One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Apps Against Abuse May 1, 2012

Filed under: cell phones,dating violence,Options for Help,rape prevention,safety — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:45 am
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It seems like smart phones are becoming more and more common these days.  Education and awareness of interpersonal violence is also spreading as well.  Have you ever wanted to combine the technology of a smart phone with ways to promote education and prevention of  sexual assault or dating violence?  Well, there’s now an app for that.  Two apps actually.  Circle of 6 is an iPhone app that is designed to serve as a mobile way to look out for your friends and help get them out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations.  It aims to prevent sexual assault and rape.  The Love is Not Abuse iPhone app serves as an educational tool for parents.  The app simulates digital dating abuse and provides a multitude of resources for users who want to learn more about dating violence.  Both apps are free.

Circle of 6 is one of the winners of the White House Apps Against Abuse Competition.  The White House released a statement saying, “Young women aged 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while one in five will be a victim of sexual assault during college.  Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances.”  This is where Circle of 6 can help.  It is designed for college students and is modeled after the idea that there is safety in numbers, even if you might be separated from your friends at the time you need help.  After downloading Circle of 6, users must choose six trusted friends from their contact list who live near them.  A text message is then sent to these six notifying them that you have put them in your circle.  The app is very simple and uses icons to represent actions so no one around you can see what you are doing.

With just two taps, users can immediately send text messages to the six people in their circle.  The user can send a message asking friends to call and pretend they need the person in order to serve as an interruption and chance for her or him to leave.  The user can also ask for her or his six friends to come get her/him because she/he needs help getting home safely.  GPS technology allows a Google Map to be sent with the message so friends know exactly where to go.  Phone numbers for national hotlines are pre-programmed into the app, and local hotline numbers can be entered as well.  There is also a button that will send a message to everyone in your circle to let them know that you have received help and are safe.  Circle of 6 provides young people with concrete strategies to support each other and stop sexual assault from occurring in their circle.

Love is Not Abuse was started in 1991 by Liz Claiborne Inc. to help combat domestic violence.  The Love is Not Abuse App “is designed to teach parents – in a very real way – about the dangers of teen dating abuse and provides a dramatic demonstration of how technology can be used to commit abuse. Over the course of the experience, text messages, emails and phone calls will be received real-time, mimicking the controlling, abusive behaviors teens might face in their relationships.”  It is often hard to begin to understand what victims and survivors of dating violence go through, and this app gives a small glimpse into what forms of digital abuse a teen might face.  Users can select different examples of abuse they wish to experience, such as threats, excessive contact, sexting, and privacy invasion.  For the forms that the app is unable to simulate, users can watch short video clips that provide examples of that type of abuse and the effect it can have on a teen.

The app provides immediate, concrete, steps for parents to take if they are concerned their child may be a victim of dating abuse or may be an abuser.  It offers suggestions for how to talk to your teen about dating violence and tell them that no one deserves to be abused.  This app challenges the notion that all abuse is physical.  You often might not be able to tell if a teen is involved in an abusive relationship just by looking at her or him.  Even if you are not a parent, it is a great app to check out because it allows you to experience first-hand some of the forms of abuse victims of dating violence are facing and also learn more about dating abuse.

There are positives and negatives to all apps, so we encourage all iPhone users to download the Circle of 6 and Love is Not Abuse apps and see if they would serve as good resources for you.  These apps provide two more ways that we can help make sure our friends and family members are safe in their relationships and provide them with concrete ways to escape a potentially violent situation.

 

Possible Improvement in Judicial Process for Domestic Violence Cases on Indian Reservations September 28, 2011

The 19th annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference on September 13-15, 2011 represented an open dialogue and hope for progress related to victims’ assistance on Native American Indian reservations in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Interpersonal violence is experienced at more elevated levels on reservations than in the general population, and the Department of Justice has reported that Native American women in particular experience violence at an extremely elevated rate – three and a half times more than any other population in the United States. And when we consider the number of sexual assaults and incidences of domestic violence that are unreported [60% according to the DOJ] this number could be much higher. Prosecution is a problem on reservations, as tribes are sovereign nations and determining the jurisdiction for intimate partner violence and sexual assault cases can be complex.

US Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli spoke at the conference on some recent Department of Justice efforts to improve the legal challenges of addressing violence, and in particular domestic violence, on reservations. The pending legislation would do three things:

  1. It would give trial law enforcement more ability to prosecute crimes that happen on reservations regardless of the perpetrator’s membership in the tribe.  Currently, tribal law enforcement officers have difficulty prosecuting non-Native American offenders, even in cases of domestic violence. The legislation would also ensure that tribal law enforcement has the right to enforce protective orders on both members and non-members of Native American tribes.
  2. The new DOJ laws would provide harsher federal punishments to perpetrators of violent crime within reservations. Since the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act, the most severe punishment that can be imposed by native courts is one year in jail or a $5,000 fine, which is a far less significant penalty than most perpetrators receive for convictions outside of the tribal judicial system.
  3. $100 million has also been earmarked by the DOJ for more attorneys, investigators and victim advocates on reservations. Indian Country reported that a DOJ grant that provided more domestic violence personnel resources to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana led to the first domestic violence convictions on the reservation – in only 6 months, 169 domestic assault complaints were filed, and 147 of them have pending court action.

These possible progressive changes to the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault on reservations would also hit close to home as North Carolina is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

You can contact the Department of Justice to express your support for the pending legislation and budget increases by emailing AskDOJ@usdoj.gov or by calling the Attorney General’s public comment line at (202) 353-1555.

 

Three Empowering Things You Can Do TODAY to Prevent Interpersonal Violence September 7, 2011

Regardless of my dedication to the cause, some days violence prevention advocacy feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders. For the past few years, ever since I began learning about violence prevention efforts in a class I took at Carolina, even just watching the news or listening to the radio has, at times, made me feel powerless. The fabulous folks I work with on IPV prevention efforts at UNC have often shared that they feel the same way. Knowing that I’m not alone in sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scale of our goal, completely eliminating interpersonal violence, encourages me to continue to work to prevent it however I can, no matter how small the effort.

One Act is a peer education program at UNC-Chapel Hill that encourages bystanders to identify and safely intervene in possibly risky situations to prevent IPV. But One Act is also about integrating an empowered, proactive attitude into your everyday life.

Here are some examples of some small things you can do today to empower yourself to contribute to the effort against IPV – this blog post is mine! Which approach is best for you?

  1. Have conversations – One of the easiest things you can do to help prevent interpersonal violence is to speak up when you recognize an injustice or problematic statement. Openly challenging rape-supportive or violent language and jokes causes people to think twice about their role in prevention efforts and encourages them to be more considerate of survivors in daily conversation. Tactful discussions about the issues you care about can make a huge difference, especially to those who already love and respect you and your opinions.
  2. Learn to be an effective ally – Read up on warning signs for sexual assault, abusive relationships and stalking and learn how to support loved ones who come to you for help. Also, be sure you’re aware of the different resources available for IPV survivors in your community so you’re prepared to give effective advice. You can take this effort a step further by becoming a HAVEN ally through UNC-Chapel Hill. Fall registration is open now – the one-time, four-hour training is a small commitment with a big impact.
  3. Think of others (and yourself!) – My work with One Act has taught me to always be aware of the other people around me, especially when I’m out on the town or when friends come to me for advice. Taking a simple pledge to watch out for others and take them seriously when they ask for help, regardless of whether I know them personally, was a huge shift in my mindset. It isn’t a huge commitment, but keeping an eye out helps make your overall community safer. Don’t forget to recognize when to take care of yourself, too. Last week, FVPC volunteer Charlotte Crone talked about the break she took from volunteering, which was time to recharge and relax. Taking time to relax, even just for a few hours, is important so that you’re energized when it’s time to act.

If you want more detailed information about bystander intervention, visit SAFE@UNC, email oneact@unc.edu or register for a training here. Surfing the site or sending a quick question is a One Act in itself! Share your own simple ideas for action below.

