One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Why Do They Stay? May 4, 2012

Filed under: child custody,divorce,domestic violence,financial control,Why do they stay? — Women's Studies Intern @ 10:11 am

A few weeks ago we blogged about SPENT, an online program that challenges users’ notions of poverty as they attempt to survive life’s challenges as a low-income individual.  We urged our readers to test themselves and play.  That got us thinking; why not create our own questionnaire that challenges our readers to think about why victims stay in abusive relationships?  Leaving an abusive relationship is not as easy as simply walking out the door.  It is a process, and the motivations and results vary according to each woman or man.

Imagine you are a victim of domestic violence and answer Question 1.  Then, follow along as you begin to think about why victims of domestic violence might stay in their abusive relationships.  Click on “RESULT” to learn more about how the scenario can affect a victim of domestic violence and the statistics surrounding that affect.

  1. Are you married to your abuser? (If yes, go to Question 2)

    Are you dating but living together with your abuser? (If yes, go to Question 2)
    Are you dating but living apart from your abuser? (If yes, go to Question 3)
  2. Do you have somewhere at which you can stay if you decide to leave? (Go to Question 3)

    Do you have the financial abilities to afford to rent an apartment or home? (Go to Question 3)

  3. Do you have a child or children? (If yes, go to Question 4.  If no, go to Question 6)
  4. Is your abuser the father or mother to your child(ren)? (Go to Question 5)
  5. Do your children require child care? (Go to Question 6)
  6. Are you employed? (Go to Question 7)
    Are you unemployed? (Go to Question 7)
  7. Do you have health insurance? (If yes, go to Question 8.  If no, go to Question 9)
  8. Is your health insurance dependent on your continued relationship with your abuser? (Go to Question 9)
  9. Do you speak English?
    Are you non-English speaking?

These few questions reflect just some of the situational reasons why a victim may stay with her or his abuser, but there are a multitude of emotional reasons as well.  Some of these include fear of the abuser, love, believing no one can help, or being isolated from friends and family members by the abuser.  Ultimately, it is the victim’s choice whether she or he wants to leave an abusive relationship.  Safety should be prioritized.  We must validate the experiences of the victim and allow her or him to make her/his own decisions.

We would love to hear about your experiences following along with this blog post.  What are some other things that may keep a victim from leaving an abusive relationship or keep her or him from speaking out about her/his experiences?  Leave your comments below.


“Take action every day – some small dose at a time.” – Jeffrey Gitomer April 18, 2012

Filed under: Allies,community education,domestic violence,donating,volunteering — Women's Studies Intern @ 2:30 am

Domestic violence can be a scary or unfamiliar topic for many of us.  Alarming statistics, violent stories, and personal experiences compel many people to want to help victims and survivors.  But, maybe you don’t have a specialization in advocacy or violence prevention?  Perhaps you don’t have enough free time to complete training or make a long term commitment?  Those things are not necessary to make an impact.  Everyday people doing everyday things can help prevent domestic violence and provide assistance to victims and survivors.  Below are just a few ways how we can all help.

Use Your Skills to Donate or Help Others

Do you enjoy sewing, quilting, or cooking?  Try contacting your local shelters and organizations to see if clients are in need of food, blankets, or other homemade materials.

Do you love children?  You can offer to provide child care for a friend or family member going through a tough time.  Especially if this person has left an abusive partner, finances and access to child care may be limited.  Try contacting shelters and advocacy centers in your area to see if they are looking for volunteer child care providers, too.

Do you have a special talent or belong to a performance group?  These Canadian Ballet Companies created a special performance to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and donate to their local centers.  Dance or theater performances are great ways to educate your community about interpersonal violence and the affects it has on victims and their loved ones.

Brooklyn student Damien Bielak created 1,000 paper cranes for child victims of domestic and sexual violence.  He donated the cranes to Safe Horizon’s Manhattan Child Advocacy Center who will pass them out to each child who visits them.  In an interview Bielak stated, “I want people to know we should use our abilities and talents to benefit others.  Even simple things can make a big difference in people’s lives.”  Take what you love and use it to help others.

Are you an attorney?  Consider dedicating pro bono hours to a domestic violence victim.  Through Legal Aid of North Carolina, attorneys can choose what types of cases to which they want to donate their time, including domestic violence cases.

Or, you can simply donate!  Donating grocery gift cards, food, infant supplies, and more can greatly help out a survivor in need.

Team Up With a Local Organization

Are you a student looking for a rewarding volunteer or internship experience?  There are tons of local, state, and national advocacy agencies that look for dedicated interns year-round, which can be found by searching the internet and checking in with career services counselors.

