One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Troubling Fatherly Advice from Too $hort April 13, 2012

Filed under: childhood sexual abuse,dating violence,rape,sexual assault — Women's Studies Intern @ 10:21 am
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Earlier this year, XXL Magazine, a hip-hop magazine that is popular with teenagers, posted a video on XXLMag.com of rapper Too $hort offering fatherly advice to middle- and high-school aged boys.  In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month we have decided to dedicate this blog post to discussing the troubling messages offered in Too $hort’s video, the effects they can have on his audience, and why we should care about this issue.

In the video interview, Too $hort details a scene of sexual violence.  He offers male viewers “a couple of tricks” to achieve what he calls “mind manipulation.”  He urges his audience to “[push a girl] up against the wall or [pull] her up against you while you lean on the wall,” insert a spit-covered finger into her underwear and rub her “general area down there” to “watch what happens.”  He never mentions consent.  The video caused an immediate uproar and was subsequently removed from XXLMag.com, who issued an apology

While Too $hort’s video focuses on sexual assault without specifically mentioning dating or domestic violence, research shows that 40-45% of victims of domestic violence are experiencing or have experienced sexual assault at the hands of a current or former partner.  Too $hort urges his audience to use force to gain control over a girl and manipulate her into getting what he wants.  This scenario exemplifies characteristics of an abusive relationship, which can be illustrated in the Power and Control WheelCoercion, intimidation, and force are examples of behaviors that can create an imbalance of power in a relationship and results in one partner having more power and control over the other, evidencing an abusive relationship.  Sexual violence affects our clients and potentially the young adults we reach out to in our Start Strong programs.

Videos like this cause us to stop and think about the messages that permeate pop culture to affect the opinions and actions of kids and teens.  Stars such as Lady Gaga, who advocates for LGBTQ rights, and America Ferrera, who promotes positive body image, can serve as great role models for teens.  However, Too $hort, who has produced explicit songs such as “Gettin’ It”, “More Freaky Tales”, and “Porno B*tch”, is sending a dangerous message.  Dani McClain, a writer for MomsRising.org, believes that “Too $hort’s rhetoric implies that hypersexuality and manhood are one and the same, and implies that consent isn’t required for sexual contact.”

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are real problems that teen and pre-teen American girls are facing.  A 2011 study conducted by the Association of American University Women shows that one in four adolescent girls are the victims of sexual assault or harassment in the seventh through twelfth grades.  Another recent study by Black Women’s Blueprint reports that three out of five black girls experience sexual assault at the hands of black boys and men by the age of eighteen.   93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.

Too $hort has taken to Twitter to express his opinions on XXL Magazine, his video, and the public’s response. [In response to the criticism he’s received, Too $hort has posted statements concerning the video on Twitter.  On February 14th he wrote, “Sorry if it offended U not sorry for telling a bad joke.”] Why not do the same?  How do you feel about XXL Magazine’s response?  What do you think the posting of the video says about how our society and the media treat sexual violence?  Organizations, such as MomsRising and We Are the 44%, have asked for the resignation of XXLMag.com’s Editor in Chief Vanessa Satten and Too $hort’s completion of education and sensitivity training on sexual assault and rape, among other things.  What would you like to see happen in response to Too $hort’s troubling video?  Share your thoughts!

 

The Morality of Acting November 17, 2011

Filed under: bystander intervention,childhood sexual abuse,volunteering — Women's Studies Intern @ 10:51 am
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Penn State has been garnering a lot of attention recently, but none of it wanted.  On November 5, former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky, was arrested for inappropriate behaviors with as many as eight young boys in the last fifteen years. During his tenor at Penn State Sandusky founded The Second Mile,  an organization for at-risk children.  He retired from his position in 1999, but was given emeritus status which entitled him access to the football team and its facilities.   Prosecution is now arguing that this charitable organization provided a cover for Sandusky to access children for sexual recreation. Sandusky was arraigned then released on $100,000 bail after being charged with 40 counts connected to sexual abuse of young boys. He denies all charges.

Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz are both implicated in the case, for reportedly knowing about the abuse and failing to report it. Both have resigned from their posts. University President Graham Spanier as well as Penn State head coach and football legend, Joe Paterno, have been fired for supposedly being aware of the abuse and not acting.

