Activism Roundup

How to take action this week

Thank Governor Inslee For Standing With Immigrants  “Today, Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order affirming that Washington State will never have a religious registry and will never keep any info on immigration status that isn’t necessary. Washington stands with immigrants and refugees and will never willingly participate in the deportation of our brothers and sisters. Thanks, Governor Inslee!”

Know Your Rights  Get information about what to do when encountering law enforcement at airports and other ports of entry into the U.S.; what to do if questioned about your immigration status; and what to do if ICE agents are at your door.

 This Saturday in Tacoma: Rally against transgender discrimination & I-1552  “The Trump Administration is attacking transgender students. We can’t let that kind of discrimination come to Washington. Join us this weekend as we rally against I-1552 and show opponents of equality that Washingtonians are united in defense of our transgender neighbors and friends.”

Tell Congress to Protect DV Survivors’ Health Care  “The ACA or Obamacare provides very specific help to victims, while also ensuring that almost all Americans have access to health care. Specifically, the ACA includes provisions to cover screening and brief counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence, prohibits insurance companies from denying victims of violence health insurance, allows victims to not be reliant on an abusive spouse to get health care for them or their children, and expands access to mental health services for women and children.”

Take a deep breath and take action

You know those days (or years — I’m looking at you, 2016) when you have a hard time being positive and remembering that there is good in the world? Well, I am having one of those days. I was supposed to be writing about October (right around the corner!) being Domestic Violence Action Month and instead I found myself reading article after article about how messed up the world is. I couldn’t stop!

But then I took a breath, called my beloved coworker for a reality check, and was reminded that all my ruminating and ranting and despair are not for nothing. Because it only takes a minute to understand that all of this violence is connected. And it takes just another minute to realize that all of our liberation is connected too. So when it feels like we can’t do anything to make a change, know that we actually can. And the opportunity is right around the corner. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Action Month (DVAM). And action is a good thing. Action will propel us forward. Action will make us feel better. Action is what it will take to end the violence.

So next month, let’s work for justice. Let’s take a stand when we can and kneel when we must. And let’s also take action to end domestic violence. Let’s work for relationships that are loving and safe. Let’s do it together.

Here are some ideas to get you started…

Get together

  • When you have dinner or lunch with friends this month, try out and practice having the conversations modeled in our How’s Your Relationship? Conversation Cards.

Get down to business

  • Find out what businesses in your community are taking a stand against domestic violence and offer your support. Or if you are a business owner, you too can get involved. Check out our DVAM sign you can put in your window and reach out to your local DV program to connect customers with resources and information.

Get social

  • Post DVAM-related content on your social media pages. Encourage conversations in your circle about ending domestic violence.

Get real

  • Talk with the people in your life about their relationships. Find out how things are going with friends, family, and partners. Learn how to support those in relationships that aren’t going well and celebrate when things are good. Set high expectations for those around you and love fiercely.

Get giving

  • Donate to your local DV program with money, time, or access to resources.

Whatever you do, know that you are making a difference. Together we can end domestic violence and create a better world!

dvam_graphic

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.

Thoughts from a future mom: Parenting amidst violence

We bring you this guest post from Leah Holland with the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

Recently, the folks at Can You Relate invited me to write a guest post on their blog. I planned to write about how trans folks are impacted by reproductive coercion. Then Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer and I felt compelled to change topics.Audre-Lorde-no-border

Working in the anti-violence field with an anti-oppression focus keeps the intersections of peoples’ lives in the forefront of my mind. I can’t ignore that the impact of abuse is different for children of color than for white children. I can’t ignore that children of color must be taught how to interact with the police differently than white children.

And I don’t want to ignore it. You see, I’m in the middle of planning a wedding and a pregnancy. My sweetie is brown. I am white. We talk a lot about where and how we want to raise our children. My sweetie asked me this morning what I thought the hardest part will be for me being a white mom to a brown baby. Easy: OTHER PEOPLE.