Need a new and interesting topic for a research paper or project?  By researching a topic relating to interpersonal violence you can not only educate yourself on the topic, but also inform your teacher and classmates about these important issues.  These students at Pepperdine University teamed up with a Family Violence Response Team to raise awareness and money as their senior capstone project.

Attend or Host an Event or Fundraiser

Do you love to organize community events?  Or maybe you’re already in the process of planning one now!  Consider holding a fundraiser or community education event that centers on the interests of your community members that will focus on domestic violence or benefit domestic violence agencies.  This could range from holding bake sales to a local Dancing with the Stars competition like these folks did in Athens, Georgia!  Think of possibly dedicating a church focus group to discussing healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.  FVPC offers education programming for various community organizations.  Learn more about it here!

Be sure to also keep a look out for our blog posts and local newspapers, which will notify you of interesting and informative community events throughout the year!


Nowadays, there are many stores and companies that make it a mission to support non-profit organizations.  Be on the lookout for products that donate a portion of their profits to organizations committed to combating domestic violence, like Mary Lowry’s The Earthquake Machine, which helps benefit the National Domestic Violence Hotline and

iGive is a website that donates to your favorite cause, like the Family Violence Prevention Center, every time you shop online at over 900 stores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Gap, and Staples.  Simply by completing a short registration, iGive will donate $5 to your cause and an additional $5 at the time of your first purchase.  Additionally, up to 26% of your purchase cost will be donated to the cause you choose.

Listen and Believe

You do not need to be a trained advocate to help a friend or family member who is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers some great advice on helping someone who is being abused.  The tips, which can be found here, include listening and validating his or her words and experiences, being non-judgmental, and acknowledging that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation.  Believe what he or she shares with you and offer your support.

Remember that our 24/7/365 hotline (919-929-7122) is available to not only victims and survivors, but their friends and family members as well.  If someone confides in you and you are unsure of what to say or how you can help them, don’t be afraid to give us a call.

Don’t Be Silent

A great way that we can all help combat domestic violence is by not remaining silent about it.  By actively speaking out against domestic violence we can all help to erase the stigma of silence that can pressure victims and survivors to not seek help or share their experiences.

Use social media to reach out to a lot of people by posting interesting articles relating to interpersonal violence or your opinions on dating and domestic violence and how it is treated in schools, in the media, in the law, and in society.

Start conversations with friends, family members, co-workers, and church members about relationships and violence.  Talk to your children about domestic violence and tell them that no one deserves to be abused.  Don’t laugh at inappropriate jokes and speak out against victim-blaming comments.  Don’t condone domestic violence with your silence.

Catherine Pulsifer, author of Be a Possibilitarian states, “You can adopt the attitude there is nothing you can do, or you can see the challenge as your call to action.”  It all starts with one decision, one action.  No matter who we are or what we do, we can all do something to prevent domestic violence.  Challenge yourself to act in whatever way possible, because all of us doing small things can make a very big difference.


The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 March 29, 2012

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally passed in 1994 in response to the prevalence of domestic violence and the pervasive effects that it has on victims’ and survivors’ lives.  The Act is set up to be authorized about every five years and was thus reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S.1925) was introduced in the Senate on November 30, 2011 and appeared before the Committee on the Judiciary on February 7, 2012.  VAWA is set to be brought before the Senate in the near future, possibly even this week.

Upon introducing VAWA on the Senate Floor, Senator Leahy, the Sponsor of the Act, made a statement urging all Senators to support VAWA.  He stated, “[VAWA] seeks to expand the law’s focus on sexual assault, to ensure access to services for all victims of domestic and sexual violence, and to address the crisis of domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, among other important steps.  It also responds to these difficult economic times by consolidating programs, reducing authorization levels, and adding accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used efficiently and effectively.”  He notes that for the past eighteen years, the Violence Against Women Act has been “the centerpiece of the Federal Government’s commitment to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” 

In 2009 more than two thousand advocates responded to national conference calls and surveys regarding the most pressing issues facing victims and survivors of interpersonal violence and the barriers to full implementation of VAWA.  Subsequently, the responses were recorded and three of the top issues recognized were barriers to service for undocumented victims, lack of services to LGBTQ victims, and high levels of violence among Native Alaskan and Native American women.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women states, “VAWA programs…give law enforcement, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while supporting victims.”  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 includes several changes to the Reauthorization Act of 2005, including providing more resources for underserved populations, enhancing law enforcement and judicial tools to combat violence against women, strengthening the healthcare system’s response to interpersonal violence, and providing safe homes, economic security, and legal services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Fact sheets detailing the specifics of the many facets of VAWA and examples of what organizations receive funding from VAWA can be found here.

