This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, an eight-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
No one likes a bully. In fact, as a nation we got angry … outraged even. Bullies are not tolerated. Oprah and Dr. Phil took up the crusade. School anti-bullying legislation has been passed by 49 states (Montana lagging). If you’ve spent time recently on a local elementary school campus, you know our kids are being taught what constitutes bully behavior, how to report it when they experience it, and how they can be “upstanders” (not bystanders) when they see it happening to others.
Before we give ourselves a collective pat on the back for our anti-bullying activism, let’s get equally outraged about what our teens are experiencing. I’m talking about teen dating abuse. Teen romantic relationship violence has taken on new dimensions with the advent of social media and music videos glamorizing abusive relationships. A Teenage Research Unlimited survey found 10 percent of teens have been threatened physically via e-mail, IM, text messaging and chat rooms. Like bullying, teen dating violence can’t thrive in the sunshine. Outrage is an antidote. February being National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, it’s a perfect time to demand action by our schools and policymakers.
Here’s a shocker: approximately one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth. We should be up in arms.
Like bullying, schools are the obvious place for education and prevention programs. Yet, to date, only two California school districts (Oakland and Los Angeles) have explicit policies on dating violence. And a bill that would have required middle and high schools to spell out teen dating abuse policies in their safety plans stalled in a state Senate committee last summer.
But, momentum is building. Next Door’s fledging POWER program (Proud of Wanting Equal Relationships) is in its third year. It’s an 11-month paid program for select teens ages 15-19 with the ambitious goal of changing society’s views on gender inequality. The idea is to get young people to think critically about what leads teens to be violent with each other and why it’s being tolerated. The program is one-of-a-kind, using social media, mentoring and other techniques to reach and influence peers.
The program is thriving, thanks in part to the interest and generosity of the Summit League of Saratoga. You could say the Summit League was outraged, which is a good thing. Moved by the prevalence of teen dating violence and the challenges, members chose Next Door and the POWER program as the beneficiary of their 2012 holiday house tour fundraiser. And, more recently, NBC Bay Area and NBC Universal Foundation named the program a recipient of its 21st Century Solutions initiative which carries a $25,000 grant.
The POWER program is a pebble in an ocean. But, with continued support and increased awareness among parents, school administrators and policymakers, the ripples will begin to make a difference. Of course, some good old-fashioned community outrage and help from Oprah and Dr. Phil wouldn’t hurt.
Kasandra’s Murder Highlights Popular Misconception:
Traumatic Brain Injury Does Not Cause Domestic Violence
Earlier this week, Kasandra Perkins was murdered by her partner, Jovan Belcher. Among many biographical facts about Jovan is that he was a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. Indeed, thousands of women are murdered annually in the United States by their intimate partners, implicating all ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic levels. We don’t know why Jovan Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins, but many people in the media have speculated as to whether or not a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from successive football-related concussions caused Jovan to murder Kasandra.
A TBI is a traumatically-induced disruption of brain function or disturbance of consciousness, resulting in impairment of cognitive, emotional, and physical functioning. Millions of people in the United States have sustained TBIs, ranging from combat veterans to victims of motor vehicle accidents to football players. TBI symptoms may include problems with impulse control as well as aggressive, and sometimes violent, behavior. TBI-related aggressive behavior can occur anytime and be directed toward anyone. Notably, TBI-related aggression is not confined to intimate partners.
We do not know the details of Kasandra and Jovan’s relationship, but we know enough about Jovan to suspect that he might have been emotionally abusive and controlling in his relationships with women, including Kasandra. During college, he punched through a dorm window, nearly severing his thumb and sustaining wrist lacerations, because a woman with whom he was romantically involved, had upset him, according to a University of Maine Police Department incident report. In a separate incident, University Police were contacted by a third party concerned about “raised voices.” In that incident, Belcher was upset because a girlfriend had not called him at a designated time. It is rumored that Belcher’s fight with Kasandra began when she returned home late from a concert where he suspected she was with other men. Jovan and Kasandra had separated earlier this year and had just gotten back together. The police had been to their residence previously. Kansas City Chiefs’ officials knew about the problems in Jovan and Kasandra’s relationship, and the two had been in counseling.