At the crux of the scandal is Assistant Coach Mike McQueary who, in 2002, (when still a graduate assistant) walked in on Sandusky with a young boy in the shower. McQueary claims to have reported what he saw to Coach Paterno and then met with Curley and Schultz to discuss the matter. In a recent report released just yesterday, McQueary apparently told a friend via email that he stopped the alleged rape and talked to police.  McQueary was placed on administrative leave last Friday.

Each person involved gives a slightly different story, but what seems to be true of all accounts,  is that everyone knew that something wasn’t right but settled for inaction. There were some discussions, but no action. Note: None at least until yesterday’s email surfaced (interestingly after days worth of condemnation for inaction by all parties). And, until the public backlash, everyone seemed content with that. They did “something” (reporting to the police, telling a supervisor) and that was enough.

There  are problematic power dynamics involved in this particular situation namely, that of Sandusky and the children he spent time with (“children identified as needing extra support” and “children who live in the most difficult circumstances, having experienced the greatest trauma”) as well as the power hierarchy between a graduate assistant and Penn State officials and perhaps even Penn State and the town of State College, PA itself. The question that arises from looking at power dynamics is the responsibility of a person, when the higher authority in which they reported to fails to act. When this happens, what is there to do?  Meaning, ultimately, is the issue over?  Likely the trauma, stress, anxiety, pain, etc. isn’t over for the victim even if the “incident” is over.

Doing “your part” must be more than a one-time act to alleviate inner feelings of guilt or privilege.  It should become a mindset instead of an obligation. We must all speak up and act for those that are least advantaged. While it can be a complicated situation when those higher than yourself fail to act, if the situation continues to feel wrong to you, pursue the issue. Asking questions might not be popular but not asking it could lead to a number of problems later on, as we have seen in the time since Sandusky’s arrest, with five university staff either resigning or being fired from their positions.

The allegations in this case, while still under investigation, are very disturbing. But, let’s use this unfolding tragedy as an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to being active bystanders.  An active bystander is someone who makes an conscious decision to make a bad situation better. This can involve simple acts such as asking if a person is okay, getting an authority figure involved, or if it feels safe, personally intervening especially if the person being harmed is unable to defend themselves or disadvantaged in another way.

Some suggestions for being an active bystander include:

Speak up! If something is not quite right, than you are probably not the only one who notices. Say something and you might be joined by others.  But even if not, your voice is important.

Listen to your gut instinct. If you think something is wrong, investigate it. Think about what you can do to improve the situation and then determine how to act without compromising your personal safety.

Don’t be content to pass the buck. If you think something is suspicious, don’t just tell one person and leave it alone. Check back in. See what happened and if anything was done. If the issue was dropped, pick it back up and find someone else to discuss the issue with.

Active bystanders don’t just let things drop and hope for the best. They do everything they can to help improve things for others, knowing that someday that might need help too.

If you are a student or faculty member on UNC’s campus and have not been One Act trained do it! One Act is a bystander intervention one time training session that empowers individuals to be active bystanders.

Another great way to be an active bystander is by signing up for volunteer training at FVPC. Our volunteers are trained to know how to help and what to do in tough situations.

Or find your own path. But whatever it is, DO something. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Ghandi

 

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.

 

“Bruised Barbie” Photo Shoot Has Serious Implications September 14, 2011

Last week, we shared a Yahoo! article on our Twitter account about photographer Tyler Shields’ shockingly offensive photo shoot with Heather Morris, star of the hugely popular TV show Glee. We wanted to go into more detail about the serious implications of the images and how they relate to FVPC’s mission of preventing and ending domestic violence.

In the photos, which are posted on Shields’ blog under the caption “Even Barbie bruises,” Morris is dressed in high heels, a ‘50s-style dress…and a black eye. She poses with an iron, its electrical cord and ironing board. Although she is smiling, the images are disturbing. In one photo, a man’s hand holds the iron facing toward Morris while its cord is wrapped around her wrists. Another close-up photo of Morris’s face shows off the purple bruise around her eye – some have said it’s reminiscent of the real-life police photos of Rihanna after she was abused by Chris Brown in 2009.

