Don’t forget Orlando

This week we’re sharing a post from Eleanor Powell, our summer intern.

I could write about how angry I am. I could write that I had more faith in this country, that I believe people are fundamentally good and honest, not born with hate in their souls. I could, but I won’t.

The truth is I don’t expect much better from this country. At a mere 18 years of age, after witnessing countless incidents of racialized police brutality across the country over the past few years, I have already become numb to gun violence against the oppressed, and the shooting at Pulse in Orlando is no different. I wish I could say with the fervor of straight allies that I’m shocked such a hate crime could happen in the year 2016… but I’m not. Blatant hatred towards LGBTQ+ folk is never surprising to me. Even in a city as liberal as Seattle, I am afraid to walk out of my house looking too gay/dykey/gender non-conforming. Public spaces are always places of anxiety for LGBTQ+ folk, and with the added intersectionalities of being a woman of color, I very rarely feel safe outside of my own home.

For many LGTBQ+ folk, their homes are not safe because they live with abusive families or partners. While abuse occurs at the same rate in same-gender couples as it does in straight couples, bisexual women are almost twice as likely to be rape or abused by their partners than straight or lesbian women. Now, one of the few safe spaces for LGBTQ+ folk, especially survivors, has been compromised. After Orlando, I did not go to any more Pride events. I am even more conscious of what I wear and how I act in public―I am terrified. And so are the rest of the LGBTQ+ folk, the people of color, and the women in this country, because our oppressors keep telling us through hate speech and hate crimes that our lives are not worth as much as theirs.

I am not just angry, I am sad. Really, really, really sad, and scared, and just plain tired. I am tired of being hated, tired of hating myself, tired of trying to not hate myself while others like me are being murdered in safe spaces.

Staying hopeful after events such as Orlando happen is difficult, but not impossible. Pride Month is almost over, but that does not mean all LGBTQ+ folk go back in the closet until next June. Nor does it mean that we will forget Orlando. If it is safe to do so, be out, be proud, be who you were destined to be.

To the 49 people who lost their lives, may you rest in love and peace and power. To those still alive, may you find the strength to continue living.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

A pair of disturbing articles about the criminalization of pregnant women: Wisconsin’s law allows the state to jail women if they are suspected of drug abuse while Tennessee charges drug-addicted women with assault once they deliver.

We here at WSCADV always want to hear what Connie Burk has to say, and here she is with some choice words on preventing violence in LGBTQ communities.

The man who held and killed hostages in Sydney this week was, unbelievably, out on bail for involvement in the murder of his ex-wife, and more than 40 charges of sexual and indecent assault. And yet the Australian government is planning to spend more money fighting terrorism, not family and sexual violence.

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

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

In the disturbing category:

  • Victims are pushing for new laws to stop revenge porn: websites of “explicit photos posted by ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands and ex-lovers, often accompanied by disparaging descriptions and identifying details.”

On a more hopeful note:

  • I’ve often wished we had a huge national campaign aimed at ending domestic violence and sexual assault and wondered how it would change our culture. Well, I’m about to find out. The No More campaign just launched this week and is getting a lot of media buzz.

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 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.