One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

To Your Health: Local Clinic to Provide Health and Wellness Exams to Area Women March 31, 2011

SHAC is a student led organization run through UNC. SHAC will be conducting a free women's health clinic on April 2nd, 2011, from 2-6pm. Call (919) 843-6841 to make an appointment today.

On April 2, 2011, the UNC Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) will be hosting a “Well Woman Clinic” from 2-6pm. All services provided by the clinic will be free to the public, and will include annual pap smears, breast exams, STI and HIV testing.

To make an appointment, call and leave a message at (919) 843-6841.

(Se habla espanol, tambien)

SHAC also offers regular medical visits, free of charge, every Wednesday, from 6-9pm.  No proof of insurance necessary.


Thinking Beyond Self-Defense Classes

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.


Warning Signs in a Recent Case of Domestic Violence March 30, 2011

Filed under: Cycle of Violence,domestic violence — Elizabeth Johnson @ 10:38 am
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On the evening of March 16th, the body of Tina Adovasio was found in the woods of Westchester County, NY. The mother of four had been reported missing by her estranged husband, Eddy Coello, a month after filing for divorce and getting a restraining order against him following several years of domestic violence.

Coello has since been charged with Adovasio’s murder and is being held in protective custody without bail. The couple’s marriage is reported to have been “marked by bouts of domestic violence”, which included a hospital stay for Adovasio following an attack by Coello.  Last month, when filing for a protective order against Coello, Adovasio told cops, “if anything happens to me, look at him.” The last time that Adovasio was seen alive was entering the couple’s former home in order to retrieve some of her belongings.

Coello had a long history of violence. He left his job as a New York City Police Officer while being investigated for beating his former partner, Glory Perez. She describes being “terrorized” by Coello throughout the three years of their relationship When speaking about their relationship, Perez says that at the initial stages of their relationship, Coello was “perfect” but eventually, things turned sour and eventually led to beatings. Perez describes the isolation and fear that she felt in her situation, but eventually, she was able to leave Coello and eventually cut off all ties with him. The isolation that Perez felt is one of the most powerful tools that an abuser has. Perez illustrates this by talking about how she felt unable to leave the relationship because she had nowhere to go and felt alone.

There are many important points in this case that we can hopefully learn from. Since the most dangerous time in an abusive relation ship is when the victim is planning to leave or has recently left, careful safety planning is critical. The abuser no longer has the power and control in the relationship, which can lead to them doing often violent things against their victims.Safety planning can be as broad as  making a list of important items that they need to have with them, should they decide to leave suddenly e.g. a passport, medications, change of clothes.  It can also be very specific.  We might ask the client who else they have told about their concerns with the relationship?  Sometimes it can be helpful to have a boss or co-worker, a neighbor or landlord be aware of the situation so they can assist, if asked.

The situation that Perez describes is a classic example of the cycle of violence in an abusive relationship. Abusers often appear “perfect”, charming or very kind at the beginning of the relationship, but eventually they become jealous and possessive, as Coello appears to have done in his relationship with Perez. The slow escalation of the situation allows the abuser to maintain control over their victim, who may not be able to recognize how dangerous the situation has become.

One of the other important things to consider in this sad case are the unfortunate limitations of the law. The police force did take action against Coello after his abuse towards Perez became public. He was removed from his position as a police officer and eventually his firearms were taken away from him. He was also arrested twice during his relationship with Adovasio after physically attacking her and when Adovasio filed for divorce, she was granted a protective order. However, it is clear from Adovasio’s statements to police that she clearly feared him, so we need to ask, “what more could have been done to protect her?” A short survey done by the website covering the story asked readers if they thought the police do enough to crack down on violence and over 70% of respondents feel that not enough is done in these cases.

We have a 24-hour hotline that victims can call for crisis counseling or if they want help safety planning. By talking with one of our volunteers, victims can identify some of the steps that they can take to stay safe, whether they are leaving their relationship or planning on staying. We can also help victims file protective orders and offer support groups for victims. Our hotline number is 919-929-7122 and a volunteer is available 24 hours a day.


“Untied” to Violence: Actress Meredith Baxter Speaks Out About Her Abuse March 29, 2011

Meredith Baxter, a former actress in a popular 70's TV sitcom, recently published a new biography in which she revealed that, while they were married, her co-star and husband David Birney had been violent towards her.

In a new memoir, Untied, Actress Meredith Baxter reveals that while married to David Birney (who co-starred with Baxter on the 1970’s sitcom Bridget loves Birney) her husband struck her on more than one occasion.