On February 13, 2012 The Diane Rehm Show, aired by NPR and WAMU 88.5, hosted three women to discuss “Objections to Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act”.  Listen to the broadcast here.  The panel of women included Amy Myers, Professor and Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, and Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America.  Myers and O’Neill voiced their support for VAWA, while Crouse shared her concerns with the Act.  Crouse argued that there are no indicators that VAWA has reduced the occurrence of interpersonal violence.  However, the U.S. Department of Justice has reported that since VAWA was first enacted, reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51%.  Myers and O’Neill rebut Crouse’s claim by stating that the rise in reporting evidences the increased visibility and accessibility of services to victims and survivors.  Organizations like legal clinics and shelters are saving lives.   Homicides at the hands of intimate partners have decreased by 57% for men and 34% for women, which is reported to have a direct correlation with the increase in legal aid and protection orders due to the Violence Against Women Act.

Amy Myers shared that the Centers for Disease Control reported that for the 1.6 billion that was allocated for VAWA in 1994, the United States saved 12.6 billion dollars, which can be attributed to decreased spending on health care, police forces, and lost wages due to injury.  Terry O’Neill believes that the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 needs to be passed and fully funded because “it is a start.”  There are many reasons why people from both political parties believe that VAWA does not do enough, but she believes that this should not be a reason to not pass the Act.

There are currently sixty co-sponsors of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, including North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan.  However, Senator Richard Burr is not a co-sponsor of VAWA.  If you support VAWA, please contact your Senators and share your opinions.  The phone number for Senator Burr’s Office is (202)224-3154 and the phone number for Senator Hagan’s Office is (202)224-6342.  Consider thanking Senator Kay Hagan for co-sponsoring VAWA and urging her to continue to support all victims and survivors of interpersonal violence.  Consider urging Senator Richard Burr to support VAWA and vote yes when the Act reaches the Senate Floor.  No matter your opinion regarding the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, please take the time to contact Senators Burr and Hagan to share your opinions on this extremely important matter that affects far too many Americans.  Have questions or comments about VAWA?  Please share them below!

*Please note that the embedded links that reference may not link to the page cited because the website deletes searches thirty minutes after creation.  To find out more about VAWA, please visit THOMAS (The Library of Congress) at, select search by “Bill Number”, and enter S.1925 into the search engine.   From there, all of the information regarding the legislation referenced in this post can be accessed.  Thank you!


NC Pre-K and the cost of child care March 21, 2012

As I think this blog does a good job of showing, interpersonal violence (IPV) is not fought against on only one front. There are an array of factors which must be overcome before an end to IPV can be fully achieved. On this blog we have discussed issues such as gender rolesbeing an active bystander, and challenging IPV stereotypes. One of the most prevalent questions concerning IPV is why does s/he stay? Well, one reason a person might stay in an abusive relationship is because of her/his children.

Economic abuse is often connected to other, more readily “visible” abuses such as physical or emotional. Perhaps the abusive partner will not allow the other to work, or the abuser controls/monitors the family banking accounts, or everything (lease, car, utilities, bank account, credit cards) is legally under the abuser’s name.  When any of these apply, financial considerations are not minor when deciding whether or not to leave an abusive situation. If there are children involved, financial considerations are compounded because it is not only the individual’s well being which must be provided for but also her/his children. Most people leaving an abusive situation would rely on their current job or becoming employed and keeping that job; their livelihood and their childrens (if present) will rely upon it. If the IPV survivor has children than there is an added challenge: childcare. If the children are school age than that care might not be as big of an obstacle, but if the child(ren) is below the age of five, childcare can be a huge challenge.

Right now, the cost of childcare for a four year old in NC is on average more expensive than one year’s tuition and fees at a NC public university. Current legislation is seeking among other thing, to cut the state tuition assistance eligibility for NC Pre-K by over 50%. Currently, a family of four earning about $50,000/yr would be eligible for assistance. With the new proposal, a family of four would have to make $22,000/yr for a child of four to be eligible. The 2012 poverty guideline designates a family of four to live in poverty when they have an income of less than $23,050/yr. So, in NC a family would have to live $1,050 under the poverty line in order to gain tuition assistance for their four year old. After a public outcry against the  legislation it has been drastically revised. But the issue of tuition assistance and at what income the cap is going to be is still undecided.

I want to highlight two things from this:

1) Childcare is not only an issue for parents or caregivers to worry about. Like IPV, childcare is a community and public health issue. It’s just good practice for a society to take care of its children, to care for the most vulnerable who are unable to care for themselves.  In addition, the legislative proposals for NC Pre-K would drastically cut funding for families in need and that – besides being an issue for society at large – could be a huge factor in  an IPV survivor’s decision about leaving or staying with her/his abuser. Affordable childcare could be one more tool in helping an IPV survivor leave their abuser for good.