A significant point overlooked in the mainstream media discussion regarding Jovan’s murder of Kasandra is that while Belcher may have had a TBI, TBIs do not cause coercive controlling behavior in intimate relationships. It is true that the presence of co-occurring conditions such as TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse increases the likelihood of lethality in violent and controlling relationships; however, this is vastly different from drawing a direct causal relationship between TBI and violent controlling behavior in a relationship. Few will disagree that the facts to date detailing the nature of Jovan’s murder of Kasandra – shooting her nine times in a fit of violent rage, kissing her corpse, and then committing suicide – is much more strongly associated with battering-related homicides and not TBI.
Military Advocacy Program Coordinator
Battered Women’s Justice Project
This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, an eight-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
Little Katie (not her real name) couldn’t contain her excitement about her new dress. She spied it hanging at Next Door’s community center, and she had to have it. It was exquisite. Handmade by an anonymous donor, the dress was fairytale beautiful, topped with a cream-colored pinafore with ruffled capped sleeves and teddy bear applique. With help, she made a quick change. A perfect fit! Now a princess on top of the world, she skipped around the center to share her joy.
Katie is the face of domestic violence, but it is a face that will never be seen. She and her mother, with the help of numerous domestic violence agencies, escaped from a far-away state to safety. While her mother gets assistance with the basics – shelter, food, legal aid, self-esteem and self-sufficiency – Katie is adjusting to her new life. She is a sunny girl who feels safe and free for the first time in her young life. To stay safe, Katie and her mother’s whereabouts can’t be known.
Abuse is more common than we’d care to believe. As many as one in four women will experience intimate partner abuse at some time in her life. Statistics on teen dating violence are cold water in the face of well-to-do parents in our community who think their children are safe from what the professionals are calling an epidemic. Abuse – emotional as well as physical – happens behind closed doors. Unless it turns particularly violent to the point of lethal, it’s much more comfortable for us as individuals and as a society to keep the door closed.
I’ve often thought it would be easier to advocate for the homeless, the hungry, or four-legged creatures in need of rescue. If only I didn’t know about the little Katies in our community. If only I didn’t have concern for my 9-year-old and 13-year-old grandchildren. If only I didn’t feel the pain I and others of my era have experienced in intimate partner relationships we couldn’t talk about. Then, I could devote myself to another cause. That brings me to October – Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
I’d truly like to say this is a special month, but domestic violence happens every hour of every day. And, “awareness” month is shared by so many other causes that have affected my life or those around me. October is also national awareness month for AIDS, child abuse, breast cancer, lupus, brain injury, orthodontic health, and spina bifida. Nonetheless, domestic violence is my personal passion. I asked Kathleen Krenek, Next Door’s executive director, what I and others could do to recognize and support the domestic violence awareness effort this month. Here’s what she told me:
● Recognize the signs of domestic violence (www.nextdoor.org) and take action if violence may be affecting acquaintances or family members. Call the 24-hour hotline for advice.
● Advocate domestic violence education – especially awareness of teen dating violence – through your local middle and high school parent-teacher associations.
● Make a donation to a favorite charity focused on domestic violence support and education (www.nextdoor.org). Do it in honor of someone you know who may have survived domestic violence or in honor of an unnamed and unknown child who is suffering now and whose mother needs an escape plan, an advocate and a path to freedom and safety.
● Attend a rally or special event that benefits the cause and calls attention to the challenges and possibilities of domestic violence awareness. Be entertained in the process. I recommend the blues revue, “Girls Got the Blues Rock for a Good Cause,” taking placer from 8 – 10:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro, San Jose. Raffle ticket sales and a portion of the proceeds go to Next Door. Admission is $20 in advance (www.brownpapertickets.com/event/260908) and $25 at the door.
