One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

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

Filed under: community education,poverty,privilege — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:31 am
Tags: , , ,

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!


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 or by calling the Attorney General’s public comment line at (202) 353-1555.


Power, Privilege and Sexual Assualt June 13, 2011

Former IMF President (he resigned 5/19) Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of assaulting a hotel maid in Manhattan.   While Strauss-Kahn has portrayed himself as a victim (complaining about his “unfair” treatment after his arrest) to a woman lying to get attention and money, his record around sexual assault is hardly clean.  Since the assault two weeks ago, another woman Tristane Banon has come forward alleging that Strauss-Kahn assaulted her in 2007 while she attempted to interview him.  She discussed his sexist and disrespectful behavior towards women in the past.  The incident of alleged assault with this New York hotel service worker was not an isolated incident but rather a manifestation of the power and privilege afforded to Strauss-Kahn because of his position in the international community.  The women Strauss-Kahn harassed were inferior to him whether in employment positions or in class or race status.  His assumption that he could have sexual relations with this maid in Manhattan because of her social and class location relative to him is both disturbing and unfair. 

Ms. Magazine wrote had interesting commentary about men in power and their assumptions regarding consent. Author Michael Kimmel discusses both the New York Times and Time Magazine article’s theorizing why powerful men cheat and linking the phenomena of power with perceived consent and willingness of women to engage in sexual activity with men in high profile positions.  Kimmel references the gang rape of a young woman by football recruits at the University of Colorado in 2001.  While the athletes perceived that a majority of women wanted to have sex with them, in reality it was about one percent of women who were actually interested, their celebrity status so distorted their vision that they misconceived the sexual interest of women they encountered  Kimmel states: “This distorted perception goes to the heart of the Strauss-Kahn case. Because of his status, he may well have encountered women who let their availability be known. Just as obviously, he needn’t have acted on it. Being human, men are capable of making choices about when and with whom to unzip their trousers.”    The Strauss-Kahn case illustrates the entitlement that powerful men often feel that they deserve or have access to women because of their status.  While the woman Strauss-Kahn assaulted felt violated and clearly did not agree to any kind of sexual activity with him, it’s possible he perceived it as consensual because of his inflated sense of self worth.  Regardless of what Strauss-Kahn perceived that does not excuse his actions or justify his assault of that woman.

Tiffany Williams, Advocacy Director of the “Break the Chain” campaign, a project of the institute of policy studies in Washington DC focusing on providing social services to domestic workers who are victims of human trafficking or worker exploitation discusses how women in lower status jobs are often exploited by their bosses or clients in higher status positions.  She states  “Women who are household workers or “servants” are even more vulnerable to dehumanizing sexual assault than others because their relationships are inherently unequal to their employers.”  The story of men in privileged, powerful positions like Strauss-Kahn’s taking advantage of women in lower-status occupations is not new news.  Frankly, neither is the victim blaming response that always tends to surface in the media frenzy. (Recall Lara Logan).  This is a tired, perpetually insulting story that women set men up and then “cry rape” to get money from them or being more concerned about how assailants like Strauss-Kahn will “put their lives back together” rather than how victims will heal with and cope from the trauma of assault.

Every victim of abuse of any kind deserves to be supported and believed.  If you or someone you know is feeling unsafe or have been hurt call our hotline at 919-929-7122 to speak with a trained advocate.  Abuse is never a victims fault and they deserve compassion and to be believed.


Examining Privilege March 17, 2011

An incident in Arizona detailed in The New York Times here between a senator and his now ex-girlfriend reminds us of the power privilege can have in domestic violence situations. Senator Scott Bundgaard and Aubry Ballard both admit to hitting one another during an argument after leaving a fundraising event. Their stories varied somewhat but more interestingly, so did their fates when the police arrived to the scene of the incident. While Ms. Ballard was immediately arrested under domestic violence charges and put in jail for the night, Mr. Bundgaard called on a legislative immunity clause of the Arizona Constitution in order to escape incarceration. According to OSU professor Steven F. Huefner, “The legislative privilege should not become a get-out-of-jail-free card or escape-from-ever-being-put-in-jail card for state legislators,” but rather was intended to prevent civil cases from getting in the way of legislative duties.

What does it mean that Senator Bundgaard could invoke such a privilege to escape taking responsibility for a domestic violence related matter? Arizona police have told the press that the decision to file charges now lies with the prosecution. Even if charges are pressed, however, it seems that Mr. Bundgaard will be proving his guilt while Ms. Ballard, already jailed and

Note: Photo is not of victim, perpetrator, or anyone associated in any way with the incident described above.

without the protection of legislative immunity, will be proving her innocence. One also may wonder whether his status as an Arizona majority leader will once again work to diminish his guilt in this situation. While this may be a  extreme case of an abuse of power (and then again maybe it isn’t?), the use of power and control over a victim can certainly look very different for different people in different situations.

An abuser’s socioeconomic status, race, profession and gender may influence both the power that exists within the relationship itself and the way outsiders view the relationship. A recent post on Post Secret, shows another victim’s reaction to having what society may consider to be an atypical abuser. The text of the postcard, itself a close picture of a bruise, states, “white, educated, upper middle-class he’s not supposed to hit.” Unfortunately, a stereotype that often persists within our society is that abusers are poor and/or minorities. This belief is problematic on multiple levels.

Stereotypes portray minorities and those of lower economic status as immediately suspect and potentially dangerous. It also leads to the misconception that abusers are easily identifiable. We have often seen the opposite to be true at FVPC. Abusers may initially act quite charming in order to gain the trust and love of their victims. They may also work to make themselves seem trustworthy to family and friends in order to discredit any future claims of violence or unhappiness within the relationship. The belief that all abusers are poor and/or minorities may also work to the detriment of a victim living with an abuser who is neither poor nor a minority as she/he may feel as if she/he is not believed or as if she/he did something wrong to make this person violent. This in turn may lead to the re-victimization of the abuse victim, thus adding to their trauma.

We at FVPC would like to encourage a dialogue about privilege and the way the two are intertwined both in domestic violence situations and in everyday.  Try to put aside any preconceptions that you have and just *notice* the difference that may separate you from someone else, instead of judging it. If you would like guidance in any part of a conversation about relationship violence, please feel free to call our twenty-four hour hotline at 919-929-7122 and encourage others to do so.