Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Both Rihanna and Eminem have personal experience with abusive relationships, although from radically different perspectives. Eminem has been investigated for domestic violence and criticized for songs that glorify violence against women. Rihanna, on the other hand, was the victim of a high-profile assault in 2009 by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, and has since become an unwitting spokesperson for domestic abuse victims.
Rihanna sings the refrain “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/that’s alright because I like the way it hurts.” Many people feel that these lyrics endorse the cycle of domestic abuse, rather than condemn it, sending a disempowering message to victims of abuse. Others feel that the song is attempting to convey the psychological difficulties faced by those trying to leave abusive relationships.
Rihanna justified her decision to participate in this song by saying, “It’s something that [Eminem and I have] both experienced on different sides, different ends of the table…It was authentic. It was real. He [Eminem] pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it’s something that a lot of people don’t have a lot of insight on, so this song is really powerful.”
If you or someone you know is trying to leave an abusive relationship, visit WomensLaw.org for information on how to stay safe.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Even though Paterson is criminally vindicated in this case, the report does highlight some revealing failures on the part of the New York Police Department which have serious implications for victims of domestic violence. The domestic dispute between Johnson and Booker occurred on October 31st, 2009, and allegedly involved Johnson physically attacking Booker: choking her, throwing her against a dresser, and tearing off her clothes. The report states that evidence reveals “errors in the NYPD response to the incident.”
In fact, Booker made three phone calls to the NYPD to report a domestic violence incident and request assistance. Booker’s 911 call was categorized as a “dispute” and therefore a “low priority call.” The patrol car assigned to respond to Booker’s request for assistance first attended a car accident (waiting for the car to be towed before leaving the scene) and then to a landlord-tenant dispute before finally moving on to Booker’s residence. Shockingly, but not unusually, it took the NYPD a full hour and a half to arrive at her apartment.
When they DID arrive, the NYPD patrol officers did not adequately respond to Booker’s reports that she was strangled. The incident was classified as "harassment" because the officers did not see visible injuries on Booker’s body. “Harassment” is a violation that is prosecutable, but is not considered a crime under New York Law. Because the NYPD officers saw no visible injuries and did not witness the altercation between Johnson and Booker, the only recourse they offered Booker was to file for a civil order of protection in the Bronx Family Court – even though Booker was afraid that Johnson would return to her apartment that night to “finish the job.”
This report highlights just a few of the obstacles faced by victims of domestic violence when they report an incident of abuse - delayed police responses, which could have a critical impact on the safety of the victim, and the difficulty for a victim to get the police to arrest an abuser whose actions are classified as harassment, before any visible bruising or markings appear that support a victims claim of choking or other assault.
For state-by-state legal information, to read the actual laws in your state, and to find resources for women living with or escaping domestic violence or sexual assault, please visit www.WomensLaw.org
Thursday, July 29, 2010
In the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report on American Indians and Crime, a comprehensive study spanning most of the 1990s, Native Americans were found to be the victims of violent crime at more than twice the national rate. The problem especially affects women: according to Amnesty International, over a third of Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime. Enacted in response to these significant concerns, President Obama called this new law an “important step to help the federal government better address the unique public safety challenges that confront tribal communities.” The president said that in some Native American communities, the violent crime rates are more than 10 times the national average, the LA Times reports.
In the recent past, federal laws regulating Native American life have been few and far between. Tribal law differs significantly from tribe to tribe among each of the 560+ federally recognized Nations. The TLOA, first introduced in 2009, is designed to improve cooperation between federal, local, and tribal law enforcement. The law clearly authorizes collaboration between tribal and other jurisdictions. This means that if tribal law enforcement is in hot pursuit of someone who leaves their territory, they will be able to effectively coordinate with local law enforcement. Additionally, the TLOA gives tribal governments access to important national criminal databases, and creates a new federal office, the Office of Indian Country Crime, to improve communication between federal and tribal governments. The Indian Health Service, the federal department charged with ensuring Native American Health, will also be required to put consistent sexual assault protocol into operation.
Significantly, the new law also authorizes tribal governments to assign prison terms of up to three years. Under the 1968 law, tribal courts could impose criminal sentences of up to one year, but they were not bound by the 6th Amendment, which ensures the right to legal counsel. Under the new TLOA, tribal governments will have the option to assign longer prison sentences, however if they wish to participate in the three-year provision, they must provide attorneys for their defendants.
