1. ‘You’re So Inspiring!’
Of all backhanded compliments, this one is probably the most common.
I recently participated in a protest that aims to evoke discussion about sexual violence and serve as a way of healing those who have been violated. At the protest, I met someone who said he enjoys participating in the protest because he’s always “inspired” by the bravery of those who have experienced sexual violence.
Immediately, I started panicking. I was planning on talking about my rape on the evening of the march. What if my story was too sad? Not inspiring enough? What if I make people feel bad instead of good about themselves?
Then I reminded myself that I shouldn’t be worried about that. My story is sad – I shouldn’t make it sound more happy or positive than what it is solely to help other people.
I tell my story to heal myself, not to inspire others.
As I’ve written before, people are often expected to talk about their experiences of sexual violence in order to inspire others.
This can be incredibly problematic: Not only do we dehumanize people when we reduce them to sources of “inspiration,” but we also often end up silencing those who want to tell their story but don’t feel that it’s inspiring or positive enough.
If you like being around those who have experienced sexual violence not because you want to support us, but because you want us to inspire you, please rethink your motives.
It’s one thing to be positively moved by someone’s story; it’s another to reduce them to a source of inspiration.
Our value as humans should not depend on how inspiring we are.
Value me on the days I conquer the world, but value me on the days I can’t get out of bed, too. Value me when my story makes you feel positive and comforted, but also when it shakes you to your core and reminds you that the world can be a really cruel place.
Value us not because we inspire you, but because we’re human.
2. ‘You’re Not a Victim – You’re a Survivor!’
I’ve written about labels before. While I focused then on the queer community, some of those ideas apply to nearly all marginalized groups: Self-identification is a powerful and necessary tool in healing and fighting oppression.
And this applies to people who have been sexually assaulted, too: Choosing to label ourselves and our experiences in a certain way can be really empowering.
Some people who have experienced sexual violence use the term “survivor” – and many sexual violence organizations opt to use this term, too, which is why so many well-meaning people use it.
And for many people, it feels empowering to use the term “survivor.” It reminds them that they have overcome a difficult experience.
In many ways, using the term “survivor” to describe those who have experienced sexual violence is powerful and beautiful. But it’s important to remember that some people don’t identify with the term – and it’s crucial we don’t impose that label on them.
I personally understand the appeal of the term “survivor,” but I’ve never identified with the term. On the other hand, I don’t mind using the term “victim” because I was, indeed, the victim of a horrific crime. I’m not ashamed of the fact that a crime was committed against me, simply because it wasn’t my fault.
So when people inadvertently demonize the term “victim,” it makes me – and many others – feel really uncomfortable. It feels like we’re having a label taken away from us, and another label imposed on us.
Category Archives: victims of crime
1. ‘You’re So Inspiring!’
From the National Center on Protection Orders Full Faith and Credit Newsletter, March 23, 2017
Firearms and Domestic Violence: A Deadly Combination
Currently, there is a significant amount of discussion in the United States surrounding gun violence. Firearms and domestic violence are a lethal mix. Looking at homicides that occurred in 2011, a recent study showed that nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners. (Citation: Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data 6, (September 2013) at http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2013.pdf . It is clear from this data that removing guns from domestic abusers saves lives.
It is important for all disciplines to understand the federal firearm laws and their relationship to any state laws. The complexity of firearm legislation and case law make it difficult and confusing to determine what laws apply and to whom. Federal law prohibits abusers who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence and persons subject to certain protection orders from purchasing or possessing guns and ammunition. Some states have enacted legislation that mirrors the federal firearm prohibitions. Other jurisdictions have adopted broader laws to address issues that the federal law does not address such as including dating relationships and stalking crimes. To assist practitioners, NCPOFFC has compiled a matrix of domestic violence-related firearm prohibitions.
All disciplines that deal with intimate partner violence have a unique responsibility to address the presence and use of weapons to ensure survivor safety. NCPOFFC has created firearms checklists so practitioners can be better prepared to deal with weapons possession. Please click the following link to access the appropriate firearms checklist:
Law enforcement checklist:
This checklist for law enforcement provides information on two classes of persons prohibited under the domestic violence related provisions of the federal Gun Control Act. Those subject to a protection order (18 USC 922 (g)(8)) and those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) (18 USC 922 (g)(9)) are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms. This document also provides tips on seizure and safe return of firearms as well as responding to information requests and incidents of officer-involved domestic violence. It is important for all disciplines to understand the federal firearm laws and their relationship to any state laws
This checklist for judges provides key information on the federal Gun Control Act provisions prohibiting purchase or possession of firearms by those subject to a protection order (18 USC 922 (g)(8)) or those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) (18 USC 922 (g)(9)). Detailed information on who is prohibited, as well as surrender, transfer, and return of firearms, and requirements of judicial notification are provided.
