Show your love

We bring you this post from Karen Rosenberg, a Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence consultant.

Did you read about the guy who made threats against Jewish organizations as a way to hurt his ex-girlfriend? The Federal complaint reads in part:

“…the defendant appears to have made some of the JCC [Jewish Community Center] threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimate Victim-1…harassment of Victim-1 appears to have begun shortly after their romantic relationship ended and to have included…JCC Threats in Victim-1’s name…”

Jewish Community CenterAt first the whole thing just seemed bizarre: making bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers to get back at an ex? How random. But then I realized with a sinking heart: if we understand how domestic violence works, there is nothing random here. This is textbook harassment. People don’t choose their tactics in a vacuum. They draw on what’s going on around them. We’re swimming in a sea of hate crimes. This guy used anti-Semitism—and fears of anti-Semitism—to punish his ex-girlfriend.

The spike in hate crimes stresses our most intimate relationships. The separation between the public and the private is an illusion. Those who choose to abuse their partners have newly prominent cultural scripts of hate at their fingertips. From this perspective, signs proclaiming love for our neighbors, support of our immigrants, and solidarity with Muslims take on real importance. They displace the rhetoric of hate. They remind us that we all deserve to feel safe, loved, and respected. So show your love in public. Our relationships depend on it.

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.

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.

Permitiendo a otros dirigir el camino (Letting others lead the way)

El año pasado, tuve la oportunidad de trabajar con un grupo de trabajadores agrícolas inmigrantes latinos para crear una novela corta para la radio que crearía conciencia sobre la violencia sexual en los campos.

Todo el proyecto fue una gran experiencia de aprendizaje para mí. Me dí cuenta de que yo estaba allí para de verdad escuchar, ser una aliada, y dejar que ellos dirigieran éste proyecto. Me volví muy consciente de que si mi organización quería hacer algo útil y eficaz, tenía que permitirle a este grupo enseñarnos lo que se necesitaba para desarrollar un buen mensaje.

Después de muchas largas conversaciones sobre las necesidades de su comunidad, éste increíble grupo de hombres creó un mensaje de solidaridad y de paz declarando que la violencia sexual no es aceptable bajo ninguna condición.

Este proyecto fue el ejemplo perfecto de una buena colaboración. Las intercesoras de varios programas rurales de violencia doméstica nos ofrecieron sus comentarios y el conocimiento para iniciar esta conversación. Después, un grupo de hombres salieron de su zona de confort, abrieron sus corazones, y nos dieron la oportunidad de aprender de ellos y con ellos.

Este es el resultado de su proyecto, su visión, y su creatividad: una novela corta de radio en español con un manual de cómo poderla utilizar para crear conciencia sobre la violencia sexual en los campos. Es también una invitación a otros trabajadores agrícolas a ser parte de poner fin a la violencia contra las mujeres.

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Last year, I had the opportunity to work with a group of Latino immigrant farmworkers to create a radio novela that would bring awareness of sexual violence in the fields.

The whole project was a great learning experience for me. I realized that I was there to really listen, be an ally, and let them lead the project. I became very aware that if my organization wanted to do something useful and powerful, I needed to step out of the way and let this group teach us what was needed to get a good message across.

After many long conversations about their community’s needs, this amazing group of men created a message of solidarity and peace that clearly conveyed that sexual violence is not acceptable under any conditions.

This project was the perfect example of collaborative work. Advocates from many different rural domestic violence programs provided their input and knowledge on how to initiate the conversation. Then, a group of men stepped out of their comfort zone, opened their hearts, and gave us the opportunity to learn from and with them.

Here is the result of their project, their vision, and their creativity: a radio novela in Spanish with a manual on how it can be used to create awareness of sexual violence in the fields. It is also an invitation to other male farmworkers to be a part of ending violence against women.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

I always love buying Real Change, but I’m even more excited than usual about the newest issue, which features  a story about our project that helps domestic violence survivors avoid homelessness.

Fear of death or injury can keep many women in abusive relationships, but for Latina women in particular there is an added fear: deportation.

Most media coverage leads you to believe that abortion evenly splits the nation. But it turns out that pollsters just aren’t asking the right questions.