Needing to trust other people is what is scariest to me. That was one of my biggest hurdles in deciding to have kids—knowing I can’t always keep them safe. I know all the stats about who is more likely to sexually abuse a child (hint: it’s someone the child knows).

In an interview for Ebony’s Ending Rape 4ever series, Monika Johnson Hostler says: “I always tell people, ‘As a parent do I worry about stranger danger?’ Yes. [However] the people in our lives that are associated with us, that it appears that we trust, those are the people I worry about most.” YES! And with the reality that one African-American is murdered by police every 28 hours, comes the recognition that the people we’re supposed to trust to keep us safe don’t keep everyone safe.

I’ll never be able to understand what it’ll be like for our child to be multiracial. But my sweetie and I will do our best to get them ready for the institutional, systemic, and individual racism they WILL face. If the other bad stuff happens too, at least I know our child will be believed, told it’s not their fault, and get help. And if our brown baby identifies as trans, we’re ready to parent at that intersection too.

Talking back and moving forward

We bring you this post from Sarah LaGrange, our Policy and Prevention intern.

collageLately I have been thinking about adultism. It is one of the most common forms of oppression and I would venture to say that every single person who is reading this has experienced it. And yet it is the least talked about “ism” that I know of. You probably haven’t ever heard the term.

At our Teen Leadership Council (TLC), they had never heard of it either. But once I started giving examples, every teen there knew what I was talking about. At the end of the day we asked: What do you want adults to know about teens? Almost every single answer was about wanting adults to treat them with kindness and respect. One youth wrote “I only talk back when you talk back to me.” Is that actually what we want kids to learn, not to talk back? Would we ever say this to an adult? What we really want is for kids to take some responsibility for their actions.

Another TLC member said “You don’t have to yell to get our attention.” Who actually responds well to being yelled at? No one. So why do we yell so much at kids? Because we are allowed to, perhaps even expected to. This starts sounding eerily like why men so often treat women with violence and control, because they have historically been allowed to and even expected to control the women in their lives.

Jody Wright points out, “When we talk of kids being ‘disciplined,’ we mean that they follow what others say or want. When we talk of an adult being disciplined, we mean that they are following inner motivation to do something.” How do we expect children to learn self-discipline and internal motivation when we raise them to do what they are told and not talk back? The problem is, we are teaching them to perpetuate oppression and inequality. If we want kids to resist oppression we have to teach them how to talk back and that they deserve the same respect we give other adults.

My teenagers get ACTIVE

MLKpinI am not talking about exercise or turning off the electronics—both good ideas—but about social justice work. Last week, the speaker at our Shabbat service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Alexes Harris, grabbed my daughters’ attention. Instead of leaving them feeling like the world’s problems are too big to fix, she inspired them to be actors in their own lives and community. WOW! Anyone who gets my kids as excited about justice as the latest beauty blog is someone I need to pay attention to.

One of my daughters said, “This speech was not just about Dr. King’s legacy, but what I can do today, with attainable ideas, small things that are acts of social justice.” Yes, she really said that. Here is a shortened version of the speech that got her there:

I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, professor and social activist…. I am a person, who was raised in a community that stressed the importance of caring for my family members, my neighbors, and people around me. I am a sociologist who conducts research on social stratification and inequality in the United States…. I was asked to speak about Dr. King’s legacy, what this might mean to us today and how we can become more engaged in social justice work. I would like for you first to picture Dr. King in your mind. Visualize his picture in a frame on the wall in your living room. Then picture a portrait of yourself on the same wall right next to his picture. And envision a square frame around your face. There are four sides. Think of each theme I raise as one part of this frame. With each part of my discussion, I hope I help you think of your role as a social activist—your part to play in Dr. King’s legacy. How do you fit in as an individual in the broader discourse about Dr. King and social justice? My aim is for you not to be passive in the celebration of Dr. King’s life, but someone who celebrates his legacy by taking action all year round.