Shields’ decision to depict Morris this way is extremely concerning. First of all, to portray a woman as a doll is harmful in itself, given that women have worked for decades to overcome social expectations of both feminine submission and unrealistic beauty standards. But even more problematic, the photos of Morris as a “beat-up Barbie” also disturbingly glamorize domestic violence. Shields is selling prints on his website, personally gaining from making light of a widespread cultural problem.

Domestic violence is reality for too many women, and it isn’t at all fun, although Morris seems to be having a great time in the photos, posing playfully with the household appliance props despite the implication that someone, presumably her partner, has been violent toward her. Rita Smith, Executive Director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, commented on the seriousness of the use of the iron and ironing board to set the scene in an E! News article. “I don’t know if Tyler is aware but I’m quite sure there are plenty of women who have been abused by these kinds of household appliances and children as well being hit with electrical cords,” she said.

Shields said in a Slate interview that he thought the photos were “cool,” and that his mother is a survivor of domestic violence herself and didn’t find them offensive. Although Shields’ mother may not have told him she was disturbed by them, survivors are often triggered by photos relating to domestic violence – and the teenagers who love Glee and follow Morris’s work closely are just as likely to have experienced DV as children or intimate partner violence in their own relationships. Creating art centered around domestic violence can be effective and helpful to the violence prevention movement if its greater purpose is to draw attention to the issue and inspire action.

With no greater purpose than to create a photo that looks “cool” and make money, Shields unfortunately misses an opportunity to shed light on the real problem of domestic violence and to reach young people who should be empowered to help stop it.  What do you think?  Is this photo shoot offensive or artsy and cool?  Leave us your thoughts.

 

 

The Power of Being an Active Bystander June 17, 2011

In 2008 a 16-year-old high school cheerleader, identified as H.S., was sexually assaulted by three men at her school, one of whom, Rakheem Bolton, was a basketball player. Although Bolton received a year long prison sentence as well as a fine and two years of probation, throughout these past few years there was much debate about what type of punishment he should receive. At one point he was even allowed back into Silsbee high school and and allowed to take up his old position on the basket ball team.

H.S. refused to cheer for Bolton during his free throws. According to Ms. Magazine, the chant that she was expected to yell was, “two, four, six, eight, ten come on Rakheem put it in!” Instead of supporting or understanding H.S’s decision, the school kicked her off of the cheer leading squad effectively condoning Bolton’s actions and placing blame on the victim. When her parents filed a law suit against the school, not only did they lose the case, but the school is making them cover the trial costs which add up to $35,000.

When Artist Jason Ho heard about this injustice, he decided to do something about it. Ho is an illustrator and art director at Bongo Comics who has a blog called “Oh Snap! The Friggin Amazing J. Ho Sketch Blog…” He posted the story on his blog and sent out the word that he would hand draw sketches for people in trade for a $20 donation. The donation would go to H.S’s family to aid with the legal expenses.

The response was overwhelming. He planned on taking 20 requests, but within a matter of days had over 140! Ho epitomizes supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. He has never met this family before, and he is not rushing out to Texas to rally protesters; he is simply doing what is within his reach to help a family in need.

People like Jason Ho are a dose of encouragement and optimism for anyone who has ever felt strongly about a cause but did not know what to do. He shows us that anyone can make a difference, and that one person’s idea can help change lives. Ho in partnership with the Help a Cheerleader  site have managed to change H.S.’s life as well as her families, not just with the financial support, but also with psychological support. This family has the comfort of knowing that people all around the country believe that they were wronged by the justice system, and are willing to help them through their struggle.

If you want more information about how you can be an active bystander or how to support victims of interpersonal violence please contact the Family Violence Prevention Center  at (919) 929-7122.   We can all be active bystanders in our own unique ways and one persons’ actions can play a huge part in supporting and advocating for survivors and in ending interpersonal violence.

