Domestic Violence

The Fight to End Sexual Violence: RAINN-the Anti-Sexual Violence Organization

The Fight to End Sexual Violence: RAINN-the Anti-Sexual Violence Organization

The House of Representatives recently renewed the Violence Against Women Act, marking a milestone for victims of sexual and domestic violence. This new legislation is stronger than the older version, which was enacted back in 1994, in that it both expands and creates federal programs that help victims of sexual and domestic violence. In addition to re-establishing provisions of the older law pertaining to intimate partner violence, it provides newly established legal protections for Native American women and members of the LGBT community who are victims of sexual and domestic violence.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

Since it passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has provided a solid approach to tackling the issues of sexual and domestic violence. One of the ways it did this was by improving how the criminal justice system responded to sexual and domestic violence in the first place. It required, for example, that regardless of one’s income, victims are not required to pay for their own rape exam or for service of a protection order.  

VAWA required that a victim’s protection order be recognized by every state and territory in the Union, and helped increase prosecution and conviction rates by assisting communities in developing dedicated law enforcement units that dealt with victims of sexual and domestic violence.

The Violence Against Women Act also continues to provide funding for the training of over 500,000 prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers every year so that they are better equipped to respond to the victims of sexual and domestic violence. Rape victims were more empowered to talk to police and prosecutors about being sexually assaulted after the bill created the “rape shield law,” which meant that during a rape trial, the defense for the rapist may not use a victim’s sexual behavior in the past against them.

The House went even further to advance the cause of victims of sexual violence in particular by passing the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act (SAFER). This law is meant to help the victims of sexual violence by making the DNA evidence testing process transparent. It will also increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system so as to eliminate the backlog of untested evidence. This would mean that evidence could be presented to courts faster, leading to quicker convictions that would see justice delivered to victims and rapists being taken off the streets.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country. Founded in 1994 by Scott Berkowitz  with Tori Amos as its first celebrity spokesperson, RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,100 rape crisis centers all across the country. RAINN also carries out numerous programs to help victims, educate the public, prevent sexual violence and bring rapists to justice.

The following is an interview with Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of RAINN, on his thoughts and feelings about the recent reauthorization of VAWA, and the work of his organization in the realm of sexual violence.

In your opinion, what does the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for the women's rights movement?

It is a big deal for sexual violence prevention and for helping victims; since VAWA passed sexual violence declined by two-thirds. The fact that VAWA might not be renwed was very worrisome, so we were afraid to lose the gains we made.

Do you believe the new version of VAWA goes far enough to protect women against sexual violence?

I think it has a lot of really valuable and important programs in there. There is training for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. There are programs for college campuses to educate students and prevent violence and services to support victims. Services to victims are especially valuable, since academic studies have shown that victims who get help are more likely to report it to the police.

The House also passed the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act (SAFER). Do you believe this law as passed represents a step in the right direction for the victims of sexual violence?

SAFER is a very, very important step forward. There has been a long standing backlog of untested DNA evidence, and since rapists tend to be serial criminals, the elimination of this backlog will help get justice and prevent future crime. There have been a lot of roadblocks to eliminating this backlog, for example kits that were just sitting there were not even counted as backlog under the old legislation. SAFER changes that and puts a number of initiative that speed up the testing of evidence. Under the old legislation, only 40 percent of the money designated to DNA was earmarked for solving the crime, SAFER raises that to 75 percent.

What has RAINN been able to achieve in terms of advancing the cause of sexual violence victims? What are some of your future plans and projects?

I think there are three important things we have been able to achieve: first, is that we have been able to help and support victims, our hotline has already helped 1.8 million people since its inception; second, we helped change the national discussion about the issue of sexual violence by increasing education … we changed the way the public talked about the issue by working with media; third, we have worked on public policy and achieved great gains in the realm of DNA testing.

One thing we are currently working on is to collaborate with the defense department to help victims in the defense forces. They can now get help through a special site: Safehelpline.org

1994 marked the initial passage of VAWA, and it also marked the foundation of RAINN, as a society do you believe we have a come a long way since then?

I think we have made tremendous progress and the fact that sexual violence is down tremendously since 1994 says a lot about the gains we made.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-HOPE or visit the RAINN website. You can learn more about sexual or domestic violence by visiting the Domestic Violence page.

