One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Apps Against Abuse May 1, 2012

Filed under: cell phones,dating violence,Options for Help,rape prevention,safety — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:45 am
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It seems like smart phones are becoming more and more common these days.  Education and awareness of interpersonal violence is also spreading as well.  Have you ever wanted to combine the technology of a smart phone with ways to promote education and prevention of  sexual assault or dating violence?  Well, there’s now an app for that.  Two apps actually.  Circle of 6 is an iPhone app that is designed to serve as a mobile way to look out for your friends and help get them out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations.  It aims to prevent sexual assault and rape.  The Love is Not Abuse iPhone app serves as an educational tool for parents.  The app simulates digital dating abuse and provides a multitude of resources for users who want to learn more about dating violence.  Both apps are free.

Circle of 6 is one of the winners of the White House Apps Against Abuse Competition.  The White House released a statement saying, “Young women aged 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while one in five will be a victim of sexual assault during college.  Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances.”  This is where Circle of 6 can help.  It is designed for college students and is modeled after the idea that there is safety in numbers, even if you might be separated from your friends at the time you need help.  After downloading Circle of 6, users must choose six trusted friends from their contact list who live near them.  A text message is then sent to these six notifying them that you have put them in your circle.  The app is very simple and uses icons to represent actions so no one around you can see what you are doing.

With just two taps, users can immediately send text messages to the six people in their circle.  The user can send a message asking friends to call and pretend they need the person in order to serve as an interruption and chance for her or him to leave.  The user can also ask for her or his six friends to come get her/him because she/he needs help getting home safely.  GPS technology allows a Google Map to be sent with the message so friends know exactly where to go.  Phone numbers for national hotlines are pre-programmed into the app, and local hotline numbers can be entered as well.  There is also a button that will send a message to everyone in your circle to let them know that you have received help and are safe.  Circle of 6 provides young people with concrete strategies to support each other and stop sexual assault from occurring in their circle.

Love is Not Abuse was started in 1991 by Liz Claiborne Inc. to help combat domestic violence.  The Love is Not Abuse App “is designed to teach parents – in a very real way – about the dangers of teen dating abuse and provides a dramatic demonstration of how technology can be used to commit abuse. Over the course of the experience, text messages, emails and phone calls will be received real-time, mimicking the controlling, abusive behaviors teens might face in their relationships.”  It is often hard to begin to understand what victims and survivors of dating violence go through, and this app gives a small glimpse into what forms of digital abuse a teen might face.  Users can select different examples of abuse they wish to experience, such as threats, excessive contact, sexting, and privacy invasion.  For the forms that the app is unable to simulate, users can watch short video clips that provide examples of that type of abuse and the effect it can have on a teen.

The app provides immediate, concrete, steps for parents to take if they are concerned their child may be a victim of dating abuse or may be an abuser.  It offers suggestions for how to talk to your teen about dating violence and tell them that no one deserves to be abused.  This app challenges the notion that all abuse is physical.  You often might not be able to tell if a teen is involved in an abusive relationship just by looking at her or him.  Even if you are not a parent, it is a great app to check out because it allows you to experience first-hand some of the forms of abuse victims of dating violence are facing and also learn more about dating abuse.

There are positives and negatives to all apps, so we encourage all iPhone users to download the Circle of 6 and Love is Not Abuse apps and see if they would serve as good resources for you.  These apps provide two more ways that we can help make sure our friends and family members are safe in their relationships and provide them with concrete ways to escape a potentially violent situation.

 

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 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 March 29, 2012

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally passed in 1994 in response to the prevalence of domestic violence and the pervasive effects that it has on victims’ and survivors’ lives.  The Act is set up to be authorized about every five years and was thus reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S.1925) was introduced in the Senate on November 30, 2011 and appeared before the Committee on the Judiciary on February 7, 2012.  VAWA is set to be brought before the Senate in the near future, possibly even this week.

