Monthly Archives: March 2011

Resource: Women, Disability and Violence: Strategies to Increase Access to Victim Services

This article available through VAWnet discusses the intersections of gender, violence, and disability and presents strategies to increase physical and programmatic access to victims’ services for women with disabilities.

Shelters for women facing domestic violence: how it works in Russia


Svetlana Yefimova was not among the millions of Russian women who were given flowers by their husbands on International Women’s Day, a mix of St. Valentine’s and Mother’s Day celebrated on March 8. She divorced him in September 2010, several years after he first severely beat her, breaking her nose, and pledged to make her life “hell.”

“I understood that I should save myself and my children,” Yefimova, 43, a mother of two daughters, says taking a sip of coffee in a cafe in central Moscow. “It’s very difficult to make this step. But if you do, there is no way back.”

There are thousands of women in Russia like Yefimova, who have no place to go when they face domestic violence. There are only about 25 women’s shelters across the country, with places for a total of about 200 women, according to Moscow’s Anna National Center for the Prevention of Violence. That is in a country of 142 million, where every 40 minutes a woman dies at the hands of her husband or partner.

Unofficial data collected by the Anna Center show that as many as 14,000 women die annually from domestic violence in the country, around four times more per head than in the United States. Official statistics on the issue do not exist, says Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Yelnikov.

“Russian laws stipulate punishment for various offences such as hooliganism, beating, causing bodily injuries. But it is impossible to establish how many cases specifically involve domestic violence against women, among all such offences,” he told RIA Novosti.

Full story

Teaching respect and patience to end sexual violence

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
By Patriot-News Op-Ed The Patriot-News
By Jenell Paris

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “It’s time to get involved.”

“Hey, Mommy, get me milkie!” my preschool son snarls across the table. I’ve just been out of my seat several times fetching jam, silverware and toast for the boy and his two brothers. They gobbled their food and wanted more before I could even take my first bite. I’ve lost my cool plenty of times in situations like this, but this morning I detached from the heat of the moment and looked at what was happening.

My son rightfully expects me to serve him, because at his young age, he needs plenty of help. But he crossed a line of respect, raising his voice and demanding service without a “please” or “thank you.” So focused on his own hunger, he failed to notice that I need to eat, too. Moments such as this happen in millions of households every morning. They pass by quickly and can easily be overlooked.

But our ordinary, everyday interactions are microcosms that relate to social issues of much greater consequence. He’s just a little boy asking for milk, of course, but I recognize a similar power dynamic in society, many times with dire consequences: a man disrespectfully demands, or takes, something from a woman without considering her needs or perspective. He thinks he deserves it, or maybe he just doesn’t think at all.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “It’s time to get involved.” According to the National Violence Against Women survey, 1 of 6 women and 1 of 33 men will experience attempted or completed rape at some point in their lives. Many others experience sexual violence or assault, and more still receive harassment or disregard that is directed at their sex or gender.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has declared April 5 the Day of Action; this year, people are encouraged to promote safety through their everyday behaviors. The NSVRC is calling attention to the ways bystanders, those who are neither victim nor perpetrator, can contribute to making their communities more safe.

I leave my breakfast table each day to go teach at a liberal arts college, and I notice gender relations there, too. I’m an anthropology professor, and when I teach about sexual violence in gender studies courses, the most common reply from men is, “Yeah, it’s terrible, but I never raped anyone.” They acknowledge the problem, but instead of moving toward it as activists who might influence other men, they try to gain as much personal distance as possible.

One semester, two representatives from the NSVRC came to my class as guest speakers, and they insisted that as members of society, we each have a vested interest in preserving healthy sexuality for everyone; we each have a role to play in our friendships, families, workplaces, schools, governments, and society.

It’s not as if sexual violence only affects some people — victims and perpetrators — and everyone else can live in the clear. Sexual violence also is embedded in institutions, cultural norms and policies. They showed a spectrum of violence that spans from disrespectful thoughts to demeaning language to full-blown violence such as assault and rape. Prevention also might be pictured as a spectrum, with opportunities for social change present in interpersonal relationships, organizations, government policies and most broadly, cultural values and norms.

What will you do this April, in your everyday life, to encourage safety for men and women? I resolve to bring the issue of sexual assault and prevention to my students, encouraging them to be peaceable in their thoughts and actions, and to be proactive in their spheres of influence. I also resolve to bring the issue to my breakfast table.

When my boys speak disrespectfully to me, I won’t do the same in return, confronting their blunders with a greater show of force. I’ll wait until I’m calm, and then talk to them about respect, considering the needs of others, and self-control. By insisting on respect for Mommy, even when they’re young, I hope they’ll grow into men who treat all women well.