 

Rates of DV Increase After Natural Disasters – How Can We Help? September 1, 2011

Despite a hefty $71 million price tag for damages to more than 1,100 homes and businesses, North Carolina was fortunately spared from the brunt of Hurricane Irene’s destruction. In comparison to other natural disasters, Irene was less harmful, although there were a reported 42 tragically related deaths in affected areas.

Advance warning may have contributed to the relatively low level of destruction from Irene. Americans all along the East Coast prepared for the storm, taping windows, stacking sandbags and boarding up storefronts. But strongly recognized precautionary measures, like filling a bathtub with water before a hurricane, aren’t the only concern for government agencies and community service providers in planning for disaster relief. Evidence has suggested that the prevalence of intimate partner violence, child abuse and sexual assault increases in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

The State Department reported that after the earthquake in Haiti, “Women’s rights groups and human rights organizations reported that domestic violence against women remained commonplace and under-reported. Police rarely arrested the perpetrators or investigated the incidents, and the victims sometimes suffered further harassment and reprisals from perpetrators, sometimes prompting secondary displacement of victims within IDP camps.”

In New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault were widely observed by disaster relief staff, although reporting rates were dramatically low because of survivors’ physical displacement from their jurisdictions.

Several aspects of the circumstances of the aftermath of a natural disaster contribute to increased risk for domestic violence and sexual assault. First, the collapse of a community’s infrastructure leaves some individuals, most often women and children, more vulnerable to assault. Separation from friends, family members and familiar resources increases this vulnerability, especially as most facilities require refugees to sleep among strangers, often in close quarters. Finally, the lack of organization and limited presence of law enforcement in some disaster relief shelters can create a sense of lawlessness among inhabitants.

While the United States was spared from massive destruction this week, preparation efforts for Hurricane Irene brought unique concerns to the forefront of public discussion. The provision of adequate resources for women and other vulnerable populations at risk for domestic violence and sexual assault must be prioritized by government relief agencies and local service providers. We can learn an important lesson from the unforgivable crimes observed during relief efforts for the natural disasters mentioned above – and we can use it to better develop our emergency response plans in the face of future storms.

Safety planning is important, whether for a natural disaster or leaving an abusive relationship.  Do you have your essentials ready if you needed to leave home suddenly?  What would you bring?  Leave us your thoughts.

 

IPV Resources: Back to School Edition August 26, 2011

With students back at the Hill and starting fall semester classes this week, our sleepy summer town is now buzzing with activity. Unfortunately, the beginning of the school year can mean an influx of incidences of interpersonal violence. College students are particularly affected by violence – the National Institute of Justice found that rape or attempted rape could affect as many as 25% of college women by the time they graduate. And around 13% of college women have been affected by stalking, although only 17% of these have reported it to the police.

There are many resources available on campus for survivors of abusive relationships, sexual assault and stalking. Some of these are described below, but for more details about UNC and community resources, check out the brand-new SAFE@UNC website, which combines all of the available information in one place. All resources listed below are available to all survivors, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, but if you are concerned about seeking help because of your identity, contact UNC’s LGBTQ Center for guidance.

If you are involved in an abusive relationship:

  • If you have been physically assaulted, consider seeking medical attention at UNC Campus Health or UNC Hospitals, which houses Beacon, a program specifically for relationship violence survivors.
  • Consider reporting any assault to the University through the Dean of Students office or to law enforcement. There are several types of reports available, depending on your comfort level and whether you want to press charges through Honor Court and/or the criminal justice system.
  • If you have questions about your rights under the law, give us a call: 929-7122.  FVPC offers court accompaniment and advocacy for folks in an abusive relationship who are trying to negotiate the legal system or obtain a 50B- a Domestic Violence Protective Order.
  • Seek counseling at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services. CWS accepts walk-ins Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

If you have been sexually assaulted:

  • If you have been sexually assaulted, consider seeking medical attention at UNC Campus Health or UNC Hospitals, which has a care program specifically for sexual assault survivors. You will be given the opportunity to undergo forensic testing for evidence, as well as STI testing and a course of preventive medication, the costs of which are covered for UNC students through the Victims’ Assistance Fund.
  • Consider reporting any assault to the University through the Dean of Students office or to law enforcement. There are several types of reports available, depending on your comfort level and whether you want to press charges through Honor Court and/or the criminal justice system. If you have questions about the legal process, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
  • Seek trauma counseling at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services. Also available is an open support group, Courage to Heal, for survivors to share their experiences on the journey to recovery.

