One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

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!

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Upcoming Film Showing of Killing Us Softly 4 March 26, 2012

Filed under: advertising,Project Dinah,sexual assault — Women's Studies Intern @ 3:48 pm
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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  In order to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault, Project Dinah, a student organization at UNC Chapel Hill that is devoted to safety and empowerment, is sponsoring a film showing of Killing Us Softly 4Killing Us Softly 4 is a film about advertising’s image of women and explores the connection between advertising and public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction.  The screening is taking place on March 28th at 7:00 p.m. in Bingham 317 on UNC’s campus.  We hope you can attend!

 

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.

 

Challenge Your Notions of Poverty: Play SPENT! March 16, 2012

Filed under: community education,poverty,privilege — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:31 am
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On February 8, 2010, the Urban Ministries of Durham, with the assistance of McKinney, launched SPENT, an online program that challenges participants to attempt to survive poverty.  Play the game here.  The Urban Ministries of Durham provides food, shelter, clothing, and supportive services to those in need throughout the Durham community.

SPENT, which had over one million plays in almost two hundred countries as of August 2011 , is an interactive computer game that provides users with $1,000 at the beginning of a month and brings up real-life scenarios that require spending, such as health insurance, children’s field trips, rent, and food.  Players must make choices, test their skills, and attempt to survive.

Urban Ministries of Durham Executive Director Patrice Nelson states,  “As players struggle to stay afloat, we hope they appreciate more clearly the realities facing the many individuals and families UMD serves.”  The goal is to challenge the way people think about poverty and homelessness and educate users about the struggles that so many men, women, and children are facing in our country today.

Challenge yourself and your ideas surrounding the difficulty or ease it might take to survive poverty.  Play SPENT!

 

Gender Nonconforming Behavior in Kids and Teens March 6, 2012

Filed under: Allies,bullying,child abuse,gender norms — Women's Studies Intern @ 10:00 am
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Last week CNN published an article entitled “Kids Who Veer from Gender Norms at Higher Risk for Abuse.”  The article highlights a study that was recently published by Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The study shows that children who do not conform to gender roles are more likely to be abused.  This abuse increases the probability that these children will experience post-traumatic stress disorder by the time they reach their 20s.  Surprisingly, the abuse that children who are gender nonconforming endure is more likely to come from parents and other older adults as opposed to bullying at school.

“Children and Adolescents With Gender Identity Disorder Referred to a Pediatric Medical Center” reports that gender nonconforming behavior occurs in one out of ten children.  Some children later self-identify as LGBTQ, and the majority of the kids’ nonconforming behavior lessens as they age.

It is important to recognize that if a child is gender nonconforming that does not mean that he or she is transgender.  In fact, Dr. Walter Meyer III, University of Texas Medical Branch, states that “a lot of children seem to be experimenting with cross-gender behavior, but very few are following through to request gender change as they mature.”  The study printed in Pediatrics also notes that in rare cases, children whose behavior does not conform to gender norms may experience gender dysphoria, which is a gender identity disorder experienced during adolescence.  The disorder involves a divide between a patient’s anatomical sex and their gender identity or gender performance.  A study on psychiatric treatment notes that psychiatric symptoms, including depression, self-mulilation, and suicide attempts, are found in approximately 44% of teens who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Cory, who identifies as gender fluid, meaning not completely female or male, comments on the hardships that he experienced due to his gender expression: “I went through various stages of depression.  The only reason why I’m here right now is because of all the support my family gave me.”  Life as an individual who does not conform to gender norms can be hard.  Society and the media can often impose strict gender norms onto children and teens by attempting to determine what clothes, toys, games, and lifestyles are appropriate for their biological sex.

The research surrounding children and teenagers who do not conform to gender norms shows that these individuals are teased, scorned, and misunderstood by both adults and peers.   As we tell our students during Start Strong programs, it is important to reach out and become an ally to a friend or classmate who may be bullied or experiencing a tough time.  This caring behavior should hopefully continue throughout our lives and be applied to all of our relationships.  The most important thing to do is simply to listen and be there for a person who may be in need of support.  Believe the person, do not minimize what he or she is experiencing, and offer your help in any way that you can.  Even just one ally can help alleviate some of the pain or isolation that gender nonconforming kids and teens may be facing.  Reach out and be that one!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Diana Green March 1, 2012

Filed under: volunteering — Women's Studies Intern @ 11:10 am

Each month, we choose one volunteer to recognize in our “Volunteer Spotlight”.  FVPC could not provide all of its services and reach out to as many people in the community as it does without the dedication and hard work of every single one of our volunteers.  This month we are highlighting Diana Green and the great work that she does for us.

How long have you been volunteering?

I started volunteering last Fall, September 2011, initially as the LUNAFEST coordinator/intern. Currently I’m doing Start Strong and a variety of smaller tasks.

How did you learn about FVPC?

I learned about the FVPC through the Public Service Scholars’ listserv; there was a request for volunteers.

Why do you volunteer?

I think that the mission of the FVPC is a critical one for any community. As a Sociology major, I’ve been able to study a lot about the inequalities present in our society, but the one that’s always resonated with me the most is that of gender inequality/sexism and the power differences inherent between men and women as groups. To help victims of DV, who are largely women, is to help all women gain an equal hold in our society which in turn will help our daughters and granddaughters experience better lives.

What have you learned (about yourself or others) by volunteering here?

I feel like I’ve learned so much from volunteering at the FVPC – I’ve certainly learned more about DV and some of the networks and institutions that are in place to help victims of DV; I’ve learned a lot about community education through the Start Strong program and also about more technical stuff like fundraising and event organizing. I’ve also learned that work like that which is done at the FVPC is something I’d love to do as a career.

What happens next for you after graduation?

I plan to graduate in December 2012 with a degree in Sociology, then start a MSW program the next fall. So I’ll be working/interning somewhere for the majority of next year before graduate school starts.

What would you tell prospective volunteers?

I would tell prospective volunteers that not only is volunteering at the FVPC very rewarding, but there’s a lot of options to fit your interests. From hotline advocacy to Start Strong, FVPC does a lot of wonderful work in the community, and by volunteering here you’re really making a difference!

Thank you for all that you do, Diana!

 

Talk to a North Carolina Lawyer for Free: March 2, 2012

Filed under: Options for Help — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:21 am
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On Friday, March 2, 2012 the North Carolina Bar Association Foundation is sponsoring a free legal information day.  Anyone residing in North Carolina can call in from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to speak to an attorney for free!  Lawyers will provide legal information and referral resources to all callers.  Below are the phone numbers to the call centers, which are separated by the different regions of the state.

Raleigh/Triangle Area 1.800.424.9725
Greensboro/Triad Area 1.877.391.6179
Charlotte Area 1.866.616.4255
Greenville/Eastern N.C. 1.888.616.0614
Wilmington/Southeastern 1.888.442.3428
Asheville/Western N.C. 1.800.289.0013

Spanish-speaking individuals from any area of North Carolina can call 1.855.455.4255 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to reach the Spanish Call Center.  All calls are toll free.  More information about the event can be found at www.4allnc.org.  Please spread the word about this great opportunity to receive free legal information and resources!