2) Look at what can happen when people speak up! I found out about the NC Pre-K proposal a few days before it was supposed to be voted upon. The organization MomsRising was encouraging people to write to their legislators to voice their opinion about the new proposal. Thanks in part to that organization as well as other efforts on the part of educators, school officials, parents, and concerned citizens the legislation has become a list of recommendations AND one issue, the privatization of NC Pre-K, was completely taken off of the proposal.

There are SO many things that individuals can do. Like this – be politically aware. Read a newspaper. Make a point to know about the policy changes and proposals being made on local, state, and national levels. We, as advocates, are SO powerful! Our voices are strong and when we use them great things can happen. We need to remember that.  And use it to our advantage.  How do you call attention to something that you feel is wrong?  Leave us a comment and let us know.


Judge Orders Dinner and Bowling for Domestic Violence Abuser February 23, 2012

Some thoughts from our Women’s Studies Intern, Amelia, on a recent domestic violence case in Florida—

On February 7, 2012, a Florida judge ordered Joseph Bray, who appeared in court for a bond hearing on domestic violence charges, to take his wife out on a date to dinner at Red Lobster and bowling.  A victim of domestic violence should not be ordered to spend more time with her abuser.  In addition, couples counseling was mandated.  Judge John Hurley, instead of setting a bond for Bray, released him immediately and provided him with an illogical sentence.

Watch the video of the court proceedings here.

While Judge Hurley explains his punishment to Bray, the defendant and his attorney break out into laughter.  Domestic violence is not a laughing matter.  The Judge’s reasoning for the obscure order?  The offense was “very, very minor.”  Joseph Bray pushed his wife onto the couch, put his hands around her neck, and positioned his hand in a fist as if to punch her.  This was the second time that Sonja Bray had called police due to physical attacks she endured at the hands of her husband.

Judge Hurley did not believe that a protective order was necessary.  What about Sonja Bray?  Does she feel unsafe around her husband?  Ideally, victims and survivors should be given time to talk to a member of the court in private about what she or he would like to see happen.  Instead, Judge Hurley questioned Sonja about her husband in front of him and a courtroom full of strangers, asking questions such as: Is she in fear of him?  Does she think that he will cause any harm to her?  Why did he treat her like this?  Ideally, these are questions that should have been asked in private where Sonja could have felt safe enough to answer them in confidence.  A judge should not simply deem that a protective order is unnecessary due to his or her own personal opinions on the matter.

Judge Hurley’s sentence is a prime example that our legal system can actually work against victims at times.  As Haley Cutler, a domestic violence advocate in Broward County where the case was heard, stated in an interview, “Judge Hurley’s ruling makes light of the real risks posed to domestic violence victims, demonstrates a lack of understanding about the dynamics of domestic violence and contributes to a culture and climate where victims feel betrayed by the system and batterers feel empowered by it.”  I could not agree more.  Judge Hurley’s action could conceivably put Sonja Bray into more danger by questioning her in front of her abuser, allowing him to be released from jail immediately without bail and without a protective order, forcing her to go on a date with him, and minimizing the severity of her case in front of the courtroom.

We must also consider what other victims of intimate partner violence in Broward County, Florida who have heard this story might be feeling or thinking.  In fear of being treated in the same insensitive manner, they may feel afraid or uncomfortable to report abuse they may be experiencing.  This can also be extended to all victims and survivors of any violent crime.  Judge Hurley’s sentence is an example of the type of behavior that can potentially silence victims and survivors.

Local domestic violence advocates are asking residents to call Chief Judge Peter Weinstein and demand that Hurley “participate in judiciary training about the dynamics of domestic violence” and apologize.    People across the country can send a message to Broward County that how Hurley handled Joesph Bray’s case is not okay.   If you would like to express your concern about this case, the number for Chief Justice Peter Weinstein’s office is (954) 831-5506.  I plan to begin law school in the fall, and I find it hard to accept a legal system that does not advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence.   How do you feel about this?  Please share your comments!


Lucky February 20, 2012

I was directed to a blog* recently, to read a post about unwanted/undesired touching. The writer of the blog, Molly, was reflecting on a question asked on a health history form at her doctor’s office. On the form amid a list of items which you were expected to check if you had experienced, was this item: “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual touching.” Molly almost skipped over the item not checking it, moving on. But she stopped to dwell on the statement and realized she had experienced plenty of unwanted/undesired physical or sexual touching in her life. She recalled moments such as:

  • being forcefully kissed in a club
  • having a person stand too close to her
  • feeling the pressure of hard penises against her as she maneuvered a club
  • people physically moving her rather than asking her to move
  • partners touching her sexually in ways they knew she didn’t like

All of these acts are things which you, just like Molly originally did, might be inclined to gloss over. Words like unwanted, undesired, and sexual when put together have come to mean rape, molestation, or sexual abuse.  If what a person has experienced does not fall into their idea of what rape, molestation or sexual abuse is, than as Molly says, you think “nothing has happened to me, really, right? I’m supposed to feel lucky, right, given that I’m a woman in a culture where horrible things very often happen to girls and women?” Where horrible things happen to boys and men too. You are inclined to write it off.  You have perhaps had bad experiences, but really you should be grateful because you did not have anything truly traumatic happen. You do not have a reason to check the box.


