Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New White House Adviser on Violence Against Women

Last week, Lynn Rosenthal was announced as the White House Adviser on Violence Against Women. This is a new position created to aid efforts in the fight to end violence against women in this country.

Lynn Rosenthal previously worked as the Director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence as well as with WomensLaw.org in 2008.

Read more about Lynn Rosenthal's work and the new position from the White House Press Release or from ABCNews Blog.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Teen Power and Control Wheel

Dating Violence Among Teens can look like:
  • Intimidation: Bullying you to get their way
  • Anger: Controls you with her/her anger
  • Threats: Threatens you, your friends or your family
  • Social Status: Using popularity to control relationship
  • Blame: Blames you for his or her anger
  • Peer Pressure: He or she spreads rumors or secrets about you
  • Sexual Coercion: Deliberate pregnancy or forced sexual acts
  • Isolation: Prevents you from spending time with you friends or family
To read more about dating violence among teens visit WomensLaw.org Teens page or more about what abuse can look like in Teen Relationships check out ABC's Teen Dating Violence: Warning Signs.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When She Doesn't Want to Leave

What safety factors can advocates consider when helping someone who wants to stay with her abuser? In “When Battered Women Stay: Advocacy Beyond Leaving,” Jill Davies emphasizes a need to expand the current approach used by DV advocates by creating strategies that protect and empower women who want to stay with their abusers.

A woman might choose to stay in her abusive relationship because the risks of leaving outweigh the risks of staying. Statistics show that women are in the most danger directly after they leave an abusive relationship
. Leaving may also create more stress and difficulty for a victim and her children, like financial barriers or relocating her home. A woman may also choose to stay because she wants to fix her relationship and hopes her partner will stop his abusive behavior.

Domestic violence advocates can support these women by:

1) working with the victims to develop strategies to increase their safety while still in the relationship
2) ending violent and controlling behavior while not demonizing the abusive partner and supporting them to change
3) better understanding children’s needs and build opportunities for their well-being and prevent future harm.

Domestic violence advocates may consider more
creative strategies when helping a woman who wants to stay in her relationship. Its important for domestic violence advocates to be aware of respecting a woman's choices and empowering her to navigate and define her own relationship, no matter if she stays or leaves.

For more information on preparing to leave check out our pages “Getting Ready to Leave,” "Leaving,” and “After You Have Left.” More information for domestic violence and sexual assault advocates is located on our “Helping Others – Advocates” page.


Signs of an Abuser

Some of the subtle warning signs include:
  • They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
  • They are extremely jealous.
  • They insist on moving too quickly into a relationship.
  • They criticize their partner’s appearance and make frequent put downs.
  • Their words and actions don’t match.
  • They insist that you stop participating in leisure activities or spending time with family and friends.
  • They many times seem too good to be true.
To read more about Domestic Violence visit WomensLaw.org.

Know Your Rights Thursday

"You have the right to see your family and friends, wear the clothing you choose and speak your mind."

If your partner is discouraging you from any of these things, your relationship could be abusive. To find out more read the Am I Being Abused? checklist on WomensLaw.org.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New “Anti-Stab” Knives

A knife with a new tip (see photo above) is to be released in the UK this fall, reports the BBC.

Many factors of the typical knife design have been re-considered. These new knives have blunt rounded tips which make it difficult to successfully injure another person. In the worst case scenario, these changes make stabbing injuries less severe and less likely to be fatal.

British police have noted kitchen knives as the most common weapon in fatal stabbings. Doctors have also been advocating for re-engineered kitchen knives to make stab wounds less fatal. One doctor explains the danger of common household knives:

“[They] are freely available to the very young and very old, and used by people who may be clumsy, short tempered, drunk or mentally or physically unwell. Most people fit into one or more of these categories at some time in their lives."

Domestic violence in homes can escalate out of control rapidly, so modifying a regular household item to make it less dangerous and reduce the potential for harm to women and their families is an important development. It is not hard to imagine the severity of the threat in which potentially lethal weapons are commonly used as objects of intimidation or worse. Let’s hope to see this in the USA as well as the UK!

To read more about Safety Planning if you are in an abusive relationship visit WomensLaw.org.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

$1.3 Million Not as Easy to Ignore as Rape in Prison

In Denver, a female inmate won a lawsuit for $1.3 million after being sexually assaulted by a Colorado Department of Corrections officer. She filed a lawsuit against the officer after suffering sexual abuse by him for over 5 months. The federal judge on the case, Judge David M. Ebel, awarded the female inmate $354,070 in compensatory damages for her medical costs and emotional suffering and $1 million in punitive damages against her assailant. It is a huge sum in order to make a point.

