Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lethality Assessment Training September 12 in Longmont

High Lethality Domestic Violence Threat Assessment and Offender Mitigation presented by Longmont Ending Domestic Violence Initiative, Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

More information and registration form



Legal Momentum responds to New York Times article on single mothers

The New York Times vs. Single Mothers

by Legal Momentum

For more than 40 years, Legal Momentum has conducted in-depth research and policy advocacy on behalf of women in poverty. Legal Momentum strongly objects to the support expressed by the New York Times for the sexist and misogynistic notion that single mothers cannot and do not raise well-behaved children. This is the patent falsehood expressed in their article, “Obama vs. Poverty” which will be the cover story in the upcoming August 19, 2012 print edition of the Times Sunday Magazine. The article is now available online at

The male author of the article quotes a male interview subject as stating, “If you don’t have a father figure in your life, you don’t have discipline and structure, and without structure, you don’t have anything. You have chaos.”

The article then states, “This analysis has support from many of the academics who study [poverty],” yet the author never mentions any contrary points of view – even though many experts disagree strongly.

Half of all U.S. children spend at least some part of their childhood in a single mother family, just as President Obama did. Most of these children are well behaved, do well in school, and grow up to be productive workers, good parents, and upstanding neighbors.

It is true, as the article says, that some children in single mother families, like some children in single father families, and some in coupled parent families, will be permanently scarred by the deep poverty that far too many U.S. children experience.

However, the problem is not single motherhood – it is the flawed social policies that allow child poverty to persist in the U.S. at much higher rates than in other high-income countries. In the U.S., poverty rates among children in single parent families, as well as poverty rates among children in coupled parent families, are much higher than the rates of child poverty in other high-income countries.

Legal Momentum’s Facts About Single Motherhood in the United States –
A Snapshot 2012

Prevalence: Single motherhood is very common. Around half of today’s mothers will spend at least some time as the sole custodial parent. At any one time, almost one quarter of mothers are single mothers.

Income: Half of single mother families have an annual income of less than $25,000. Median income for single mother families is only one-third the median for married couple families. Only one third of single mothers receive any child support, and the average amount these mothers receive is only about $300 a month.

Poverty: Two fifths of single mother families are poor, triple the poverty rate for the rest of the population. The majority of poor children are in single mother families. Child poverty is linked to school dropout; to negative adult outcomes including joblessness and ill health; and to reduced economic output estimated to be about 4% of Gross Domestic Product.

Hardship: Two fifths of single mother families are “food insecure,” one seventh use food pantries, one fifth have no health insurance, one third spend more than half their income on housing. Three quarters of homeless families are single mother families.

Welfare & Food Stamp Receipt: Although two fifths of all single mothers are poor, only one tenth of all single mothers receive cash welfare assistance. Two fifths of single mothers receive Food Stamps.

Compared to Single Mothers in Peer Countries: The single mother poverty rate in the U.S. is far above the average among high-income countries, even though the single mother employment rate in the U.S. is also above the average. Less generous income support programs in the U.S. help explain the exceptionally high poverty rate for single mother families in the U.S.

Characteristics: About 45% of single mothers have never married, about 55% are divorced, separated, or widowed. Half have one child, 30% have two. About two fifths are White, one-third Black, one-quarter Hispanic. One quarter have a college degree, one sixth have not completed high school.

Employment: At any one time, about two thirds of single mothers are also working outside the home, a slightly greater share than the share of married mothers who are also working outside the home. However, only two fifths of single mothers are employed full-time the entire year, and a quarter are jobless the entire year.

For more information, go to Single Mothers on the Legal Momentum website, or contact Timothy Casey,

Rural domestic violence: Dangerous for victims, complicated for police

Complete story and audio

It’s hard to compare the rates of domestic violence in rural and urban communities, in part because the crimes so often go unreported. And also because of the way data are collected.

But Stacy Vinberg, an assistant county attorney in Yellow Medicine County, says there is a different dynamic to the way domestic violence plays out in rural communities.

