Note: This is a guest third post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.
Over one thousand homeless families in the DC area cited a domestic violence relationship as their current cause of homelessness.
Each year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) partners with local communities to engage in a nationwide count of homeless individuals and families living in emergency shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered locations. On January 28, 2015, volunteers were tasked to collect this data to better understand the major causes of homelessness in the D.C. region.
Below are four of the findings that correlate domestic violence and homelessness in the District:
1. Domestic violence is strongly correlated with family homelessness. Domestic violence was the most defining characteristic among homeless families. Over 30% of the families surveyed indicated having experienced domestic violence in the past, and 19% reported their current episode of homelessness was caused by domestic violence.
2. Homelessness overall decreased. There are 11,623 homeless individuals in the region. Overall homelessness in the metro area decreased by 2.7 percent (or 323 people) from 2014.
3. Domestic violence related homelessness, however, is on the rise for individuals. Among single adults, homelessness caused by domestic violence increased 65%.
4. The increase is even more dramatic for homeless families. Among homeless families, domestic violence related homelessness rose 322% from 261 in 2014 to 1,101 this year. Over one thousand homeless families in the DC area cited a domestic violence relationship as their current cause of homelessness.
DASH’s mission is to be an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms. Support families today.
Learn more about DASH’s safe housing programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in the District.
Note: This is the fifth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC.
This is a guest post from the DASH Community Housing Resource Specialist.
I am Community Housing Resource Specialist at the DASH Housing Resource Clinic. The Clinic takes place on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:30pm at the Westminister Presbyterian Church on 400 I St SW, DC.
The Housing Resource Center is the hub of DASH’s efforts to prevent homelessness among domestic violence survivors. Through the Housing Resource Center, DASH staff partner with My Sisters Place and the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project we work to provide a full spectrum of legal, housing and counseling services for survivors. We assist survivors in completing housing applications, obtaining safety transfers, navigating the public housing system, and making connections to community services in order to help them find safety from abuse.
The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space.
Providing Support for Survivors
Each week I work with between 6 and 25 men and women from all backgrounds and situations. There is no typical day at the clinic because no domestic violence situation is the same. Last week I spoke with a survivor who traveled from a small town in Delaware to talk to DASH about our services. She came from a small community with one shelter, her husband of 23 years would find out if she tried to access services there. Survivors come to the clinic in a variety of emotional states. Some are young and desperate, in the middle of a new domestic violence relationship, others have been with the same abuser for decades and finally decided it was enough, but regardless – they all need a safe place to go. I work with them to find some normalcy and stability.
The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space. Sometimes talking is all they need, they just need someone to say, “you can do this”. I worked with a woman in the process of leaving her abuser who couldn’t access housing because she had a $2,400 unpaid debt. While we were in the process of trying to support her financially through the Survivor Resilience Fund – she called the collection agency herself and negotiated her debt down to $1,000, set up her own payment schedule and decided she didn’t need financial assistance. All she needed was an ear and a safe place to hear herself think.
For some survivors, just seeing other people in the clinic waiting room going through the same thing is enough. It’s creates a sense of community – they are not alone. They often trade resources and tips while they wait.
Barriers to Safety
Many survivors I meet with face additional burdens outside of domestic violence. They often struggle with addiction, lack financial security or have a criminal record. Part of what makes DASH a safe place is that we are not the government or the police. Many of my clients have had negative experiences with Law Enforcement that make it hard for them to put their trust in the police. Some don’t feel that when they’ve called the police, they’ve been taken seriously, while others have even been arrested. I met with a transgender woman who called the police after a domestic violence incidence and had the officer tell her to, “pack a bag and never come back,” which would have pushed her into homelessness. Another officer allegedly told a client to stop drinking and go to bed when she called 911 on her physically abusive husband. Survivors need a place where they feel completely safe, and the DASH Clinic is that place.
The biggest barrier for survivors trying to find safety is housing access. Housing Programs in DC are at capacity – including DASH. I often have to work with survivors for months before I am able to place them in safe housing. Most recently I met with a woman who was living with her two teenagers in her place of employment because they had nowhere else to go when she left her abuser.
We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.
