Join Us to Help End Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and CASS is joining survivors, advocates, and allies to spread the word.

Did you know that one in four women and one in seven men will experience severe physical violence by a partner in their lifetime? For Black and Hispanic women, this number jumps to 30 and 33 percent, respectively. And for trans folks, it’s estimated that 30-50 percent have experienced domestic violence.

This is an issue that affects all of us, and it’s one we cannot be silent about this or any month.

Here’s a look at what we’ll be doing this month to help end domestic violence:

  • Stop Light Party – October 14
    Join us for a fun evening of building healthy relationships at our DVAM Stop Light Party!
  • Twitter Chat – October 17
    The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s DVAM Twitter Chat will be from 2-3 pm on the 17th in both English and Spanish. Use #Safety4Survivors to add your voice to the conversation. More information on the chat and NNEDV’s Week of Action is available here.
  • #PurpleThursday – October 19
    Wear purple to bring awareness to domestic violence. Share a photo of your #PurpleThursday style with us – tag us @SafeSpacesDC!
  • Safe Bar Collective Training – October 22
    We’re offering a public, discounted Safe Bar Collective Training. Groups of two or more bar/restaurant staff members can attend to become safety captains at their establishment.

Plus, we’re debuting a new poster in the coming weeks! Keep an eye out for ways you can be an active bystander.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, we encourage you to seek out help and resources from DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV) and D.C.’s crime victims hotline.

 

Image courtesy of National Network to End Domestic Violence.

I Won’t #TakeaKnee Until the Movement Against Police Brutality Centers Women of Color

Editor’s note: TW for domestic violence.

I’ve been hesitant to #TakeaKnee.

I am of course always inspired and energized by new advocates joining the movement for the first time. We all started somewhere. We are all on a journey. Our political analysis evolves over time with exposure, experience, and community accountability. I am grateful to Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee and for being outspoken about white supremacy and state violence. And I am grateful that NFL players are kneeling in solidarity.

But I’m tired of gendered violence taking a back seat.

Amid the headlines and national outrage this weekend, people seem to have forgotten — or conveniently erased — the experiences of Black women and women of color as victims and survivors of state violence. Because yes, state violence affects women of color, too. Today, Paris Knox is in court in Chicago, appealing her 40-year sentence for defending herself against her partner when he showed up at her home.

Police brutality doesn’t necessarily manifest the same way for women and femmes of color as it does for men. In many cases, women’s experiences with state violence are tied to their experiences with domestic violence. Fifty percent of women’s homicides are by a partner, and Black women have the highest intimate partner homicide rates. And yet in the cases when Black women fight to survive, they often face incarceration, perceived as having no selves to defend like Paris Knox and Bresha Meadows. Women are even held accountable for the violence of their abusers with “failure to protect” laws. In 2014, a Buzzfeed News investigation found 73 cases of mothers who were sentenced to 10 or more years in prison between 2004 and 2014; 38% of these mothers were domestic violence survivors. Just last year, Danielle Whyte was charged with manslaughter when her boyfriend strangled her infant son to death and then threatened to kill her if she called police.

With state violence against women of color so frequently tied to our experiences with domestic violence, it is difficult for me, as a woman of color and as a domestic violence survivor once jailed for self-defense, to kneel with NFL players, many of whom have been accused of domestic violence or sexual assault.

And the NFL’s gendered violence problem is surpassed still by law enforcement officers. Between 24 and 40 percent of police officer families have experienced domestic violence, up to four times as a high as the rate of the general population. Police sexual assault is also the second most common form of police brutality, with a police officer caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days, and this data doesn’t include the officers who never got caught. It also doesn’t include most incidents of police sexually assaulting sex workers, which in some states police assert is their right.

Too frequently, these narratives are missing from the larger conversation about police brutality, an omission that Andrea Ritchie works to highlight in her new book Invisible No More.

For women of color to be included, state violence and gendered violence must be tackled simultaneously.

When I think about the divisions in this movement, I also think about my own experience in an abusive relationship: how shocked I was when he hit me. It was surreal to me that this betrayal would come from someone so close to me — my own partner who I loved and shared a home with. I saw the barriers he was facing to becoming sober and nonviolent, and I was invested in his progress: I believed that his success was my success was our success. He always made me believe that he was fighting for me, for us. I believed that we were in that fight together.

I spent years focusing on his needs, believing that if we could solve the problems that he was facing then eventually that work would pay off and end his violence against me. But instead it kept getting worse, as abusive relationships often do. The violence escalated, and I could have lost my life in that relationship.

Too often, anti-violence movements feel like abusive relationships themselves. Black women and women of color are consistently asked and expected to fall in line. We are told that we must prioritize the needs of Black men in the movement against state violence and the needs of white women in the movement against gendered violence. We are shamed, silenced, and gaslighted when we ask if our needs will also be addressed and included in this fight. We are called “divisive” for asking to be included.

I’m hesitant to put my life on the line again for men who tell me that we’re in this fight toward liberation together when we’re not.

It should not take away from your needs to also acknowledge my needs. If you can’t say that my needs are just as important as yours, if you don’t speak out against gendered state violence, if you believe that somehow seeing and speaking up about my needs takes away from your cause or your movement, then you’ve already thrown me under the bus to drive forward without me.

And I’m tired of fighting for men who aren’t fighting for me.

If you believe that this message is divisive, that it takes away somehow from the masses who connected to Kaepernick, remember that you are dividing two issues and two movements that for me are completely intertwined.