Alianza: Confronting Domestic Violence among our Nation’s Latinos

Alianza: Confronting Domestic Violence among our Nation's Latinos

On March 7, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This new version of VAWA expands protections for Native American women, members of the LGBT community and undocumented immigrants. The passage of this bill, of course, is of great significance to all victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence across the country.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

Since its inception in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has established a national victims’ hotline, expanded services for survivors of domestic violence and improved the criminal justice system’s response to this problem. It has also helped to change the national dialogue regarding domestic violence.

Hispanic Americans suffer the same rates of intimate partner violence as their non-Hispanic counterparts, according to one study, but suffer higher levels of marital rape. However, they do suffer higher rates of severe violence when compared to non-Hispanic Whites. There are other unique challenges that face some

Hispanic domestic violence victims, such as language barriers and, in the case of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, the fear of being deported or losing their children if they came forward to seek help.

Alianza is the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. Established in 2000, Alianza focuses on addressing the unique needs of members of the Latino/a community who are experiencing domestic violence. Their work and research, however, does help to inform the field of domestic violence as a whole. Alianza’s work over the years has focused on four main areas: policy advocacy, research, training and technical assistance and community education.

The following is an interview with Ivonne Ortiz, training and TA project coordinator and Adelita Medina Executive Director at Alianza, on their thoughts and feelings about the recent reauthorization of VAWA, and the work of her organization in the realm of domestic violence.

In your opinion, what does the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for the women's rights movement?

DV and SA movements….

The recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) sends a message to people around the country that women’s safety and lives do matter regardless of their race, ethnicity, or immigration status.  The legislation will help expand and improve our responses to violence against women in its different forms, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Do you believe the new version of VAWA goes far enough to protect women against domestic violence?

Although the changes in VAWA might seem modest, they do offer increased protections for some underserved and marginalized populations.  For the first time, the legislation includes expanded protections for Native American women and immigrants and provisions for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) victims of domestic violence. The new VAWA also includes provisions to address sexual violence on college campuses, where incidents of rape are extremely high.

We are also glad that it reauthorizes the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and adds stalking to the list of crimes that make immigrants eligible for protection.  

VAWA authorizes funding for programs that strengthen the criminal justice system's response to crimes against women and some men, such as transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines.  This will help to strengthen those systems that currently serve victims and ensure that their responses are culturally appropriate for immigrant victims and other particularly vulnerable groups.

Do you think the law as passed represents a step in the right direction for American Indian women and LGBT people in the United States?

Yes, definitely, VAWA 2013 includes increased protections for Native American women across Indian Country. It gives tribal governments important new tools to effectively respond to crimes committed against Native women. The reauthorized legislation also marks an important win for LGBT rights advocates and communities because it addresses the discrimination experienced by LGBT victims of domestic violence and sexual assault when they seek help, based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  It will enhance the work that LGBT organizations are doing to ensure that VAWA-funded services are able and willing to provide culturally-competent and respectful care to LGBT victims and survivors.

What has your organization been able to achieve in terms of advancing the cause of domestic violence victims?

Alianza—The National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, is part of a national effort to address the domestic violence needs and concerns of under-served populations. Alianza specifically addresses the needs and concerns of Latino/a families and communities.  

Our primary work has included

1) Community Education: we work to raise awareness about the devastating effects of domestic violence on Latino families and communities and provide information about existing laws, options, resources, and services.  We have carried out several public awareness campaigns in Spanish and English (via radio, television and print outlets), developed and distributed thousands of bilingual brochures, posters, and public service announcements.  From the very beginning we have promoted the need for women and men to work together to end family violence and have engaged men on our Board, Advisory Committees and staff.

2) Public Policy: we advocate for policies, legislation, and funding that will help Latina survivors, families and communities prevent and end violence against women, including immigrants.

3) Training and Technical Assistance: we have developed several curricula, training materials, a training video and other training materials and resources; we have organized numerous national conferences and conducted dozens of regional and national trainings across the country to enhance the knowledge and skills of organizations that serve Latina survivors, Latino men and boys, and Latino families.  Our training is for both Latino/a and non-Latino organizations, as long as they serve Latina survivors and/or work with Latino men and boys. We have also conducted workshops and offered technical assistance to organizations, institutions, and government agencies in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua.  

