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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Half the Sky

March 25, 2010

In reading Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof’s and Sheryl Wudunn’s new book about tragic and empowering stories of women around the world, I am flabbergasted at the level and vast tolerance and perpetuation of violence against women. It takes so many forms, some subtle, some brutal, but all devastating to the physical and emotional status of women and their chances for empowerment. While not always taking the brutal forms that it takes in other parts of the world, such as the way rape is almost a standard protocol in the Eastern Congo, the tolerance of violence against women allows women to be subjugated in many forms here in the United States too. From reproductive rights to the lack of health insurance coverage of women who have been victims of domestic violence, violence against women is seen not just in the unfortunate result of a domestic abuse incident. The violence is seen as an intergenerational seed that propagates the potential for poor health and bad choices for future generations that may not have the resiliency to cope with everyday challenges, thus perpetuating a cycle of violence and self-destruction.

Half the Sky, however, shows what a little effort can do for women in dire straits. A microloan to a woman in east Africa, for example, can tap into the previously untapped will, entrepreneurial spirit, gumption, and tenacity of women who can and do have a major impact in their communities. Expanding access to educational opportunities and capital, we can catalyze a new generation of women who can perpetuate a new cycle of healthy generations to come. The book implies that violent communities stem from unequal communities; unbalanced gender dynamics create instability, war, poverty, injustice and worse. In response, don’t we all out it to ourselves to help establish, even if in small bits, gender equality wherever possible? Don’t we owe it to everyone to help women become healthy, productive participants in our society? In so doing, we create balance; we create equality; we sustain peace in the homes and in our communities.

You Can Stop it Before it Starts

Teen Dating Violence–You Can Stop It Before It Starts

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice presented on a Family Violence Prevention Fund Teen Program fact sheet, young women age 16 to 25 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the nation.

National Prevalence of Teen Dating Violence

  • Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.
  • Nationwide, nearly one in ten high-school students (8.9 percent) has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Nearly one in three sexually active adolescent girls in ninth to twelfth grade (31.5 percent) report ever experiencing physical or sexual violence from dating partners.

Other related issues of concern are the inability of some teens to deal adequately with the pressure they experience from their partners who may be pushing for behaviors which they find uncomfortable or unsafe, and/or sexual harassment or stalking. In addition fewer than 1 in 3 teens feel that they can talk to their parents if they are in an abusive relationship.

Young women who are victims of dating violence are more likely than their non victimized peers to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, risky sex, and even suicide.  They are also at higher risk for sexually transmitted disease and unplanned pregnancies.

Next Door’s Teen Programs support teenage youth exposed to DV and/or who are at risk of developing abusive relationships. The Programs provide leadership opportunities, field trips, and support groups to address the violence in the lives of young people, and drop in support for teen victims of dating violence.

Next Door offers teen workshops at 6 distinct community sites in Santa Clara County, drop in support for victims of dating violence, and dating violence education and support groups for teens. 75% of Teen Support Group participants who have completed the groups are able to identify ways to make healthy choices with regard to their relationships, thus enabling them to live happier lives free from abusive partners.

For more information please call the Next Door office at (408) 501-7550, or our 24-Hour Hotline- (408) 279-2962 if you are currently in a violent relationship.

Other Teen Dating Violence Prevention Resources

See It and Stop It

Family Violence Prevention Fund Teen Program

Making History Takes Time

March 3, 2010

A dear friend and wise woman gave me this sage advice many years ago as I expressed my frustration with how long it is taking to reduce and ultimately end domestic violence.  I often use this as a mantra when I see our reception area fill up on a daily basis.  I have been working with the issue of domestic violence since April 1985.  When I began, it was legal to beat your wife/partner with impunity in over half the states in this country.  It is now illegal in all states.  All states have some form of restraining order system and emergency shelters.  Some might argue that these efforts represent band-aids, not remedies.  I would not disagree.

However, one way to gauge progress is in the public’s tolerance for domestic violence.  This past weekend the New York Times broke a news story about New York Governor David Patterson.  Apparently and allegedly, the governor instructed staff to intervene in a domestic violence case where one of his closest aides allegedly physically abused his girlfriend.  The Governor himself also intervened.  The victim did not present in court some say because of the governor’s intervention on behalf of the perpetrator several times including the night before court.

In December 2009, New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate was convicted of domestic violence after a video found him dragging his girlfriend out of their apartment.  Allegedly, he cut her face with a knife requiring 20 stitches.  Both incidents caused uproars calling for resignations.  Ten years ago, silence would prevail.  Twenty years ago, both abusers would have been told to take a walk around the block and cool off.  The victims would have received lectures from law enforcement instructing them to be better partners.   Both instances demonstrate what we already know, that domestic violence happens in every corner of our society – the rich, poor, middle class; unemployed, blue collar, white collar and yes, even in political circles.

I applaud New York City law enforcement for their diligence in arresting the senator.  I also commend the informant at the New York Times regarding the Governor’s involvement in the cover up.  Maybe, the “good ole boys systems” that collude with batterers and hide these heinous crimes is dissolving.  Maybe domestic violence is newsworthy.  Maybe the systems put in place a couple of decades ago worked–two careers may be lost as consequences of their involvement in domestic violence incidents.

Granted, I’m not naïve.  Political opportunists will use any tool to unseat their opponent.  They may even go home and hurt their own partner after giving a searing and public rebuke of the offending one’s bad deed.  Somehow, though I will take this as progress.  At least our issue is worth using as a political ping-pong ball.  There was a time in our not-too-distant past where this issue would not have even raised an eyebrow.  Making history does indeed take time but I think we are seeing history in the making.

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