If you are experiencing stalking:

  • If you feel unsafe in your living environment, safe rooms are available for short-term stay through the Residential Housing and Education office. Talk to your RA or community director, or call the Dean of Students office at 919-966-4042 during business hours for more information.
  • File a no-contact order through the University via the Dean of Students office.
  • Seek counseling at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services.

If you are struggling with academics because of any of the previous circumstances, discuss your options with the Dean of Students office.

If you’re interested in becoming a more effective supporter for loved ones who are survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, become a UNC HAVEN ally this fall! New training dates have just been announced, and you can register online. And becoming trained by the One Act program will empower you to prevent interpersonal violence in the first place.

Thanks for your efforts to help make the campus community a safer place for students, faculty and staff!

 

The Damaging Effects of Using “rape” As a Slang Word June 8, 2011

Recently in Ms. Magazine’s blog  a blog post examined the complacency with which people use the word rape. Many of us have heard friends, acquaintances, or even family members use the word rape in a positive or lighthearted manner. For example, I have heard people playing video games and saying something like, “I’m going to rape you at this!”  This is expression is careless and insensitive at best and cruel and violent at the worst.  As the blog post points out, this usage of the word rape would not be met with horrified silence or outrage but laughter.

We often become desensitized to the actual meaning of a word because it is used frivolously and often. Words such as gay, queer and retarded have become socially acceptable slang words, despite the harmful effects that has on individuals who identify as queer or who have mental or physical disabilities.   The word “rape” is following suit, being used in casual popular lexicon on a daily basis. For the victims of rape, their sexual assaults are often some of the most traumatic and heart wrenching experiences anyone could ever go through.  To use the same word describing their assaults synonymously with doing poorly on a test or defeating an opposing sporting team by a large margin is not only insensitive, it’s cruel.   Regardless of intention,  using the word  “rape” casually reinforces the idea that sexual assault is not an important enough crime or trauma to be taken seriously.

By continuing to use the word “rape” as a slang term, we lessen the impact of that word as well as cheapen victims’ experiences. Rape should not be something that we condone in any way and continuing to allow this usage is perpetuating the idea that our society is okay with rape and violence towards women.

Anyone can help put an end to this new trend by being an active bystander and speaking up about being uncomfortable when people use “rape” casually. For more information please call the Family Violence Prevention Center at (919)-929-7122

 

ECHHS Dance Ensemble Hosting a Benefit Show for FVPC! May 17, 2011

On Saturday May 21st at 11:30 AM, East Chapel Hill High School’s Dance Ensemble will be hosting a benefit show for FVPC! Our own Volunteer & Community Education Coordinator Elizabeth Johnson will speak about issues of relationship violence and the steps we can all take in ending interpersonal violence. The performance includes performances from groups such as the East Dance Ensemble, The Carolian Friend’s School Dance Program and Naachle, the Indian dance group at East Chapel Hill.  The suggested donation is $5.  Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to witness some upcoming talent and learn more about interpersonal violence prevention!

 

Rape: A Global Issue April 8, 2011

Nicholas Kristof, co-author of the esteemed book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity Worldwide and op-ed columnist for The New York Times, expressed his outrage at the recent death of Hena, a 14 year old Bangladeshi girl, in his op-ed piece “When a Girl Is Executed…for Being Raped.” The young girl died from complications caused by receiving seventy lashes as punishment for being raped by an older cousin. In his article Kristof briefly discusses the role of  imams and other cultural norms in the proceedings but states, “…this was a brutal attack on a helpless girl in the name of sharia and justice.”