“It was so sudden and unexpected,” the actress, who came out as a lesbian in 2009, wrote.  “I couldn’t tell you which hand hit me, or even how hard. I do recall thinking, ‘I’d better not get up because he’s going to hit me again.’ ”

The Family Ties star also writes that one of the ways she coped was by drinking heavily, and said that while some of her relationships’ problems were evident, in private they were far stormier than they appeared.

Unfortunately, Ms. Baxter’s experiences are not uncommon.  In a study done by the U. of Michigan Medical Center, 65% of those patients who screened positive for being a victim of DV also screened positive for alcohol abuse. This is particularly troubling when compared to rate of alcoholism among who were not victims of DV: 12%.

It is important to note that these numbers indicate a corralary link to domestic violence, not a causal link.  And while it is true that some victims may be prone to alcohol or substance abuse before becoming a victim of DV, other victims may simply have turned to alcohol/substance abuse as a means of coping with the trauma they experienced at the hands of their romantic partner.  Victims of domestic violence may find it difficult to cope with the feelings of fear, betrayal, isolation, and confusion that often accompany instances of domestic violence, in addition to lost self-esteem and self-worth. And like Ms. Baxter, some victims may attempt to cope through self-medication with alcohol or other substance abuse, which may exacerbate a situation that is already frustrating, terrifying, and dangerous.

Ultimately, the most important thing for DV victims is that they feel safe, secure, and find ways of coming to terms with their experience in healthy and constructive ways.  By far the best way for victims to move past their abuse is to establish sustainable coping mechanisms with the support of friends and extended family, who not only validate their experiences but allow them the chance to express their conflicting emotions in healthy, constructive ways.  However, because these events can also be emotionally charged for friends and family, seeking the help of outside professionals like therapists or DV agencies can provide useful insights and perspectives in a non-judgmental setting.

Here at FVPC, we offer support groups and crisis counseling for victims of domestic violence here in Orange County, as well as a 24-hour hotline for victims to get the support and information they need. We allow victims to discuss their experiences in a judgment-free setting  and empower them to make their own decisions while offering tools with which they can regain some of the control over their lives that had been usurped by their abusive partners.

If you believe that you, or someone you know, might be a victim of domestic violence or relationship abuse, call our 24-hour hotline at (919) 929-7122 to speak to one of our advocates or volunteers, or to schedule an appointment to come into our office and speak to us, one on one.


A Survivor in Heart and “Sole”: New Support Group for Runners March 23, 2011

Filed under: Allies,sexual assault — Johnson Intern @ 4:03 pm

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from April 5 until June 9, 2011, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center will be hosting a running and support group, starting at 9:15 am.

This running support group is for new and established runners who are female-identified survivors of rape and sexual assault.  Interested survivors are encouraged to join the circle for healing and become a runner, or become an even a better one.  Learn the fundamentals of interval training and reap the emotional and physical benefits of getting strong and fit in a circle of survivors.  Each week, the group will meet in a circle for a brief lesson about running, followed by a planned workout.  On Tuesdays, there will be an additional processing group following the run. Our goal is to provide a warm and positive circle for striving, trusting, healing, sweating, laughing and growing, and a newfound love of running. OCRCC has collaborated with Fleet Feet Carrboro to provide a pair of running shoes and a sports bra for each participant.

Support groups are an opportunity to learn, share and gain support from others with similar experiences of abuse.  Screenings for this group are required. If you are interested in participating or have questions, contact Krista at (919) 968-4647 or email


Being a Man: Tony Porter Sounds Off Against Male Socialization and Victimization March 22, 2011

Filed under: gender norms — Johnson Intern @ 11:15 am
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Tony Porter is an educator and activist who is internationally recognized for his effort to end violence against women.

Note: this post has been co-written by two interns: Daniel and Annie.

Last December, Tony Porter spoke to a crowd gathered for TEDWomen, a conference held by Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) to promote women’s rights and women’s issues.  The topic of conversation?  How to be a man.  Or, more specifically, how to be a better man.

“Growing up as a boy, we [sic] were told that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, had to be dominating–no pain, no emotion, with the exception of anger, and definitely no fear,” Porter said, describing life growing up as a boy in New York City.  As an adult he came to realize how false these perceptions and lessons were, but as a young man he felt powerless to defy these gender roles and apparent realities, whether he agreed with them or not.  That was irrelevant.  To defy a gender-stereotyped behavior was to defy not only social convention, but to incur the ridicule of one’s peers as a result. Porter goes on to define these gender-stereotyped behaviors as the collective socialization of men–or what he colloquially refers to as, “the Man Box.”  According to Porter, the “Man Box” is inscribed with all the predictable trappings of socially-acceptable (or rather, expected) male social behavior; what he calls “all the ingredients for being a man.”

