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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Restoring the Lost Hope, Opening the Next Door Experience

This is the first of a series of guests posts by Alvin Winford. Alvin is originally from Liberia and will be spending the next 4 months at Next Door as a Global Fellow. Originally from Liberia, Alvin has over 9 years of experience working to mitigate gender-based violence in local communities and has most recently spearheaded a project that has helped increase the capacity of local police forces to respond to such violence. Alvin will be sharing his experiences through weekly blog posts so be sure to check back regularly to read more about his journey!

I started my fellowship at the Next Door in mid-August this year and since then, I must confess that I have been overwhelmed with the high degree of professionalism and passion that this organization attaches to serving minorities especially women and children. One could be tempted to ask, but what is the big deal, after all that is their work. But when you are given the opportunity to truly experience Next Door, you would obviously come to grip that only a noble professional group of people with zest can go beyond the call of duty in servicing victims of domestic violence. How I wish that there would be many Next Doors around the world, especially in Liberia, that would reach out to the many women who are victims of the power imbalance, but are hapless in finding answers to their miserable circumstances not created by themselves, but by heartless individuals, harmful cultural practices and unresponsive system.  Their only hope lies in yearning that one day somehow things would change.

Here in San Jose, it is the direct opposite. Victims of domestic violence can just move Next Door in joining the welcoming team to find answers in restoring their hope. The programs are tailored ranging from prevention services to direct response. They have a human face, demonstrating earnestly that victims were not at fault for being abused and that they should not be left to face the agony alone. Being client centered as they prefer it, victims are made to make the final decision as to how they want to cope with situations.

In getting a better understanding of how Next Door has stood up to the challenge with a lot on their plates, I continue to have some conversations with Kathleen, the award winning Patty, Vanessa, Melina, Lucero, Aparna and my supervisor Brenda on different programmatic and management issues. One thing that comes out clearly is passion. With this excitement, they have been able to turn challenges into opportunities in restoring the lost hope. It has not been easy though, especially so when there will always be agents against positive change.

So far, I have attended the Domestic Violence Meeting & Fatality Review Meeting with Advocate Award Winning Patty. From these meetings, I am gaining insight on the need to build a strong network among different players in championing the cause of domestic violence victims. Also, I had some discussion at the Family Violence Center where I was introduced to Jason the Police Sergeant by Melina. By the way, Jason is making sure that I go on the walk along with the police this weekend in accessing how they conduct their exercises in dealing with domestic violence.

Another activity that I have benefited from is the Annual Domestic Violence Conference in Sacramento, called Connecting the Dot. It is my hope that the missing dot would be connected in reaching out to all in need after an elaborate conference. I have completed the 40 Hour Domestic Violence Training. This training is compulsory for all incoming staff and volunteers to enable you work with DV victims. Besides, I have learned a lot from this training that would enhance my work in Liberia as I deal with Gender Based Violence. Thanks to Next Door!

Here at Next Door, every one is making my stay a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, one of those who made it some fantastic, Jackie, the Crisis Intervention Advocate intern who has been here for about a year, will be leaving soon. She was always there to cheer me up, give me directions and uplift me professionally. I can only wish her well in her future endeavors.

Everyday at Next Door, I am learning something new that will serve as an impetus for my work.  So, I do anticipate to be reenergized by the end of my professional sojourn through the experiences I would be gaining. For now, I can safely say that the lost hope is being restored at Next Door.

Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?

Looking for a way to end the year by volunteering

to help women and children who are less fortunate?

Consider becoming a Next Door Neighbor!

Next Door Neighbors is a group that provides

extra hands and open hearts through

volunteering time and resources to

Next Door Solution to Domestic Violence.

Our one-time volunteering opportunities include helping with

Next Door’s Holiday Boutique ~~ December 13, 14, 15 ~~

when battered women and their children “shop”

for each other at no cost to them.

Ongoing volunteering include opportunities

to organize cell phone drives, bring community

awareness about Next Door to

church and community groups,

help keep Next Door’s pantry stocked, etc!

We have flexible hours and typically don’t ask for more

than 3 to 4 hours a month.