 

Elizabeth Smart: How Do We Judge Other’s Trauma? June 10, 2011

Brian Mitchell, the man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart when she was 14, held her captive and raped her repeatedly was sentenced to life in prison.   Previously Mitchell’s lawyer argued that he should receive a lighter sentence because Smart is a “survivor” and hadn’t suffered “extreme psychological injury.”   What Elizabeth suffered is something no one should ever have to experience and it is interesting that the defense felt they had the right to judge another person’s level of trauma or suffering.  The defense team for Mitchell may not have intended to hurt Elizabeth Smart but

President George W. Bush greets Elizabeth Smart and her mother Lois in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in 2003

to insinuate that there is one specific way to respond to trauma or that because she has healed and is moving forward with her life, that she didn’t suffer intense emotional damage at the hands of Mitchell is both insensitive and ignorant.  Despite the fact that Elizabeth has remained collected throughout the trial and relied heavily on her faith to try to heal from this trauma, does not mean that she won’t be triggered later on or that her suffering is somehow less legitimate.  Smart may be in one of the various stages of Rape Trauma Syndrome-a form of PTSD recognized by the medical community as similar to the symptoms soldiers experience after battle.  Rape Trauma Syndrome has four stages:

1. Anticipatory Stage: When  a survivor starts experiencing feelings of unease or discontent, realizing something is not right.

2. Impact: When a survivor does things that don’t mke sense to self or others.

3. Reconstruction: This stage can last for years and can be a range of responses and emotions but anger is most common.  This can be a spring board for action (seeking justice or receiving counseling) but can also be turned inward.

4. Resolution: The stage is when a survivor assimilates the act of violence into their overall life experience and it no longer hinders them from being able to live their lives.  Getting to this stage can be greatly hindered or helped by the kind of  support a survivor receives in their healing.

(This definition of Rape Trauma Syndrome was taken from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center)

We don’t know what stage Elizabeth Smart is in in her recovery process, but regardless of her ability to cope with this trauma, her struggle and pain throughout this experience deserves support, not judgment about her reaction.  As Smart stated in her testimony, Mitchell’s actions were intentional and traumatic and he deserves the sentence he received.  Despite her moving forward with her life and beginning to heal, she suffered traumas which can never be undone.  Victims of any kind of abuse deserve support, regardless of their reaction to the trauma they’ve experienced.  No 0ne has  right to judge the way a victim responds to abuse.   At FVPC we believe in fully supporting and advocating for survivors.   If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse call our hotline at 919-929-7122 to speak to a trained advocate.

 

How does domestic violence affect children? May 23, 2011

The mass media constantly bombards us with stories such as that of a 4-year old girl found beaten and tortured in Smithfield NC; or Marchella Pierce ; starved and drugged by her own mother? What about all of the children that do not make headline news? What about the children who continue living in a home where  domestic violence exists?  Recent articles published by the Joyful Heart Foundation illustrate the affects that just witnessing inter-personal violence has on children.

According to the Joyful Heart Foundation, children who are chronically exposed to domestic violence can develop many significant long term effects. The scale ranges from academic and behavioral problems in adolescence all the way to having changes in their brain physiology and function. When children live in a hostile environment, they create strategies and behavioral patterns that will allow them to avoid the violence.

Often children will go to extreme measures in order to please the violent parent. One 8-year-old girl wrote about trying to be nice, staying out of trouble, and getting home early so she could stay out of her father’s way.  Other children will attempt to side with the abusive parent in the hope of not being the next target. While even more children resort to creating their own world inside of their head in order to escape reality.

While these children find temporary safety in their routines and patterns, the long term affects of these practices are highly detrimental. These patterns become ingrained as habits. Spacing out in school can lead to poor performance, and being in a state of constant anxiety can lead to serious mental problems such as post traumatic stress disorder. Also, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, when children are constantly in a state of emotional turmoil, reaching developmental milestones such as differentiation from one’s parents, very difficult and painful.

According to a recent op-ed featured in The New York Times, the annual cost of childhood maltreatment is $103.8 billion. Currently only about $40 million has been invested in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.  This organization has treated over 300,000 children in the time span of just seven years.

Many domestic violence programs offer a limited number of services geared towards children. At the Family Violence Prevention Center, we do not take individual children as clients, but we do have a coping skills group for children as well as community education programming in the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools. Let’s help ensure that National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a strong future, helping to ensure that traumatized children have a place to get help. For more information please visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.