Rape, molestation and sexual abuse are terrible things and no one should ever have to experience them. Perhaps you feel grateful that you have never experienced one of those events (if you haven’t) and I am not going to say that feeling is not natural or unjustified but I want us to consider where this feeling of gratefulness or relief or “luck” comes from.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines luck as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual,” and “favoring chance.” In these three definitions there is a complete lack of autonomy. Luck is driven by something a person has no control over. It’s a “force” or a “circumstance” or “chance.”  Which means you are just as likely to have good luck as you are to have bad luck. And that’s what people mean when they say lucky, right? You have good luck, as opposed to that person over there, who has bad luck. What Molly hints at, and what I believe, is that it is not okay that my personal safety, my body and my well-being are apparently left up to luck. And this social tendency to rank our experiences as “lucky” and “unlucky” have made us ignore our natural rights: the right to feel safe and to be a whole person.

A few years ago, I read Alice Sebold’s memoir about being raped. It is called Lucky.  Sebold was raped when she was a first year in college. Throughout her experience reporting the rape to pursuing charges to going through the trial for her rapist, she was told she was lucky many times. One reason she was deemed lucky is that the site where she was raped is the same site where another girl was murdered. Alice is therefore “lucky” because she was alive. I think this logic is problematic. There will always be a situation in which some point of experience will have been “worse” for someone else than it was for you. That does not make you “lucky.” Sebold did not feel lucky just because she was alive because she was living with the aftermath of being raped. Life shouldn’t be a competition where one person’s experience invalidates our own. Any moment in which you feel unsafe or uncomfortable is unacceptable. And our need to rank these invasions to our safety hierarchically only serves to silence, stigmatize, and prohibit change.

This need to rank experiences is an epidemic pervasive in our society. It is not just sexual assaults which are ranked, but everything. These rankings are accompanied by an unspoken meaning. Whose partner is cuter translates to who is a more worthy partner because the worthiest of course gets the most attractive. Whose class schedule is harder matters because the hardest schedule gets more of a right to complain when thing are bad, brag when grades are good, and make excuses when they do not meet other obligations. And then there are bigger problems the ones that go beyond person to person into individual to social. Such as I was touched inappropriately but it wasn’t rape so I shouldn’t say anything. My partner slapped me but there wasn’t a mark so it’s not really that bad. All of these justifications people make are unfair and invalidating. Society has built a hierarchy in which rape trumps a forced kiss and physical violence trumps intentional and repeated humiliation. It has been ingrained within us that if our experience is trumped than it is not worth mentioning. We are being whiny or over-reacting because in reality we are lucky, because nothing worse has happened.

I don’t want to live in that world. I don’t want to have to feel lucky when a bad thing happens just because something worse didn’t happen. That world stunts emotional growth. It causes individuals to minimize or deny their own feelings and to feel that they must accept the actions done to him/her. It causes us to overlook the basic, obvious truth: these bad things don’t have to happen. Committing violence is not innate behavior.  It is a learned behavior, which means it is something that people pick up in various ways through the socialization process. If we continue this “lucky” rhetoric, it implies that we, as a society cannot do anything to stop sexual violence. And we can.

One way we can start down that road is to stop buying into the hierarchies of experience. If a friend is telling you about a bad day, don’t cut them off to tell them how much worse yours was. If someone’s partner screamed at them and made them feel belittled, don’t brush it off and say “well, it could have been worse.” And conversely, remember that your feelings are valid. If whoever you share an experience with minimizes what to you was a significant event, go tell someone else. Find someone who will give you the support you deserve. Because you don’t need to feel “lucky.” If luck is the absence of assaults on our person, than why are we accepting anything less than everyone being lucky? Let’s stop accepting less. Remember: Your experiences are valid. Your emotions are important. And your safety matters. Don’t skip over the box just because the worst thing hasn’t happened to you.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comment area below.

*The writer of the blog has asked that her blog not be linked.


