Monthly Archives: December 2012

Buel: Congress must fund Violence Against Women Act

by Sarah Buel

My Turn

They are run over by cars and buried alive. Their teeth are smashed out with hammers. They are raped with objects and strangled and dumped in remote areas to die. They are tied up and forced to watch the sexual molestation of their children. They are drugged and forced into prostitution.

Am I describing atrocities committed against women and children in foreign countries at war? No, these are American intimate-partner violence cases with which I’ve worked as a prosecutor, advocate and clinic director for the past 35 years.

As an abuse survivor, I am proud to have been part of the team that drafted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), testified before Congress and, finally, saw its bipartisan passage in 1994 and its bipartisan reauthorization in 2000 and 2005.

Here are five reasons Congress should reauthorize the VAWA and provide appropriate funding before its members go home for the holidays.

First, the statistics are staggering.

The Department of Justice reports that about four American women are murdered each day by a current or former partner. If foreign terrorists were killing four Americans a day, we’d likely fire up the F-16s, reinstitute a mandatory draft and assign National Guard troops throughout the land. The American Medical Association asserts that American women are in more danger in their homes than on the street — a situation the VAWA can help change.

Second, the VAWA is highly effective, essential legislation funding critical programs that otherwise could not exist.

These services are the difference between life and death for many female and male victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. The VAWA will augment judicial and law-enforcement tools, improve housing and economic security for victims, strengthen America’s families by preventing violence, enhance the health-care system’s response, and increase safety for high-risk Native American women.

Third, the VAWA is a cost-effective mechanism to assist a broad array of survivors.

Violence against women is expensive — just medical care, lost work productivity and lost wages constitute more than $5.8 billion per year. San Diego economists report it costs about $2.5 million to bring a domestic-violence murder case from arrest through incarceration. Severe head injuries can cost upwards of $500,000 per year to treat, and because they are often debilitating, taxpayers may assume the bill when insurance ends. It is estimated that just during its first six years, the VAWA saved about $14.8 billion in prevented net social costs.

Fourth, the VAWA helps interrupt the intergenerational cycle of family violence by helping the non-violent parent flee and ensuring the children grow up in a stable, safe environment.

Children growing up in violent homes may learn that it is OK to be abusive to get what you want and thus have a higher likelihood of later involvement in the courts.

Fifth, the VAWA has been a fundamental part of this nation’s public-safety strategy since 1994, engendering coordinated community responses to domestic and sexual violence.

Finally, the concept of “homeland security” must include protection from domestic-partner terrorists as well as from strangers and political terrorists. Congress should immediately reauthorize and fully fund the Violence Against Women Act.

Sarah Buel is a clinical professor of law at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, senior adviser to the Halle Center for Family Justice and director of the Ruth V. McGregor Family Protection Clinic.

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Kansandra Perkins – Media Irresponsibility on Domestic Violence Enables Abuse of Women

Kasandra Perkins Did Not Have to Die

Jessica Valenti on December 5, 2012 

Photo via Instagram

A good person. Genuine. Pleasant. Nice. Hard-working. A family man. The media has used all of these terms to describe Jovan Belcher after he murdered Kasandra Perkins, shooting her nine times. In fact, these glowing descriptors are all from just one article in The New York Times. But don’t worry, there are plenty of pieces sharing lovely sentiments about the man who killed his girlfriend, the mother of his barely 3-month-old daughter.

While mainstream media and supporters of Belcher have no problem spouting off flattery, most are hesitant to call what happened domestic violence. They’ve gone out of their way to suggest that Belcher murdered Perkins—who friends called ‘Kasi’—because of sustained head injuries or because of alcohol or drug abuse. A police officer, Sgt. Richard Sharp, has even suggested that Belcher committed suicide after killing Kasi because “he cared about her.”

“I don’t think he could live with himself,” he said. What a romantic.

It’s horribly offensive to laud a man who murdered his girlfriend and left his daughter parentless. It’s also irresponsible. When the media reports domestic violence murders as random tragedies—or when individuals say the perpetrator must have “snapped”—they enable a culture of violence against women. Because when you don’t contextualize this violence as part of structural misogyny, you give credence to the myth that there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it.

Insisting that this murder or others like it are “unthinkable” or “shocking” is another way of saying that no one could have predicted it. (He was such a nice guy! A family man!) It’s a dangerous lie that allows us to wash our hands of responsibility when it comes to the violence that is perpetrated against women. Because the truth is that murders like this are predictable.