Her first husband and the father of her children had been supportive, loving and calm. When he passed away she remarried to a controlling and emotionally abusive man. She paid the rent in their 3 bedroom house but he wouldn’t let her or her children have a key. He often made them wait outside for 45 minutes when they came home before letting them come in. He timed her teenagers as they used the bathroom before school; each was only allowed 3 minutes to get ready. He even kept a padlock on the fridge that only he had a key to limiting their access to food in the house.
Eventually she decided it was too much. One Saturday she packed all their stuff and took them to her office. The office didn’t have a shower or kitchen so they had to eat take out almost every day. Sometimes they would get a hotel room just to take showers. When her employer found out, she was forced to disclose her abuse and find a new place to stay.
Now at DASH, her children have a place to sleep and be comfortable. They are on time for school; one is graduating this year. She is still working, saving money for her own place. DASH allowed her to take a breath and for the next two years she can plan for the future.
The Housing Resource Clinic is a place where survivors can feel safe and heard. With our partnership with the DC Volunteers Lawyers Project and My Sisters Place, we are able to provide comprehensive, collaborative support for survivors. We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.
You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASHto support access to safe housing for survivors.
“Many people think those in a domestic violence situation have an easy way out,” DASH Executive Director Peg Hacskaylo said. “But the reality is, victims are forced to overcome a host of obstacles and barriers in order to get safe from abuse.”
While finding access to safe housing options is often essential, DASH emphasizes that it is not the only factor preventing protection and security. Through this campaign DASH shows that survivors may need to overcome a list of obstacles.
These include, but are not limited to, enlisting law enforcement for restraining or protective orders, receiving support from family and friends, and compiling key documents and changing phone numbers. These steps are often necessary and are made to be even more difficult when they must be done with extra caution.
Besides the tangible resources required, there are also significant emotional factors to be considered.
“Psychological abuse is common in domestic violence relationships – abusers use threats and intimidation to maintain control over their partner,” Hacskaylo said. “For this reason, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to find safety from abuse.”
To find out more about how you can get involved, visit www.WhatItTakesDC.com. Spread the word to help spread awareness by using #WhatItTakesDC.
Every 16 minutes, someone in the DC area calls 911 for a domestic violence-related incident. DASH provides key resources including safe housing and services for survivors of domestic violence. From emergency and long-term housing to support and expert advice about available options, DASH helps survivors rebuild their lives on their own terms.
DASH is an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms. www.dashdc.org
About Ad 2 DC:
Ad 2 DC represents a group of like-minded young professionals in the D.C. Metro area, 32 years old and younger, either employed or interested in the world of advertising and its related fields – account executives, graphics designers, media specialists, PR professionals, writers – creating a diverse organization focused on being awesome, becoming more awesome, getting noticed and giving back to the community. www.dcadclub.com/ad2dc
Note: This is the fourth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that “digital domestic abuse” is on the rise, “more girls are reporting that their boyfriends stalk them via text message or threaten to humiliate them with social media. What starts in cyberspace rarely ends there,” writes the Daily Beast.
What is Digital Domestic Violence?
Digital domestic violence is the act of harassing or stalking a former or current partner through technology and social media. Abusers are increasingly using Bluetooth, spyware and popular location check in apps like squarespace to track their partner’s location. It’s alarming that abusers can remotely install these tracking applications on their partner’s phones without the survivor ever knowing. “When your abuser is tracking your phone, it means he knows when you seek shelter and help, even the route you take to work and can access your text messages to friends and family. It’s a way for him to maintain power and control with threats to ensure that you don’t leave him,” cautions a DASH advocate.
She eventually realized that her abuser was tracking her location via the Bluetooth on her phone.
One DASH client reported that her ex-husband went as far as installing tracking devices on her two cars after the divorce. She was forced to leave her cars in different states in order to throw him off and protect her safety. Another survivor reported that her abuser kept appearing at the grocery store when she was there shopping. She started going to grocery stores across town at weird hours of the day but he would always show up. She eventually realized that her abuser was tracking her location via the Bluetooth on her phone.
Harassment is the other common form of digital abuse. Abusers intimidate and harass their partners by posting or threatening to post incriminating photos and statuses or sensitive information about their partners. Photos that were once private between two people in a relationship suddenly become public for all to see – and often the survivor gets unfairly blamed. Abusers also send threatening messages and texts to their abusers, forcing them to live in fear.
It can be really traumatizing for survivors trying to find safety because you don’t know what they are capable of or when it’s going to stop.
