Thursday, April 30, 2009

Know Your Rights Thursday

"Even if a woman sells her body for sex (which is illegal), she still has the right to seek legal protection for crimes committed against her, like rape and abuse."

Read more about prostitution and domestic violence on

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Abuse of "Rape" Part II came out with a story called, "'I was Raped' Should Horrify - But Our Culture Has Stripped the Word of Its Power".

This is very similar to the post we did a few weeks ago about people twittering the word "rape". Opp, here's another one my TweetDeck just informed me of - posted by rynedude233, "This week has been going by so fast. At this rate all of my finals will sneak up and gang-rape me sometime soon."

What is it with people equating tough exams with rape? Difficult geometry exam or unwanted sexual acts? I don't see the common thread.

I do like that this issue is getting more attention, however. Thanks for the article.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Knightley PSA Banned

I'm sure most of you have heard about the PSA Keira Knightley acted in a few weeks ago which received over 1 million YouTube hits. In case you haven't, it depicts Knightley coming home to a violent boyfriend and graphic scenes of him beating her.

The Independent Media reports that British TV, which had planned to show the ad, will only air it if the most violent scenes are cut.

There is much controversy about this.

On one hand, it is important to unmask the mystery of domestic violence and educate people about an issue which deserves serious understanding and attention.

On the other hand, is it necessary to depict such a violent scene as the one in the PSA to achieve this goal? This PSA is incredibly violent. As someone who gets queasy just seeing blood, I was so distracted by the violence that the purpose for me was nearly lost in my nausea (of course, since I work in the field I don't need much more education on the subject.)

However, others argue that the need for such graphic depiction is essential to the message. Rook22 says in his blog, "Perhaps seeing Knightley knocked down will resonate with someone who's neighbor is a victim of domestic violence, but they have been reluctant to help."

Necessary or needlessly graphic? What do you think?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bureaucratic Error Endangers Woman and Kids

ABC Local news reported yesterday about a bureaucratic error which put a woman and her three children in danger by giving the children's father (an abuser) their confidential home address on a government form from child services.

After getting numerous restraining orders and divorcing her now ex-husband, the woman moved to Long Island with her three children and tried to make sure her new address was keep confidential on all court documentation. Due to a failure in the system, which does not mark custody paperwork as having come from a domestic violence situation, her ex husband was sent a letter with her home address printed on it.

In a fair and just world, the state of NY would pay for this woman and her family to relocated to a new home, where her abuser will not know her address. Unfortunately, the System simply apologized for the error and recommended she move into a shelter. recently wrote a new page called When the Legal System Fails You, in case you or someone you know needs a different kind of help than the courts can provide.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Know Your Rights Thursdays

"You have the right to fire a court-appointed attorney even if you are not paying him/her – however, think carefully BEFORE you do this because the judge might not appoint a second attorney for you."

Read more about things you can do When the Legal System Fails You at

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Is Domestic Violence?


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Know Your Rights Thursday

"You have to right to legal protection from the United States if you are a victim of crime (including domestic violence) regardless of your legal status."

Read more about UVisas here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Please vote! was nominated for a Webby Award! This is like the Oscars for Websites! Please vote for us here. (Click website and then Law category). We are thrilled! Thank you to everyone who made this possible!

A Few Things About the Word "Rape"

As the white knight of Twitter, WomensLaw was busy this afternoon getting out the word about our services, when we came across the most horrendous uses of the word "rape" in users' tweets. Twitter has this fantastic search function where one can search keywords and all tweets containing those words will appear in the search listings. WomensLaw uses this function to find people in cyberspace who are looking for information about domestic violence, and then tweets them an appropriate link to our website.

I digress. Here are some examples of the way people are carelessly and harmfully throwing around the word "rape":

"If you force sex on a hooker, is it rape or shoplifting?"

Oh thats it. Im a republican now. I just had to pay even MORE in taxes than the rape i have endured all year!!"

The test didnt rape me, but i didnt like it."

One nice thing i've noticed about NIN is they don't rape you on ticket cost, unlike Depeche Mode who want $90 a ticket."