An extraordinary day

At our conference last week, we celebrated the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and honored Deborah Parker for her strength and leadership. The following is from a speech given by our Executive Director, Nan Stoops.Homepage-Graphic-Conference2013

On February 28 of this year, Congress passed a bill that renewed the Violence Against Women Act. What might have been a somewhat ordinary day on the hill was an extraordinary day for survivors and advocates across the country. We had gone 500 days without VAWA. Not much changed during those 500 days, and yet, in my mind, everything changed.

In my 35 years of doing anti-violence work, I have witnessed and participated in periods of incredible hardship and divisiveness. Times when we compromised and then looked the other way. Times when we failed to listen to each other. Times when we could not, or would not, build the bridges that we say we want and know we need.

Not this time. This time we got it right. This time we were willing to wait 500 days. And in those 500 days, I think we realized that we would go another 500 if we had to. Because we developed the political will and principled strategy that we knew would eventually prevail. We stopped building protections for some at the expense of others. We acknowledged the unique challenges experienced by LGBT and immigrant survivors. And we finally recognized tribal authority over non-tribal members when they commit domestic violence on tribal land.

The legal precedent with respect to tribal sovereignty is significant. So too is the humanity of it. With the passage of VAWA, we broke with the tradition of this country. We were led by our Native sisters and brothers, and we joined with countless organizations to create a pathway for securing the sovereign rights of the indigenous people of this country.

I watched CSPAN on the morning of February 28th. I followed the procedural maneuvers, and I watched the roll call vote. When it was apparent that there were enough votes, I texted Grace (our public policy coordinator) to confirm, and then I just sat there and whispered “wow.” It was as if all of the years and all of the work converged into a moment. We had stayed on the side of “justice for all,” and we had won.

State and federal laws addressing violence against women start with the courage of survivors. The 2013 reauthorization of VAWA was no exception. There was significant leadership from our state. Our policy coordinator, Grace Huang worked practically full time drafting and analyzing the 800 pages of VAWA. All of you responded whenever we asked you to make calls. And when the bill failed to pass, you called again. And again. And again.

But in the end, there is one woman who made all the difference, and we honor her today.

At this time, I’d like to invite our Native sisters and brothers to join me on stage. We are fortunate to have here with us the woman whose courage, truth-telling, vision, and determination paved the way for the historic passage of the Violence Against Women Act. I am profoundly honored to introduce the Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribe, Deborah Parker.

The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence recognizes Deborah Parker, Vice Chair of the Tulalip Tribe for your strength, courage and leadership.

“This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory.” – President Barack Obama, March 7, 2013

Concientizándome (Self-awareness)

¿Como puede uno cuidarse a uno mismo, conocerse, y sanar un trauma o abuso del pasado? He estado reflexionando sobre lo que esta pregunta significa para sobrevivientes de abuso y al mismo tiempo lo que significa para mi, en lo personal y como mujer. Como mujeres, el apoyo que tenemos es suficiente para podernos conectar o reconectar con nosotros mismos y nuestro poder interior? Ese poder interior que nos guía, da el correcto balance a nuestra autoestima y nos da paz. Me pregunto, ¿cómo serían nuestras relaciones si estuviésemos conectados a nuestro poder interior y nos diéramos cuenta de que podemos crear y transformar nuestro propio futuro?

Hace unas semanas tuve la oportunidad de atender una capacitación sobre opressión con Leticia Nieto (super recomendable) donde se habló precisamente de nuestro poder interior y lo importante que es estar en contactoleticia-book con él. Durante los días siguientes a la capacitación, procesé mi pensar y sentir al respecto y al mismo tiempo me puse a pensar en la importancia de esta conección para las sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica y sexual. En este procesar de ideas, una amiga me dijo que era un privilegio el recibir el apoyo necesario para tener el tiempo y espacio necesarios para conectarte contigo mismo. ¿No debería este privilegio estar disponible para todos?

Me pregunto si como movimiento en contra de la violencia doméstica estamos ofreciendo ese apoyo de tiempo y espacio a sobrevivientes, especialmente inmigrantes sobrevivientes de abuso que de entrada están lejos de su país, familias y amigos. Ya sabemos, basados en nuestro Fatality Review Project, que sobrevivientes inmigrantes buscan primero a familia y amigos en situaciones de crisis. Entonces, quisiera que creáramos ese tiempo y espacio en las comunidades inmigrantes para que las mujeres, hombres y niños puedan tener lo necesario para conectarse con ellos mismos y su poder interior, recuperarse al abuso, y tener un mejor futuro.