A DASH advocate says this is not uncommon, “Clients come in all the time with stories about what their abusers are doing online, sending messages, posting nude photos and constantly taunting them. It can be really traumatizing for survivors trying to find safety because you don’t know what they are capable of or when it’s going to stop.” One DASH client reported that her abuser was creating fake Facebook profiles under her name and then adding all of her friends and family. He would then use the profile to taunt her. He posted explicit photos of her, wrote false statuses about her parenting skills and tagged her family members. When she would report the page and have it taken down, he would create another page. It’s proven difficult to combat digital abuse because it so often happens anonymously, states a DASH advocate.
Isolation or Safety?
Because of this, survivors of domestic violence are limited with few options and often have to isolate themselves from their friends and family by changing their phone number and email address and deleting their social media accounts. Otherwise, they risk continued harassment and stalking from their abusers. For survivors who want to maintain contact with friends and family but also to stay safe from abuse, it can be difficult to know what to do.
It’s suggested that survivors use aliases instead of real names online, but even that isn’t foolproof. “Depending on your Facebook friends or your profile picture, even if your Facebook is private or under a different name, they can still track you down,” says the DASH Housing Clinic advocate.
What can survivors do? Don’t take risks, get a new phone, and delete your profiles. This can be really isolating, however, for survivors who want to continue having contact with their support network of friends and family. For survivors who decide to maintain an online presence it’s important to change all passwords and be extremely conscious of the photos that are being posted. Even something small like a piece of furniture, a street sign or a car interior can be used by abusers to stalk and harass. As part of a survivor’s safety plan, consider using a computer or device outside of the home such as at a library or at the home of a family member or friend where the abuser would not have access.
You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors here.
And how domestic violence campaigners are leveraging new media to change the conversation
Note: This is a guest post by Ad 2 DC, it’s the second post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.
Chris Brown hitting Rihanna. Ray Rice’s infamous striking of his partner Janae, and the ensuing NFL cover-up controversy. In recent times, high-profile cases of domestic violence are dominating news headlines and generating passionate discussions on- and offline.
But does all of this media coverage actually help the cause of those seeking to end domestic violence? Is it helping us to get at the root causes of the problem, to educate the general population and acquire resources for our programs and services? Does the buzz and clickbait actually educate or drive for positive change? Unfortunately, we believe the answer is no, at least without more context and advocacy.
Luckily, advocates against domestic violence are creating innovative, compelling media that leverage current headlines and memes to further the domestic violence conversation in meaningful ways. As you check out DASH’s picks for the most powerful campaigns below, notice that they share some common best practices:
Shock and surprise: The best domestic violence PSAs tend not to go the obvious route, choosing instead to lure in their audience by using a hook with mass appeal, such as a viral meme. This increases just how powerful and memorable the actual message is when revealed.
Subtlety and understatement: Sometimes the loudest message can be communicated in a quiet way. Using silence or suspended interest leads, some of the best domestic violence PSAs leave the audience to fill in the gaps, encouraging them to be similarly proactive when applying the message to their own lives and societies.
Innovative use of technology: While we might expect big name brands to wow us with new, tech-savvy advertising, certain social cause marketers have also shown their ability to utilize technology (facial recognition software, text donating) to get their message and calls to action to stand out. The British “Look At Me” campaign (number 3 below) is a prime example of a domestic violence organization whose campaign is at the cutting edge of advertising technology.
Below we highlight six of the most powerful and far reaching domestic violence viral ads of recent times, which we hope will continue to inspire and raise awareness about the pervasive issue of domestic violence.
The South African branch of the Salvation Army ingeniously leveraged the “What color is this dress?” meme to direct attention towards domestic violence survivors with this somber message. Using clever, concise copy (“Why is it so hard to see black and blue?”) and powerful imagery, the ad rapidly leveraged a broad-based meme and directed attention to the #StopAbuseAgainstWomen campaign.
Released on Twitter, the tweet drew over 17,000 retweets and worldwide coverage (HuffPo link) well beyond South Africa.
2.“Slap Her” video (Fanpage.it, Italy)
Released in January, this uplifting three minute video features several young Italian boys being asked to slap a girl. Each of them refuse, providing reasons such as “because I’m against violence,” and “because I’m a man.” The video–which combines sweetness and sentimentality–effectively contrasts the basic character of these boys against domestic violence in adult society. It ends with a powerful quote from a 6-year old: “In the kids’ world, women don’t get hit.”