Domestic Violence Should Not Be Downplayed February 16, 2012

Filed under: domestic violence — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:36 am
Tags: ,

Three years ago, on February 8, 2009, R&B singers Rihanna and Chris Brown were set to take the stage and perform at the Grammy Music Awards.  The couple had been dating publicly for about a year.  However, that Sunday morning Brown severely beat Rihanna in a Los Angeles neighborhood.  The injuries she sustained caused her to cancel her appearance at the awards show.  Chris Brown turned himself in to the LAPD later that evening.  Despite felony charges of making criminal threats and domestic violence, Brown was only sentenced to five years probation.  He has yet to complete all of the conditions.

Following the attack, Chris Brown’s reputation plummeted; however, this didn’t last long.  Since 2009, Chris Brown has refrained from attending any Grammy Music Award shows, despite being nominated.  During a 2011 interview on Good Morning America, Brown was questioned about his abusive relationship with Rihanna by Robin Roberts.  He diverted questions to the promotion of his new album and abstained from directly responding to the comments regarding his abuse.  Following the interview, Chris Brown returned to his dressing room, destroyed it, broke a window, and ripped off his shirt.  After being escorted out of the building by security, Brown was then arrested.  It is obvious that Roberts’ questions regarding his abuse pushed some buttons.  Brown’s damage to his dressing room as well as his inability to discuss his role as an abusive partner exemplifies the fact that he shows little remorse for his actions and still harbors abusive propensities.

At the 2012 Grammys, Chris Brown took the stage to perform and even won an award for Best R&B Album.  Immediately following the Grammys on Sunday night, Buzz Feed posted “25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions To Chris Brown At The Grammys”.  The list includes twenty-five tweets that were posted following Chris Brown’s appearance at the event.  While all are extremely troubling, a few that stand out are:

2. “Everyone shut up about Chris brown being a woman beater…S*** he can beat me up all night if he wants”

4. “I’d let Chris Brown beat me up anytime ; ) #womanbeater”

12. “I don’t know why Rihanna complained.  Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.”

19. “i wish chris brown would punch me”

24. “chris brown can punch me whenever he wants #love”

One of the writers wishes that Chris Brown would physically attack her.  No one should wish violence upon themselves.  Another writer tags “love” after stating that Chris Brown can punch her.  It is important to understand that abuse does not belong in a healthy and loving relationship.  Many of the Twitter responses urge society to let go of the fact that Chris Brown beat his girlfriend only three years ago.  We shouldn’t.  Many argue that his performance at the Grammys shows that Brown has redeemed himself and deserves to be forgiven.  He doesn’t.

Chris Brown, his staff, and his fans think that it is time to move on.  It isn’t.  Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects far too many people.  The fact that Chris Brown violently beat Rihanna, his now ex-partner, will always matter.  We should not “forgive and forget” an individual who victimized his partner.  No woman deserves to be told that the abuse she suffered is meaningless and can be easily pardoned.  Society has downplayed domestic violence for far too long.  Like the title of our blog shows, one in four women is affected by domestic violence in her lifetime.  It is time for society to stand up for these women and show that their suffering at the hands of their abusers will not be tolerated and will not be forgotten as time passes.

We here at FVPC strongly believe that education is necessary to inform society about domestic violence and the effects it has on survivors.  No one deserves to live a life of violence.  No one should wish violence upon themselves, no matter the celebrity status of the hoped-for-perpetrator.  Understanding what healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships look like is key.  FVPC’s Start Strong program starts conversations with sixth and eighth grade students throughout the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System on these topics.  Talking about what different relationships look like allows individuals to know what comprises a healthy relationship and also recognize the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship so that they can hopefully seek help.

We hope that the students who we have encountered through Start Strong recognize the implications of glorifying Chris Brown despite his partner abuse.  We hope that they can apply what they learn in our programs to their personal lives and seek healthy relationships.  And lastly, we hope that the individuals featured on Buzz Feed’s list of tweets, as well as the rest of Chris Brown’s fans, think twice about their support and about the role that domestic violence plays in all of our lives.

Chris Brown has been a hot topic to discuss after his appearance at the Grammy Music Awards.  Do you have an opinion about all of this?  If you have access to social media, use it to let others know how you feel about Chris Brown’s glorification in the media and what this says about our society’s attitude about domestic violence, abusive partners, and survivors.  Tweet about it, post it on your Facebook wall, or message a friend.  Share your thoughts!


“Sleeping With My Eyes Open” January 25, 2012

Filed under: domestic violence,rape — Women's Studies Intern @ 4:09 pm

Slate Magazine is an online magazine that provides commentary on politics, news, and culture.  The publication includes a column called “Dear Prudence,” to which readers can submit letters to “Prudie” asking for advice on a variety of things.  On January 9, 2012 Prudence posted a video responding to a woman who identified herself as “Sleeping with My Eyes Open”.