Signing the new TLOA into law will improve the efficiency of tribal governments to catch and prosecute criminals, will give tribal courts the ability to impose stricter sentences, and will establish more comprehensive rules regarding the collection of data on crime – all of which will contribute tremendously to the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault in Native American communities.
Visit www.WomensLaw.org to learn more about tribal laws, for information on tribal protection orders and to access other online resources for domestic violence on tribal land.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
On Tuesday, a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that police acted legally in using GPS technology to track a man accused of stalking a woman. Police placed a GPS device in the car of the suspect, which enabled them to collect the evidence necessary to arrest him. The suspect appealed, arguing that the GPS tracking violated his constitutional rights, but his appeal was overruled, giving state police the authority to use GPS technology in their efforts to combat stalking, and other crimes.
Another use of GPS technology is being initiated in Connecticut. Starting on October 1, a GPS monitoring system will be activated to track abusers who violate protective orders against them. The program, called First Alert, will notify victims of domestic violence when their abusers come within a certain distance. The Connecticut GPS program gained support this spring after several high-profile domestic violence homicides which could potentially have been avoided had victims known that their abusers were breaching the proscribed buffer-zone of protection. The program will be piloted for 6 months unless more funding can be secured. Those offenders who can afford it will be billed for the cost of the GPS monitoring equipment.
A new law in Kentucky has just gone into effect that requires some domestic violence offenders to wear a GPS transmitter around their ankle. The transmitters notify the police if an offender penetrates what is called an “exclusion zone” - an area established to keep offenders away from victims. Like in Connecticut, if ordered to wear a GPS transmitter by a judge, the offender will have to pay for the cost of the device – at a cost of approximately $12 per day.
If you’re an advocate interested in learning more about how new technologies can be used to protect victims of domestic violence, as well as how new technologies can become tools of abuse in the hands of offenders, check out Safety Net Project.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
While it is important for victims of domestic violence to collect evidence against their abuser, each state has its own laws about what evidence you can use in court. And while aggressive, harassing phone calls are a form of domestic abuse, in most states it is considered a misdemeanor or felony to tape a phone conversation without the consent of the other party. In California, for instance, both parties must be aware that they are being taped, otherwise recording a conversation carries the same penalty as intercepting telephone or wire communications. So it has yet to be seen whether the tapes made by Grigorieva, however damning, will be admissible in court. And she may face penalties for making the tapes. (For state-by-state information on taping phone calls and conversations, go to: http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states.html)
And it is important to remember that there are other ways to build a strong domestic violence case in court. In most states, evidence can include:
• Testimony in court (from you or your witnesses)
• Medical reports of injuries from the abuse
• Police reports for when you or a witness called the police
• Pictures of your injuries (better if they are dated)
• Household objects torn or broken by the abuser
• Pictures of your household in disarray after an episode of domestic violence
• Weapons used
• Tapes of calls you may have made to 911
• Certified copies of the abuser’s criminal record (try to get these through the clerk of criminal court)
• A personal diary or calendar in which you documented the abuse as it happened
• Anything else that might help convince the judge.
The significance of this case for victims of domestic violence goes above and beyond the legal validity of the leaked tape, however. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, "nearly 5.3 million incidents of domestic violence occur each year among U.S. women ages 18 and older." Most of those incidents lack the high profile luster of a Mel Gibson or a Chris Brown, but they have the same destructive impact on individual lives and families around the country. The leaked tapes of Gibson may or may not ultimately be the evidence used to convict Gibson, but they certainly have shed a spotlight on domestic violence - which can only strengthen the fight against it.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The Law and Moral Judgment of the Court
At the heart of the issue is whether Family Court had the right to deny a petition made by a married woman against an individual with whom she was having a sexual relationship who was not her husband. Family Court has authority over certain crimes known as “family offenses” that take place between members of the same family or household, including people who are not married but have a child in common. And in 2008, this was expanded to include “intimate relationships” between people who were never married and never had a child in common, including same-sex and heterosexual dating partners. So when the Family Court of Madison County denied Jessica D.’s petition for an order of protection on the grounds of “public policy”, it was going against the letter and intention of the law.