Information and Referrals: Alianza receives numerous calls weekly requesting information, seeking services, training, speakers, materials, etc. Requests for assistance include but are not limited to: statistics regarding the Latino population and DV, print materials, information about direct services (residential and non-residential). We have developed a national directory of domestic violence programs that offer services in Spanish to assist providers in making referrals.

On-line Resource Center: Alianza maintains an online Resource Center (www.dvalianza.org) that includes most of the materials that we have developed—conference reports, informational booklets, manuals, position papers, research summaries, brochures, and a national directory of domestic violence service programs that offer services in Spanish.  It also contains links to other organizations, materials and resources that can provide useful and relevant information for survivors, advocates, funders, policy makers, researchers and others interested in helping put an end to violence against women.

While these efforts have helped to protect and save lives, many programs fall short of meeting the multiple needs of a growing Latino population. Lack of access to many services remains a primary concern for survivors who face diverse challenges and barriers that hinder them from accessing the services they so desperately need.  In some instances, lack of cultural sensitivity and knowledge among service providers about the cultural dynamics of the women and families they serve results in discrimination and exclusion from services, alienating and re-victimizing the very people they intend to assist and support.

As a society, do you believe we have come a long way since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994?

In many ways, there have been many advances made which have resulted in saving countless lives and keeping many women and children safe.  More people, in general, are aware that domestic violence is a serious problem in our society and that it is a crime that has multiple consequences for all areas of our society.  Laws and policies such as VAWA have enabled states and other jurisdictions to adopt measures to deal with violence against women.

Funding has allowed the domestic violence movement or field to create services to shelter and house victims and their families, to offer crisis intervention services and individual and group counseling, to provide training for law enforcement, the courts, and members of the medical profession. As these measures are put in place, more victims feel that they are able to come forth and seek protection and services.

Groups such as Alianza and its counterparts in the African American, Asian, and Native American communities have continued to advocate for the rights of underserved and marginalized communities.   Recent years have seen efforts grow to engage men and boys in the struggle to end violence and to help batterers turn their lives around.

So we believe that a strong foundation has been built and important steps have been taken to prevent and end violence against women.

Is it enough? Do we need to do more?

Absolutely. Despite all the progress and gains mentioned before, much more needs to be done, especially outside of the so called “domestic violence movement.” Because while there has been increased awareness about domestic violence—its prevalence, the existence of laws, availability of services, resources, etc., much work remains to be done to change attitudes and behavior among all facets of our society, including batterers, survivors, their friends and families, the general public, law enforcement, the legal system, service agencies and other areas.

There are still too many police officers who play down the seriousness of calls for help or who side with the abusers; too many prosecutors who say they don’t have enough evidence; too many judges handing out light sentences or dismissing the charges; too many family members, co-workers, and friends who don’t want to get involved; and too many people who continue to blame the victims and excuse the batterers.

Until every sector of our society is willing to assume some role, the violence will persist.

We would like to see a lot more men being held accountable by their compadres, their fathers, sons, or brothers; a lot more women supported by their comadres, mothers, sisters, daughters.  We would like to see more teachers and counselors who know how to help a student experiencing violence in the home; more anti-violence curricula and teen dating brochures in schools; clergy being supportive and sympathetic instead of judging and encouraging survivors to stay in abusive marriages.  We would like to see a lot more city councils, like the one in Cincinnati, Ohio or the South Bend Common Council, passing resolutions and taking a public stance against violence.

Multiple sectors of our communities—domestic violence survivors, their friends and families, educators, policymakers, the media, spiritual leaders, business leaders, members of the health care and civil and criminal justice systems, among others have to take some form of action to raise awareness, generate concern and resolve not to accept it and help create behavioral change.

If you are in a domestic violence situation, please contact Alianza for help. You can learn more about this issue by visiting the Domestic Violence Page.

Putting an End to Domestic Violence through Collective Action – The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Putting an End to Domestic Violence through Collective Action - The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

President Obama recently signed into law the reauthorization of the  Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Initially signed into law back in 1994, this historic piece of legislation changed how the federal government dealt with the issues of sexual and domestic violence by allowing federal prosecution of interstate sexual and domestic violence crimes and offering federal funding to rape crisis centers. The new version of VAWA has now also expanded protections for Native American women and LGBT victims of domestic violence.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

Between 22 and 25 percent of American women experience some form of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Another 7 percent of men also experience domestic violence. One in six women have either been raped or experienced an attempted rape by a partner, and the figure is even more startling for Native American women, since one in three of them will be raped in their lifetime. With so many women and men experiencing some form of sexual or domestic violence, it is only right that an act like VAWA should come to pass to offer additional protections against this epidemic.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is one of the largest domestic violence organizations in the country. Established in 1978, it works with individuals and communities with the aim of putting an end to domestic violence. The NCADV works to empower battered women and children, promote and unify direct services programs, promote partnerships, educate the public and of course eliminate domestic violence.

