Friday, March 21, 2008

Mapping the Obstacles to Criminal Justice for Women Part 1 of 2

The criminal justice system has established increasingly tighter controls over the funding and functioning of domestic violence and rape crisis centres, and hence, over you, the advocate. Throughout the US, this criminal justice system control of advocates has succeeded in corralling crisis centres into a narrow role of passive service providers while crushing crisis centres' role as advocates and agents of social change.

In short, the current violence against women movement has become increasingly embedded in the criminal justice system. This creates a profound and highly unethical conflict of interest for advocates, and a dangerous void of advocacy for victims. Most advocates in the US today are unable to act independently on behalf of their clients in the criminal justice system, at exactly that point at which vigorous advocacy for victims is most needed.

It is bad enough that rape ...

and domestic violence victim advocates have no official powers for advocating in a system which has more unfettered power than any other government entity. At least back in the early years of the violence against women movement, advocates were independent agents. In the last ten years, however, criminal justice officials have cunningly gotten ever increasing control over advocates and their work.

Today, most core funding for domestic violence and rape centers flows from the federal government and is administered either by a state criminal justice office or state health department. In order to renew these grants every year, many states (including California) require that the victim centers obtain the signatures of their local law enforcement chiefs. This gives law enforcement officials direct veto power over the core funding of victim advocate centers. And whether you are aware of it or not, law enforcement is using this power to control you one way or the other.

In California, for example, the State Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP) administers the violence against women funds. And every year, as a condition of grant renewal, OCJP requires all rape and domestic violence centers in the state to obtain the signatures of every local police chief in the center's area, the signature of the district attorney, and of other law enforcement officials. Naturally, if law enforcement officials feel that advocates are pushing them too hard to deal more seriously with violence against women, all law enforcement has to do is simply refuse to sign onto the annual grant request, or threaten to refuse to sign.

This is not an idle or theoretical threat. There are many cases around the country where law enforcement has indeed withheld their signatures from crisis center grant requests in order to punish centers for their vigorous advocacy. What's much more common, though, and in many ways more insidious, is the quiet touch. It's carried out in a couple of ways. Law enforcement officials may approach agency directors and boards to lodge their protests about certain advocates. Agency directors, knowing they need the official's signature, simply reign in the advocate, fire the advocate, and/or write policies into the agency rule books that prohibit advocates from confronting law enforcement. Such repression and firings of women's strongest advocates and ever more restrictive internal good-girl policies have become commonplace in rape and domestic violence centers around the country. Nowadays, an ardent feminist doesn't even get hired in the first place.

The predominance of counseling, social services, and accompaniment services have won out over vigorous advocacy and social change. Feminist analyses, activism, and strategies have been abandoned. Advocacy has been whittled down to service providing. Social change has become social work. And woe to the victim who thinks she has a real advocate on her side who is free and willing to stand up and fight for her rights.

Dependence on law enforcement signatures for grant funds, by itself, puts rape and domestic violence centers into a profound conflict of interest to the great detriment of their clients. It's a conflict of interest that has only worsened as the federal violence against women moneys have increased.

End Part 1.

Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Domestic Violence Is Alive And Well

Unfortunately, domestic violence is very much alive and well -- and thriving. According to the National Victims Center, one woman is raped every minute, and 30% of all women murdered in this country are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. Domestic violence is a particularly grim topic and a vicious crime, because it involves pain and suffering (even loss of life) inflicted by a friend, someone who claims to care, or a so-called loved one.

Many people ask, "Why don't the victims just leave? Why do they stay?"

The Abuse We Don't See

Usually by the time the physical abuse starts in a relationship, the emotional and psychological abuse has already destroyed all the dignity and self-esteem of the victim.

Victims feel ashamed and are embarrassed to tell others about their situations. They are fearful of leaving because of threats from their abusers and financial dependence.

In many instances, victims are manipulated to believe they deserve this treatment and it is somehow their fault. Abusers know exactly what to say and do to keep the abused in emotional captivity.

Victimizing the Victim

Victims view leaving as being more painful than staying, because of the imagined and real repercussions either from the perpetrator or from society at large.