Okay, so you get the idea. These were also the tamest of the ways which the word "rape" is misused. I am incredibly disturbed by this. Rape is a serious and terrible assault on someone's human rights; the severity of which is undermined when people use the word as common slang. If someone can say "That test raped me" then it takes real power away from someone else saying "That man raped me". See?

Adding to further despair, I happened to see Observe and Report with Anna Faris this weekend, which portrays a very real date rape scene, which the media is in a frenzied debate over at the moment. Some say its humorous, and others say offensive.

What do you all think? Have you heard the word "rape" misused, or seen other instances where sexual assault is devalued?


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Know Your Rights Thursdays

"You have just as much a right to decide the custody arrangement as the other parent. If you disagree with what the other parent wants, you have the right to ask a judge for what you want."

Read more about Custody rights here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Women's Economic Equality

What does the stimulus package mean for women? And how does it affect victims of domestic violence?

Legal Momentum helped answer these questions last week at a panel discussion titled "Women's Economic Equality: The Next Frontier in Women's Rights" at Cornell University's NYC campus. The panel included Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum, Heather Boushey, Senior Economist, Mimi Abramovitz, Professor of Social Work, and Linda Hirshman, professor of women's studies and self proclaimed "feminist mouthpiece".

Even if the economy were not in such a sorry state, inequality for women in the workplace has always been an issue; and one that generations of feminists have fought to see improved. For example, pregnancy and family responsibilities have hindered women's jobs significantly more than men's, and nearly 90% of people receiving government assistance are women.

In what is being hailed by Heather Boushey as the "worst economic crisis in this lifetime" there has been a disproportionate impact on gender, in terms of both jobs lost and how the stimulus package provides help. Here is how:

1) Four out of every five jobs that are being lost in this recession are men's jobs, which means women are re-entering the workforce or becoming the sole breadwinner. Since women still make about .78 cents to every $1 men can earn, their earning power is much less. This is a problem.

2) The stimulus package, as Linda Hirshman points out in her NYTimes OpEd, "Where Are the New Jobs for Women", is mostly aimed at creating new jobs in infrastructure and alternative engergy - - for construction workers and engineers, both areas where women make up a small percentage of the workforce.

Furthermore, the stimulus package leaves out plans to help areas of the economy where women make up the majority of workers, such as teachers, nurses, caretakers, etc.

Now what about women who are already disadvantaged by abusive relationships? We have discussed in the past that economic hardship can lead to an increase in violence, but what does the current economy mean for women who are trying to leave their abusers and become self sufficient? With enough obstacles already in front of them, now there is the disadvantage of hardly any jobs available and not much aid from the stimulus package.

Now is the time to draw attention to women's economic equality issues, while we re-make the economy through policy and practice. To read more about the work Legal Momentum is doing, check them out here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why Do Men Hit?

How frequently have you heard people ask, "Why do women stay with men who hit them"?

Progressive feminist writer and women's studies professor, Shira Tarrant, author of The Man Files at Girl With Pen, raises this exact point in her most recent article "Serious Talk About Men's Violence".

Tarrant writes, "The most effective way to end violence against women is to stop the problem before it happens. Doing so means we need men on board. We need men taking responsibility, getting in on the conversations about male violence, and refusing to be silent bystanders to the problem."

Domestic violence has traditionally been treated as a women’s issue. Besides constituting the majority of victims, women make up the greater part of the workforce in the field. Additionally, the focus of the work has been on helping victims leave their abusers and restore their sense of agency and independence.

To stop violence before it begins, attention needs to be directed towards young boys and men, specifically those who show a predisposition towards violence. This can happen by researching risk factors, as well as providing better rehabilitation for proven abusers. Additionally, men need to be involved in the movement to end violence against women. Men like Jackson Katz are leading the movement in this way.

Since the cycle of abuse hurts everybody, domestic violence is a societal issue, not just a woman's problem.

So why then, do men hit? And why aren't we asking that question?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Know Your Rights Thursdays

We're starting a new tradition here at WomensLaw Reports - Know Your Rights Thursday. For our first posting:

You have the right the call 911 if your abuser violates the restraining order.

You can read more about how a restraining order can protect you here.