FRAME #1

For the first part of our frame, the right part, I will begin by discussing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy…. Dr. King spoke and wrote about poverty, inequality, and racial injustice in the United States, he fought for the right for all people to vote, he eloquently spoke about the insidious effects of poverty, state oppression, and violence. He spoke out against the Vietnam War; he fought for workers’ rights, equality in living wages, and the right for unions to organize.

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.… I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land (Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech).”

He was arrested over 20 times, had his home bombed, and gave over 2,500 speeches. His legacy is that everyone who says his name respects him and that we have the right to vote and we have a social justice vision to strive for: three meals a day, education, culture, dignity, equality, and freedom. For everyone regardless of our race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, pay grade, nationality, immigration status, and age. This is Dr. King’s legacy and this is social justice.

FRAME #2

The second piece to our frame, the top part, is the connection to current issues today—pressing down on us…. Many people note that we have a president of African American decent and suggest that we are “post-racial” that racism is no longer a problem. Unfortunately, many of the same issues that Dr. King spoke about we still struggle with today…. We see in every arena from education, to poverty, to homelessness, to incarceration rates, to HIV transmission, people of color and poor people continue to suffer in this country. Whether it is from direct racism, color blind racism, or inattention to or lack of caring and love, we have several problems in our society that need attention.

We need to continue to make changes in our criminal justice system—we need to tackle the racial and ethnic disproportionality. We need to tackle the criminalization of our mentally ill, of our poor, and of our children. Washington’s incarceration rate has roughly tripled since the 1970s, and is estimated to increase by 23% in 2019. Partly due to the war on drugs we have over 16 million people with felonies (7.5% of the U.S. population), and over 2 million living behind bars. Nationally, 1 in 3 adult Black men have a felony conviction. In Washington, studies show that among felony drug offenders, Black defendants have higher odds of being sentenced to prison than similarly situated White defendants. Criminal conviction leads to limited housing and employment opportunities, legal debt, political disenfranchisement, and a host of problems experienced by families and communities….

FRAME #3

Third side of our frame, the left side, what is social justice and what does it mean to you personally?… Dr. King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” What does your conscience tell you? I can’t write this frame for you. But, in Dr. King’s words we can find encouragement. Dr. King outlined common goals for social justice—beliefs that are common across all faiths and societies. Speaking on poverty and inequality he said, “In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny … We are inevitably our brothers’ keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality.”

Dr. King told us that we must care about each other, we must care about those less fortunate than ourselves…. This is our common bond across faiths, cultures, and age groups. I encourage you to reflect on what social justice means to you personally. What does your faith, your education, and your experiences tell you are unjust and that you must change? Even if we are afraid, or feel overwhelmed? What can we do to make a difference?

FRAME #4

Finally, for the fourth part of our frame, the bottom, I ask you how can you become engaged and take action?… I suggest that we start within our families and among our loved ones. How can we make their lives better?… We can talk about our values, what our Rabbis, Priests, Imams, and teachers say. We can reinforce to our children that what they read in the Torah or learn in school is not just about words or ideas but about action and interaction. It only means so much if we don’t live by example.

We can make sure our children look out for other children who may be different from them, who may be new to their school, or may not have as many friends…. We can acknowledge our own mistakes, that we are not perfect, we have limitations, but tomorrow is a new day to try again.

We can call others into question when they make racist or homophobic statements in our presence. We can simply say, “Your words are inappropriate and hurtful.” We need to be mindful, as Dr. King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” When we are at work we can say that that joke is not funny, in fact it is offensive. We can stand up in little, but immense ways for ourselves and others.

In sum, if you think about our four frames for social justice:

  • To our right, we have Dr. King’s legacy—and Mandela’s—and so many others who have come before us who have given their lives for social justice: freedom, equality, and improved quality of life for others;
  • Above our heads we have—pressing on us—contemporary social problems: poverty, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, inequality in terms of living wages, health care, access to quality education. Problems that can weigh us down but we are reminded that our fear, our sadness, is our fuel to push on…. Let whatever you are afraid of be your courage to fight for change. Only you can figure this out;
  • To our left we have our personal definition of social justice—issues we personally care about and want to make a difference in; and
  • Below us, guiding us, we have our action steps: every day actions, short-term and long-term actions we can take to make bigger strides towards social justice.