Even if everything gets reported and there’s an arrest, her biggest challenge is witnesses who later recant their testimony that they were abused.

“When you have a recanting victim, a lot of times it’s tied to the income stream and the fear of what I would call the unknown,” she said. “You might have a husband and wife who have been married since they were in their late teens or early 20s — and domestic violence has been going on since that time, and maybe [now] they’re in their 40s. Neither he nor she knows anything beyond the family farm, and when you report domestic violence, it starts a whole range of things in motion. And sometimes they’re not cognicent of that when they report it, and all of a sudden it’s a huge wake-up call. And I think when you tie it to the income stream and the fear of the unknown, I think it’s a somewhat unique problem that we face in the rural areas.”

This also is a topic Ralph Weisheit studies as a criminal justice professor at Illinois State University. He’s found that the rates of domestic violence are similar between rural and urban areas.

Although rural crime rates are lower than those in urban areas, public safety takes a big share of local government budgets outstate. So it has come under scrutiny in a time of fiscal restraint, he says. At the same time, in areas where populations are dwindling and aging, security concerns can change. Telecommunications, surveillance and other technology are changing how law enforcement deals with safety. And for some, what is needed is a greater sense of personal responsibility when it comes to their safety.

That issue of ‘only one person responding’ is huge here in Minnesota. The Price of Safety series has a map that shows 20 rural police departments have disbanded since 2007 because of budget constraints. Weisheit says he’s he heard of cases in rural America — not necessarily here in Minnesota — where a backup officer responding to a domestic abuse call is sometimes a game warden.

Also, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension doesn’t separate domestic assaults from the larger pool of assault statistics in its annual Uniform Crime Reports. The reports do include a category called “Family/Children,” which can include domestic violence. In 2010, the rate for rural family crime was roughly half the urban rate.

But there are certainly factors particular to rural areas that contribute to violent behavior and shape the way it’s addressed.

“Rural areas have higher rates of poverty in general,” said Joseph F. Donnermeyer, professor of rural sociology at Ohio State University. “Unemployment can create issues that show up on a crime blotter.” He said there may be more traditional gender roles at play as well. “Men lose their patriarchal job and guess what happens, domestic violence against women goes up.”

Vinberg, the assistant county attorney in Yellow Medicine Count, with a population of just over 10,000, spells out an all-too-typical rural scenario: “A lot of times, women will be on the farm and that is their sole source of income,” she said. “They may not have had any training otherwise, so they are less empowered to make that phone call to get out of that situation. They have no idea how they are going to cope, how they are going to live. They think if they are not using the income of their husband, they have no other means. To a certain extent that can be true. You are not going to find a housewife of 20 years in a rural area moving to the city and becoming a corporate executive or anything.”

Even if the wife in Vinberg’s story calls the police and charges are filed against the husband, she’s then got to grapple with community perceptions, the stigma. “You don’t have the anonymity out here that you do in the urban center,” Vinberg said. “Let’s say there is a jury trial and the jury is made up of peers. In a small community, that may be people who have heard of Joe Smith. He sits on the elevator board and goes to 4H. They look at him and say, ‘He’s successful and she’s never reported this before, so she just wants money and he’s not guilty.'”

Domestic violence calls can be some of the most volatile for police, yet in rural areas, deputies and officers often travel long distances alone and backup can be far away. It might take 30 minutes for the first officer to arrive and another 30 for backup to get to the scene. Response times have become a growing issue due to recent public safety budget cuts.

“Not to be morbid,” said Vinberg, “but if somebody wanted to do an officer harm, there would be nobody there to witness it.”

On the other hand, there are upsides to rural familiarity. Police may know the people involved in a domestic call, which can diffuse a situation and let an officer know what to expect at the end of the long, wooded driveway.