The woman reaches out to Prudence for help and receives a shockingly close-minded and problematic response.  During the beginning of their marriage, the couple would often wake up in the middle of the night to have sex.  At first the sex was consensual, but then she spoke with her husband and made it clear that she wanted it to stop.  The sex continued.  Not only did the woman explicitly state that she did not consent to middle-of-the-night sex, she would also scream and try to push him off of her.  After questioning her husband’s actions and repeatedly asking him to stop, he responded that he “cannot control himself.”

Prudence’s response is distressing.  She calls the husband a creep, but his actions may not be his fault.  She advises the wife to take her husband to the doctor for a medical evaluation, because he might have a sleep disorder that is causing his actions.  Prudence even says “if it seems that he just enjoys forcing himself on you” then they need to see a marriage counselor as soon as possible if they do not want to end up divorced.  ForcingIf force is used to obtain sex, then it is not a consensual act; it is rape.  Prudence completely disregards the fact that this woman’s husband is raping her.  Whether other abusive aspects of a relationship are present are unknown.  Prudie doesn’t even suggest that the woman’s husband’s rape is being used to control or manipulate her.

Understanding consent is vital.

Consent is an agreement by all partners to engage in sexual contact of any kind.  It must be verbally expressed, and manipulation, force, or substances cannot be used to obtain consent.  The absence of “no” does not mean “yes”.

In “Sleeping with My Eyes Open’s” situation, she asked her husband on more than one occasion to stop having sex with her during the middle of the night.  The wife is unconscious and unable to consent during the middle of the night.  The wife screams and tries to push her husband off of her while he is having sex with her.  There are three layers of expressed non-consent.  Her husband does not have her consent; the sex that Prudence sees as a sleeping disorder is not a disorder, it is rape.  No matter how hard it is, we must identify sexual violence for what it is.  To minimize or ignore it is only allowing the perpetrator to hold more control.

Unfortunately, this story of intimate partner rape is all too common.  According to recent surveys completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women report having been raped in their lifetime.  Of those women, more than half were raped by an intimate partner.  Sexual violence should never be excused.  The survivor is never at fault.  Prudie’s response is extremely troubling.  The woman should have been referred to an advocacy agency, not a marriage counselor.

The woman reaching out for help from Prudence is not experiencing just a relationship problem.    Forced sex is never okay, no matter the type of relationship the perpetrator has with his/her victim.  If someone reaches out to you who is experiencing an issue in their relationship, stop to think about what is really going on.  Don’t be like Prudie.  Listen to the person, believe what she or he is saying, and do not feel like you cannot reach out for help if you don’t know exactly how to respond.  The employees and volunteers at Family Violence Prevention Center are trained to help.

Our Hotline Advocates are here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Whether you have questions, are looking for help, or just need an understanding voice to talk to, FVPC’s Hotline Advocates are always available to talk at (919)929-7122.


The secret no one wants to have December 9, 2011

Filed under: community education,domestic violence,volunteering,Why do they stay? — Women's Studies Intern @ 11:42 am

PostSecret is a website many people enjoy visiting. It began as a blog that published anonymous secrets and has evolved into an internationally popular destination website with approximately 5 million viewers, a number of books, and a mobile app. While the concept has adapted to new technology, the premise is this: people send unsigned postcards to Germantown, Maryland where creator Frank Warren, then publishes the postcards on the PostSecret blog. Warren describe the blog as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.” It is a space to reveal the things you think about, or recognize, or are ashamed of. Things that you need to say out loud and have other people hear, but that you don’t feel you can or don’t choose to say to those around you. Each secret is accompanied by a picture to illustrate the secret. From flippant comments about facial hair, to more serious secrets about suicide, PostSecret has them all.

On Sunday, November 27’s blog post, 17 new postcards were posted. Among them were two postcards bearing the picture of a black eye. One, a postcard of a girl doll with a colored in green and yellow circle around her eye reads: “I would rather be hit than ignored. I know how bad that sounds. I needed to tell you.” The other, is a black and white image of the upper quarter of a face. A blue, green, and black mark is colored in under the eye. A voice bubble over the eyebrow reads: “I don’t know how to leave him.”

There are a number of disturbing factors to these postcards. An obvious one is that two more people are being abused. Two more people feel trapped in their situation. But what I would like to focus on is where these postcards ended up. On an anonymous secrets blog. The only action these two survivors felt comfortable with, was to acknowledge their abuse to an unknown mass in complete anonymity. Their abuse is the big secret they cannot reveal, yet must speak.