Appealing the Ruling
Jessica D. appealed this ruling to the appellate court, and on June 24, 2010, she successfully had the ruling reversed! While the scope of the ruling is limited to the counties within that specific judicial district, this is a significant victory with important implications for victims of domestic violence in New York.
- The ruling of the appeals court sets a precedent. Now, even in cases where a woman is living with her spouse/partner, she may receive an order of protection against an abuser with whom she has had an intimate relationship outside of this relationship.
- Hopefully, this ruling will act as a deterrent to other courts that might have been inclined to similarly deny an order of protection based on the relationship between the victim and the abuser – and whether they considered it “socially acceptable” or not.
The Family Court of Madison County erroneously denied Jessica D.’s petition for an order of protection as a means of preserving the social unit of marriage, which it gave, in this case, more importance than the safety of the victim or her family. The reversal of this ruling is an important bolster to the legislation and its purpose: offering protection to victims of domestic violence, without placing judgment on the nature of relationship between victim and abuser.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
So far only 29 states have passed legislation that classifies the act of strangulation as a specific crime and increases sentences for offenders who have non-fatally strangled a victim. This may soon be the case for Ohio and New York, 2 states that do not currently treat strangulation as a felony in and of itself, but rather place it in a general category of assault or domestic abuse.
Strangulation is used by abusers to assert control, power, and psychological terror over their victims. It can also easily lead to fatal results. Historically, one of the problems with prosecuting strangulation has been that in many cases there is no visible evidence of injury, and where physical evidence was lacking, strangulation was not treated as a serious offense. Yet 10% of violent deaths in the U.S. each year are due to strangulation, and the majority of victims are women.
Ohio lawmakers have recently moved to support legislation that makes strangulation a felony. Similarly, in New York, Democratic State Senator Eric Schneiderman has sponsored a bill entitled “The Strangulation Prevention Act 2010” which, when approved, will increase penalties for assaults that involve “impeding or impairing another person’s breathing or circulation.” This is great news: having a specific law against strangulation plays an important role in protecting victims of domestic violence.
Strangulation a warning sign for murder?
Research has demonstrated a link between assaults involving strangulation and fatal incidents of domestic violence. A 2008 study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine analyzed 300 murders in 11 U.S. cities and showed that 43% of women who had been murdered in domestic assaults and 45% of attempted murder victims had been strangled in the previous year by their male partners.
Victims of strangulation are at higher risk of being murdered by their partners in the future. Passing legislation that specifically designates strangulation as a crime is an important step towards decreasing the number of fatalities associated with domestic assault. But in addition to making legislative changes, states need to sensitize law enforcement officials to recognize the severity of strangulation and investigate and act accordingly, especially in light of the fact that so often there are no visible injuries.
Click here to read the “Strangulation Prevention Act 2010” in its entirety or here for more information on strangulation. Go to WomensLaw.org for state-specific legal information on domestic violence and sexual assault.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
So what is no-fault divorce? And what kind of societal impact could the adoption of a no-fault divorce law have in New York?
No-fault divorce gives married couples the ability to end their marriage without having to prove that one spouse or the other is to blame. Currently, in order to obtain a divorce in New York, one party must prove that the other is “at fault,” even if both parties agree that they want the marriage to end. In fact, one spouse must “consent” to the divorce by accepting blame for something like adultery, or abandonment, or cruel and inhuman treatment of their partner. The only other way to secure a divorce in New York is to be legally separated for a year.
But if the no-fault divorce legislation passes in the State Assembly, all of this will change. In the shift from consent-based divorce to unilateral divorce, proof of wrongdoing will no longer be required to end a marriage, making a divorce easier and less expensive (litigation-wise) to obtain.
And how does this help victims of domestic violence?
There is evidence that passing no-fault divorce legislation could have a significant impact on levels of domestic violence. In The New York Times, economist Betsey Stevenson writes of her research with colleague Justin Wolfers: “…we uncovered evidence of a large decrease in domestic violence among states that adopted unilateral divorce laws, relative to those (like New York) which did not. This decrease was not just because abused women (and men) could more easily divorce their abusers, but also because potential abusers knew that they were more likely to be left. We found a 30 percent decline in domestic violence – an effect that could only occur if violence decreased in marriages that stayed together.”
