One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Judge Orders Dinner and Bowling for Domestic Violence Abuser February 23, 2012

Some thoughts from our Women’s Studies Intern, Amelia, on a recent domestic violence case in Florida—

On February 7, 2012, a Florida judge ordered Joseph Bray, who appeared in court for a bond hearing on domestic violence charges, to take his wife out on a date to dinner at Red Lobster and bowling.  A victim of domestic violence should not be ordered to spend more time with her abuser.  In addition, couples counseling was mandated.  Judge John Hurley, instead of setting a bond for Bray, released him immediately and provided him with an illogical sentence.

Watch the video of the court proceedings here.

While Judge Hurley explains his punishment to Bray, the defendant and his attorney break out into laughter.  Domestic violence is not a laughing matter.  The Judge’s reasoning for the obscure order?  The offense was “very, very minor.”  Joseph Bray pushed his wife onto the couch, put his hands around her neck, and positioned his hand in a fist as if to punch her.  This was the second time that Sonja Bray had called police due to physical attacks she endured at the hands of her husband.

Judge Hurley did not believe that a protective order was necessary.  What about Sonja Bray?  Does she feel unsafe around her husband?  Ideally, victims and survivors should be given time to talk to a member of the court in private about what she or he would like to see happen.  Instead, Judge Hurley questioned Sonja about her husband in front of him and a courtroom full of strangers, asking questions such as: Is she in fear of him?  Does she think that he will cause any harm to her?  Why did he treat her like this?  Ideally, these are questions that should have been asked in private where Sonja could have felt safe enough to answer them in confidence.  A judge should not simply deem that a protective order is unnecessary due to his or her own personal opinions on the matter.

Judge Hurley’s sentence is a prime example that our legal system can actually work against victims at times.  As Haley Cutler, a domestic violence advocate in Broward County where the case was heard, stated in an interview, “Judge Hurley’s ruling makes light of the real risks posed to domestic violence victims, demonstrates a lack of understanding about the dynamics of domestic violence and contributes to a culture and climate where victims feel betrayed by the system and batterers feel empowered by it.”  I could not agree more.  Judge Hurley’s action could conceivably put Sonja Bray into more danger by questioning her in front of her abuser, allowing him to be released from jail immediately without bail and without a protective order, forcing her to go on a date with him, and minimizing the severity of her case in front of the courtroom.

We must also consider what other victims of intimate partner violence in Broward County, Florida who have heard this story might be feeling or thinking.  In fear of being treated in the same insensitive manner, they may feel afraid or uncomfortable to report abuse they may be experiencing.  This can also be extended to all victims and survivors of any violent crime.  Judge Hurley’s sentence is an example of the type of behavior that can potentially silence victims and survivors.

Local domestic violence advocates are asking residents to call Chief Judge Peter Weinstein and demand that Hurley “participate in judiciary training about the dynamics of domestic violence” and apologize.    People across the country can send a message to Broward County that how Hurley handled Joesph Bray’s case is not okay.   If you would like to express your concern about this case, the number for Chief Justice Peter Weinstein’s office is (954) 831-5506.  I plan to begin law school in the fall, and I find it hard to accept a legal system that does not advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence.   How do you feel about this?  Please share your comments!


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.


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.


Domestic Violence Should Not Be Downplayed February 16, 2012

Filed under: domestic violence — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:36 am
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Three years ago, on February 8, 2009, R&B singers Rihanna and Chris Brown were set to take the stage and perform at the Grammy Music Awards.  The couple had been dating publicly for about a year.  However, that Sunday morning Brown severely beat Rihanna in a Los Angeles neighborhood.  The injuries she sustained caused her to cancel her appearance at the awards show.  Chris Brown turned himself in to the LAPD later that evening.  Despite felony charges of making criminal threats and domestic violence, Brown was only sentenced to five years probation.  He has yet to complete all of the conditions.

Following the attack, Chris Brown’s reputation plummeted; however, this didn’t last long.  Since 2009, Chris Brown has refrained from attending any Grammy Music Award shows, despite being nominated.  During a 2011 interview on Good Morning America, Brown was questioned about his abusive relationship with Rihanna by Robin Roberts.  He diverted questions to the promotion of his new album and abstained from directly responding to the comments regarding his abuse.  Following the interview, Chris Brown returned to his dressing room, destroyed it, broke a window, and ripped off his shirt.  After being escorted out of the building by security, Brown was then arrested.  It is obvious that Roberts’ questions regarding his abuse pushed some buttons.  Brown’s damage to his dressing room as well as his inability to discuss his role as an abusive partner exemplifies the fact that he shows little remorse for his actions and still harbors abusive propensities.