As the Huffington Post noted, the video’s message is particularly important in Italy, “where the United Nations has reported domestic abuse is “the most pervasive form of violence,” and almost 32 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 70 experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.”
Produced by Italian video journalist Luva Lavarone for the news company fanpage.it, the video has been viewed more than 27 million times, garnering media coverage and discussion, as well as a response video from India that asks girls to slap a boy, demonstrating that domestic violence is not acceptable, regardless of gender.
3. “Look At Me” (Women’s Aid, United Kingdom)
Launched for International Women’s Day (March 8), this interactive billboard featuring a battered woman changes when bystanders look at the image, using facial recognition technology. As more people who look at the image, the woman’s injuries heal more rapidly, sending a powerful and technologically visceral message of the benefits of not ignoring domestic violence.
In addition, the bottom of the billboard features a live stream of the crowd. Bystanders who look towards the ad will see their faces picked out of the crowd, further compelling audience engagement. Finally, using location marketing software, passersby automatically receive text messages that enable them to donate directly to Women’s Aid, a British domestic violence charity.
4. “One Photo a Day in the Worst Year Of My Life” (B92, Serbia)
Created by the B92 Fund, a Serbian radio and TV broadcaster, this shocking video leveraged the “One photo a day” trend, featuring a young woman who begins the year healthy and happy, before descending rapidly into increasingly severe states of abuse. The video ends with the woman holding up a sign stating: “Help me, I don’t know if I will survive until tomorrow,” highlighting the speed with which previously healthy relationships can turn abusive.
It was launched in response to alarming domestic violence statistics in Serbia, where 11 women and two children were killed in domestic violence incidents in the first two months of 2013. Launched in March 2013, the video has been viewed over 42 million times, after initially gaining global traction via reddit.
5. “Woman’s Reaction to England World Cup Knockout” (Tender Education and Arts, UK)
This subtle, surprising advertisement was released during the Football World Cup in June 2014. Featuring a woman nervously cheering England on, it lures audiences in by looking much like other World Cup-related advertisements. However, her expression changes after the team loses and it ends in silence with a powerful statistic: “Domestic violence rises 38% when England gets knocked out of the World Cup.” The ad’s timing in the lead-up to England’s elimination effectively pre-empted the specific factors that may trigger domestic violence incidents.
Released by Tender, a British charity that uses theater and the arts to engage young people in violence prevention, the video has been viewed more than 900,000 times on YouTube.
6. “No More” Superbowl Ad” (NFL, United States)
Following a number of high profile incidents, and widespread criticism for its longstanding neglect of domestic violence cases involving its players, the NFL responded with a PSA campaign featuring “No More.” During the Superbowl, it released this chilling PSA featuring an actual phone call in which a domestic violence survivor disguises her 911 call for help by pretending to order a pizza.
The call was based on an actual 911 dispatcher’s reddit post, and brings to light the difficulty domestic violence victims often face in asking for help. The ad has been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube.
The “No More” campaign also launched another stark, powerful PSA featuring celebrity NFL players calling for an end to common phrases used to ignore or justify domestic violence:
Which of these campaigns did you find most powerful? Which message did you think was most relevant to its audience? Please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Note: This is the third post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC.
This is a guest post from a current DASH resident.
I remember sitting down just wanting to cry full of anger, frustration and heartache, only nothing would come. I was so numb, so hurt I didn’t know who I was or how I even got here or what I was going to do. I just kept going, kept moving. I had so much to do. I had to be everything for everyone. I couldn’t be what I needed to be for myself. I could no longer take off the mask, it was who I became.
I began to realize that this abuse stemmed from childhood abuse. I started going to the Lighthouse for counseling and at first I wore my mask there too, but I started to crack and the pieces I had been trying to hold together began to shatter until I could no longer salvage it.
Throughout my abuse I kept records, I would constantly take pictures, write letters to use as documentation and I would go to the ER just to get a record.
