News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

Dee Gordon, a Major League All-Star, lost his mother to domestic violence when he was six years old. Now he reaches out to other kids in the same situation: “I went through it, and when I went through it, I didn’t have anybody,” Gordon said. “Nobody could relate to me. So now I just want to relate to kids and give back my time.”

Finally, someone is trying to make guns as difficult to access as abortions: “Since Missouri holds the rank as one of the strictest abortion regulation states in the country, it is logical we borrow similar restrictions to lower our horrific gun violence rates,” said Senator Stacey Newman.

Imagine how discouraging and offensive it must be to have strangers who know nothing about you assume that you aren’t capable of parenting your own children: How a disabled pregnant woman handles insensitive questions.

“Why don’t victims just leave?”

I recently wrote this guest column for publication in Sound Publishing community newspapers.

nomoreThose of us who work at domestic violence programs hear this question all the time. The truth is, they do. Every day we hear from survivors of abuse who were able to find the support and resources they needed to be safe and self-sufficient.

Every day we also hear from people who are unable to leave because they fear the abuser will be more violent if they do. This fear is very real. According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review, in at least 55% of homicides by abusers, the victim had left or was trying to leave.

Many people are unable to leave an abusive relationship because they have nowhere to go. Our communities don’t have enough affordable housing, and shelters and transitional housing units are limited. On just one day last year, domestic violence programs in Washington could not meet 267 requests for housing. People often stay with or return to an abusive partner because they don’t have the money to support themselves or their children.

We also hear from people who don’t want to leave, but want the abuse to stop. Research consistently shows that people in an abusive relationship make repeated efforts to be safe and self-sufficient, but there are many barriers—both external, such as limited resources or support; and internal, such as an emotional connection to their partner or a desire for their children to be with both parents—that makes this very difficult.

But here’s the thing: This is absolutely the wrong question to be asking, as it implies that victims are responsible for ending violence. They aren’t. Instead, we should be asking what we can do to stop abusers from being violent and controlling.

A lion’s share of outrage

Photo by Arno Meintjes
Photo by Arno Meintjes

Poor Cecil. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about how Cecil the lion met his sad and painful end. I don’t know what kind of person thinks this kind of violence is fun. I wonder how that dentist from Minnesota treats the humans in his life, but this post is not about him.

It’s about us. I am struck by how many people—on social media, mainstream media, the water cooler—are so vocal about their disgust, shock, and condemnation of the murder of Cecil the lion. Not because their outrage isn’t justified. This was a terrible act. But there is a lot of terrible violence happening right here in our communities every day that I think deserves at least an equal amount of outrage. Some are angry that people are quick to condemn Cecil’s death but not so willing to do the same for other atrocities happening around them. I can respect that anger. And it isn’t an either/or situation. We should be both outraged by what happened to Cecil and about black lives cut short, women and girls being raped…I could go on.

So if you’re feeling that anger, that outrage about Cecil—good! I’ve got five more things that we should muster up that same outrage for:

1) Women of color dying in jail cells—Sandra Bland, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, and many others.

2) The 35 women on the cover of NY Magazine coming forward about being sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the empty chair that represents so many other women and girls who are sexually assaulted every day.

3) The dreadful conditions that exist in Family Detention Centers and the continuing struggles of immigrant women and children who flee violence in their families and countries.

4) Transgender women are being killed at alarming rates.

5) Thousands of women across the country and here in Washington State are being abused by partners who promised to love them.

Last week my fearless coworker Tyra Lindquist had some excellent thoughts about how to fight injustice. Today we are talking about Step 1: Pay attention and get fired up. If we can do it for a lion, we can do it for each other.

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.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

  • I’ve gone through an intense range of emotions this week watching coverage of the guilty verdict in the Steubenville rape. I’ve landed on a feeling of hope after reading Magda Pecsenye’s “A Letter To My Sons About Stopping Rape.”
  • Do you need another reason to love Project Runway’s Tim Gunn? He’s helping to launch the international No More campaign, raising awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Karin White with the YWCA of Pierce County reflects on how domestic violence homicides have impacted her community, and shares her hopes for a better future.

Finding meaning in the Sikh killings

What do you see in this “Roots of Love” trailer, a short documentary on Sikh men?

I see pride, joy, and a clear statement of their vibrant cultural identity. I also see the struggle of this identity in a world of discrimination and hate crimes.

I am angry and sad about the hate-based killings of Sikhs in a gurdwara in Wisconsin. Many have been impacted by post 9/11 racism, and many continue to spread awareness and education in an effort to end the hatred. Struggling to find some meaning in all of this, I found some clarity and patience by reading this post, proposing that the way to address the “need for broader awareness about Sikh identity and belief” is simple. “Ask any Sikh.”

I attended Saturday’s Solidarity Vigil and was once again reminded of the importance of engaging in conversation. I am ever so certain that we need to unite to end racism and xenophobia by fully participating in each others’ lives. As I’ve said before:  “uniting to protect each others’ rights does not threaten or diminish our own.”

Gun love

My parents met at a gun club. I grew up in Georgia where guns are everywhere. I could get to at least one (loaded) at any given time in the house I grew up in. I played with them and showed them to my friends. Nothing catastrophic happened. I (and my parents) are stupid lucky.

Others have not been so lucky. Bullets have been flying around western Washington lately: an eight year old accidentally shot in her classroom, gun fights in south Seattle, children killed because they were playing with guns. The high profile shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida has shone a light on the controversial stand-your-ground laws in many states. This “I have the right to fight back” attitude combined with easy access to guns is obviously a deadly combo.

You could argue that the world we live in is dangerous, and it is up to us to protect ourselves. As an advocate for victims of abuse, I am keenly aware that danger (even in your own home) is a reality for many families. I can understand the been-knocked-down-scared-threatened-too-many-times emotional roller coaster that has some folks turning to guns to feel powerful again, to feel safe. I also know that the majority of domestic violence homicides in Washington State are committed with firearms, and whether or not those who were killed are the victim (as are most) or the abusive partner, this act still ruins more than one life. Nobody wins.

Do guns really make us safer, or does it just make those who carry feel safer? Are more guns in our communities a recipe for safety? I’m not convinced.

Dear editor

We are really disappointed with the inaccurate coverage of domestic violence and family court in this Seattle Weekly article. We submitted the following letter to their editor.

We have deep concerns about Nina Shapiro’s January 18th article “Ripped Apart.”

Ms. Shapiro makes the important point that family court is significantly under-resourced, and decisions are being made about “the most precious relationships in people’s lives” with hearings that are far from comprehensive. Yes. This is a real problem in King County and across our state.

But Ms. Shapiro goes on at great length about how domestic violence allegations are used to manipulate the courts against dads and draws conclusions by presenting one side of the story. The Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review has studied domestic violence homicides over the course of twelve years in fifteen Washington counties. Inter-disciplinary groups reviewing these homicides found time and again that―even with the most violent abusers―courts failed to adequately address victim’s safety concerns and failed to understand how abusers’ controlling and violent behavior threatened the safety and well-being of their children. These findings are completely ignored by Ms. Shapiro.

We routinely hear about attorneys advising victims NOT to talk about the abuse they have experienced because it will bias the court against them. They remain silent out of fear that the court will think they are lying or trying to manipulate the system. This silence hurts children.

We agree that family court needs to be improved. But, whenever allegations of domestic violence are present, the focus should be on safety and the best interest of the children. We encourage The Weekly to exercise better judgment and present balanced material on matters such as this.