As Casey Gwinn, President of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, wrote,

Relationships do not go from healthy, happy and functional to murder-suicide overnight. It never happens. There is almost always a history and there is always a pattern. Over time it will be clear that friends, family, and colleagues knew things and saw things and did not take action.

Indeed, it has now come out that Belcher had a history of violence and controllingness in relationships with women. While at the University of Maine, campus police reports were filed when Belcher punched his fist through a window during a fight with a woman and again when police were called to break up an argument he had with his girlfriend after she failed to check in with him at a designated time. Belcher’s relationship with Kasi has repeatedly been called strained—so much so that the Kansas City Chiefs provided the couple with relationship counseling. (Which is actually not the right move, according to domestic violence experts.)

Reports indicate that Kasi was leaving or had left Belcher with their daughter. Women are most likely to be killed by their abusive partners when they try to leave—in fact, victims who leave an abusive relationship have a 75 percent higher risk of being murdered. Pregnancy and chilbirth excacerabte violent relationships and young black women are eleven times more likely than white women to be murdered while they are pregnant or in the year after childbirth.

This is not rocket science—we know how women die when they are killed by their partners. We know what precedes it and we know what the relationship looks like before it happens.

We also know the excuses that are made for the men who kill. When University of Virginia student and lacrosse player George Huguely V beat his ex-girlfriend (she had just left him) Yeardley Love to death, he insisted it was because of an alcohol problem. Articles said he snapped. I’m sure his friends liked him. People were shocked. But in the weeks leading up to her death, Huguely sent Love an e-mail threatening to kill her, and witnesses had seen him physically abusing her.

There is a pattern that makes murders like Kasi’s and Love’s predictable and preventable. The only thing that seems to be questionable is the public responsibility and response to this violence.

In the wake of Kasi’s murder, Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn said, “I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?”

We have a moral obligation to take responsibility for the people in our lives, in our families and in our communities. Kasi Perkins did not have to die. We have to stop pretending that her murder and those like it are a shock or “random” tragedies. It may give some comfort to believe as much, but it’s not the truth. And don’t we owe her at least that much?


SAFER Act of 2012 Introduced in U.S. House of Representatives

SAFER Act of 2012 Introduced in U.S. House of Representatives | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

The SAFER Act of 2012 is a bipartisan bill that will help fix the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases. It would give localities the ability to audit their backlog and bring transparency and accountability to the testing process through the creation of a national online rape kit registry.


When Domestic Violence Grabs the Headlines

Complete story

Reporters buzzed this weekend with news about the murder−suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Before killing himself at the Chiefs’ practice facility, he shot Kasandra Perkins, his 22-year-old girlfriend, nine times in their home. The couple’s three-month old daughter and Belcher’s mother were in the house at the time of the shooting.

Much of the ensuing coverage has searched for reasons why Belcher, a member of Male Athletes Against Violence at his alma mater the University of Maine, committed such heinous crimes. Some commentators focused on widespread gun ownership in our country. Others questioned whether the players in the National Football League are especially prone to violence. Still others wondered whether Belcher had suffered traumatic brain injuries that triggered the episode. All are issues worth considering.

But as tragic as Kasandra Perkins’ death was on Saturday, she was not the only female domestic violence fatality that day. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every day in the United States more than three women are killed by their intimate partners.

Our country is suffering from a plague of domestic violence. Compare the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq (6,612) to the number of women killed during the same period in the United States as the result of domestic violence (11,766). Almost twice as many women died at the hands of men who supposedly loved them as did American soldiers on battlefields.

Here are some other chilling domestic violence statistics:

● 30 percent of the female homicides in our country are committed by the victim’s intimate partner
● The number one cause of death during pregnancy in the United States is homicide.

During the telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs’ game the day following the murder-suicide, broadcaster Bob Costas linked Kasandra Perkins’ death to our country’s gun culture. He has been criticized for his comments but they are very relevant. Here’s why:

● The likelihood that a woman will die a violent death is increased by 270 percent if there is a gun in her home.
● Two in three women killed by their intimate partners were shot with guns kept in their home by their partners.

But gun ownership is only part of a much bigger problem. Violence against women takes many forms from the sadly routine abuse of punching, strangling and shooting to bizarre homicides by chainsaw decapitation.

Kasandra Perkins’ tragic death occurred during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence that runs from November 25 to December 10.

Perhaps the single most effective thing we can do to stop more needless deaths like Kasandra’s is to loudly demand Congress re-authorize the Violence against Women Act. Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of the act, but the House’s narrower rendering is driven by the GOP’s concern that it covers “too many victims.”