The following is an interview with Rita Smith, executive director of the NCADV, on her thoughts and feelings about the recent reauthorization of VAWA, and the work of her organization in the realm of domestic violence.

In your opinion, what does the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for the women's rights movement?

The reauthorization of VAWA continues to build on the good results of the last 19 years to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault. It provides critical services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and teen dating violence. Over the last 19 years we have seen good progress on these issues with this funding, and the improvements we added with this most recent reauthorization will significantly impact very vulnerable populations. Until women are safe at home, free from violence and abuse, full participation in society will continue to be limited.

Do you believe the new version of VAWA goes far enough to protect women against domestic violence?

The most recent version of VAWA has critical improvements, and as with any bill, as advocates we may have wanted to add other components, but needed to be realistic about what kind of bill Congress would pass and President Obama would sign. NCADV works closely with many other national organizations on policy, and as a group we determined this was the best bill we could get through the federal legislative process. In the next five years, we'll get feedback from domestic violence and sexual assault programs about how this bill is working in communities and identify areas we need to change, remove or add in the next reauthorization process.  

The new version of VAWA includes historic provisions for Native American Women and members of the LGBT community. Do you think the law as passed represents a step in the right direction for American Indian women and LGBT people in the United States?

This version of VAWA is a significant improvement for both Native/Indigenous women and the LGBT communities, and also includes good protections for immigrant communities. The Native provisions in particular are very dramatic, and allows for Tribal Nations to now have the capacity to hold non-native abusers accountable for the first time in history. Expanding the definitions of the grant programs to allow services to be provided to victims within the LGBT community is also an important addition to access for life saving support.

What has your organization been able to achieve in terms of advancing the cause of domestic violence victims?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has been able to make significant progress to support victims over our 35 year history. We have worked to expand the network of local community based programs from around 200 in the late 1970's to over 2000 at present. We advocated for the first federal funding, the Family Violence Prevention & Services Act, in 1984. NCADV has been active in educating Congress, every Administration, and the public about this issue since we were formed in 1978. We have sponsored the premiere domestic violence conference every two years since 1980 to advance the skills, knowledge and expertise of local domestic violence advocates. We have created financial education material specifically for victims, and created the national awareness effort in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

As a society, do you believe we have come a long way since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994?

We are addressing this issue more effectively now as a result of the laws that every state has passed. Law enforcement are better trained, health care providers are learning how to screen their patients for risk factors of abuse, attorneys are learning how to better prosecute and represent this issue in court, faith based leaders are taking public stands against abuse, and some corporations are developing workplace violence policies that support and protect victims. While we have a lot more work to do, we have made significant strides in these ways and others, and because of that communities are safer and the cost of domestic violence has been reduced.

If you find yourself in a domestic violence situation please visit NCADV website or call 1-800-799-SAFE. To learn more about Domestic Violence please click on the highlighted link.

 

Equality Now: Leading the Global Fight to End Domestic Violence

Equality Now: Leading the Global Fight to End Domestic Violence


The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was recently signed into law. This new version of the original 1994 legislation both expands and creates federal programs that help victims of domestic violence. This new legislation also provides legal protections for Native American women and LGBT victims of domestic violence. It passed by a vote of 286-138 in the House of Representatives and was signed into law by President Obama on March 7th.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

The bill authorizes funding for a national registry of forensic evidence and for more rape kits. VAWA also strengthens trafficking statutes, and even covers men as well. Non-native partners of native women will no longer be immune from prosecution because they committed their crimes on tribal lands, where tribal police could not arrest them and local police originally did not have jurisdiction.

Domestic violence is by no means limited to the United States, but is prevalent throughout the world. Different countries have differing levels of acceptability regarding domestic violence, and intimate partner prevalence rates vary from country to country, with some 69 percent of women reporting domestic violence in some countries, and only 10 percent reporting the same in others. Forms of domestic violence are diverse, and range from acid burning and honor killings, to rapes and bride burnings.

