One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

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.


“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.



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.


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.


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.


Free Family Law Clinic at El Centro Hispano April 9, 2011

Filed under: child custody,children,divorce — Johnson Intern @ 11:21 am

Next Tuesday, on April 12th 2011, from 5-7pm at El Centro Hispano in Carrboro will be hosting a family law workshop focusing on custody and divorce.  The workshop will be presented by a local attorney, Sarah Carr, and will cover topics including parental rights and responsibilities, legal procedures, the law and its alternatives.

The clinic will be open to the public, with English and Spanish services available.  Attendance is free, however it is requested that attendees call in advance so the workshop organizers know how many people to expect.  Members of the public who are interested can go to El Centro Hispano’s website, or contact Jose Torres-Don, at (919) 945-0132 (ex.t102).


Senator Scott Brown Recounts How He was Abused as a Child February 25, 2011

Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) is known for many things, among them his unexpected defeat of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley for the Senate seat left vacant by the late Senator Kennedy’s passing.  As such, he has shared many things with the public along his meteoric rise to prominence. But one thing he has never revealed, until now, was that he is also a survivor of child abuse.

In a recent interview with Lesley Stahl, of CBS’s “60 Minutes” Senator Brown recently revealed that he was the victim of repeated physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother’s many husbands.  Even years later, Senator Brown admits that the memories of what he went through still haunt him as an adult–as he grew older, he seriously explored purchasing the home he lived in with an abusive step-father, with the express intent of burning it down.

But the abuse didn’t end there.  When he was ten, Brown revealed that he was the victim of repeated and unwanted sexual contact at the hands of a camp counselor.  Like many victims of child sexual abuse, Senator Brown says that he suffered from intense feelings of shame and fear, and kept his abuse a secret, even from his mother. “That’s what happens when you’re a victim,” explains Brown. “You’re embarrassed. You’re hurt.”

Senator Brown went on to explain how his abuser also threatened him, and dissuaded him from reporting the abuse because he would not be believed. “He said ‘If you tell anybody…I’ll kill you. I will make sure that nobody believes you,” recalls Brown.  “And that’s the biggest thing.  When people find people like me at that young, vulnerable age who are who are basically lost, the thing they have over you is they make you believe that no one will believe you.”

From a DV perspective, Senator Brown’s brave revelations are important because they raise awareness about the existence and prevalence of child abuse in our society but just as importantly they debunk myths that abuse only happens to “certain people” (e.g. the poor, ethnic minorities, women and girls, etc.).  Moreover, Senator Brown’s experiences give stark insight into how child sexual abuse can continue to haunt and affect survivors, even well into adulthood.

But in order for child sexual abuse to be combated, and prosecuted, it first hast to be reported.  And one of the biggest challenges to reporting is the fact that many victims are reluctant to report the abuses that they’ve suffered, sometimes waiting decades before they are able to speak about their experiences—if even then.  As acknowledged by Senator Brown, part of this reluctance comes from victims’ own feelings of shame as a result of their experiences, and an understandable desire to forget that the abuse ever happened.  But the another important contributor to under-reporting by victims is the perception that there is “no point” in discussing the matter—that it is far better to leave such matters in the past, rather than re-experience the trauma, only to be disbelieved.

To this end, FVPC conducts community education programs aimed at raising community awareness of all aspects of domestic violence, including the affect of violence in the home on children and how kids can stay safe at home and in other situations.  We believe that in order to build a culture of acceptance and lessen the stigma of abuse, victims not only need to feel safe identifying and reporting their abuse but that they will be believed. We also offer crisis counseling and support services, including safety planning, support groups and court advocacy, for adult victims of physical abuse. If you or someone you know was physically abused as a child, and are now an adult, you can contact FVPC 24/7 at (919) 929-7122.

If you or someone you know was sexually abused as a child, and is now an adult, you can contact Orange County Rape Crisis Center at 1-866-WE-LISTEN (935-4783) or 919-967-7273 or 919-338-0746 (TTY).