Kasandra Perkins is one victim too many. Her death should represent more than yesterday’s news.

Complete story

Murder-Suicide in Kansas City an Opportunity for Communities to Address Domestic Violence

The tragic murder-suicide that took place in Kansas City on Saturday will have a long-term impact on the families of Kasandra Perkins and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher as well as the communities surrounding them. Belcher fatally shot and killed his girlfriend and mother of his three-month-old child, Kasandra, early Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo., then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach, general manager, and other stadium personnel. As a result, a 3-month-old is now without her parents, families are reeling in grief and shock, an NFL organization and the Kansas City community is stunned, and NFL teams, communities and fans everywhere are saddened and left asking, “Why?!?” We at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) are also saddened by Belcher’s actions and extend our most heartfelt condolences to his and Kasandra’s families, their daughter, and all those affected by these deaths.

We may never get a definitive answer as to why Belcher chose to shoot and kill his girlfriend and then kill himself; we may never know the details of the relationship between Kasandra and Jovan; this may have been the only overt sign that something was not right in the relationship; and well-defined, documented proof of the existence of domestic violence in their relationship may not exist. However, there were still probably signs that may have been missed by many.

“Domestic violence has always been perceived as a private issue,” says NCADV Executive Director, Rita Smith. “Unless someone knew many of the signs of domestic violence, any chance to have helped prevent Jovan from killing Kasandra could have been missed, particularly because Jovan seemed to have been thought of by many as a very nice guy.”

NCADV believes that people must take this opportunity to look at developing resources for teams, players, family members and fans that will begin to address the issue of domestic violence in our community. No group or culture is immune from this kind of violence, and we all have the ability to do something to reduce its occurrence.

“The important thing to remember is that most men are not abusive,” says Rita Smith, Executive Director of NCADV. “If most of those good and caring men began to speak out about the use of violence against someone they say they love, we could really begin to see a reduction in that happening.”

“NCADV has been working for decades to address this issue and we have strong connections to over 2,000 local programs providing crisis services in the U.S. We are willing to work with the NFL, all 32 teams and personnel working in professional football to develop resources, training and support so that we can begin to turn the tide on this kind of tragedy.”

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has worked for more than thirty-four years to end violence against women by raising awareness and educating the public about the effects of domestic abuse. Our work includes developing and sustaining ground-breaking public policy at the national level and assisting the 2,000+ urban and rural shelters and programs at the local, state, and regional levels of the nation in the programming they offer to victims seeking safety and assistance. Currently, our constituency encompasses more than 50,000 programs, survivors, advocates, and allied individuals and is growing daily.

U.S. Violence Data Bolsters Case for Passing VAWA

Women’s eNews story on the need for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The lame-duck Congress has two weeks left to renew the Violence Against Women Act. Safety advocates say new data about a stunning drop in intimate-partner violence is good reason for lawmakers to speed passage.

Full story



Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act

Full story in Philadelphia Tribune

As lawmakers in Washington try to hammer out a budget agreement and avoid a fiscal crisis, another issue is also on the table during the lame duck session of Congress — the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA.

In April, a version of VAWA was approved by the Senate by a vote of 68 to 31, despite some Republican opposition to certain provisions of the bill. But the battle over VAWA’s reauthorization has now moved to the House of Representatives and supporters of VAWA are concerned that, with a little more than two weeks left, the law may be allowed to expire.

The United States has made tremendous progress on violence against women and girls domestically since the passage of VAWA in 1994,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Barack Obama when the measure passed the Senate. “Since the passage of the Act, annual rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent. The Violence Against Women Act, something that should be above politics, is mired in just that on the Hill. The Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill three months ago. The House should take up the Senate bill so we can get this important bill to the president’s desk. Women should not have to wait a day longer.  As the vice president has said, Congress should act now to protect women.”

In Philadelphia, a recent report was released detailing the scope of violence against women in the city. Titled Violence Against Women in Philadelphia — A Report to the City, the study indicated that the Philadelphia Police Department handled 145,904 calls that were related to domestic violence in 2011. The number of arrests increased from 4,927 to 6,256 between 2009 and 2011.

“The Philadelphia Police Department should continue its positive and constructive relationship with the city’s domestic violence and rape crisis agencies,” the report said. “Philadelphia is one of the few, if not the sole city in which victim advocates are allowed to review every rape case. And the department involves local domestic violence agencies in efforts to improve all services to victims with the goal of reducing violence against women.”