Upon introducing VAWA on the Senate Floor, Senator Leahy, the Sponsor of the Act, made a statement urging all Senators to support VAWA.  He stated, “[VAWA] seeks to expand the law’s focus on sexual assault, to ensure access to services for all victims of domestic and sexual violence, and to address the crisis of domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, among other important steps.  It also responds to these difficult economic times by consolidating programs, reducing authorization levels, and adding accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used efficiently and effectively.”  He notes that for the past eighteen years, the Violence Against Women Act has been “the centerpiece of the Federal Government’s commitment to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” 

In 2009 more than two thousand advocates responded to national conference calls and surveys regarding the most pressing issues facing victims and survivors of interpersonal violence and the barriers to full implementation of VAWA.  Subsequently, the responses were recorded and three of the top issues recognized were barriers to service for undocumented victims, lack of services to LGBTQ victims, and high levels of violence among Native Alaskan and Native American women.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women states, “VAWA programs…give law enforcement, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while supporting victims.”  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 includes several changes to the Reauthorization Act of 2005, including providing more resources for underserved populations, enhancing law enforcement and judicial tools to combat violence against women, strengthening the healthcare system’s response to interpersonal violence, and providing safe homes, economic security, and legal services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Fact sheets detailing the specifics of the many facets of VAWA and examples of what organizations receive funding from VAWA can be found here.

On February 13, 2012 The Diane Rehm Show, aired by NPR and WAMU 88.5, hosted three women to discuss “Objections to Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act”.  Listen to the broadcast here.  The panel of women included Amy Myers, Professor and Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, and Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America.  Myers and O’Neill voiced their support for VAWA, while Crouse shared her concerns with the Act.  Crouse argued that there are no indicators that VAWA has reduced the occurrence of interpersonal violence.  However, the U.S. Department of Justice has reported that since VAWA was first enacted, reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51%.  Myers and O’Neill rebut Crouse’s claim by stating that the rise in reporting evidences the increased visibility and accessibility of services to victims and survivors.  Organizations like legal clinics and shelters are saving lives.   Homicides at the hands of intimate partners have decreased by 57% for men and 34% for women, which is reported to have a direct correlation with the increase in legal aid and protection orders due to the Violence Against Women Act.

Amy Myers shared that the Centers for Disease Control reported that for the 1.6 billion that was allocated for VAWA in 1994, the United States saved 12.6 billion dollars, which can be attributed to decreased spending on health care, police forces, and lost wages due to injury.  Terry O’Neill believes that the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 needs to be passed and fully funded because “it is a start.”  There are many reasons why people from both political parties believe that VAWA does not do enough, but she believes that this should not be a reason to not pass the Act.

There are currently sixty co-sponsors of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, including North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan.  However, Senator Richard Burr is not a co-sponsor of VAWA.  If you support VAWA, please contact your Senators and share your opinions.  The phone number for Senator Burr’s Office is (202)224-3154 and the phone number for Senator Hagan’s Office is (202)224-6342.  Consider thanking Senator Kay Hagan for co-sponsoring VAWA and urging her to continue to support all victims and survivors of interpersonal violence.  Consider urging Senator Richard Burr to support VAWA and vote yes when the Act reaches the Senate Floor.  No matter your opinion regarding the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, please take the time to contact Senators Burr and Hagan to share your opinions on this extremely important matter that affects far too many Americans.  Have questions or comments about VAWA?  Please share them below!

*Please note that the embedded links that reference Thomas.gov may not link to the page cited because the website deletes searches thirty minutes after creation.  To find out more about VAWA, please visit THOMAS (The Library of Congress) at www.thomas.gov, select search by “Bill Number”, and enter S.1925 into the search engine.   From there, all of the information regarding the legislation referenced in this post can be accessed.  Thank you!