This checklist provides information for advocates facilitating a discussion with survivors about firearms. It also provides key information on the federal Gun Control Act provisions prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms by those subject to a protection order (18 USC 922 (g)(8)) or those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) (18 USC 922 (g)(9)).
This checklist for prosecutors provides key information on the federal Gun Control Act prohibiting those subject to a protection order (18 USC 922 (g)(8)) or those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) (18 USC 922 (g)(9)) from possessing a firearm or ammunition. This tool provides tips from charging decisions to documenting the conviction, as well as facilitating a community response to aid in convicting dangerous abusers.
NCPOFFC staff is available to assist practitioners in understanding both federal and state domestic violence related firearm prohibitions. Please contact NCPOFFC at 800-903-0111 prompt 2, or visit the website to access matrices of state firearm laws, case law, promising practices, and to request technical assistance or training on this issue.
A statistical guide to firearms, intimate partner abuse, and the children, parents, and police who become victims, too.
by Kerry Shaw August 22, 2016
This is not just another “guns and domestic violence” article – it is full of statistical information that makes it crystal clear how guns make domestic violence lethal to intimate partners, children, family members, friends, law enforcement, and even bystanders. Please read. – S.H.A.R.E., Inc.
The man who committed the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history had a history of domestic violence and disrespecting women, according to people who were close to him. The emerging details about Omar Mateen fit into a bigger and often overlooked pattern of violence in this country, in which crimes against female partners often escalate to crimes against greater numbers of people.
Mateen, who opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning — killing 49 people and wounding 53 others — used to abuse his wife.
“He was not a stable person,” Sitora Yusifiy, who was married to Mateen for about two years after the couple met on an online dating site, told the Washington Post. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”
One of Mateen’s former coworkers, Daniel Gilroy, told the Miami Herald that Mateen often bragged about his relationships with other women while he was married to Yusifiy. “All he wanted to do was cheat on his wife,” Gilroy said. “He had very little respect for women.”
This news is unsurprising to people who work on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and gender roles. There’s a lot of evidence that men who hurt their female family members often go on to hurt other people.
Between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife.
Last year alone, nearly a third of mass shooting deaths were related in some way to domestic violence. And when you look beyond public shootings, the majority of mass shootings in this country actually take place inside the home, as men target the women and children they’re intimately related to.
Employing harassment, violence, and coercion against women has long been considered a normal way for men to behave in romantic relationships, as deeply ingrained gender norms teach men that they’re entitled to women’s bodies. This toxic approach to masculinity has been directly linked to the sense of entitlement that drives many mass shooters to commit their crimes.
Nonetheless, while national politicians are quick to pinpoint shooters’ crimes on their immigration status or religious affiliation, the harmful effect of toxic masculinity doesn’t receive the same high-profile attention.
Domestic violence advocates, however, say it’s obvious that men who commit crimes against women should be taken more seriously within society as a whole. As lawmakers debate the best way to prevent mass shootings, one policy solution would be tightening existing loopholes in an effort to make it more difficult for domestic abusers to obtain firearms.
Here are just a few recent examples of shootings where the perpetrators likely had a toxic attitude toward women before they opened fire — a list that includes many men who were directly connected to incidents of violence and abuse against women:
Mainak Sarkar, who made a kill list of his UCLA professors.
Earlier this month, the UCLA campus was shaken by the murder of a beloved professor in his office. Doctoral student Mainak Sarkar had planned to kill two of his former professors, but could only find one before he turned the gun on himself. Before Sarkar loaded up his backpack with guns and ammunition for the trip to UCLA, however, he murdered his estranged wife. According to authorities, he climbed through a window to kill her in her home.
Cedric Larry Ford, who killed 3 people in Hesston, Kansas.
Ford’s shooting spree in February at Excel Industries, which killed three of his co-workers, may have been prompted by receiving a restraining order from someone he had previously abused. He got the restraining order about 90 minutes before opening fire. Evidence from court documents shows that women in romantic relationships with Ford were afraid of him. One former girlfriend said that he tried to strangle her and that she was worried about his mental state.