For more information email Becky Black at bblack@nextdoor.org

or call 408.501.7571

Celebrating the 17th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (Video)

Congress Introduces Legislation to Prevent Sexual Violence on College Campuses

According to the Director of Public Policy of Security on Campus Inc., sexual violence on college campuses costs taxpayers nearly $40 billion that they contribute to federal student aid or higher education every school year. One in four women are reported as being the victim of a completed or attempted rape while in school and as a result, their education is either put on hold or halted altogether.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has recently taken action to enforce federal sexual harassment guidelines to protect these victims and it could not have come at a better time. Congress has taken the next step and has introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, also known as the Campus SAVE Act (S. 834/H.R. 2016). The bipartisan piece of legislation will empower universities nationwide to better prevent and respond to instances of sexual violence including domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 90% of victims know their perpetrators. They are often fellow students who share the same social circle, which is probably why fewer than 5% of cases are reported to the police. As Carter states, “The greatest threat doesn’t lie along a poorly lit walkway; it hides in plain sight in classrooms, residence halls, and student parties.”

If SAVE is passed, it will encourage individuals to report the crimes committed against them by providing schools with a structure to protect victims who report against retaliation or any ongoing threats. It grants victims the right to make any reasonably available changes in their academic, living or working arrangements, options for no-contact orders, assistance in reporting to the police, and a right to be informed of their options in writing so they have the necessary information to make fully informed decisions.

In addition to protecting victims, SAVE will hold universities accountable by establishing procedures for campus disciplinary proceedings with equal rights for both the accused and accuser. Trained officials, who will (hopefully)  understand the dynamics of sexual violence, will be on hand to investigate and resolve all complaints. Under SAVE, schools will be required to include domestic violence and stalking in the crime statistics distributed to students and employees at the beginning of each school year.

Congress hopes to address dating violence before it starts by using SAVE to create awareness and prevention education programs for all new students and employees that will continue throughout the year. It is their hope that by covering primary prevention, the definition and importance of consent, bystander intervention and reporting options, colleges will no longer harbor the culture of tolerance for sexual violence and the silence that surrounds it.

A bi-partisan coalition of more than 40 United States Senators and Representatives already support the Campus SAVE Act. More than 20 non-profit advocacy and education groups from across the country also support it.

Security on Campus, which is leading the campaign to make sure the Campus SAVE Act is passed, needs your help to make these changes a reality. Visit www.securityoncampus.org to help break the silence surrounding sexual violence. Every voice counts.

Source: Huffington Post/S. Daniel Carter

A Bittersweet Update in the Cheerleader Rape Case

A couple of months ago, I shared the story of a Hillaire S., a Texas cheerleader who sued her high school for forcing her to cheer for her rapist at a basketball game. Her lawsuit was deemed frivolous and as a result, she was ordered to pay the school’s legal fees totaling $35,000.

Earlier this week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling and declared that the young woman would not have to pay the school’s legal fees after all.

According to Larry Watts, the family’s attorney, this was only a partial victory.

“I initially thought it was a major victory that the court said that it was arguable that HS (the victim) had a First Amendment Right to remain silent, but there were four issues in the case and they fouled my client on three of four points”.

The four issues are:

  1. Free Speech: The young woman’s right to remain silent and not cheer for her rapist
  2. Equal Protection: Larry Watts says: “She was removed from the team for being silent, while the school district, which had every right and power to investigate his assault and threats of murder, did not remove him. It’s simple- a girl being treated differently than a boy.”
  3. Due Process: The lawsuit alleges that the high school did not uphold the cheerleading contract
  4. Due Process: The suit alleges that Hillaire’s “significant emotional harm, caused by the physical injury of rape, was exacerbated by the school.”

The ruling brought down by the Appeals Court still deems three of the four issues to be “frivolous”, which means Hillaire and her family will still have to pay a portion of the originally quoted amount of $35,000.

As the family’s lawyer points out, the court ruled in Hillaire’s favor for the one issue that America paid a lot of attention to, which was the violation of her freedom of speech. This just goes to show that public opinion and attention can, indeed, influence a court’s ruling. Watt is planning to appeal the decision and as he does, let’s continue to make our voices heard.

You can make a difference by telling the Silsbee Independent School District not to punish Hillaire for refusing to cheer for her rapist by signing this petition.

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