 

Lucky February 20, 2012

I was directed to a blog* recently, to read a post about unwanted/undesired touching. The writer of the blog, Molly, was reflecting on a question asked on a health history form at her doctor’s office. On the form amid a list of items which you were expected to check if you had experienced, was this item: “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual touching.” Molly almost skipped over the item not checking it, moving on. But she stopped to dwell on the statement and realized she had experienced plenty of unwanted/undesired physical or sexual touching in her life. She recalled moments such as:

  • being forcefully kissed in a club
  • having a person stand too close to her
  • feeling the pressure of hard penises against her as she maneuvered a club
  • people physically moving her rather than asking her to move
  • partners touching her sexually in ways they knew she didn’t like

All of these acts are things which you, just like Molly originally did, might be inclined to gloss over. Words like unwanted, undesired, and sexual when put together have come to mean rape, molestation, or sexual abuse.  If what a person has experienced does not fall into their idea of what rape, molestation or sexual abuse is, than as Molly says, you think “nothing has happened to me, really, right? I’m supposed to feel lucky, right, given that I’m a woman in a culture where horrible things very often happen to girls and women?” Where horrible things happen to boys and men too. You are inclined to write it off.  You have perhaps had bad experiences, but really you should be grateful because you did not have anything truly traumatic happen. You do not have a reason to check the box.

False.

Rape, molestation and sexual abuse are terrible things and no one should ever have to experience them. Perhaps you feel grateful that you have never experienced one of those events (if you haven’t) and I am not going to say that feeling is not natural or unjustified but I want us to consider where this feeling of gratefulness or relief or “luck” comes from.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines luck as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual,” and “favoring chance.” In these three definitions there is a complete lack of autonomy. Luck is driven by something a person has no control over. It’s a “force” or a “circumstance” or “chance.”  Which means you are just as likely to have good luck as you are to have bad luck. And that’s what people mean when they say lucky, right? You have good luck, as opposed to that person over there, who has bad luck. What Molly hints at, and what I believe, is that it is not okay that my personal safety, my body and my well-being are apparently left up to luck. And this social tendency to rank our experiences as “lucky” and “unlucky” have made us ignore our natural rights: the right to feel safe and to be a whole person.

A few years ago, I read Alice Sebold’s memoir about being raped. It is called Lucky.  Sebold was raped when she was a first year in college. Throughout her experience reporting the rape to pursuing charges to going through the trial for her rapist, she was told she was lucky many times. One reason she was deemed lucky is that the site where she was raped is the same site where another girl was murdered. Alice is therefore “lucky” because she was alive. I think this logic is problematic. There will always be a situation in which some point of experience will have been “worse” for someone else than it was for you. That does not make you “lucky.” Sebold did not feel lucky just because she was alive because she was living with the aftermath of being raped. Life shouldn’t be a competition where one person’s experience invalidates our own. Any moment in which you feel unsafe or uncomfortable is unacceptable. And our need to rank these invasions to our safety hierarchically only serves to silence, stigmatize, and prohibit change.

This need to rank experiences is an epidemic pervasive in our society. It is not just sexual assaults which are ranked, but everything. These rankings are accompanied by an unspoken meaning. Whose partner is cuter translates to who is a more worthy partner because the worthiest of course gets the most attractive. Whose class schedule is harder matters because the hardest schedule gets more of a right to complain when thing are bad, brag when grades are good, and make excuses when they do not meet other obligations. And then there are bigger problems the ones that go beyond person to person into individual to social. Such as I was touched inappropriately but it wasn’t rape so I shouldn’t say anything. My partner slapped me but there wasn’t a mark so it’s not really that bad. All of these justifications people make are unfair and invalidating. Society has built a hierarchy in which rape trumps a forced kiss and physical violence trumps intentional and repeated humiliation. It has been ingrained within us that if our experience is trumped than it is not worth mentioning. We are being whiny or over-reacting because in reality we are lucky, because nothing worse has happened.

I don’t want to live in that world. I don’t want to have to feel lucky when a bad thing happens just because something worse didn’t happen. That world stunts emotional growth. It causes individuals to minimize or deny their own feelings and to feel that they must accept the actions done to him/her. It causes us to overlook the basic, obvious truth: these bad things don’t have to happen. Committing violence is not innate behavior.  It is a learned behavior, which means it is something that people pick up in various ways through the socialization process. If we continue this “lucky” rhetoric, it implies that we, as a society cannot do anything to stop sexual violence. And we can.