Porter recounts how, as a father of a young boy and a girl, he became keenly (and suddenly) aware about how he too, was reinforcing some of these stereotypes in the upbringing of his own kids, and noted with particular concern his very different treatment of his daughter and his son in roughly identical situations.  When his daughter came to him crying, for example, he immediately became comforter, regardless of what the situation was.  But when his son came to him in tears, he said it was as if a clock went off in his head, giving his son a finite amount of time before he’d be instructed to calm down, “man up,” and come back to his father with the appropriate amount of restraint, calm, and poise expected of a man in distress. “Out of my own frustration, of my role and responsibility of building him up as a man to fit into these guidelines and structures that go into defining this Man Box,” he said, “I’d find myself saying things like ‘Go to your room […] until you can come back and talk to me like a…man.'” It almost didn’t seem to matter that his son was, at the time, only five years old.

Annie: Porter also discusses how the “Man Box”  perpetuates men being dominant, controlling and violent towards women.  A critical piece of being a man, it seems, is learning to oppress others and deny emotion. Distancing oneself emotionally and seeing victims as only an object facilitates sexual violence and relationship abuse.  When men perform in ways that fall outside of the “Man Box” it also leads to ridicule or violence from other men, specifically because that man is acting “like a woman”.  Porter recounts talking with adolescent football players and asking them how they would feel if their coach said “you play like  a girl.”  Expecting the response “embarrassed” or “frustrated” it shocked Porter to hear one boy say “it would destroy me”.   What does that say about women? That we value them so little that being compared to one, particularly in a male dominated field like sports is enough to destroy someone?  The “Man Box” not only  stifles men emotionally it also reinforces the idea women matter less and deserve to be controlled.

Daniel: “As a man myself, I was struck at how deeply I related to Mr. Porter’s message, despite the fact that, aside from our gender, we had next to nothing else in common.  Growing up, I vividly remembered a similar incident from my childhood when, at age five or seven, I casually asked my mother a question that (for the first time) seemed to really stump her: “Mom, when was the last time Dad cried?”  In contrast to my mother, who cried at everything from UNICEF commercials to the ending of Notting Hill, I’d only ever seen my father exhibit three emotions: anger, amusement, and boredom/disinterest. This perception was, if anything, reinforced by my mother’s answer; in the twenty-three years that I’ve known him, the last time my father was visibly moved to tears was in 1987, apparently on the day I was born.

My parents taught me to not only stay in touch with my emotions, but to express them in healthy, nonviolent ways.  This was a surprisingly important lesson, since the popular societal message that I received was that there were only two acceptable ways for a man to openly display his emotions:

  1. Through violence (preferably against inanimate objects like walls and furniture)
  2. Not at all. (like Tony Porter learned from his dad)

My parents said that it was okay to talk about my problems, to ask for help and guidance, and even to cry.  However, regardless of what they said, by age 8 I had learned that crying in front of others was a sign of weakness – something to be avoided at all costs. And for this reason, I adopted tactics to overcome or disguise what in any other context might be a natural emotional response. I learned how to wipe your eyes without looking like you were crying, or how to conceal the act of crying itself.   But despite their best efforts, they couldn’t insulated me against what I felt to be negative pressures applied by popular society onto men and young boys. 

Even into early adulthood, when it would seem that we are freer to make up our own minds and less inclined to be peer-pressured in a way of thinking of behaving, I found it difficult to break out of the “Man Box” society had constructed around me.  Especially because it seemed that  other men had no trouble conforming to that “Box”, and as a result, had no problem with judging me for not doing the same.

The best example of this came in college when I pledged a fraternity.  I was careful to pick an organization that reflected my own beliefs.  I was particularly pleased by the fact that, at least initially, a point was made to actively recruit members who could be built up and shaped into “real men”: men who were honorable, reliable, and respectful–both to women, and to other men. But, as it became increasingly difficult to compete with more traditional, “Man-boxed” fraternities, we found ourselves routinely bowing to external pressure to become more stereotypically male.

We adopted an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with respect to our openly gay member.  We didn’t ask, they didn’t tell, and even if they did, we wouldn’t listen or pretended not to hear.  We also lionized members who were promiscuous, encouraging them to boast loudly about their numerous sexual partners during our weekly meetings, while simultaneously dismissing or marginalizing those in faithful, mutually respectful, and monogamous relationships or even worse, those who had had no relationships or sexual encounters.  But it was the “Man Card” game that really got me.