To learn more about divorce laws and domestic violence, read Stevenson and Wolfers’ full paper. For information on divorce laws on a state-by-state basis, visit WomensLaw.org.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
David J. Barron, the acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department, argued in his memorandum that the language of VAWA offers protection even when the victim and the offender are of the same sex, and that federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions listed in VAWA regardless of the sex of the victim or the offender. In fact, even though the act is called the Violence Against Women Act, the language of VAWA is gender-neutral - - using terms like “intimate partner”, “dating partner”, “spouse” and “another person”.
This is an important decision for gay couples. The New York Times quotes Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel of a gay and lesbian advocacy group called the Human Rights Campaign, as saying: “It’s a step towards equality and recognizing that our relationships exist and are subject to the same sorts of issues that face other committed couples.”
To learn more you can read the memorandum or read about same-sex abuse on WomensLaw.org.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Self petitioning means that the victim of abuse can apply on her own without the knowledge of the abuser. In fact, the law is clear that the Unites States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) may not inform an applicant’s spouse that a victim has applied for residency.
If a non-citizen victim of abuse is not married to or recently divorced from the abuser then a U Visa could be a good option for obaining legal status. The U Visa is designed to provide immigration status to non-citizens that are assisting or are willing to assist authorities investigating crimes. Non-citizens may be eligible for a U Visa if they are a crime victim who (1) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from criminal activity; (2) have information regarding the criminal activity; (3) assist government officials in the investigation or prosecution of such criminal activity; and (4) the criminal activity violated US law or occurred in the United States (including Indian country and military installations) or the territories and possession of the United States.
Please visit WomensLaw.org to read more about VAWA and U Visas including steps on how to petition.
*42 U.S.C.A. § 3796gg-0 (Retrieved from: http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/ovw_establishment.pdf)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Watch Gloria sing the 30th Anniversary tribute version of I Will Survive at the 10th Anniversary WomensLaw.org Benefit.
Share your story of survival on our website, and read what this song has meant to others.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
As journalist Amy Davidson points out in The New Yorker, when being a domestic violence victim makes it harder for a woman to get insurance this could discourage her from telling her doctor about where those injuries really came from. And what about her children? If she cannot get insurance, then what does that mean for her kids? Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey told the House in the final debate of the bill that "We should be ashamed".
Lynn Rosenthal in The White House Blog writes,
"Yet until last night, insurance companies in eight states and the District of Columbia could still discriminate against victims by declaring domestic violence a preexisting condition. Domestic violence victims in those states faced the real risk of being denied health care at the very time when they needed it the most. Because of last night’s vote, domestic violence victims in those states will no longer face discrimination."
To read more about the bill and how it helps victims of domestic violence check out "For Victims of Domestic Violence, Health Care is a Lifeline" by Lynn Rosenthal.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Why do abusers believe this? Abusers may convince themselves of this as a way to justify their own behavior. The researchers of this study propose that by changing the ideas about what abusers think is common behavior, it may help them understand that what they are doing is unacceptable, and encourage them to work towards stopping it.
This study also points to a larger issue in society - - why are men abusive? There are many ways to answer this question. In relation to the study findings, too many boys and men are getting the message that violence against women is a normally occurring experience. Changing this perception, means changing the messages we’re giving our boys. This can happen through better education about domestic violence in schools, changing the way women and men are depicted in the media, increasing counseling services for children who have witnessed violence in the home, and beyond anything else working towards a society that values women as much as men. When we change the way we think, we change the way we act.
To read more about domestic violence and where to get help please visit WomensLaw.org.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Even if you do not qualify for a restraining order, the abuser may have committed a crime. If you call the police, they may arrest him for a crime. Each state has its own list of crimes and definition of crimes. These definitions and explanations are usually located in the Penal Code or Criminal Code of that state's legal statutes.
Even if there is a crime of domestic violence, the definition of that crime may not be the same as the definition of domestic violence used for getting a restraining order. Whether or not a state has a specific crime of domestic violence, it will have other crimes that the abuser may have committed. Crimes in your state may include:
- Threats (or menacing)
- Criminal coercion
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Sexual offenses (e.g. sexual assault, rape)
If you are a victim of domestic violence and have been charged with a crime, you can contact the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women.
Other organizations for victims of crime are listed on our National Organizations page.