One way we can start down that road is to stop buying into the hierarchies of experience. If a friend is telling you about a bad day, don’t cut them off to tell them how much worse yours was. If someone’s partner screamed at them and made them feel belittled, don’t brush it off and say “well, it could have been worse.” And conversely, remember that your feelings are valid. If whoever you share an experience with minimizes what to you was a significant event, go tell someone else. Find someone who will give you the support you deserve. Because you don’t need to feel “lucky.” If luck is the absence of assaults on our person, than why are we accepting anything less than everyone being lucky? Let’s stop accepting less. Remember: Your experiences are valid. Your emotions are important. And your safety matters. Don’t skip over the box just because the worst thing hasn’t happened to you.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comment area below.

*The writer of the blog has asked that her blog not be linked.

 

Time to Talk Day! December 8, 2011

Filed under: dating violence,domestic violence — Elizabeth Johnson @ 2:32 pm
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Stephanie Piston is a survivor of domestic abuse. Since leaving an abusive relationship 17 years ago, she has become active in the community, spreading awareness and speaking out against domestic violence and its effects on victims. For the last several years, Piston has acted as the New York state action leader for the Love is Not Abuse (LINA), an initiative of Liz Claiborne, Inc. LINA’s primary goal is to educate preteens and teenagers about domestic abuse through curriculums enacted in their schools; however, they have also created “It’s Time to Talk Day”, which will be held today, Thursday December 8th.

It’s Time to Talk Day is intended to highlight the importance of all sectors becoming involved in domestic violence-related issues. This includes government leaders, the media, the non-profit sector, as well as the private sector.  On December 8th, Piston will join other LINA state action leaders and members of similar organizations to discuss the subject of domestic abuse. They will be joined by domestic violence experts, state and federal attorney generals, corporate leaders, legislators, celebrities, parents and teens at Liz Claiborne Inc. in New York City. All members will participate in a national day of discussion and awareness on domestic violence. This includes both a national dialogue as well as discussions between parents and teenagers. Piston hopes that the day will present an opportunity to bring the conversation to light and open discussion between parents and their children.

While It’s Time to Talk Day presents a much-needed opportunity to bring light to the subject of domestic violence, abuse won’t stop when the holiday is over.  When so many victims suffer in silence, we should look for opportunities every day to encourage people to talk about interpersonal violence. What can we do to spread the energy and enthusiasm of It’s Time to Talk Day throughout the entire year?

 

_Family Guy_ episode blames victims, perpetuates stereotypes…all in 30 min! November 19, 2011

Filed under: dating violence,Victim Blaming,Why do they stay? — Elizabeth Johnson @ 10:44 am
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From a guest blogger, one of our MSW Interns:

Although I do not usually watch Family Guy, it was hard to ignore the deluge of angry headlines criticizing a recent episode: “Screams of Silence”. As a fan of both bad TV and educational opportunities concerning domestic violence, I decided to watch it for myself.

The episode re-introduces us to Quagmire’s little sister, Brenda, who comes to town with her abusive boyfriend, Jeff. Brenda and Jeff encapsulate every stereotype of an abusive relationship: he is a large and overly aggressive; she is small and timid.  Jeff constantly berates Brenda in front of her family and friends and at one point in the show, drags her into another room where you can actually hear her being beaten. Quagmire and friends are, of course, immediately shocked and horrified at what they see and hear.  The men ask Lois to talk to Brenda, who denies the severity of the abuse and makes excuses for Jeff’s behavior.