Discover a new way of living!
Join the over 500 people who come from diverse sectors of our community for the eighth Carry the Vision Community Nonviolence Conference on September 29, 2012.
Youth Leadership Summit
Carry the Vision is partnering with YES! for Schools to provide practical strategies to inspire high school aged young people to become empowered nonviolent leaders in their community.
Our youth are our future! We can support them in becoming empowered to stand up for compassion, wisdom and and to do what is right. Each young person is a potential leader.
The summit will engage the young people in experiential activities that re-awaken the values of commitment, responsibility, creativity and team work — qualities inherent in an empowered nonviolent leader.
We request that all youth pre-register to allow our summit leaders to plan appropriately.
Women’s Leadership in Overcoming Violence
This panel brings together leaders from our community who have been dedicated to creating more peaceful families and communities. These leaders represent spiritual communities, domestic violence, religious tolerance, police and community dialog and hate free communities.
Judge LaDoris Cordell
Independent Police Auditor
Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian
Founder of Carry the Vision and Center for Spiritual Enlightenment
Executive Director of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence
Manager of the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations
Founder and Executive Director of American Muslim Voice
Religious Leaders Summit
Religious leaders from many different faith traditions will gather together to engage with each other on the critical question of overcoming violence in our valley and discuss what they can do together that they cannot do alone.
Dr. Michael Nagler – founder of the Metta Center
Robert Niederman- founder of Silicon Valley Nonviolent Communication
Compassionate Parenting for Peaceful Families
Patricia Belvel and Rev. Christine Sodt
Meditation Practice for Peace
Beverly Kam, Center for Spiritual Enlightenment
Bold Vision for Tough Times: The Union of Human Rights and Nonviolence
Richard Hobbs – founder of The Human Agenda
- Bullying: Supporting Our Youth for a Peaceful Life
- Women’s Leadership in Overcoming Violence
- Social Change Through Cooperation and Compassion
- Mentoring Youth for a Peaceful and Successful Future
Find out more at carrythevision.org
I’m sure many women and men felt the same surge of sadness and anger as I did when hearing or
reading Congressman Todd Akin’s comment about exceptions to a ban on abortions. As I listened to
the news reports and analysis, another of Congressman Akin’s comments could be heard. He said, “if
a rape occurs, the child should not be punished, the perpetrator should be punished”. For
women and girls suffering from any form of violence, both comments bring great consternation. Rape
is “always” forcible, cruel, inhumane and spirit stripping but to be dismissed, to be held invisible in the
equation also brings an oppressive burden. To bring attention to the product of a rape but not to speak
to the suffering of the actual victim of the rape, for me, is the greatest offense of all.
Due to the ruckus caused by Congressman Akin’s comments, NBC News conducted an interview with
me in which I began by stating I was appalled but not surprised. I am old enough to remember the
first and second iterations of the belief that a woman should reproduce first and foremost, even if the
conception was non consensual, even if it killed her. I believe the most fundamental human right we
possess is our right to control our bodies and reproduction. That right is being chipped away in plain
view. It didn’t begin with the comments. It has been happening in many states where to secure the
legal pregnancy termination procedure, a woman must go through horrendous and intrusive processes
that include transvaginal ultrasounds where the fetus must be seen or being forced to sit through
presentations of fetal development. In one state, physicians may be required to give unscientific
information on development and potential consequences of the procedure. One state legislative
bill allows physicians to withhold positive pregnancy results if they believe the woman is going to
terminate the pregnancy.
This legislative trend demonstrates the level of violence against women and girls that is considered legal
and necessary to remind us that we are second class citizens that have no rights to our bodies, medical
care and ultimately our lives.
