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: violence against women
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 number of domestic violence-related deaths in Pima County increased by 50 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Ed Mercurio-Sakwa, the CEO of the local Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, says that his organization’s hotline typically receives calls from about 5,500 individuals in Tucson each year.
Last year 5,900 called Emerge’s hotline, and Mercurio-Sakwa predicts that “this year we’re on pace for about 7,300 different calls,” an increase of more than 30 percent of the typical hotline traffic. “And the scary part of that is that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Mercurio-Sakwa says.
“A lot of research shows that only about one in 10 incidents get reported,” Mercurio-Sakwa says, “The Tucson Police Department and Pima County Sheriff’s Department alone get almost 13,000 calls each year to 911 for domestic violence and again it’s probably about one-tenth of what’s really going on.”
Emerge! works with the Pima County Attorney’s office to provide victims with support and emergency resources through the Domestic Violence Court, established in 2007, but Mercurio-Sakwa admits that the Pima County legal system cannot provide justice for all victims.
One issue for victims, about 85 percent of whom are women, “is that the vast majority of domestic violence is emotional abuse, verbal abuse and economic abuse, which are not illegal, generally speaking,” Mercurio-Sakwa says.
The Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), an organization out of Washington, D.C., that works to advance legal protections for victims and provide assistance during appeals processes nationwide, recognizes the shortcomings of protections against nonphysical forms of abuse.
“Even though there has been extensive training efforts to educate judges on the broader spectrum of behavior that encompasses domestic violence, judges rarely recognize or grant protection for controlling behavior that is the core of domestic violence,” says Sasha Drobnick, the legal director of DV LEAP.
These behaviors can include threats, intimidation, degradation, social isolation and financial manipulation, all with the goal of total control over the victim.
However, just because an abuser has not resorted to physical violence yet does not mean it won’t happen in the future.
“Somebody who is looking to control someone else will use whatever tactic necessary to gain that control,” Mercurio-Sakwa says, “That means that they will keep raising the level of abuse until they don’t have to anymore. So, abusers who feel like they can differentiate themselves from men who hit their wives are wrong. The truth is you’re not physical because you haven’t had to be, not because you wouldn’t be willing to.”
One of the overarching goals for DV LEAP is to develop “broader and more accurate definitions of domestic violence with domestic violence statutes that capture and provide protection against coercive control,” Drobnick says.
Even victims who suffer prosecutable forms of abuse face judicial shortcomings, an example of which is order of protection enforcement.
One option for victims of illegal abuse is an order of protection, which bars the perpetrator from any contact with the victim in person or any other way for one year.
Violations of orders of protection in Arizona are supposed to result in immediate arrest, possible jail time and fines.
Despite the order’s name, Mercurio-Sakwa says “it may just serve to piss (the abuser) off more, and at the end of the day it’s a piece of paper.”
One victim, who was granted her fourth order of protection against her husband and father of her children on March 4 in the Pima County Superior Court, asked presiding Judge Geoffrey Ferlan what she could do to keep her abuser from continuously violating the order of protection.
“Is there anything else I can do if I’ve already told the police and he’s still violating it?” she asked, sitting alone in front of the judge.
The victim said she reported all of the violations to the Tucson Police Department, but no actions were taken.
Ferlan could only respond with, “Legally, I can’t give you advice.”
The abuser, who previously served prison time for domestic violence, did not show up to a hearing that he requested to dispute the order of protection.
Court records describe incidents of stalking, choking, pushing and threatening the victim and their two children under the age of 10.
In one report, the victim wrote, “(the abuser) sent me a picture of a gun to his head saying he was going to kill myself, the kids, then himself.”
At the end of the brief hearing, after Ferlan recommended that the victim “continue to report the violations to the police and use resources like Emerge! to keep yourself safe,” she was escorted to her car by two court officers.
Unlike the legal system, which uniformly issues orders of protection and prosecutes domestic abusers, Emerge! focuses on individualized safety response plans.
“We feel like every situation is totally unique, and requires a customized response plan that may or may not involve the court,” Mercurio-Sakwa says.
Mercurio-Sakwa’s experience with victims taught him that not all victims want to prosecute or leave their abusers, whether for financial or familial reasons, and those that do want legal justice can face threats and intimidation in the process.
“Sometimes there is tremendous fear. The abuser will say, ‘I’m going to get out, they might arrest me but I’ll be out in a day or so,’” he says. “That’s real. That is a real safety risk for victims.”
Although victims can contact law enforcement if they feel threatened, a survey conducted by The National Domestic Violence Hotline in 2015 found that only one in five women nationwide who contacted the police about their abuse felt safer.
Intimidation outside of court can cause victims to recant or drop charges for their own safety.
One appeals case that DV LEAP is working on involves a domestic violence survivor who was denied a protective order because she previously dropped criminal charges against her abuser because of fear.
Recanting a statement or dropping charges can make a victim look unreliable, and make pressing subsequent charges or seeking protection more difficult.
“These behaviors are common among survivors and have many possible explanations, but the court chose to find that the abuse didn’t occur,” Drobnick says.
Although police departments nationwide are trained to protect victims from their abusers, in 2015 two-thirds of women suffering from domestic violence “were afraid the police would not believe them or do nothing,” according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
The Tucson Police Department did not respond to repeated requests for an interview about its experience with domestic violence incidents.
Although there were about 4,000 domestic violence-related deaths nationwide in 2015, the rate of domestic violence deaths in Pima County was 44 percent higher than the national rate.
Mercurio-Sakwa, a man working in a position traditionally occupied by women, feels that the next step in domestic violence prevention is “shifting the community conversation to the unhealthy aspects of masculinity.”
“We have for so long seen this as a women’s issue. It was left on their shoulders to somehow take care of it,” he says. “I find it really important that men hold each other accountable.”
Mercurio-Sakwa’s goals for the organization, while under his guidance, are to expand on prevention programs directed at men.
Although Emerge! is a positive place for victims to seek out the help they need, Mercurio-Sakwa was reluctant to admit, “unfortunately, we will never go out of business.”
Lawmakers Think Abuse Victims Need Easier Access to Guns. This Survivor Believes They’re Dead Wrong.
Lawmakers and gun-rights advocates have called for arming abuse victims, but few battered women are mentally and emotionally prepared to pull the trigger.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would allow anyone 21 or older who is protected by a restraining order to carry a concealed handgun without a license for 45 days. The measure represents the latest effort by legislators and law enforcement officers around the country to encourage victims of domestic abuse to arm themselves. In June, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie directed his attorney general to fast-track concealed handgun permit applications for individuals “living under a direct or material threat.” And in August, a Louisiana sheriff urged domestic abuse victims in his parish to deal with their estranged partners by “shoot[ing] him in your backyard before he gets in your house. Drop him.”
A more effective way to reduce domestic violence deaths, gun violence prevention advocates argue, is to force abusers subject to restraining orders and domestic violence convictions to surrender their guns. When either the abuser or the victim is armed, things can turn deadly: Domestic assaults involving guns are 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without them.
Ruth Glenn knows firsthand how dangerous it is to introduce firearms into a domestic violence situation. In 1992, months after she left an abusive marriage, Glenn’s estranged husband pulled her over on the side of the road. He shot her three times, twice in the head. After leaving her to die, he spent four months on the run from law enforcement before taking his own life.
Glenn, who now serves as the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, spoke to The Trace about why some victims may not be emotionally or mentally prepared to use decisive force against an abuser.
Anti-sexual assault work is a part of domestic violence work because domestic violence often includes sexual abuse.
View the slideshow for more information.