9.19, it falls short for many working families. The Self Sufficiency Standard calculates what it actually takes to make ends meet in each county. It takes into consideration things like household members’ ages, and cost of housing, food, and childcare. For example, a single mother with 2 kids in Seattle needs to make $26.94 an hour to meet the needs of her family. That same mom in Pend Oreille county needs an hourly wage of $16.33. Even for two working parents, the minimum wage doesn’t work. In Seattle, two working parents with two kids would each need to make $14.58 an hour. In Pend Oreille, more than $10 an hour each.

Back in 1963, one of the things protesters who marched on Washington demanded was a $2.00 minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $15.26 today. Recently we have again seen workers rise up against inadequate wages. Fast food employees are asking for a $15 minimum wage. President Obama has mentioned raising it to $9 and some members of Congress have proposed over $10. I’m not one to regularly read the Bloomberg report, but I came across this article from a self-described Capitalist who fully supports a significant minimum wage hike. He argues that “the fundamental law of capitalism is that if workers have no money, businesses have no customers. That’s why the extreme, and widening, wealth gap in our economy presents not just a moral challenge, but an economic one, too.”

Some argue against this, claiming these are “entry level” jobs that are starting points, not places to stay long-term and support a family. But when we look at who is earning minimum wage, we see that the vast majority are adults and most of those adults are women. minimum-wage-chart

We have to ask ourselves, what do we value? If you (and your partner) work, should you be able to afford the basics for your family? If you’re in an abusive relationship, should you be able to earn enough so that money doesn’t factor in to whether you stay or go? A higher minimum wage could mean freedom, safety, and security for those experiencing abuse. And I’m all for that.

Where the danger often is

Gun-Violence-Plan

Have you thought about mass killings when dropping your kids off at school or going to a movie lately?  It’s hard not to, given the horrific shootings recently. But do you think of them every time you enter your house?

Most mass shootings occur in private spaces, and involve families. Mayors Against Illegal Guns recently issued a report on mass shootings. In all cases where a shooter killed four or more people, 57% involved domestic violence: meaning the shooter killed their intimate partner, and frequently, their children and other family members.

What surprised me about this report was not the fact that many mass shootings are domestic violence related: we know that from our Fatality Review work. No, what was surprising was to see a mainstream group make this connection: that the deaths of (overwhelmingly) women and children at the hands of murderous (overwhelmingly) men is an identifiable, terrifying pattern and it often has domestic violence at its core. Usually we see the media and officials treating each domestic violence related shooting as an isolated and unpredictable incident.

You and I may have felt frightened by the Sandy Hook or Batman shootings, but if you are a woman in an intimate partnership with a man, especially one who keeps a gun in the house, the odds of being terrorized in your home are higher than the odds of being in a terrorist attack or mass killing committed by a stranger. We know that almost half of women murdered are killed by their intimate partners, and women are more likely to be murdered or threatened with guns when guns are in their homes. The violence most relevant to women and children is the violence committed in their own homes, by a person who should be loving and nurturing them, but we rarely see this connection made so clearly.

Problem: Poverty. Solution: Marriage?

Good news! Word is that all that single mothers need to do to ensure that their children are happy, healthy, and successful is to get married. Wait…what? According to the New York Times, poverty is the result of marriage choices. Now come on, we’ve been here before. Several years ago there was a federal initiative that gave states funding for programs that promoted marriage to people on welfare. The goal was to move families off of welfare and on to economic stability. These programs were by and large unsuccessful. Why? Because a man is not a financial plan. And what children need (besides the basics like love, full bellies, and a place to live) is parents who are respected, happy, and safe. Marriage is not the thing that will necessarily make this happen.

It’s myopic to conclude that children living in a home with two parents do better because of two paychecks. Yes, more income certainly makes it easier to afford the necessities, but (especially for moms who have been dealing with abusive relationships) marrying for an additional income just doesn’t seem like a wise choice. Let’s find some solutions that work for single moms and don’t insult their life choices. Let’s support funding for childcare, equal pay for women, and living wages for all. Fortunately, the New York Times also lets people like Katie Roiphe speak her mind: “The real menace to America’s children is not single mothers, or unmarried or gay parents, but an economy that stokes an unconscionable divide between the rich and the not rich.” Exactly!

“Happy workers mean happy apples”*

Do you know where your fruit is grown? Who picked that fruit? How it gets to the grocery stores?

We all know farmworkers face a tough working environment. On top of that, they often deal with labor exploitation, domestic violence, and sexual harassment―both in the fields and in the temporary housing that growers may provide.

I recently had the privilege to visit Broetje Orchards. We were given a gracious tour and educated about how they support their workers. They know that their workers are experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault on their land. So they have created a strong partnership with the YWCA of Walla Walla, inviting advocates onto their property. This is giving farmworkers and their families access to the information and support they need. We asked a Broetje employee why they go out of their way to do this. Her response was, “because it’s the right thing to do!”

So how about that? The Broetje family is changing the landscape―and not just with their apples.

*I heard this mantra repeated often during my visit to Broetje Orchards.