Equality Now is a nonprofit women’s rights organization whose aim is to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls all over the world. Founded in 1992 by three prominent attorneys, it works to eliminate sexual violence, discrimination in law, trafficking and female genital mutilation. It aims to achieve these objectives through international advocacy, conducting strategic litigation, awareness-raising, partnerships and coalition-building and strengthening international and regional human rights laws.

The following is an interview with Shelby Quast, Senior Policy Advisor for Equality Now on her views on the recent reauthorization of VAWA, and Equality Now's work in the realm of domestic violence.

What does the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for women everywhere?

It was more what a lack of passage signified – that Congress is truly broken.  Passage of VAWA, including the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, and reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act signify that the rights of women and girls' – all women and girls – are human rights.  We still have a long way to go – toward full protection of rights and implementation of the laws but we are moving forward.  

Do you believe VAWA could inspire change in legislation in other countries?

It is important not only within the US that VAWA was signed into law but also symbolically to those fighting violence against women and girls around the world.The United States is one of the top donor countries, both to the United Nations and in bi-lateral assistance.  It is important that the US lead by example.  While what the US does may not always inspire change in other countries what it does not do can often support a lack a change — Equality Now often hears from its partners that the fact the US is one of only six  countries that has not signed the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been used by other governments to show that CEDAW is not important and need not be implemented. The US really needs to step up and ratify CEDAW.

The new version of VAWA includes important provisions for LGBT people and Native American women. Do you think the law as passed represents a step in the right direction for both groups?

Of course; everyone has a right to live a life free from violence – including Native American women and members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately, women and girls from all backgrounds, in all corners of the world are still subjected to violence and discrimination.  We must continue to advocate not only for the passage of laws that protect women and girls from violence but full implementation of these laws, including education regarding these rights, full access to justice when these rights are violated and accountability when the laws are not implemented.

What has Equality Now achieved in terms of advancing the cause of domestic violence victims here and abroad?

Equality Now advocates for the legal rights of women and girls around the globe and supported passage of VAWA in the US.  We see too often that those charged with protecting the best interests girls often do not do so; family members are often complicit in, if not the perpetrators of, violations against women and girls. Equality Now's work includes supporting legal actions, advocating for the passage of laws and raising awareness on various issues including, for example: incest in Pakistan; incest involving the disabled in Uganda; child marriage in Yemen; forced marriage in Ethiopia; sex trafficking in the US, and sex tourism in Brazil.

Equality Now is involved in partnerships and coalition building, for example, Equality Now is the Secretariat for the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) in Kenya, Secretariat for the all-party parliamentary group for FGM in the UK, on the Steering Committee for the Coalition for Adolescent Girls in the US, and is an active member of International Coalition of Girls Not Brides and GNB USA, the Anti-trafficking Coalition, Civil Society Working Group on Women Peace and Security, among others.

Now that VAWA has been reauthorized, would you like to see the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), which would address violence against women through U.S. foreign policy, signed into law one day as well?

Yes.  One in three women will be the victim of abuse during her lifetime.  Violence against women and girls takes many forms including rape, female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, domestic violence, dowry deaths, honor killings, human trafficking, sex tourism, incest, and sexual violence by those in positions of power, including armed forces. In addition to its international work, Equality Now works in Washington, DC to inform and hold accountable US foreign policy on issues regarding human rights of women and girls.  It is important that US foreign policies supports local programs that not only addresses victims of violence but also support local efforts to ensure women and girls avoid becoming victims of abuse.  US and military personnel, including contractors, should not only be better trained on how to protect women and girls from violence but held accountable when their actions violate international and US laws and policies such as the US Zero Tolerance policy on human trafficking. IVAWA can help with such efforts.

For more information about women’s rights movements here or abroad, please visit the Equality Now website. Learn more about Domestic Violence by clicking the link.