We can stop it. We have done it before. We fought for our rights and we won even though the victory
was fleeting. We took our eyes off the prize and now we must bring the focus back. One of the most
important actions we can take is to support pro choice candidates running for office on any and all
levels. We must work for them in any capacity. We have a decision to make. We have had another
wake up call. Will we heed the continual warnings? If we don’t, we will lose our progress. That is an
unimaginable picture. Let’s dialogue through this blog about ways we can stop the rollback of rights.
We must speak our truths and raise our voices together.
This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, an eight-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
It would be easy to forget Marybel and Pedro Jimenez, who last month became San Jose’s 21st and 22nd homicide victims of the year. Their deaths, allegedly at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, made headlines for several days until the story was no longer newsworthy. Authorities declared the suspected killer on the run and out of the area. Marybel and Pedro, ages 27 and 28 when they were shot, were laid to rest last week. End of story.
The end, except for the children. The little people left behind. The innocents.
Marybel and Pedro didn’t live in my neighborhood. Their three young children, ages 8, 7 and 4, don’t go to school with my grandkids. But I can’t stop thinking about them. I am struck by how children are the most tragic victims of domestic violence. Almost without exception, they are profoundly and often forever burdened with the legacy of abuse they witnessed or sustained at the hands of someone who should have been their protector.
The Jimenez situation was complex in that Marybel and Pedro, who were never married but shared the same last name, had an on-again, off-again relationship with several separations over the years. Nonetheless, they were said to be hardworking and family-oriented. They provided for their three children, and Pedro was said to be a good father and always there for his kids. Despite the multiple break-ups, the Jimenez children must have felt relatively safe and cared for.
During the most recent of the separations, Marybel had a boyfriend who is now the homicide suspect. But when Marybel decided to break up with her boyfriend and go back to the children’s father, the lethal cocktail of power and control that characterizes domestic violence was unleashed.
Domestic violence professionals tell us the most dangerous time for a victim is when she tells the abuser she is leaving. The abuser is obsessed with maintaining power and control over the victim, even if it means “if I can’t have you, no one can.” They also tell us homicide does not come without warning. Typically, there are threats. That was true in this case. In the early hours of July 23, the children saw their parents gunned down in their home.
The children were said to have been attached to the mother’s ex-boyfriend and, presumably, felling safe. Was the motivation behind winning the children’s trust a means to gain power and control over the mother? Can we ever truly know what went on behind closed doors? Can we even comprehend someone who offers care and concern for children to be capable of committing such a horrendous act in front of them?
The innocents are left behind. Although being cared for by relatives, the Jimenez children have a painful road ahead. Sadly, they join hundreds of thousands of other children who have been touched by domestic violence. While the vast majority of violence in the home is not lethal, the behavioral model of intimate partner relationships is set, sometimes for generations to come. We are all challenged to make a contribution to stopping the cycle. We are all responsible for spreading the word and supporting the delicate work of the gifted and dedicated people who do safety planning for high-risk escapes. Every day, lives depend on it. The future of so many innocents and a civilized and safe society depends on it.
When I wrote about Safeway meat clerk Ryan Young earlier this week, I got passionate reactions from a number of thoughtful people. Young was suspended from his job without pay when he intervened when he saw a customer pushing and kicking his pregnant girlfriend. Good news: after more than a month without his job, Safeway has reinstated Young with back pay. It took a while (too long), but Safeway has done the right thing.
Safeway got a lot of pressure from Young’s union, which had challenged the suspension immediately. Young appeared on national TV, people began boycotting and picketing outside the Del Rey Oaks (Monterey County) store, and the incident went viral. According to an Associated Press report, more than 180,000 people signed an online petition expressing outrage at Safeway’s actions on Change.org, a website that allows people to engage in social advocacy.
As for the abuser in this case, he apparently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to attend a 52-week domestic violence class.