Many people in the world still don't understand domestic violence. Therefore, they victimize the victim further by blaming the victim or making comments like: "You should have just left." "I would never be so stupid as to stay in an abusive relationship." "That would never happen to me."

People make jokes in our society about men "getting over" or using women -- men who are " Players." Even today, there are still groups of people who have the mindset that women are not equal to men and are just sexual objects.


Domestic violence is about control -- being mentally controlled by a significant other. That is the reason why, after leaving an abusive relationship, a victim will go back to her abuser an average of four times before she decides she has the mental strength to leave for good.

Now What?

I believe the remedy for domestic violence lies in building a society in which we honor ourselves. When we honor ourselves, it is difficult to dishonor someone else or to be dishonored. Yeah, easier said than done.

We can start with our children and try to stop domestic violence by educating the new generations.

Teach Our Children

Tell our children how wonderful they are. Tell our girls and our boys from the time they are born that they are glorious miracles. Teach them to love, respect, and celebrate who they are -- just because. Teach them that we all come from one wonderful source. Teach them that each of us can only be as strong as the weakest among us.

Teach our children how to honor by honoring them. Teach our children how to respect themselves by respecting them and respecting ourselves. Teach our children that to love someone -- being in love -- is to encourage each other to be free and to support each other in expressing and exploring all of the wonderful possibilities in life.

Teach them that love is not about control. Love is about wanting the very best for all concerned.

In the Meantime In the meantime, let's start by at least acknowledging that domestic violence does exist and is a major problem in our society. It knows no economic, racial, religious, gender, or educational boundaries. Let's take it out of the closet and deal with it. Talk about it. Tell somebody about it.

Support your local shelters and any programs in your community that are about helping to save the lives of victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological and emotional abuse. They need our help. By helping them, we are helping ourselves.

The Price

According to a report from the American Medical Association, family violence costs this nation from 5 to 10 billion dollars annually in medical expenses, police and court costs, shelters and foster care, sick leave, absenteeism, and non-productivity.

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself, your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors, and, of course, your children. If you are in an abusive relationship, know that there is life after abuse.

Know the Warning Signs

• If you meet a man who says, "Yes, I've hit women in the past, but they made me do it," RUN.

• Avoid anyone who rushes you into a firm commitment very early in the relationship.

• Think twice about committing to someone who says, "I cannot live without you."

• If you're in a relationship where you feel you have to watch what you say -- you are not comfortable being yourself, because you don't want to upset him or be criticized -- know that this is not a good thing.

• If you're in a relationship with someone who wants to know what your every move is -- he interrogates you about where you were, who you were with, and what happened -- run.

• Think twice before you get into a relationship with someone who never takes the blame for anything – if according to him, it is always somebody else's fault.

• No matter how flattered you feel that someone wants you all to himself (disrupting relationships with friends and family), this is a serious warning sign.

• There are many other signs that can alert us to be cautious about continuing a relationship with a certain person.

Many times we see the writing on the wall, but for some reason, we refuse to read it until it's too late.

Don't Settle

Don't be a "settler." By this, I mean, don't just settle for any relationship for any reason. Know what you want and know especially what you don't want in a relationship, ahead of time.

Stop Domestic Violence

We are miraculous individuals. Many of us have "beat the odds" more than once. We have done what some said could not be done. We've moved forward when we thought we were stuck. We have faced challenges and walked through them with our heads held high.

Surely, together, we can end this unnecessary pain and suffering. We can move domestic violence out of our lives.

I believe we do have the power and the ability to build a society in which we honor ourselves. When we honor ourselves, it is difficult to dishonor someone else or to be dishonored.

Note: Although in this article I speak specifically of women as victims of domestic violence, please understand that many men are also victims of family and relationship violence.

By: Wambui Bahati

Wambui Bahati is a professional speaker and entertainer. She is the writer and performer of the nationally acclaimed one-woman show, "I Am Domestic Violence", in which she brings about domestic violence awareness as she personifies Domestic Violence.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Domestic Violence Statistics

Excerpt from Wikipedia

It is estimated that every year in the United States, approximately 3 million women are assaulted by their partner. One in four women in the U.S. will be assaulted by their partner over their lifetimes.

