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.

 

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 Thomas.gov 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 www.thomas.gov, 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!

 

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.

False.

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.

 

GPS monitoring & keeping survivors safe November 4, 2011

Filed under: domestic violence,Domestic Violence Protective Order,GPS monitoring,safety — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:51 am

Since 2008, cities and states have begun using GPS monitoring technology for a variety of reasons.  Currently over 12 states use GPS monitoring in domestic violence situations. The GPS tracking device is worn, typically on the ankle, notifying police and the perpetrator’s victim whenever s/he enters an off-limits zone, such as the areas surrounding the house, workplace, and children’s schools. This technology is being used for people who have already violated a domestic violence protective order (DVPO).

DVPOs can be a good form of legal advocacy to offer domestic violence victims. This is not always the case but when our Hotline Advocates meet with clients, we always talk about all of their options.

In North Carolina, if a DVPO is violated, it becomes an arrestable offense…when law enforcement can find the abuser. Once in custody, however, holding time and subsequent jail time (if the DA decides to try the case), vary.  The GPS monitoring, then, is being touted as a way to save victims lives by keeping them potentially safer, longer by eliminating a lag time in which police or sheriff’s office need to find the DVPO violator.  GPS monitoring is one step that some areas (earlier this week, Manitoba and Staten Island became the two latest areas to begin using GPS) are taking toward firmer legal action both against abusers and a stronger effort to protect abuse victims.

While GPS monitoring is not an option in Orange County currently, we think that it is an interesting way to help keep victims safe, in addition to safety planning, the consideration of a DVPO and options like address confidentiality or 911 cell phones for clients in need. In our new office (207 Wilson St in Chapel Hill!) and on our 24-hr crisis line, our advocates work with domestic violence survivors to meet them where they are at in terms of accessing their own safety and needs for themselves and their families.  While GPS monitoring is not the solution or without flaws, the increasing number of cities and states that are implementing this technology shows an increase of awareness and care towards domestic violence victims.  And we appreciate that!

For more information on safety planning or what you can do to help keep domestic violence survivors safe, contact our office on the crisis line at 929 7122.

 

Upcoming Project Dinah Events September 28, 2011

Project Dinah,  a student based organization at UNC-CH whose goal is to promote safety and empowerment on UNC’s campus, has two events coming up.

On Friday, September 30, Project Dinah along with UNC Panhellenic and CHECs are presenting Orgasm? Yes Please! “This program is an orgasmic event on how to have amazing, healthy, fun and communicative sex. Learn about your O and win a free vibrator in our annual raffle, sponsored by Cherry Pie. Come join us on Friday, September 30 at 7:30pm in the Great Hall!”

SPEAK OUT! On Wednesday October 12, 2011 Project Dinah and Men at Carolina will be hosting the annual Speak Out event. This is a night dedicated to honoring survivors of interpersonal violence, sharing statistics from the previous year, and empowering people to take a stand against relationship violence. Members of the two group will read anonymous testimonials from survivors that have been posted on the Speak Out blog. You can add your testimonial as well, by going to this site.  There will also be a key note speaker and an open mic portion for those wishing to share their experiences.  Please join Project Dinah and Men at Carolina in this night dedicated to ending the silence around interpersonal violence. Speak Out will be held at The Pit on UNC’s campus, rain location Gardner 105.

 

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.

 

 
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