John Russell Houser, who killed 2 people in Lafayette, Louisiana. Houser opened fire in a movie theater last July and, although his motive for the crime was unclear, his family had previously raised alarm about his violent behavior. In 2008, Houser’s wife asked for a temporary protective order against him, arguing that he “perpetrated various acts of family violence” and “has a history of mental health issues.” According to those court documents, his wife became so concerned that she removed all of the guns from the family home.
Robert Lewis Dear, who killed 3 people in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dear, who opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic last fall, has a long history of being accused of preying on women. In 1997, authorities responded to a domestic violence call after Dear’s wife said he hit her and pushed her out of window. Five years later, he was investigated for making “unwanted advances” toward a neighbor, who said she was hiding in the bushes by her house and “leering” at her. She eventually filed a restraining order.
Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. There’s some evidence that Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a company holiday party last December, grew up in a violent home. In court documents regarding his parents’ divorce, Farook’s mother alleges his father abused her in front of the children — hitting her, pushing her toward a car, and once drunkenly dropping a TV on her. She sought multiple domestic violence protection orders against him. Witnessing this type of domestic violence in the home can have a serious impact on children who see a model for inappropriately treating women. Just days after the shooting, authorities investigated Farook’s brother on a possible charge of domestic battery.
Elliot Rodger, who killed 6 people in Santa Barbara, California. Rodger went on a rampage near a Santa Barbara, California university campus in 2014 against women who had romantically rejected him. In revenge for still being a virgin, which he perceived as women’s fault, he pledged to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see” inside the “hottest sorority house of UCSB.” Rodger planned the crime for more than a year and was deeply involved with misogynistic online communities that have degrading attitudes toward women.
Cho Seung-Huim, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.
Before Cho committed one of the deadliest school shootings to date in 2007, two women complained that he was stalking them. They reported receiving persistent calls and messages from Cho, who went through campus disciplinary proceedings. After the massacre, Cho left behind a manifesto that the Associated Press described as a “rambling note raging against women,” as
See complete Women’s Justice Center article.
One of the effects of stricter laws and policies directing police to treat domestic violence as serious violent crime has been skyrocketing arrest rates of women for domestic violence. In some police departments the percentage of domestic violence arrests of females has shot up to 30 to 40 percent of the arrests. What’s most revealing about this massive shift toward arresting more females is the fact that conviction rates for males vs. females remains basically unchanged. Between 90 and 95 percent of domestic violence convictions continue to be convictions of males. Or looking at it from another angle, a study in San Diego found that in cases in which females were arrested for domestic violence, only 6% of those cases resulted in prosecution.
What these and many other studies strongly suggest is that the evidence in most female arrests is so flimsy or non-existent that prosecutors can’t justify filing charges, or even if the prosecutor does file, the evidence doesn’t stand up in court and the case is quickly dismissed. Clearly, in a significant number of these cases, the officers are mistakenly arresting the victim of domestic violence and not the perpetrator. This is also the conclusion that we and many other victim advocates around the country have come to in dealing with these cases on a day by day basis. All too often, when women are arrested for domestic violence you’re dealing with a victim who has been mistakenly designated as a perpetrator.
Women’s advocates around the country feel the skyrocketing arrests of females for domestic violence stems from a combination of causes. In some cases outright officer hostility against women, or officer resentment of having to treat domestic violence as serious crime, motivates the arrest. In other cases officers are failing to properly determine the dominant aggressor. In a common variation of this problem, the officer fails to correctly identify defensive wounds and as a result they are arresting women who defend themselves, especially those women who defend themselves successfully. And in another whole set of cases, there are indications that domestic violence perpetrators themselves have gotten increasingly sophisticated at turning the law on women by doing such things as calling 911 themselves or by purposely injuring themselves before police arrive.
To be sure, there are cases in which the arrest of a female for domestic violence is a legitimate arrest. But the observations of victim advocates and studies around the country indicate that in a high proportion of female arrests, it is a domestic violence victim who has been mistakenly arrested. These victims need very special care and advocacy from you in order to keep them safe and to undo the damage that’s done by a bad arrest.
See complete Women’s Justice Center article.
One of three laws that goes into effect in Colorado on January 1, 2016, will require the state to immediately report when children in state custody go missing.
Statistics from 2013 indicated that 60 percent of the victims rescued from sex trafficking operations were from the child welfare system.
The new law requires that those in custody of children that go missing to immediately notify local law enforcement through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Before the new law, the policy with Colorado’s Division of Human Services was to notify law enforcement within 12 to 24 hours of a child going missing.