In 1998 in the U.S., of the approximately 1.5 million violent crimes committed between intimate partners, over 874,000 of the victims were women, and over 832,000 were men. Of the approximately 1,830 murders committed against intimate partners in 1998, 3 out of 4 of the victims were women. In 2001 according to the United States Census Bureau there were 691,710 non-fatal domestic violence acts committed and 1,247 fatal incidents. In homes where domestic violence occurs, children in the home are at a 300% greater risk of being abused..

  • 6-12% of women are abused in a given year
  • 20-30% of women receiving welfare are current victims of Domestic Violence
  • 30-65% of all homicides of women are related to Domestic Violence by their male partners

According to Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting (RADAR) report:

  • Women are just as likely as men to engage in partner aggression (Kelly 2003)
  • Men experience over one-third of DV-related injuries (Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 126, No. 5, pages 651-680)
  • Men are far less likely to report DV incidents than women (Stets and Straus 1990)
  • The myths about domestic violence are numerous (Gelles 1995)
  • Many of these myths are based on DV studies that use biased survey methods (Arriaga and Oskamp 1999)

According to Southern Connecticut State University: "In 95% of family violence cases the victims are women beaten by male partners. In 1% of the cases the reverse is true. There are an estimated 28 million battered women in the U.S., more than half of all married women in the country. In the U.S., one woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 9 seconds. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S.; more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. 70% of the assault victims seen in the emergency room of Boston City Hospital are women who have been attacked in their own homes. 3 out of 5 women in the U.S. will be battered in their lifetime." Domestic Violence Facts

Eighty-five percent of these orders are issued against men (Young, Independent Women’s Forum, 2005). Family judges often issue orders of protection or restraining orders in the absence of any direct threat of harm (Heleniak, Rutgers Law Review, Spring 2005). Often these orders are used as "part of the gamesmanship of divorce." (Kasper, Illinois Bar Journal, June 2005 and Kiernan, New Jersey Law Journal, April 1988)

New research published in the Journal of Family Psychology says that contrary to media and public opinion women commit more acts of violence than men in eleven categories: throw something, push, grab, shove, slap, kick, bite, hit or threaten a partner with a knife or gun. The study, which is based on interviews with 1,615 married or cohabiting couples and extrapolated nationally using census data, found that 21 percent of couples reported domestic violence. The Washington Times confirms study.

Dr. Gerald P. Koocher, American Psychology Association President, stated October 2006 that "psychological science is not politically correct." He adds, "Several studies of domestic violence have suggested that males and females in relationships have an equal likelihood of acting out physical aggression, although differing in tactics and potential for causing injury (e.g., women assailants will more likely throw something, slap, kick, bite, or punch their partner, or hit them with an object, while males will more likely beat up their partners, and choke or strangle them)."

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Victim Assistance Training Online (VAT Online) - A FREE Program

The Office for Victims of Crime - Training and Technical Assistance Center has a free online training program for those wanting to learn basic advocacy skills. This is primarily for advocates already in a position for an organization, however, it is not necessary at this time.

VAT Online is a basic victim advocacy web-based training program that offers victim services providers and allied professionals the opportunity to acquire the basic skills and knowledge they need to better assist victims of crime. Specific information is also provided to meet the needs of target populations.

When registering, when asked what organization you are with - just input your name again, and that will suffice. You will receive your login and password immediately in your email. Login and your on your way.

This course even offers printable certificates at the completion of the course.

Here is the link: VAT Online

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Survivors want your help. They need your advocacy.

It is part of your job, as an advocate, to lend a voice for respect, dignity, understanding and helpful problem solving for battered women.

You, as a victim advocate, have a unique role; different from that of the case manager, the social worker, the mental health counselor, the drug and alcohol professional - different from anyone else who may have been called in to assist.

You are not there to be an impartial or neutral observer. You are there to stick up for your client. You are there to understand what she wants, to understand what is possible within the rules and laws of the welfare system, and to shamelessly promote resolution that supports, to the absolute fullest potential, your client's safety and an unencumbered journey to economic self-sufficiency. The law allows for it. Your client needs and deserves it.

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