At the 2012 Grammys, Chris Brown took the stage to perform and even won an award for Best R&B Album.  Immediately following the Grammys on Sunday night, Buzz Feed posted “25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions To Chris Brown At The Grammys”.  The list includes twenty-five tweets that were posted following Chris Brown’s appearance at the event.  While all are extremely troubling, a few that stand out are:

2. “Everyone shut up about Chris brown being a woman beater…S*** he can beat me up all night if he wants”

4. “I’d let Chris Brown beat me up anytime ; ) #womanbeater”

12. “I don’t know why Rihanna complained.  Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.”

19. “i wish chris brown would punch me”

24. “chris brown can punch me whenever he wants #love”

One of the writers wishes that Chris Brown would physically attack her.  No one should wish violence upon themselves.  Another writer tags “love” after stating that Chris Brown can punch her.  It is important to understand that abuse does not belong in a healthy and loving relationship.  Many of the Twitter responses urge society to let go of the fact that Chris Brown beat his girlfriend only three years ago.  We shouldn’t.  Many argue that his performance at the Grammys shows that Brown has redeemed himself and deserves to be forgiven.  He doesn’t.

Chris Brown, his staff, and his fans think that it is time to move on.  It isn’t.  Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects far too many people.  The fact that Chris Brown violently beat Rihanna, his now ex-partner, will always matter.  We should not “forgive and forget” an individual who victimized his partner.  No woman deserves to be told that the abuse she suffered is meaningless and can be easily pardoned.  Society has downplayed domestic violence for far too long.  Like the title of our blog shows, one in four women is affected by domestic violence in her lifetime.  It is time for society to stand up for these women and show that their suffering at the hands of their abusers will not be tolerated and will not be forgotten as time passes.

We here at FVPC strongly believe that education is necessary to inform society about domestic violence and the effects it has on survivors.  No one deserves to live a life of violence.  No one should wish violence upon themselves, no matter the celebrity status of the hoped-for-perpetrator.  Understanding what healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships look like is key.  FVPC’s Start Strong program starts conversations with sixth and eighth grade students throughout the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System on these topics.  Talking about what different relationships look like allows individuals to know what comprises a healthy relationship and also recognize the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship so that they can hopefully seek help.

We hope that the students who we have encountered through Start Strong recognize the implications of glorifying Chris Brown despite his partner abuse.  We hope that they can apply what they learn in our programs to their personal lives and seek healthy relationships.  And lastly, we hope that the individuals featured on Buzz Feed’s list of tweets, as well as the rest of Chris Brown’s fans, think twice about their support and about the role that domestic violence plays in all of our lives.

Chris Brown has been a hot topic to discuss after his appearance at the Grammy Music Awards.  Do you have an opinion about all of this?  If you have access to social media, use it to let others know how you feel about Chris Brown’s glorification in the media and what this says about our society’s attitude about domestic violence, abusive partners, and survivors.  Tweet about it, post it on your Facebook wall, or message a friend.  Share your thoughts!


A New Spin on Valentine’s Day February 14, 2012

Filed under: donating — Women's Studies Intern @ 10:10 am
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In the February 2012 issue of Oprah’s O Magazine, Donna Brazile offers readers a few ways to shake up their usual Valentine’s Day celebrations, which includes donating to victims and survivors of domestic violence.  She writes, “There is a dark side to love, and it leaves too many women and children in dire straits.”  However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, take time to think about the women and men currently and formerly involved in abusive relationships.  Donna Brazile is right.  Donating to domestic violence centers is a great way to show your care for others by supporting women and children in difficult situations.  If you are looking to donate money or other items at any time of the year, we hope you keep us in mind.  As a private, non-profit agency, a portion of our annual budget comes from private contributions.

We are also currently accepting the following donations:

  • Gas and grocery gift cards
  • Cell phones
  • Unexpired dry goods or food staples; i.e. beans, macaroni and cheese, pasta, canned sauce, dry cereal, canned tuna, dinners in a box (not frozen)
  • Diapers and baby wipes

If you have any other items that you would like to donate, there are other great centers in the area that also accept donations.  Try contacting the Inter Faith Council in Chapel Hill or the PTA Thrift Stores in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  For information on what items are accepted at the Inter Faith Council as well as phone numbers to contact, please visit  The phone number for the PTA Thrift Store Donation Center is (919) 942-9412.