It helps when advocating for victims as well, said Denise Loy, who works with the Tri-County Victim Witness Program, covering Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties. “I have the opportunity, the luck to be able to pick up the phone and call the prosecuting attorney, to knock on the judge’s door and call other support programs. Because we are rural and small, we know everybody. I hear from attorneys that come from metro, they say, ‘You just talk to each other?’ I can pick up the phone and call anyone and they know who I am and I know who they are.”

“We are all expected to speak up for victims,” she said.

Private violence: A media project to end violence against women in America

Private Violence – Anything But Private

The project tackles the myths and misconceptions about domestic violence that make the world a dangerous place for one out of four women and their families. Thirty-five years into the battered women’s movement, it’s time to start asking different questions and posing new solutions. Feature length documentary premiering this year is at the center of the project.

Watch the trailer  – Get the Trainer’s Edition – Support the Project – Get Help

Domestic violence risks increase for undocumented women


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) waits in limbo for reauthorization in Congress. While legislators discuss content, thousands of women are suffering the physical and mental consequences of abuse, and abusers go on with impunity.

Among those women, uncounted undocumented Latinas  continue to be unaware of their right to be protected by the law. They aren’t likely to report domestic violence incidents out of fear of being deported, of seeing their families split, and of enraging their partners making violence even worse.

Complete story


Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally

Office of the Press Secretary

August 10, 2012


Fact Sheet: Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally


Progress Toward a World without Violence Against Women and Girls

Today, President Obama issued an Executive Order on Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally to further enhance the Administration’s efforts to advance the rights and status of women and girls, to promote gender equality in U.S. foreign policy, and to bring about a world in which all individuals can pursue their aspirations without the threat of violence. 


Violence against women and girls cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, education level, and international borders.  Although statistics on the prevalence of violence vary, the scale is tremendous, the scope is vast, and the consequences for individuals, families, communities, and countries are devastating. 


An estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence experienced by women globally.  Other forms of violence include human trafficking, sexual violence, including when used as a tactic of war, and harmful traditional practices, such as early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and “honor” killings.  


Today’s Executive Order, which creates an interagency working group co-chaired by the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), directs departments and agencies to implement the new United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally.  This Strategy was developed by the Department of State and USAID in coordination with other relevant U.S. Government departments and agencies.  The Executive Order will ensure that agencies prioritize this issue in their implementation of U.S. foreign policy, and that work in this area is evaluated.  Recognizing that this is a long-term commitment, the Order directs the interagency working group to update or revise the Strategy after three years.    

The Strategy outlines a comprehensive, multi-sector approach to prevent and respond to gender-based violence through:


·       Increased coordination of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts among United States Government agencies and with other stakeholders;

·       Enhanced integration of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts into existing United States Government work;

·       Improved collection, analysis, and use of data and research to enhance gender-based violence prevention and response efforts; and

·       Enhanced or expanded United States Government programming that addresses gender-based violence. 


In addition to the Department of State and USAID, the working group will include representatives from:


·       the Department of the Treasury;

·       the Department of Defense;

·       the Department of Justice;

·       the Department of Labor;

·       the Department of Health and Human Services;

·       the Department of Homeland Security;

·       the Office of Management and Budget;

·       the National Security Staff;

·       the Office of the Vice President;

·       the Peace Corps;

·       the Millennium Challenge Corporation;

·       the White House Council on Women and Girls; and

·       other executive departments, agencies, and offices, as designated by the Co-Chairs. 


Building on an Existing Foundation

The new Strategy will marshal the United States’ capacity and expertise to establish a coordinated, government-wide approach to preventing and responding to this issue.  It builds upon an existing foundation and will complement and reinforce multiple ongoing Administration efforts, including:


·       The Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to Achieve our National Security and Foreign Policy Objectives issued by the Secretary of State;

·       The updated policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment issued by USAID;

·       The U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and Executive Order 13595 directing the Plan’s implementation;

·       The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, including the Gender-based Violence Scale-Up Initiative and Evaluation; and

·       The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.


The United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally can be found HERE and HERE.