You may want to contact the Stalking Resource Center if you are being stalked or harassed: www.ncvc.org/src
- The rate of nonfatal violent crimes against people with disabilities was 1.5 times higher than the rate for people without disabilities.
- Rates of rape and sexual assault were more than twice those for people without disabilities.
- Youth with a disability ages 12 to 19 experienced violence at nearly twice the rate as those without a disability.
- People with cognitive disabilities had a higher risk of violent victimization than persons with any other type of disability.
- People with multiple disabilities accounted for about 56% of all violent crime victimizations against those with any disability.
- Nearly 1 in 5 violent crime victims with a disability believed that they became a victim because of their disability.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Inside the California Institution for Women, the first inmate initiated and led group in U.S. prison history, shatters the misconceptions of domestic violence.
Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA) was created in 1989 to help women inside prison break the silence about abuse and learn more about what they needed to do to help others stop the cycle of violence.Instead of fighting a system that does not fully comprehend the complexities of abuse, the women of CWAA led an initiative to help educate the system. Through careful orchestration of letter writing campaigns, media coverage, and senate hearings a movement was born and laws for battered women were changed.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Does your partner:
- Steal money from you or your family?
- Force you to give him access to your accounts?
- Make you feel as though you don't have a right to know any details about money or household resources?
- Prevent you from working or attending school or skill-training sessions?
- Overuse your credit cards or refuse to pay the bills (thus ruining your credit)?
- Withhold physical resources including food, clothes, necessary medications or shelter from you?
- Force you to turn over your benefit payments?
- Force you to cash in, sell or sign over any financial assets or inheritance you own (e.g., bonds, stock or property)?
- Force you to agree to power-of-attorney so he can sign legal documents?
- Force you to work in a family business for little or no pay?
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
One week after his State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, President Obama released the FY 2011 budget.
Parts of the $730 million total allotted funds for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault include:
Emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other local services: $100 million increase from the Crime Victims Fund, a fund comprised of penalties, bail money and other criminal fines.
Shelters and other services: $140 million
National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Dating Violence Helpline: $4.5 million
Sexual Assault Service Program, providing services to victims of sexual assault: $30 million
Legal assistance for victims, including services which help victims obtain protective orders and other protections: $50 million
STOP grants, aimed at working towards preventative programs: $188 million
Read more about Lynn Rosenthal and the work she is doing here: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/lynn-rosenthal-on-how-the-white-house-combats-violence-against-women.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
"This study highlights an under-recognized phenomenon where male partners actively attempt to promote pregnancy against the will of their female partners,” said lead author Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the UC Davis School of Medicine and a practitioner at UC Davis Children's Hospital. “Not only is reproductive coercion associated with violence from male partners, but when women report experiencing both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk for unintended pregnancy increases significantly.”*
To read more about the study's key findings and methodology, check out The Family Violence Prevention Fund and The Advocates for Human Rights.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Women with disabilities can face different forms of violence and emotional cruelty than other victims. A disability can be physical, like MS, or something less obvious, like bipolar disorder or diabetes. Because of these handicaps an abuser could control a woman in different ways than what is normally recognized as abuse. For example, he may withhold medication or medical care, or take control of money, like disability paychecks intended for health care. A woman with a handicap may be even more dependent on her abuser for food and shelter compared to an able bodied woman. Additionally, a physical handicap like paralysis or trouble walking, for example, could be a real barrier in leaving. Legally there are challenges in the courts, like fighting for child custody since some judges can be reluctant to award custody to women with disabilities, especially if the disability is mental illness. Women with disabilities may also be afraid of being institutionalized, which could result from getting involved in the legal system.
There is one group in New York City called Barrier Free Living that is doing tremendously important work to help women with disabilities in abusive relationships. As stated on their website, "Barrier Free Living is our vision. We strive for a world free from abuse and bias, where people with disabilities live in a supportive physical environment. In this world, society values all its members; and individuals with disabilities are free of any internal barriers barring them from reaching their fullest potential." Barrier Free Living has an emergency shelter, a non residential domestic violence program and programs to help secure housing for the homeless. You can contact them for more information.
Its important to remember that every person's situation is special to their needs, desires and personal circumstances. This is why WomensLaw.org has an Email Hotline, to provide individual personalized help. Please email us at any time if you have legal questions or just need support.
Written by Angelica Sgouros, edited by Nina Gilbert
Wednesday, January 6, 2010