My little one is 3, however, and only has so much stamina for discussion. And this morning he does want his milkie. Of course, it’s a huge leap from a dear little boy to a sexual predator or even just a run of the mill grown-up jerk, but that’s the point. Preventing sexual violence begins long before a perpetrator approaches a victim. It’s in ordinary interactions such as ours that men (and boys) and women (and girls) learn to insist on being treated with dignity, engage in healthy conflict and enjoy restored relationships.

So I offer him another chance. “Ask with respect, and I’ll get it for you. And after that, I’m not getting anything more until I finish my meal.” He does, and I do.

Jenell Paris is professor of anthropology at Messiah College. Her latest book is “The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are.”

State Senator invoked immunity in DV case


A Legal Privilege That Some Lawmakers See Broadly

PHOENIX — The majority leader of the Arizona State Senate scuffled with his girlfriend during an argument on the side of the road late one night recently. He hit her and she hit him, according to the police, but the two suffered dramatically different fates.

The majority leader, Scott Bundgaard, told Phoenix police officers that he was a state senator, and he cited a provision of the Arizona Constitution that gives lawmakers limited immunity from arrest, the police said. Police Department lawyers were consulted, and they ordered that Mr. Bundgaard be uncuffed and released.

Aubry Ballard, Mr. Bundgaard’s girlfriend of about eight months, on the other hand, was arrested for domestic violence and spent the night in jail.

Just how protected lawmakers should be from prosecution is an issue that many states grapple with, said Steven F. Huefner, a law professor at Ohio State University who studies the issue.

He said the privilege, which is included in the United States Constitution and in many state constitutions, was designed to protect lawmakers from civil matters that would interfere with their legislative duties. “The legislative privilege should not become a get-out-of-jail-free card or escape-from-ever-being-put-in-jail card for state legislators,” he said during a presentation on the issue during the National Conference of State Legislators Summit last year.

The special treatment that Mr. Bundgaard received, and the domestic violence accusations against him, have drawn considerable criticism here, with some of the senator’s colleagues and women’s groups calling on him to resign, or at least step down from the Senate leadership.

Intent on holding onto his job, Mr. Bundgaard, 43, denied that he invoked legislative immunity after the police responded to his roadside brawl with Ms. Ballard on Feb. 25. He said that Ms. Ballard, 34, hit him after accusing him of dancing the rumba too closely with another woman in a local charity version of “Dancing With the Stars.” He said that he did not hit Ms. Ballard at all and that he passed a polygraph.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a police spokesman, said in an interview that the senator specifically invoked Article 4 of the State Constitution, which says lawmakers are “privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, and they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the Legislature, nor for 15 days before the commencement of each session.”

Ms. Ballard has accused her ex-boyfriend — both of them say the relationship is over — of hitting her first as they drove in his gold Mercedes on State Highway 51 north of downtown Phoenix. They have accused each other of throwing personal items out of the window of the moving car, which Mr. Bundgaard eventually pulled over near the median.

After he hired a public relations consultant to present his version of events, Ms. Ballard went on local television to give her side of the story. “The officer came over, the sergeant, and said, ‘Look, I hate to do this to you, it’s not fair, but I’m going to have to take you off to jail. He’s been granted immunity; he’s a senator,’ ” she said.

Police departments around the country treat legislators’ privileges in various ways.

In 1999, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia pulled out a copy of the United States Constitution after a traffic accident and pointed out the section that stated that members of Congress “shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest.” He later backed down and had an aide ask the police in Fairfax County, Va., to issue him a citation.

In Arizona, State Representative Mark DeSimone was cited for misdemeanor assault for hitting his wife in the face in 2008, The Arizona Republic reported. The charge was dropped after he resigned and agreed to undergo counseling.

At other times, the paper reported, lawmakers have faced no penalty. That was the case in 1988 when the police released State Senator Jan Brewer, who is now Arizona’s governor, after discovering she was a lawmaker. She had been involved in a car crash and had stated that she had been drinking.

A group of Democratic lawmakers have demanded that Mr. Bundgaard, the Arizona Senate’s No. 2 Republican, resign. The Senate president, Russell Pearce, has stood by his Republican colleague, saying that he considered Mr. Bundgaard to be the “victim” in the case. At a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday, Republicans declined to remove Mr. Bundgaard from his leadership position.

The local news media reported that Mr. Bundgaard accused Ms. Ballard of reaching for a gun he kept in the car, an accusation that did not make it into the police report and that Ms. Ballard denied.

Senator Ron Gould, a Republican and chairman of the Senate ethics panel, recently implied to reporters that he would have gone after Mr. Bundgaard if Ms. Ballard had been his daughter. “Something would have happened,” Mr. Gould said.

Mr. Bundgaard has spoken of the events on the Senate floor and has said he thinks it is time for the archaic notion of legislative privilege to go. “I am not above the law,” he said.

Mr. Bundgaard has not been formally charged, but the police say they intend to present the case to prosecutors. “The only thing that kept him out of jail was that he invoked his immunity,” Sergeant Thompson said. “He will have to answer these charges.”