Por ahora, empezaré conmigo misma reconociendo este privilegio y estando agradecida de tener todo lo necesario para desarrollar esta conección interior y al mismo tiempo estar más consciente de mi alrededor y de mi papel para ofrecer ese espacio seguro, ese tiempo y ese apoyo a quien no lo tiene.

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How do we take care of ourselves, be self-aware, and heal from trauma and an abusive past? I have been reflecting on this question on behalf of survivors as well as my own journey as a woman. Are we, as women, supported in being connected to our internal power? This is the power that guides us, brings balance to our self-esteem, and gives us peace. What would our relationships look like if we were connected to our own power and realized that we had the ability to create and shape our own future?

Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an anti-oppression training with Leticia Nieto (highly recommended) where we were talking about the importance of connecting with your internal power. In the days following the training, I thought about what this means for me, as well as how it might relate to domestic violence and sexual violence survivors. A friend pointed out that having the necessary support to have the space and time to connect with your internal power is a privilege. Shouldn’t this privilege be available to everyone?

So I wonder whether we, as a domestic violence movement, are offering that kind of time and space to survivors, especially to immigrant and refugee survivors of abuse that are far away from their countries, families, and friends. We already know from our Fatality Review Project that immigrant survivors in crisis situations reach out to family and friends first. I want us to focus on creating that time and space in immigrant communities so women, men, and children have what it takes to connect with their inner power, recover from the abuse, and have a better future.

For now, I am going to begin by recognizing my privilege of having all I need to connect with my internal  power and be grateful for that. At the same time, I am going to open my eyes and be aware of everyone around me, and of my role in offering that safe space, time, and support to those who do not have it.

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.

The world I live in

Recent conversations with friends and colleagues have me thinking about the world of human trafficking out there. Now I’m wondering, how can we develop a curiosity and care about what’s happening right here, right now?

Let’s consider the very small snapshot of runaway youth in Seattle. According to YouthCare, a local Seattle program, many youth run away from home due to abuse, neglect, and rape. Within 48 hours, young women are approached by pimps. And once they are in “the life,” inevitably they experience more sexual exploitation, criminal charges, and isolation from friends and family. Such is this world we live in. It is the world where my parents come from, it is the world where I come from, and it is the world that exists down the street from me.

Human trafficking calls for urgent action.

As Barbara Ehreinreich puts it, “the challenge is: could we stop meanness, the relentless persecution of people who are having a hard time? … We’ve got to stop kicking people when they are already down, and move toward reaching out a hand.”

We need to stop with our judgment and bias, and start being curious about how laws, policies, and attitudes impact poor and homeless people, young people, immigrants, women and children … right here, right now. Because that is the world I want to live in.

The gay agenda

Last month, I celebrated along with 53% of Americans when New York became the 6th state to legalize gay marriage. But while I cheered the happy gay couples, another part of my brain is ambivalent about the victory. After all, the institution of marriage has a sordid history—from sexist wedding rituals to cultural and legal ties that keep women trapped with abusers. And getting married means more housework for women and less for men.

At the same time, marriage brings benefits that LGBT folks have been denied. And full access to marriage (and divorce) removes one strand from the web of homophobia, sexism, and racism that batterers can use to control their partners. For example:

  • When a couple’s relationship is publically acknowledged and celebrated, homophobia loses its power to isolate LGBT people from the support of their family and friends. This means they have more help—both to have great relationships and when violence happens.
  • We know that child custody issues are a major barrier to leaving an abuser. And for LGBT parents, marriage means that the non-biological parent is more likely to have their parental rights recognized by family courts, schools, and health care providers.

Right wing rhetoric claims that the mere act of gay couples saying “I do” is enough to upend the institution of marriage. If only radical social change was that simple! I’m rooting for a day when we achieve marriage equality and much more—economic justice for women; healthy, equitable relationships for everyone; and public policies that support all families, married or not.