You have your personal frame for social justice. Now, you can no longer wake up and ignore social justice. You can no longer only remember Dr. King on his birthday or our national holiday. You have a personal reminder of his legacy—a personal frame—that should remind you of the work you have ahead of you…. I leave you with Dr. King’s words, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Want to hear more from Dr. Harris? She has a book coming out, A Pound of Flesh:  Monetary Sanctions as a Permanent Punishment for the Poor where she talks about how the system extracts money from criminals as further punishment, even after they completed their incarceration, and how this stops them from ever returning to society as contributing individuals.

Es solamente una bofetada de telenovelas (It’s just a soap opera slap)

(scroll down for English translation)

El otro día, mi pareja y yo estábamos mirando una comedia en la cual uno de los personajes principales iba a ser la dama de honor en la boda de su ex pareja. La women-slapcomedia continúa a través de una series de incidentes cómicos cuando de repente la dama de honor abofetea a su ex (y futura pareja al final de la película). Yo me encontré a carcajadas por la bofeteada e incluso pensando que la otra persona se lo merecía por haber sido tan desconsiderada. Pero segundos después comencé a cuestionar mi reacción. Ignorando mi propio consejo de que tenía que relajarme porque es solo una película, me puse a analizar la situación. ¡De todas maneras cuestionar mi posición acerca de quien se merece una bofetada me parece razonable! Me molestó que esa bofetada sea tan casual—casi normal. Nadie se disculpó. ¡Solamente sucedió! El hecho de que se trataba de una pareja del mismo género no cambio la sensación incómoda por la agresión. No es la primera vez que veo una  bofetada ocasional, al contrario estuvo presente en todas las telenovelas que seguí de adolescente y adulta. Incluso he visto bofetadas en novelas americanas como All My Children (Todos mis Niños), General Hospital (Hospital General) y también Modern Family (Familia Moderna).

Me puse a pensar de cuando hablamos de abuso en las relaciones, siempre hablamos de la presencia del poder y control como patrón de conducta. Algunos de nosotros creemos que un solo incidente de abuso no es suficiente para calificar a la relación de abusiva. ¿Sería entonces apropiado que nos riéramos si una persona recibe una bofetada sólo una vez? ¿O estas bofetadas ocasionales que vemos en las telenovelas y películas nos llevan a aceptar la violencia que ocurre en las relaciones reales? Personalmente, yo creo que las bofetadas ocasionales que vemos en la televisión promueven violencia y en algunos contextos contribuyen a varios sistemas de opresión. Ahora, ¿deberíamos de parar de mirar las películas y telenovelas que tanto nos gustan porque esto ocurre? Independientemente de la respuesta, me gustaría alentar a las personas a reconocer la bofetada ocasional la próxima vez que la vean. Incluso tal vez puedan hablar con alguien acerca de ello. Quizás pueden decir, “que buena película o episodio pero ¿qué pensaste de la bofetada?

******

My sweetie and I were watching a romantic comedy the other day in which one of the main characters was asked to be the Maid of Honor for her ex—a woman she is still in love with. The plot continues through a series of comic events that lead to the Maid of Honor suddenly slapping the bride (her ex- and future lover)! I caught myself laughing and even thinking that the person at the end of that slap deserved it for all the pain she had caused. But then I started to question my reaction. I decided to ignore my own advice that I should relax because it’s just a movie. After all, questioning one’s judgment of who deserves to be slapped seems to me to be a reasonable standard to have. It bothered me that the slap seemed so casual—almost acceptable. It just happened. No one even apologized! The fact that it was a same-gendered couple did not make it any less troublesome to me. I am not unfamiliar with the occasional movie slap—they are ubiquitous to the telenovelas I watched growing up. I have also seen them on All My Children, General Hospital, and even Modern Family.