The rules of the game were simple: each member was given a physical card depicting some exemplar of stereotypical masculinity.  (Mine had an image of a machine gun-toting Sylvester Stallone, taken from Rambo: First Blood).  At any point during the year, if a member of the brotherhood was behaving “unmanly,” and two or more members of the fraternity were present, any other member of the fraternity could “Man Card” that brother, and demand that he surrender his “Man Card,” symbolically forfeiting the manliness he was no longer worthy of having. The point was to keep members protective of their manliness and to keep them constantly on edge, for fear of being perceived as “unmanly” and thus losing their credibility as a man. The hope was that in so doing, the public perception of the fraternity would improve.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to say, that while I was appalled at the game, it nevertheless had its desired effect.  So conscious was I of my own public persona and perceived “manliness,” that even though I deplored the practice, I did nothing to stop it.  And even though I eventually did voice objections to the game, I did so quietly, and only in private.

I know of just one brother who had the courage to reject the game, voluntarily forfeiting his “Man Card” almost immediately.  But even he stopped short of saying publicly that he objected to the game itself; instead, he said it was because he “knew” it would only be a matter of time before he lost it anyway, and that he would rather get it out of the way.  Naturally, he endured a torrent of “good-natured” ribbing and abuse that would’ve reduced a lesser man to tears.

I found myself envious of Brother X.  Because while he had violated every code of “manliness” we had learned after the initial derision died down he was essentially “free.”  He could behave however he chose, and be as “unmanly” as he cared to be, because he no longer had anything left to prove. In essence, he could be his own man, and define that however he chose, without worrying what the “Man Box” had to say on the matter.”

Tony Porter’s commentary as well as Daniel’s  shows us how much men have to lose by staying within the “Man Box”.  While the “Man Box” functions to oppress women and reinforce the idea of them as objects, it also harms men by not allowing them to display emotional empathy, expression, or fulfillment.  Breaking gendered stereotypes for men will not only allow women greater safety and equality with men, it allows men the chance to be emotionally open and create more meaningful relationships with both women and men in their lives (as well as those that identify as LGBTQ although Porter does not reference them specifically).

How can we all work to dismantle the “Man Box” and harmful gender stereotypes?  As women, we can support the men in our lives when they make choices or express their emotions, acting in ways that fall outside the typical norms that Porter and Daniel allude to. We can also have discussions with the men in our lives about the repercussions that acting in violent, “masculine” ways has on interpersonal violence and how it impacts and hurts us as women.  Men can show both other men and boys in their lives them what being a real man is.  That is, to create a masculine identity outside of what is expected. Men can also work on doing something that is supressed within them from a young age- express feelings and vulnerabilities.  But if we all engage in more open dialogues about what it means to resist gender stereotypes that we are all taught, we can begin to create better, more meaningful and less violent relationships with one another.


How poverty affects domestic violence March 21, 2011

Filed under: domestic violence,poverty — Women's Studies Intern @ 11:28 am
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In a recent News and Observer article entitled “Tackling N.C.’s persistent poverty” UNC economics professor, Patrick Conway, gave readers a glimpse into the background of North Carolina’s growing poverty rates. In his article, Conway stresses the importance of education as well as government support for low-income families. He acknowledges the expenditure they mandate in the short term but points to the long term benefits of fewer households living in poverty and higher levels of job preparedness as long term justification for the spending. In light of the recent and upcoming budget debates it is important that as citizens we remain informed of the potential effects of budget decisions so that North Carolina may continue to be “a model for others states and a benefit to its lowest-income citizens,” as defined by Conway.

Conway’s article served as a reminder of the connection between poverty and domestic violence. While poverty in no way causes domestic violence, it can be seen as an aggravating factor for those already in domestic violence situations. Victims living in poverty are often forced to examine their safety in terms broader than solely the physical. For example, by leaving an abuser a victim may also be giving up affordable housing, an additional (or the only) source of income, and/or any childcare or transportation his/her partner provides. These additional issues may cause victims to have to find a multilayered approach to their situations at home or may ultimately dissuade them from leaving their abusers.

The domestic violence prevention community has also felt the effects of the economic downturn economy in connection to centers and shelters themselves. While domestic violence agencies are working hard to continue to aid domestic violence victims and raise awareness in their communities, budget cuts and the poor state of the economy in general have become looming threats. REACH, a domestic violence shelter community based out of Jackson County, NC has already felt the effects of new financial constraints and has been forced to begin foreclosure proceedings. It is unlikely that local governments in this time of economic recession will have the funds to adequately provide services for domestic violence victims, let alone to continue the preventative measures domestic violence agencies offer. Beverly Kennedy, Executive Director of FVPC, sees Orange County paralleling this trend and says that as budget cuts continue she has seen requests for services here at FVPC increase.

Visit our website to learn about the options available for individuals and groups to help victims of domestic violence.