Image credit: loveandprotect.org

Bystander Intervention Training in Action

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Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)
Location: Petworth

I was walking home and heard sobbing and shouting from across the street. As I crossed, I saw a man holding a woman around her waist and pulling her down the block. I sped up until I was a little behind them and decided to intervene by asking ‘Hey, are you okay?’ as I learned in the CASS training.

The woman was crying very hard and didn’t answer me but her abuser let her go and came to yell at me. He called me a bitch and I backed up some and told him that he didn’t need to speak to me like that, I was just asking if she was okay.

As he was heading back to the woman, a police car came around the corner and parked near the couple. The officers got out and separated the couple, arresting him. Someone else had seen and called 911.

I went to speak to the woman and we sat down on a bench. She was in shock and panicking, we sat down and I introduced myself. We did some breathing exercises together to help her regain calm. I offered to stay with her until the police were done, she said yes so I did and we talked until she said was feeling more in control and able to head home.

I’m thankful that CASS helped prepare me to best support her.

Submitted 1/7/17 by “KS”

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

#DVAM: October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Thousands of advocates, allies, and survivors are speaking up this Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).

Like all forms of abuse, domestic violence is fueled by silence. It thrives when communities do not recognize problematic behaviors or speak out against systematic patterns of power and control; and it is thwarted by awareness, action, and support.

What can you do to spread the word this month and help to end domestic violence? Add your voice to building safer communities by participating in the DVAM Week of Action with us!

October 17 – Media Monday
Participate in the #31n31 campaign challenging perceptions about domestic violence on social media.

October 18 – Twitter Chat
Join a Twitter chat hosted by NNEDV from 2-3pm using the hashtag #CenterEachOther. Questions will be sent out in English from @NNEDV and in Spanish from @WomensLaw.

October 20 – #PurpleThursday
Wear purple to show your support for preventing and ending domestic violence! Share your images with us using #PurpleThursday and tagging @SafeSpacesDC and @DCCADV

October 22 – Shout-Out Saturday
Celebrate the people you admire who speak out for survivors and use their voices to make a difference.

Ongoing Activities
For a full list of ongoing activities for the #SpreadLoveDC campaign (including chalking, social media posts, and more), click here.

We also encourage you to share your stories with us, or seek help and resources from the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV), the National Street Harassment hotline, and D.C.’s crime victims hotline.

Men: Eradicating Rape Culture is Our Charge

Earlier this summer writer Jody Allard articulated some of the the reprehensible circumstances surrounding a 2015 Stanford sexual assault in the article “Rape Culture Is A Man Problem. Why Aren’t More Men Speaking Up?” Allard wrote “I realize now that no woman can change how little our lives matter in this system. It’s up to the men who created that system…to create a better system.”

This sentiment resonated with me and my mind went immediately to the case of Relisha Rudd, an 8-year-old girl from Washington, DC who has been missing since March 2014.

When it was clear Relisha Rudd’s case would not be solved, I just thought everyone failed her. Social services, the homeless shelter, schools, teachers, her caretakers, cops, investigators, and all of us for devaluing her life from birth to now. It was a systematic failure, something we only recognize way after the fact.

When I look back at something like the Stanford sexual assault case, I feel similarly. We failed the woman who survived the sexual assault.

But it was not just one failure, on one level.

It seemed to cascade down from support for the perpetrator being seen as normal and necessary, to the idea that survivors must report their assault to the authorities in order to be considered believable, to the shockingly lenient sentence given for sexual assault.

And these circumstances are common and occur beyond this one case.

All this goes to say that for me the first step is realizing that misogyny, rape culture, and sexism in general are not simply personal shortcomings. They are not character flaws we can un-teach individual “bad people.”

They are the way we live our lives.

Not embedded in our way of life. They are our way of life.

That’s not an easy conclusion to come to. But that means to even begin to deconstruct them in a real and meaningful way, we men and male identified people must be open to criticism and examination of everything we do. Nothing is off the table.

Sometimes as men, we may ask, Well, what am I supposed to do? or How do I remedy x situation? Your friend says a wack sexist comment, you find yourself and your partner stuck in the trap of traditional gender roles, you find out someone you know was sexually assaulted, or any revelation that results in you thinking how can I be part of a solution?

I’m really putting this question out there because I don’t have the wisdom or knowledge to say how and when we should act in these situations.  What we do need, however, is to get beyond solely looking to address specific incidents of assault and harassment without acknowledging why they are so prevalent and how we can flip this reality.

We need to begin thinking not only about changing how we act at any moment in time, but also our behavior in general. We need to reflect on how our behavior affects other people. Then we resolve to do better the next time. And do even better the time after that.

We must talk to other men, hold them accountable, and not turn the other way or stay silent when we see sexual assault or harassment.

I want to hear other men’s ideas about busting up damaging gender roles in our interpersonal relationships, about things you’ve done to confront sexist ideas and displays in all-male environments, and about alleviating the sentiment that we aren’t participating in rape culture solely because we haven’t sexually assaulted a woman or harassed a woman on the street. It’s just plain deficient to say we’re allies without critiquing ourselves and acknowledging our role in oppressive systems.

Talking with other men about feminism and how we define and end rape culture is imperative. That certainly doesn’t mean we’ll get everything perfect all the time, but gets the machine parts moving, avoiding stagnation.

I believe men can stop rape, sexual assault, and street harassment in the name of eradicating rape culture.

Jody Allard is right. This is a man problem and we need to address it now.

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