Fighting Domestic Violence in the Ocean State – The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Fighting Domestic Violence in the Ocean State - The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The House recently reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which is great news for victims of sexual and domestic violence. This new bill is stronger than the older version, which was enacted in 1994, in that it both creates and expands federal programs that help victims of sexual and domestic violence. In addition to re-establishing provisions of the older law pertaining to sexual and domestic violence, it provides newly established legal protections for LGBT victims of sexual and domestic violence and Native American women. The bill also includes provisions for documented and undocumented immigrant domestic violence victims. For example, documented immigrant victims who are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, can now petition for independent legal status so that they are not forced to remain in an abusive relationship with the partner who initially provided sponsorship. VAWA also has a visa option for undocumented immigrants in abusive relationships.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has provided a holistic approach to dealing with the problems of sexual and domestic violence. One of the manners it did this was by changing how the criminal justice system responded to sexual and domestic violence. It required, for example, that regardless of a victim’s income level, victims are not required to pay for service of a protection order or for their own rape exam.

VAWA required that a victim’s protection order be recognized by every state and territory in the United States, and helped increase prosecution and conviction rates by assisting communities in developing dedicated law enforcement units that dealt with victims of sexual and domestic violence.

The Violence Against Women Act also continues to provide funding for the training of over half a million prosecutors, law enforcement officers and judges annually so that they are better equipped to respond to the victims of sexual and domestic violence. Rape victims were more empowered to talk to police and prosecutors about being sexually assaulted after the bill created the “rape shield law,” which meant that during a rape trial, the defense for the rapist may not use a victim’s sexual behavior in the past against them.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) was formed in 1979 with the goal of putting an end to domestic violence in Rhode Island. The RICADV serves to provide support to the six domestic violence prevention agencies in the state. It advocates both locally and nationally, promotes community organizing in regards to domestic violence prevention and raises awareness about domestic violence.

The following is an interview with Deborah DeBare, executive director of the RICADV, on her thoughts and feelings about the recent reauthorization of VAWA, and the work of her organization in the realm of domestic violence.

In your opinion, what does the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for the women's rights movement?

I think it has been a tremendous milestone.  The fact that it has been blocked for the last couple of years was troubling, but the fact that it went through swiftly a few weeks ago shows clear signs of progress.

Do you believe the new version of VAWA goes far enough to protect women against domestic violence?

I think the most important thing is that it got passed. This is the strongest version yet, and I don't think we will ever know if VAWA went far enough until domestic violence is eradicated.

The new version of VAWA includes historic provisions for Native American Women and members of the LGBT community. Do you think the law as passed represents a step in the right direction for American Indian women and LGBT people in the United States?

Absolutely! These were a couple of the stumbling blocks, and it seemed imperative that VAWA protects all victims regardless of sexual identity, or whether or not they are Native American. I actually witnessed the signing and the woman who introduced Vice President Biden, Diane Millich, was a Native American of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and she shared her story about marrying a non-Indian man who moved to her reservation and abused her, but the tribal authorities could not prosecute him because he was not Indian. The only reason he was ever prosecuted by the federal government was because when he had fired a bullet meant for her, he accidently hit and injured a non-Indian!  If the new VAWA was law at the time, her tribe would have had the ability to arrest her abuser.

What has your organization been able to achieve in terms of advancing the cause of domestic violence victims in the state of Rhode Island?

We have developed a comprehensive network of victims’ services, shelters, transitional housing, counseling and support services in every corner of the state. We also established a comprehensive program for law enforcement.

Do you believe Rhode Island has come a long way since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994?

Absolutely! There is a world of difference now, and there has been a change in the commitment of the legal system in its response to domestic violence.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, please contact the RICADV for help. For more information on domestic violence, please visit the Domestic Violence Page.

Tony Gibart of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Madison, Wisconsin

Tony Gibart of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Madison, Wisconsin

Confronting Domestic Violence in the Badger State – The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The reauthorization of  the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was recently signed into law by President Obama. This is of course cause for celebration, as the passage of the bill marks a huge step forward for victims of sexual and domestic violence everywhere. In addition to re-establishing provisions of the older 1994 law pertaining to intimate partner violence, it provides new protections for Native American women and LGBT victims of domestic violence.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

In Wisconsin, 40 victims of domestic violence were killed in 34 different incidents in 2011 alone. Some 20 percent of these victims were under the age of 5 – the oldest victim was 82. All 15 counties in the state experienced intimate partner homicide.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WCADV) works to support victims of domestic violence by mobilizing communities to effect meaningful policy change. WCADV provides domestic violence member programs with the support and resources needed to help victims of domestic violence. The WCADV has helped bring about change through more than 25 years of advocacy and outreach.

The following is an interview with Tony Gibart of the WCADV on his opinion about the recent reauthorization of VAWA, and the work of his organization in the realm of domestic violence.