Reinstating the employee who took the risk to get involved and stop violence is not enough. Safeway needs to make that generous monetary contribution to the agencies that provide shelter and support to domestic violence victims. Further, it needs to show leadership by instituting an employee education program about domestic violence, demonstrating with its care and clout that corporations CAN make a difference in the crusade to stamp out domestic violence “in the moment and for all time,” taking a cue from Next Door’s own mission statement. Safeway can make a difference and so can you.
When Is Doing Right Not Okay?
One minute the police were calling Ryan Young a hero. The next minute he was suspended from his job without pay. Young, a meat clerk at the Safeway in Del Rey Oaks (Monterey County), saw a man pushing and kicking his pregnant girlfriend. Young intervened. He asked the man to calm down, but the batterer became irate. Young believed he had no choice but to stop the assault.
It seemed to be the right thing to do. Or was it? Safeway doesn’t necessarily think so. Did Young break company policy by intervening? Should he have called store security or a manager first? What would have happened if he’d delayed taking action? It’s been weeks now, and Young is without income while Safeway investigates to see if company policy was, indeed, violated. It’s been very stressful for Young and his wife, who is five months pregnant.
While I don’t have the advantage of seeing the security video of the incident, I would tend to side with the Del Rey Oaks police chief who said things could have been much worse for the victim if Young hadn’t stepped in when he did. How many times have we heard about a person or animal in distress being ignored because no one wanted to get involved? Young believed it was his responsibility, as a Safeway employee, to take action in the interest of customer safety – that of the victim as well as other customers.
Predictably, Safeway is getting a lot of unwanted publicity, with some outraged shoppers threatening to boycott Safeway. E-mails and Facebook messages – not just from people in Monterey County, but from across the country – are calling for Young’s reinstatement. The general tone is that Safeway should be proud, not punitive, that one of its employees did the right thing out of instinct rather than second-guess his responsibility as a concerned bystander, if not as a Safeway employee.
Domestic violence is about power and control and is most often confined to places where others won’t see, judge or intervene. For an abuser to choose a public venue to attack as this batterer did there is no telling what he would do and has done behind closed doors to his victim. Outrage is the expected and proper response. Certainly, Safeway has to have employee policies governing customer care and interaction, but should the policies be so strict that an employee can’t make a split-second decision about doing the right thing?
I would hope Safeway would give Ryan Young the benefit of the doubt, reinstate his job, pay him back wages, give him an employee commendation and make a generous contribution to a Monterey County agency that provides shelter and support to domestic violence victims. It would be even better if Safeway instituted an employee education program about the insidious epidemic of domestic violence, which, statistically, affects one out of three of its own employees. What do you think?
Privilege Doesn’t Protect
The tuxedoed Magnolia Jazz Band played in the gazebo. The guests sipped donated champagne and sampled white wine from The Plumed Horse and noshed on hors d’oeuvres provided by Casa de Cobre. It was, after all, a lovely April evening in downtown Saratoga, and the gathering in the courtyard next to Preston Wynne Spa to benefit the less fortunate was not out of the ordinary for this well-heeled community.
But wait. The less fortunate … in Saratoga and nearby Los Gatos? Peggy Wynne Borgman, Preston Wynne’s founder, welcomed attendees and told them why she – 10 years ago – became involved with Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. Domestic violence knows no socio-economic boundaries. One out three American women will find herself in an abusive relationship in her lifetime, according to Peggy. She has seen it up-close-and-personal in her business, catering to women of means. She is passionate about the topic and the cause. She is determined to make a difference – in her community and throughout Santa Clara County.
That also goes for The Summit League of Saratoga, the 50-year-old non-profit organization that’s committed to raising funds for education, health, welfare and the arts. That group announced it has designated Next Door and its innovative teen POWER Program (Proud of Wanting Equal Relationships) as beneficiary of its biennial fundraising house tour. Held in late November, The Summit League’s “Homes for the Holidays” always sells out. You won’t be able to get tickets until this fall, but it’s a must-do event, featuring several incredible homes in the Saratoga/Los Gatos area decorated for the holidays by top professional decorators and floral designers who have donated their time and talent.