It got me thinking, when we discuss abuse in relationships we always talk about power and control as a pattern of behavior. Some of us believe that a one-time incident is not enough to call a relationship abusive. So, is it ok to laugh if someone gets slapped just one time? Or do these occasional slaps in the movies and telenovelas lead us to accept real-life violence in relationships? Personally, I believe that the occasional slap does promote violence and oppression. Now, should we stop watching the movies and soap operas that we enjoy so much because of it? Either way, I would encourage you to acknowledge a slap the next time you see it. Maybe talk to someone about it. Say, “What a great movie/episode, but what do you think about that slap?”

Building dignity

My introduction to the domestic violence movement was as a volunteer in a battered women’s shelter. It was founded in 1976, just a few years after the first battered women’s shelter in the U.S. It was a product of its time. We were explicit about our feminist politics. We saw our work as part of a larger agenda for justice that took on patriarchal power, institutional racism and state violence, and all forms of oppression and domination.

The shelter itself was a hundred-year-old house, with every available nook and cranny made into space for another bunk bed or more towels or canned food. We were scrappy and resourceful. We didn’t turn anyone away.

On the other hand, it didn’t occur to me back then to think about how our physical space set up survivors to have very limited control over their lives day in and day out. Multiple stressed-out families sharing bedrooms, too few bathrooms, and one small kitchen inevitably led to conflict, and then rules intended to manage the conflict, and then conflict over the rules. Not exactly a recipe for liberation.

Advocates in Washington State have been thinking about how to change shelter for the better. The result? Building Dignity: Design Strategies for Domestic Violence Shelter, a web-based tool-kit for making shelter spaces that help support our mission.

For me, watching this work unfold was a kind of revelation. The kind where you hear an idea for the first time and it instantly seems completely obvious. Shelter is a life-saving refuge. But our hope and vision has always been that shelter is more than a place for women to flee from danger. It is also a launching pad into a life after abuse. A place to restore dignity, reclaim choices, and rebuild relationships that have been eroded by violence. Building Dignity is chock full of creative and practical ideas to make this happen.

What next? Part 2

Earlier this year, our executive director, Nan Stoops, was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Her assignment: outline a five-point plan for ending violence against women and girls.

Here is the next installment of her speech. (Or jump to: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Point #1: Bring the past forward

Our work to end violence against women is rooted in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s, in particular the efforts to secure reproductive rights. Early organizing strategies were learned from the Civil Rights, Labor, and Anti-War movements, where work was launched by personal testimony about violence, oppression, and dehumanization. Many of us remember the 60’s and 70’s as an angry, energetic, and passionate time.

I think we are in another period of unrest. While the big issues have evolved into the 21st century, they appear to be very familiar. And we have a great opportunity to bring what we’ve learned into the present with a more nimble and visionary approach to our social justice work.

We must remain vigilant about reproductive rights. There are three times as many anti-choice bills in state legislation this year as there were in 2010. Anti-choice campaigns are controlling and hateful, and shameless in their strategic manipulation of race, class, and immigration.

The wars are taking a tremendous toll on our communities. Not only are we faced with the devastating effects of war on families, we are also suffering from the economic and political fallout caused by years of troop buildup and declining morale. Women around the world continue to be both the victims and tools of men’s war against each other. I hope we are working to support the families of returning troops, and I also hope we are joining in global organizing against militarization and U.S. domination.

Civil rights for immigrants are being dismantled. The war on poverty has been completely lost. And technology has added elements of speed, invisibility, and recklessness to the exploitation and abuse of women and children.

Over the past 30 years, we have developed an increasingly complicated rhetoric about our work to end violence against women. It’s so complicated that sometimes I’m not really sure what I’m talking about. So I want to suggest that we return to plain talk. Plain talk about what happens to women. Plain talk about what we are doing and what we want in our future. We need not care about being impressive. We need only care about being heard.