Judge Ebel wrote in his ruling “he hoped the damages would be a deterrent to other correctional officers” because “he believes the DOC does not effectively enforce a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse of inmates.” After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual contact, the guard only received a sentence of 60 days in jail.

For five months the female inmate was sexually assaulted. The assailant only spends 60 days in jail. The disparity is telling. $1.3 million tries to make up the difference.

Sexual assault is common in both men and women’s prisons across the US. In 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics surveyed over one million inmates across the country in state and federal prisons and found that 4.5% had been sexually abused in the previous year alone.

It is not news that the reform system in this country is in need of a serious overhaul, but it is deeply disturbing that human beings, albeit criminals, are being abused by the very people whose duty it is to protect them. Similar to domestic violence in the home, violence in prisons is another reflection of the deeply rooted nature of brutality and rape for power and control.

I’d agree with Judge Ebel: something more needs to be done to protect prisoners from the unchecked abuse of power that leads to rape.

For more information on rape in prisons check out here and here. Also read this interesting NYTimes piece “ReThinking Prison Design".


Friday, June 12, 2009

How To Report Child Pornography

If you see a website that you believe is child pornography, there are some things you can do to have it shut down:
And of course you can always email WomensLaw.org for more information about your situation.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Know Your Rights Thursday

“When you are injured by someone else you have the right to seek what the law refers to as "damages".”*

*Each state has their own laws about this. For more information about what you can do in your state you can call The National Center for Victims of Crime at:

1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255)

TTY 1-800-211-7996 (for deaf and hard of hearing only, please)

8:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. ET


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Boys will Be Boys?” Frat Culture and Sexual Violence

In the fascinating article, “Bros Before Hos: Fraternities and Sexual Exploitation”, Nicholas L. Syrett explores the link between Greek life on college and university campuses and sexual violence.

From the earliest fraternities in the 1820s to the development of the current frat scene of parties, girls, and booze, Syrett describes how this progression reflects the evolution of cultural attitudes towards sexuality over time. By the 1920’s heterosexuality was the accepted norm for men. After the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, college-aged women became more sexually permissive. As historical sexual attitudes changed, frats did too, eventually developing an atmosphere in which men proved their masculinity and gained social status by sleeping with women. The more women a frat boy slept with, the more respect he gained from his brothers.

This emphasis on sexual conquest creates a predatory attitude towards women and sex in frat houses. Syrett comments that research in the past “has shown that fraternity men are more likely than their non affiliated classmates to rape women, and some studies have estimated that as many as 70 to 90 percent of reported campus gang rapes are committed by members of fraternities.”

To maintain their social status, frats encourage their members to have frequent casual sex and to report on their experiences. This “places pressure on men who are not otherwise having sex to do so in order to save face, and this can lead to sexual assault.” Frat parties, with their steady supply of booze and college women, are “designed to supply intoxicated women who will either consent—or succumb—to sex.”

As a part of frat culture, frat boys encourage each other to dominate women and intentionally create circumstances in which these men can perpetrate sexual violence against their female classmates. In this hyper-masculine frat culture, where the sexual conquests of men are linked to status, rape as a display of power is not far removed.

Find more on fraternity culture and sexual violence, here and here.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Stockholm: An Exploration of Love"

This wins the award for Most Disturbing Media in 2009. Recently released for sale on Amazon (and then quickly banned), "Stockholm: An Exploration of Love" is an interactive video games which puts the player in position of kidnapper with the goal of physically and mentally torturing a woman in order to get her to fall in love. The game is named after Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological disorder that happens when a victim becomes emotionally attached to his/her captor.

Visit the official website to read letters from the creators about what they call a "masterpiece". Here is an excerpt from the Director of the game,

"By portraying men as weak and docile, [TV shows like Friends] suggest to us that men are supposed to be weak and docile. By portraying love as sacrificing the dominance of spirit that makes a man, and instead opting for extreme domestication, they trick us into thinking that love is supposed to be domestication. I’m not really comfortable letting something like that stand unchallenged, and that was one of the primary reasons I made Stockholm. The point of Stockholm is not that kidnapping is the true path of love. The point is that the sugar coated nonsense that TV and movies are forcing down our throat is not the only true path."