At the Saratoga event, Next Door Executive Director Kathleen Krenek mentioned statistics that back-up the “yes, it DOES happen here” theme. Since December 2011, Next Door has partnered with the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department to provide joint services to victims of domestic violence, thanks to a $125,000 grant from the California Emergency Management Agency. The innovative partnership involves training 48 law enforcement and 911 dispatchers to implement safe protocols for victims and increase accountability of batterers. Next Door provides a fully-trained domestic violence advocate for every time police officers are called to a domestic violence incident. The going-in projection was 70 incidents a year. So far – less than 6 months into the partnership – the Next Door advocate has responded to more than 50 incidents in this wealthy jurisdiction. One of Next Door’s most active support groups for domestic violence victims is located in Los Gatos, adjacent to Saratoga.
Kathleen Krenek famously wrote about Ed Daou, an affluent developer in Los Gatos, who killed himself and his son last summer after his abused wife, Carmen, left him and obtained a protective restraining order. Kathleen’s plea was published last August in the San Jose Mercury News: “If we accept that domestic violence is a community issue, that we should talk about it in our classrooms, in our homes, with our children and our family and friends, then I’m hopeful we can prevent more fathers from killing their sons.” Amen. Ask Next Door how you can help stop violence before it starts. The Next Door hot line is 408-279-2962.
Here are a couple of pictures from the Saratoga event.
This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, a seven-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
She believed she was worthless. She didn’t think she was capable of doing much more than getting her three kids fed, dressed and off to school each day. She was a failure at the simplest domestic tasks, like keeping the house spotless, the kids quiet and getting a dinner on the table that would please her abusive spouse. Some days were better than others. But the bad days and violence seemed to be occurring more frequently.
And so the story goes. The physical scars of domestic violence are perhaps the easiest to mend. After careful safety planning and a successful escape, the real work to put lives back together begins. Imagine if you will: When you’re at your lowest in terms of self-esteem, resiliency and resources, you’ve got to find housing, food, clothing, transportation, employment, financial aid, legal help, child care, and on and on. You may never have had a bank account, a driver’s license or a job interview. You may have escaped with your life but nothing else. It’s no wonder so many victims return to their batterers and the cycle of violence, sometimes with tragic consequences.
That’s why agencies such as Next Door put so much emphasis on self-sufficiency. According to Sarah Fuller, Manager of Next Door’s Self-Sufficiency Programs, “The abuse causes not just a lack of self- esteem, but many woman feel they have lost the essence of who they once were. Their identity and image that once shown back at them in the mirror is lost because of the violence. Self-sufficiency coaches clients to rediscover their strengths, their talents and their dreams.”
In 2011, a grant from the Avon Foundation allowed Next Door to launch an ambitious pilot program of workshops to supplement its ongoing self-sufficiency efforts. Workshops tackle self-esteem and empowerment, goal-setting, financial awareness, education and job search. Because results from the pilot were so impressive, the Avon Foundation granted Next Door a second-year extension.
Next month, Fuller will speak at an Avon Foundation conference in New Orleans, describing the pilot results: 10 women received full- or part-time employment; 35 women created resumes and cover letters or business cards; 3 women obtained bank accounts; 2 women got drivers’ licenses; 2 women got education scholarships; 6 women found housing; 3 women started junior college or a university; 1 woman earned her CPA license; 1 woman created a business plan. And, that’s just the beginning.
Last year, local donors contributed more than $3,200 and law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati donated laptops to establish a computer lab so self-sufficiency clients will have access to tools they need to look for a job, housing and other resources to create a new life. Still, more help is needed. On Fuller’s wish list are donors who will provide funds so Next Door can provide self-sufficiency workshops in Spanish. Anyone out there want to step up to that challenge? You’d be amazed at what little it takes to change a life. Call Sarah Fuller (408-501-7567) if you want to hear more about the courage, tenacity and perseverance of those who have been battered and how you can help.