At one point in the show, Brenda’s friends and family stage an intervention in which they accuse her of being a “punching bag” and berate her for allowing the abuse to continue. The fact that this intervention was portrayed as a serious approach to dealing with a survivor of domestic violence was horrifying. Victims are not responsible for their partner’s actions; blaming them for abuse only reinforces feelings of shame and guilt that contribute to their reluctance to seek help. Furthermore, forcing victims to choose between their social support and an abuser is a dis-empowering approach. Ultimately, this will only increase the isolation the victim, making it more difficult for them to leave the relationship. Unfortunately, this is the scene that millions of viewers will remember as a legitimate method for helping victims. Instead of an intervention, Family Guy could have portrayed more realistic treatment options: Brenda could have visited a local domestic violence center, stayed at an overnight shelter, or attended a support group for victims. If the writers could poke fun at an intervention, they surely could have found the humor in a more legitimate alternative.

I don’t expect accurate depictions of reality from shows such as Family Guy, which is why I found the topic of this episode to be completely inappropriate. Because there are so few realistic representations of domestic violence on TV, generalized stereotypes—even if they are intended as satire—are often the only exposure many people have to these situations. Promoting misconceptions about domestic abuse is harmful and discourages victims from seeking help.  Shows that choose to feature domestic violence have a responsibility to understand the basic dynamics of abusive relationships in order to protect the integrity and rights of victims. If shows such as Family Guy feel that they absolutely must use domestic violence for comedic effect, they should feature a more representative portrayal of the issue. Even something as simple as the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline flashed at the end of the show could have the potential to save lives.  I hope to see future shows covering domestic violence in a constructive way that brings attention to the complexity of the issue while providing resources and information to victims, their families, and their friends.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in an intimate partner relationship, please call our 24 hour hotline: 919 929 7122.

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month October 3, 2011

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) or Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM). FVPC is partnering with the Carolina Women’s Center (CWC), Project Dinah, UNC Counseling and Wellness (CWS), and Men@Carolina to host events all month long that bring awareness to the issue of relationship violence.

Please come out to as many events as you can and bring friends!

RVAM Kick Off Event: Monday-Thursday Oct. 3-5

10 am – 1pm, Polk Place

Come out to Polk Place to find out more information about healthy relationships and the various RVAM events. Groups in attendance include, FVPC, CWC, Project Dinah, Men@Carolina, and the UNC LGBTQ Center.

Sin By Silence movie screening

Wed. Oct 5 – Noon, Graham Memorial 039

CWC is sponsoring a Brown Bag Film Screening of Sin By Silence, a documentary following the creation of Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA).

Telling Amy’s Story

Monday, Oct. 10, 3pm Graham Memorial 039

CWC and Verizon are partnering to bring Telling Amy’s Story to campus. The film follows the time line of a domestic violence homicide. It follows the family, friends, and court officials perspectives of what happened to Amy in the time before her death. There will be a discussion following the film.

Speak Out!

Wednesday Oct. 12, 7-9pm, The Pit

Project Dinah and Men@Carolina are hosting the annual Speak Out! event. Members of the group will read anonymous survivor stories that have been posted on the Speak Out Blog. There will also be a key note speaker, and open mic portion when audience members will be allowed to share their own stories. It is a powerful night of empowerment, an effort to break the silence around relationship violence.

Lecture: Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professor

Tuesday October 25 7pm University Room, Hyde Hall

Professor Elaine Lawless, is visiting UNC-Duke for the 2011-2012 academic year as a Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professor. She will be giving a public lecture on her research on violence against women.

Wednesday, Oct. 26, 3pm Graham Memorial 039

CWC will be sponsoring a screening of Sisters in Law, a film following two women in a small town in Cameroon who are fighting for convictions in domestic violence cases. The documentary is both fascinating and at times humorous as the audience follows State Prosecutor, Vera Ngassa, and Court President, Beatrice Ntuba and their fight for justice.

LUNAFEST

Thursday, Oct. 27, 6:30 pm Reception, 7pm Screening, Varsity Theater

Sponsored by FVPC, LUNAFEST is a traveling film festival,that shows award-winning short films for and about women. The year there will be nine films shown. Proceeds will benefit FVPC and the Breast Cancer Fund.  Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for everyone else and $7 for students & $12  for general public at the door.

Mark your calendars and come to as many of these fabulous events as possible!