When we in the United States hear of this and similar cases, it can be easy to adopt a somewhat distanced perspective based on the idea that we are “beyond” such brutality.  But we should remember that we too still struggle with our own rape culture. That 1 in 6 women in the US will be victims of sexual assault speaks to the overwhelming pervasiveness of that culture in society. Unfortunately, we have often seen the tendency toward victim blaming rather than questioning the violence, whether sexual or intimate partner,  itself. As Kristof states, “the crime lies not in being raped, but in raping.”

Thankfully we do not live in a society that kills or physically punishes rape victims but we should still take this opportunity to acknowledge the decrease in reported sexual assault cases and the improvements in handling rape that have been made in the past few decades but should perhaps also take note of how recently some of the changes have occurred.

For example, North Carolina did not do away with the spousal exemption in their rape laws until 1993. This means that until 1993 it was not recognized as a crime when a husband raped his wife. Even now that spousal rape is recognized as a crime, it is not uncommon for victims of spousal rape to have additional burdens in proving rape occurred in these particular situations. This signifies that the legal system may still be operating under a preconceived notion of the rarity of spousal rape and a general tendency toward victim blaming.

Our hearts go out to victims of rape worldwide. Like Kristof, we hope that their stories have not been in vain and that countries worldwide will soon reexamine their own ways of addressing rape.

 

Thinking Beyond Self-Defense Classes March 31, 2011

Journalist Mac McClelland recently wrote a piece describing her time at a self defense seminar on protecting yourself from unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault.  McClelland observed the women in her class simulating attack scenarios and learning to combat potential assailants.  She writes, “according to some studies, a woman who fights back against sexual assault has a much higher chance of not getting raped.  The folks at Impact Bay Area, who run this course, and other experts say that forceful engagement can be applied to many situations with a potential enemy.”

While self defense classes that teach women to fight back against assaults can be empowering, they often send the mixed message that victims who do not fight back are doing something wrong.   The “fighting back” mentality also perpetuates the “stranger danger” myth i.e. that women should be prepared for an attacker to jump out at them from the bushes in the dead of night, instead of preparing themselves for the more likely   reality that they will know their abuser.  73% of sexual assault victims know their attacker. The notion that victims should fight back also excludes individuals with physical or mental disabilities who may be physically unable to retaliate against an assailant.

Additionally, while there is nothing wrong with taking self defense classes to feel safer, teaching women how to “fight back” does nothing to challenge a culture that condones sexual assault.   Our culture glorifies and sexualizes violence against women as evidenced by exceedingly violent “gonzo” porn“, the objectification of women in Playboy and Hustler magazines, and that proliferation of strip clubs and sex work industry.  We also see men encouraged to stay within the “man box” where violence, emotional restriction and commodification and objectifying of women are lauded as the characteristics of real men.

Perhaps instead of encouraging *women* (and what about the men and boys who are assaulted?) to just take self defense classes, we should all work harder to be active bystanders. Since most sexual assaults (73%) occur between individuals who know each other we need to be more prepared to handle these situations than a “stranger danger” attack.  If you’re at a party with friends, make plans before you go out to ensure nobody is leaving the party without informing their friends of doing so.  Walk people who’ve had too much to drink home.   If you’re already in a relationship, be aware of what some of the warning signs of abusive partners are including wanting to control you, isolating you, or speaking disrespectfully you or family and friends (click here for a more comprehensive list of relationship red flags).

While these action steps can play an important for lowering the risk of sexual assault it is important to remember that no one deserves to be violated or hurt and abuse of any kind is never a victim’s fault.  If you or a friend have been a victim of violence call our hotline at 919-929-7122 to speak with a trained advocate.

 

Project Dinah seeks survivors’s stories for Speak Out! Blog February 27, 2011

Project Dinah is looking for survivor’s stories to put on their Speak Out! Blog.  On April 14th Members of Project Dinah will read anonymous testimonials of survivors’ experiences that have been collected over the year through the blog. In doing so, they break the troubling silence that surrounds sexual assault and interpersonal violence and lend their voices to those who struggle with its affects. The event closes with an “open mic” period during which individuals may come forward to speak of their own experiences or feelings.

 

 
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