My counselor at the Lighthouse referred me to the Housing Resource Clinic and I was hesitant at first but I went just to inquire. The staff was so welcoming but it still felt uncomfortable. I took the info I needed and began to plan as things began to get worse at home, not just for me, but for my children. My abuser cut my gas off then next the lights. I began to get harassed at work. The more I tried to do better, the more I felt defeated. I was so tired, so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do. I looked into my children’s eyes and saw so much hurt and anger. They became resentful of me and aggressive. I remember going to bed crying every night.
The more I tried to do better, the more I felt defeated. I was so tired, so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do.
The next week I showed up at the Housing Resource Clinic again. I researched programs, I was determined, I kept calling. Finally, after some months, DASH had an opening in their Cornerstone emergency safe housing program, “We have space, you can move in.” Those simple words echoed in my head. It felt unreal.
I was hesitant of everything. I moved in first and stayed for a week before I allowed my kids to come to make sure it was safe. I was so depressed I sat on the floor for hours crying. I felt like a horrible mother. I remember when I first came I looked around Cornerstone and everyone seemed ok, I felt so alone and out of place. Later I came to the realization that the other women were also wearing masks.
I went to DASH with a purpose, we are going to be healed. I don’t care if we have anything else, but we are going to be healed. I didn’t understand how it was going to happen or even what healing was but I was determined.
At first it seemed like things were getting worse, but it had to feel worse before it got better. I had to be retaught from my thinking to my true feelings to get to the root of the issue.
It was the most important, life changing thing that happened to me. I began to relearn me. I began to love me and be the best person I could be to me and my children. I was blessed to have come across DASH. It has allowed me to heal. DASH allowed me to be able to hear my own voice and recognize where I was mentally, psychologically and even emotionally.
Start today, trust yourself again, love yourself again. Know that you deserve the best. Your life depends on you. Be determined.
You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors here.
In construction, an “anchor” provides structural reinforcement for the walls of the building, which perfectly describes what Ad 2 DC has done for the DASH brand. By strengthening our marketing and communications strategy they have both made our services more accessible and increased awareness of DASH and domestic violence as a community issue. Through their consistent and enthusiastic support, Ad 2 DC has made DASH a more capable organization better able to communicate our mission and values.
What is the purpose of the Ad 2 DC Public Service Campaign and why was DASH chosen this year?
– The goal of the Ad 2 DC Public Service Campaign is to find a non-profit organization who is in need of some additional advertising help. We give advertising professionals a way to help the community and boost their experience. It’s important to us that we can support the community we live in and make a difference to a local organization. We chose DASH because we saw an opportunity to work with an organization that has a really important mission and a unique business model. We also thought that DASH would be a really great organization to work with from a personal perspective as everyone seemed really nice and open to ideas!
What were are some of the unique challenges that the committee has dealt with in creating a domestic violence campaign?
– A major challenge the committee has had this year is playing the fine line between being provocative but also respecting the feelings of domestic violence survivors. It’s important to us to reach donors and audiences that might not know a lot about domestic violence by sharing the complexities involved in staying safe in a domestic violence situation. Domestic Violence is a very sensitive subject and we have to keep a very close on how we phrase things.
Why is raising awareness about domestic violence and safe housing important?
– We think it’s important to raise awareness about DV and safe housing because housing is such a critical aspect in feeling safe. If you are in a DV situation the first thing to consider is where to go. I think it is also important since domestic violence is becoming more and more spoken about that we raise awareness about the resources available.
What is a highlight from the DASH/Ad 2 DC partnership thus far?
– We have had a great time working with DASH so far. I think shooting the PSA commercial was a really neat experience. We were able to find actors on a volunteer basis and create something really great to share with the DC residents.
Note: This is the second post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: WhatItTakesDC.
Leaving an abusive relationship is harder than you may think. People often ask: “Why didn’t she call the police?”
It’s a very logical question. After all, most of us were taught to call the police in violent situations. It would seem obvious that physical acts of domestic violence certainly merit telling the police. We picture restraining orders. A kindly police officer telling a victim: “You’re safe now. He’s not going to be able to hurt you or your children again.” Problem solved… right?
Calling the cops isn’t always safe for domestic violence victims:
The reasons are varied and complex, but some common issues that stop survivors from calling the police include:
– Shame and stigma: Many survivors feel crippling shame and stigma admitting to friends and family that they are in an abusive relationship, as well as to authorities like the police. This is due in part because domestic violence victims are so often blamed for the abuse they endure.