Thank you for your support!


RAD Program Dates February 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Women's Studies Intern @ 11:58 am

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Public Safety  recently released the dates for its next RAD class, which is taking place throughout the Spring 2012 semester.  RAD, or Rape, Aggression, and Defense, is a comprehensive hands-on self defense training for women.  The instructional objective of the program is “to develop and enhance the options of self defense, so such options become viable considerations to women who might be attacked.”  Participants meet five separate times throughout the semester.  The next RAD class is scheduled for the following dates and times:

Wednesday, Feb. 29th                         6:30 – 8:30 PM

Wednesday, March 14th                      6:30 – 8:30 PM

Wednesday, March 21st                      6:30 – 8:30 PM

Wednesday, March 28th                      6:30 – 8:30 PM

Wednesday, April 4th                          6:30 – 8:30 PM

Please visit to find out more about the program.  The registration form can be found at  RAD is a great opportunity for all female students, faculty, and staff at UNC!

Class sizes are limited to twenty participants, so make sure to sign up soon if you are interested!


HAVEN and One Act Trainings: Spring 2012 February 7, 2012

Filed under: Allies,bystander intervention — Women's Studies Intern @ 2:37 pm
Tags: ,

Counseling and Wellness Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill just released its training opportunities for Spring 2012.  CWS offers HAVEN and One Act trainings, which are available to all students, faculty, and staff at UNC.

HAVEN is a collaboration between the Office of the Dean of Students, Counseling and Wellness Services, and the Carolina Women’s Center.  The program helps trained individuals respond to sexual and relationship violence in the campus community and become informed allies for survivors of interpersonal violence.  By becoming a HAVEN ally, you help create safe spaces on campus for students to obtain information, engage in discussion, and receive referrals.

Training information, schedules and registration information are available at

One Act is a bystander intervention training program that teaches students, staff, and faculty members how to recognize the early warning signs of interpersonal violence.  The training provides you with concrete skills and gives you the confidence to act to prevent violence when you see warning signs.

For information on One Act, please see  To register for a training or arrange for a group or club to be trained, please contact

Signing up for HAVEN and One Act trainings are great ways to become allies for survivors of interpersonal violence and also to take an active part in preventing these violent acts from occurring.  We strongly encourage all students, staff, and faculty members at UNC to become HAVEN and One Act trained!

Seats fill up quickly, so make sure to sign up soon!


Volunteer Spotlight: Tamsin Woolley February 3, 2012

Filed under: volunteering — Women's Studies Intern @ 12:36 pm

FVPC is dedicated to serving Orange County with a variety of services, including our 24-hour hotline.  Hotline Advocates assist clients in need with Domestic Violence Protective Orders, do safety planning, offer crisis counseling, refer out to partner agencies, screen for support group, and much more.  Advocates are an asset to the Center and provide essential services to clients.  Tamsin Woolley is one of our Hotline Advocates and she is this month’s “Volunteer Spotlight”!

How long have you been volunteering at FVPC?

Almost a year (10 months to be exact!)

What do you do with us?

Currently, I am an overnight advocate.  However, during the first 5 months I worked as a daytime advocate in the office assisting with the hotline and walk-in clients.  I also assisted Lisi in court as a court advocate (which was my favorite!).

How did you learn about FVPC?

I was searching for a domestic violence agency in the triangle to volunteer and came across the FVPC website!

Why do you volunteer?

I have a strong passion for working with women in domestic violence relationships.  I have always found personal joy in being able to empower women.  It is especially satisfying to help women in domestic violence relationships to find their voices and regain control of their lives.

What are your future plans/ideas?

For the long term, I’d love to end up working for a DV agency helping survivors and their children.  For the short term, I plan to continue being an overnight advocate through the duration of my MSW program.  I would also like to coordinate a spoken-word poetry event giving survivors and supporters the opportunity to share their stories and let their voices be heard through creativity.

What would you tell prospective volunteers?

There is not always a solution; sometimes all you can do is listen.  Listening is a very powerful but underused tool.  Being an advocate and spending time listening to the stories of women and men that haven’t been able to have their voices heard is appreciated.

Thank you so much for everything that you do, Tamsin!