In your opinion, what does the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for women’s rights?

I think the reauthorization should be put in historical perspective. 1994 was a watershed year for the  movement to end violence against women. The original passage of VAWA provided an infusion of resources to victims of domestic and sexual violence. VAWA was also a spark that catalyzed change through all levels of government, so that laws and system of support were more responsive to victims. The process of reauthorizing VAWA is about keeping that momentum going and moving forward. The 2013 reauthorization is especially important because it reaches  especially vulnerable groups of victims, like LGBT, Native Americans and immigrant victims  VAWA 2013 is more inclusive.

Does VAWA go far enough to protect women against domestic violence?

Yes, I think within the confines of what was politically possible, this is a very, very strong bill. Most of what the advocates of domestic violence sought made it to the final version of the bill.

The new version of VAWA has historic provisions for Native American Women and members of the immigrant community. Do you think the law as passed represents a step in the right direction for American Indian women and immigrants in the United States?

Yes, absolutely. Perpetrators many times use victim's’ immigration status as a way to keep her in the abusive relationship. VAWA insures a victim does not have to choose between possibly being deported or living with violence. With respect to Native American women, the historically disproportionate number of domestic violence victims within that community is appalling, so it is  absolutely necessary that every opportunity is taken to protect them and to hold their abusers responsible.

What has your organization been able to achieve in terms of advancing the cause of domestic violence victims in the state of Wisconsin?

As a state coalition our main role is to be a statewide voice for domestic violence victims and to support all shelters and aid all service providers in Wisconsin. We were formed by local organizations who saw a need for there to be a voice in Madison.  We have accomplished a tremendous amount in our 35 year history: we were one of first states to pass mandatory arrest law, we were also one of first to have codified victims’ rights in state statutes. Our  level of state support for victims of domestic violence is good compared to other states.  Our state has a network that covers entire state; there is not a county in Wisconsin that does not have at least one victims advocate and most counties have at least one shelter or victim service agency or in many cases both. I think that is huge, especially considering the fact we are primarily a rural state.

As a nation, do you believe we have made progress since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994?

I do. I think there was progress made before VAWA, but the progress since 1994 has been remarkable.  

If you are facing domestic violence, please contact the WCADV for help. For more information on domestic violence, please visit the Domestic Violence Page.

Visualizing the Dynamics of Abusive Relationships – The Power and Control Wheel

Visualizing the Dynamics of Abusive Relationships - The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel is a visual representation of the tactics often used by men who batter. Here, batter is defined as the continuous pattern of abuse, violence and coercion in an intimate relationship.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

The Power and Control Wheel design was the creation of Ellen Pence, Coral McDonnell and Michael Paymar  in 1982 as part of the curriculum for a court ordered program for batterers. The Power and Control Wheel was developed from the experiences of abused women who attended educational and support groups in Duluth, Minnesota. They were asked, “What do you want taught in court ordered groups for men who batter?”

Their responses expressed the need to bring the reality of battering out into the open. That meant that the lived experience of what actually occurs in a battering relationship needed to be both exposed and recognized. Through the probing of the designers of the Power and Control Wheel, the abused women began to reveal the tactics their intimate partners used to maintain control over them. Although violence was very common, other, less recognized but equally important were other tactics of maintaining power. These included the use of money, psychological and emotional put downs, the children, undermining social relationships and self-esteem, nonstop criticism of women’s style of mothering, various forms of expressing male privilege and intimidation to maintain power and control. The designers adjusted and revised the graphic over several weeks until the groups of women felt satisfied that the Power and Control Wheel had captured their experience of living with a violent intimate partner.

The Power and Control Wheel is a conceptual tool rather than a theory. It is meant to help people see the patterns in behavior and the significance they have. It is meant to capture the primary tactics, rather than every single tactic of control. Of course, not all empirical cases will correspond precisely to the Power and Control Wheel. The Power and Control Wheel is based on the experiences of women in opposite-sex relationships. The battered women did not identify a desire for control or power as what was motivating their partners’ abusive behaviors, but, rather, batterers obtained control and power in the relationship as a result of those behaviors.