– Past criminal record: Calling the police may cause greater harm if the survivor has a past criminal history or if children are present during the violent incident.
But that’s not even the worst of it. One of the most harrowing potential outcomes for women abused by their partners involves remarkably unjust state laws that lock up mothers whose children were harmed—even murdered—by their partner. A new investigative report by Buzzfeed identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In these cases, the mothers were charged with permitting child abuse, although they themselves were victims of chronic physical abuse, living their lives in fear of their partner. As a result, these women were imprisoned for their partner’s actions and their surviving children are deprived of their mother. As the article quotes: “It’s the ultimate case of blaming the victim.”
The report points out the key misconception that these cases are premised upon, and which DASH’s #WhatItTakesDC campaign is helping to overcome.
“Many judges and juries — still don’t grasp the answer to a question at the core of so many of these cases: ‘Why didn’t she leave him?’”
“Why don’t women leave abusive relationships?”
As DASH has explored in previous blogs, there are many reasons that survivors don’t leave abusive relationships. But the main reason in many of these cases was fear. As the article states, these women feared that by trying to leave they would provoke their partners to more extreme violence. Many feared for their own lives, as well as their children’s.
“I done tried to leave plenty of times,” Arlena, one of the article’s profiled survivors, testified, but he “actually called and threatened to kill my family.” The last time Arlena tried to escape, her partner came to her father’s house (where she was staying), grabbed her, threw her into his car trunk, and slammed it shut. She thought he was going to kill her. He didn’t, but Lindley moved back in with her abusive partner, saying that she “didn’t want to bring trouble into her father’s house.”
Arlena’s partner continued to assault her and her three-year-old son, eventually killing him. For this, Arlena was sentenced to 45 years in prison for failing to protect her son from her partner.
While in many states, a lot of the laws that are used to prosecute these women were originally intended to help curb child abuse, few of them recognize the complex dynamics of violent abuse involved in these cases.
Blaming women for their partner’s abuse of their children is also tied to American society’s broader notions of motherhood as sacrifice. The article explains that “lopsided application of these laws reflects deeply ingrained social norms that women should sacrifice themselves for their children.” In comparison to the 73 cases of women being sentenced to 10 years or more for their partner’s abuse of their children, Buzzfeed found only 4 comparable cases for men.
Defending domestic violence survivors from failure-to-protect laws
As abysmal as the situation is, there is reason for hope of reduced sentencing for these domestic violence survivors, as well as legal changes that protect those being abused from prosecution. When Minnesota and Iowa created similar child protection laws in the mid-1980s, “they added specific defenses for parents who reasonably feared they would be harmed if they stepped in to stop child abuse.”
The article also tells the story of a judge who had a change of heart upon realizing the gravity of abuse that a battered woman endured. The woman had been previously sentenced to 35 years in jail for failing to protect her daughter, who was killed by her husband. When the judge realized the gravity of this woman’s abuse, he imposed a strict probation plan and suspended the rest of her sentence.
DASH is leading the campaign for policies supporting domestic violence survivors in DC:
Note: This is the first post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic and sexual violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.
A new campaign, #SurvivorLoveLetter, displays love letters to survivors of sexual assault. The campaign was originally organized as an exercise of healing for survivors, it has spread quickly and widened in scope. Now, family members, friends and even strangers are contributing their love letters to show their support of survivors of sexual violence. In her recent Huffington Post piece, Tani Ikeda, the organizer of the campaign, described it as the start of movement, “Survivor Love Letter enables us to talk about what survivorship really looks like. Through this growing collection of love letters, maybe we can build strategies for the ways we heal ourselves and our communities. I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal.”
“I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal.” – Tani Ikeda
We love this campaign. The dialogue surrounding sexual and domestic violence is too often clouded by judgement and fear or controlled by outsiders. This campaign not only magnifies the voices of actual survivors, it also sends a message of hope, love and healing. Using Tumblr as the platform for the campaign allows survivors to speak out on their terms, preserving safety and anonymity. They get to control the narrative – with no journalists or marketing professionals inserting their own, however well intentioned, agendas.
Sexual assault is immensely sad, as well as mind numbing, infuriating and sickening. But there is hope for healing, healing that can only happen on the terms of the survivors.
Below some letters that spoke to us – but there are hundreds more at http://survivorloveletter.tumblr.com.