So is he suggesting that the opposite of domestication is rape and torture? Or that a domesticated man is an equivalent victim to a raped woman? I'm not totally sure. But what I am sure about is that this video game is horrifying and I would be seriously afraid of men who play it.

To read more about the relationship between video games and real life crime, read here, here or here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Teens Make PSAs About Abuse

After the highly-publicized violence between singers Chris Brown and Rihanna, Gerry Leone, the District Attorney of Middlesex County, MA, created a competition for high schoolers to create PSAs about Teen Dating Violence to talk back against the media blitz.

Sparking the involvement of more than 200 high schoolers across the county, six finalists were chosen by a group of DV experts, school personnel and members of the District Attorney’s office. Today, 800 high students across Middlesex County will watch the videos in health class and vote on the winner. The winning PSA will be submitted to Boston television stations for possible airing.

Some stats about teen dating violence from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office:

• 1 in 3 teenagers report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner
• Youth, specifically between the ages of 16 to 24, experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence in the nation
• Following news reports on the alleged incident between Chris Brown and Rihanna, a survey of Boston teens revealed that 46% of respondents believed that Rihanna was in some way responsible. In addition, 44% said that fighting was a normal part of a relationship.

Teen dating violence is something that so many have experienced and many more have witnessed. It’s important for teens to know their rights so they can be empowered to take a stand, for themselves and for each other.

What a creative project that empowers teens to resist overwhelming media representations that harm women, perpetuate male dominance, and blame the victim of abuse! Imagine the conversations had by each of those 200 students in the process of making those films as they learned more about the violence that affects their lives, their friends and their classmates. Through these projects these teens learned how to better support each other and how to question harm that seems “normal,” whether it is fighting in a relationship or appalling portrayals of violence against women in the media. Way to go, DA and high school students!

Most of all, who better to speak out against teen dating violence than the people it affects? Let’s continue to encourage them to do so.

Watch two of the submissions below or go here to watch the rest:

“End the Cycle of Abuse”

“A Cry for Help”

Which one would you vote for?

For more information on Teen Dating Violence, including legal information and where to find help, check out the Information for Teens section of WomensLaw.org.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brandon Marshall, Bronco's Player

ESPN did an interview with the ex-girlfriend of Bronco's football star, Brandon Marshall, about the abuse she endured during their relationship. Besides shedding light on what it means to be in an abusive relationship, the comments section on the website shares a different story: the ignorance which still exists so strongly in our culture about domestic violence.

Here are just a few of the comments:

"This B is crazy.. she reportedly tried extorting money from him twice? and her parents want the $ just as much as the girl does!.. She stayed with him for a paycheck! And for the father to say the NFL cares for anything outside of championships, umm isnt that the football business??.. can't believe i even watched this."

"I think that both parties are at fault here. One thing that I don't understand, that after the first and especially the second incident, why they stayed together. Why would MS Watley and her parents go to the NFL about this? She should have gotten out when this first happened, as this would and has escalated. She probably stayed because of his money, this seems to be all about the money with MS Watley."

"i only have one question, if he hit her and beat her this many times, the why the F%$# is she still there with him. Not setting blame here, but i mean you leave yourself in a bad situation, bad things happen. If her parents are so concerened, then why havent they gone and got her? Why hasnt she moved away from Marshall? And one other part i found interesting is the fact that she has asked for maney, not once, but twice. Can you say golddigger."

"Absolutely poor reporting again from the OTL crew. In the attempt to paint Marshall as an abuser, they conveniently whispered the parts where she says she attacked him first, repeatedly dismissed charges or recanted her allegations. Her parents should be ashamed for trying to blame everyone but her daughter for her poor decisions. The parents and daughter appear to be on board for a meal ticket or air time and their actions do nothing but set back all the progress that has been made in helping battered women. OTL continues to prove that sensationalism has replaced journalism in today's media."

What these comments show is a lack of understanding in many capacities. First, it is NEVER the fault of the victim of abuse. Second, there are many things which make it difficult (if not nearly impossible) for someone to leave an abusive relationship. Also, as Rasheeda points out in the video, she loved him and that was one big reason she stayed. Generally abusers are not abusive 100% of the time, and can be quite lovable and charming at times. Rasheeda loved Brandon, but not his abuse.

What do you think? Watch the video here.