By 1984 McDonnell, Paymar and Pence reached the conclusion that identifying positive and not just negative behaviors in their training program for batterers could aid men in changing their ways. Following the same method used in devising the Power and Control Wheel, they developed the Equality Wheel to describe behaviors that defined intimate relationships based on equality. Lakota users of the two wheels adapted the shape of the Power and Control Wheel to that of a triangle in 1995. (Pine Ridge, Sacred Circle Project). They felt that the shape of a triangle fitted better the originator’s understanding of how, in an abusive relationship, violence and other tactics of power are meant to maintain and establish dominance over the victim. These tactics do not in and of themselves constitute battering. Battering is the intentional and patterned use of such tactics to gain and retain control over the victim’s autonomy and deny her a life free of intimidation and fear.

The Power and Control Wheel has been translated into over forty different languages. It is culturally modified when needed as, for example, in the Hawaiian modification where the idea of balance replaces that of equality. The Power and Control Wheel graphic has stuck a chord among women worldwide.

For more information on Mending the Sacred Hoop and violence against Native Women, please visit their page.

Dr. Erma Vizenor on Tackling Domestic Violence in the White Earth Nation

Dr. Erma Vizenor on Tackling Domestic Violence in the White Earth Nation

President Obama signed into law in March the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, marking a huge step forward for domestic violence victims everywhere. This new legislation offers more than the earlier version, which was enacted in 1994, in that it creates and expands federal programs that assist victims of domestic violence. In addition to re-establishing provisions of the earlier version, it provides newly established legal protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence and Native American women.

(More on  News at LAWS.com, contact Adam for interviews “adama@laws.com”)

The historic provisions made for Native American women in the new VAWA are of particular importance since Native American women suffer from domestic violence at rates much higher than the national average. And in terms of sexual violence, Native American women suffer at rates 2.5 times higher than the national average. Legal loopholes that existed just before the passage of the new VAWA regarding what was considered tribal and federal jurisdiction made it possible for many non-Native men to abuse Native American women with impunity.

The White Earth Reservation Tribal Down ON Violence Everyday Program (DOVE) provides services to victims of domestic violence. Established in 2003, it serves both Native and non-Native women, men and youth living on or near the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota, which is home to the Native American White Earth Band of Ojibew. DOVE’s mission is to empower and support victims of domestic abuse in becoming survivors.

The following is an interview with Dr. Erma Vizenor, Chairwoman of the White Earth Nation, on her views on the new version of VAWA and the work of the White Earth DOVE Program.

In your opinion, what does the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) signify for the women's rights movement?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is another important step for the rights of women. I am proud of the women’s rights movement and the courageous women who fought for our rights. The 19th Amendment to the United State Constitution gave women the right to vote; the Civil Rights Act of 1991 ensured equal rights for women in the work place; and now we have 76 women in the U.S. House of Representatives and 17 women in the U.S. Senate!  

Do you believe the new version of VAWA goes far enough to protect women against domestic violence?

I am pleased the new version of VAWA expands protections to individuals who historically have been underrepresented and discriminated against, such as Native American women, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community. The sequestration will be a funding problem affecting VAWA implementation. On the White Earth Indian Reservation, our Down On Violence Everyday (DOVE) program will experience budget cuts as a result of the sequestration.

The new version of VAWA includes historic provisions for Native American Women and members of the LGBT community. Do you think the law as passed represents a step in the right direction for American Indian women and LGBT people in the United States?

Yes, the historic provisions for Native American women and the LGBT community are steps in the right direction.  American Indian/Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in United States.  The provision for tribal jurisdiction (tribal courts) in prosecuting perpetrators is a huge step in Indian Country, certainly our Native women will be served with their long overdue justice.

What has the White Earth DOVE program been able to achieve in terms of advancing the cause of domestic violence victims?

The White Earth DOVE program has been active in promoting awareness.  White Earth now has a women’s shelter where women and children have a safe place that provides services, including legal services.  White Earth also has a Women’s Wellbriety Center that focuses on substance abuse problems in Native families.  Women and children can stay at the Wellbriety Center for services.  Substance abuse is one of the related factors in violence against Native women.

As a society, do you believe we have come a long way since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994?

Definitely we have come a long way since the passage of VAWA of 1994, especially with the establishment of the Office on Violence Against Women within the United States Department of Justice.  Although it is VAWA, there are protections for male victims as well.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, please contact DOVE for help. For more information on domestic violence, please visit our Domestic Violence Page.

Interviewed with Dr. Erma Vizenor of the White Earth Nation, White Earth, Minnesota