Why abused people stay in a harmful relationship is one of the most common questions related to intimate partner violence.  Many people might insist that they would never stand for abuse in a relationship.  Unfortunately in that statement is an inherent disconnection from potential sympathy for someone who is in a bad place and needs help. Abusive relationships come in every shape and size and effect every type of person. They can affect anyone at any time.  No one wants to see themselves as a victim of abuse. No one pictures themselves becoming an abuse victim.

There are many practical reasons a person might stay in an abusive relationship: fear, presence of children, economic barriers, religion, etc. but also common are reasons which can stem from internalized beliefs about how men and women exist in society i.e. a feeling that they need a partner to complete them, a belief they did something to deserve the abuse or can do something to change it, shame over their partner’s behavior and their own powerless to stop it.

It is these societally influenced reasons that, I believe, led to the two above mentioned postcards.  The postcard that read “I would rather be hit than ignored,” could point to a belief that we sometimes hear from female clients that they feel incomplete without a partner. This message is reinforced to women all the time through media, even friends and family.  Such as when the first question a relative asks upon seeing you is if you have a partner, the barrage of romantic movies, or the overwhelming amount of beauty/fashion/sex tips geared towards women so they can “find a man”. These  messages inundate the subconscious with the belief that women need men to be complete.  Add to this toxic mix a partner who reinforces this idea (“who else would be with you?” or “who else would love you/take care of your kids?” ) and/or subscribes to very firm ideas of male/female roles in relationships and it can be easy to see how victims can feel trapped.

The second sentence of that same postcard, “I know how bad that sounds,” is a recognition of the judgment that exists in the question “why do they stay?“. Abused individuals might have even previously said those things. By acknowledging that it “sounds bad” to stay with an abusive partner, the individual illustrates how she is torn between having a partner and being abused. Conversely, while intimate partner violence (IPV) myths (“not to people like me”) abound and an “us/them” divide exists, society simultaneously shames these women for being in the position which they were socialized intoSocial psychology explains that by marking someone as a “they,” people create  a divide which is hard to cross. When we create division over one aspect, such as whether a person has been abused or not,  we prevent unity on a range of other traits. This means we prevent change from happening, from help being extended.

The other postcard reads: “I don’t know how to leave him.” The fact that this individual doesn’t know how to leave her abuser strikes me as emblematic of another social problem: a lack of education about community resources and IPV. As noted by this blog’s title, one in four women will experience domestic violence be abused in her lifetime. When you consider the people effected by abuse besides the victim/survivor.  IPV is likely to affect everyone in some way in their his/her lifetime. The work done by organizations such as ours and partners like law enforcement and the judicial system is just not enough to increase public awareness of interpersonal violence. We believe that IPV is a community issue and requires a community response.  That means churches, schools, universities and places of business all need to get on board with helping build greater awareness about the prevalence of this issue and what can be done to help those in need.

Start with you!  Here are a few things that you can do right now. Learn some tips to be an effective ally, have your work or church host a cell phone drive, or volunteer at FVPC. These postcards exist because of all of us. We live in a world that labels abuse as something we cannot speak about. As long as an abuse victim feels this, they will be silent. Their silence and pain is all of ours. We all have work to do.


Time to Talk Day! December 8, 2011

Filed under: dating violence,domestic violence — Elizabeth Johnson @ 2:32 pm
Tags: ,

Stephanie Piston is a survivor of domestic abuse. Since leaving an abusive relationship 17 years ago, she has become active in the community, spreading awareness and speaking out against domestic violence and its effects on victims. For the last several years, Piston has acted as the New York state action leader for the Love is Not Abuse (LINA), an initiative of Liz Claiborne, Inc. LINA’s primary goal is to educate preteens and teenagers about domestic abuse through curriculums enacted in their schools; however, they have also created “It’s Time to Talk Day”, which will be held today, Thursday December 8th.

It’s Time to Talk Day is intended to highlight the importance of all sectors becoming involved in domestic violence-related issues. This includes government leaders, the media, the non-profit sector, as well as the private sector.  On December 8th, Piston will join other LINA state action leaders and members of similar organizations to discuss the subject of domestic abuse. They will be joined by domestic violence experts, state and federal attorney generals, corporate leaders, legislators, celebrities, parents and teens at Liz Claiborne Inc. in New York City. All members will participate in a national day of discussion and awareness on domestic violence. This includes both a national dialogue as well as discussions between parents and teenagers. Piston hopes that the day will present an opportunity to bring the conversation to light and open discussion between parents and their children.

While It’s Time to Talk Day presents a much-needed opportunity to bring light to the subject of domestic violence, abuse won’t stop when the holiday is over.  When so many victims suffer in silence, we should look for opportunities every day to encourage people to talk about interpersonal violence. What can we do to spread the energy and enthusiasm of It’s Time to Talk Day throughout the entire year?



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