The case for DV Reform

Posted on October 27, 2011 by DVReform

Gimme Shelter: The Case for Domestic Violence Reform

By the time you go to bed tonight, 3 women will have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

For millions of victims, domestic violence is a matter of life and death, but victims of domestic abuse are being victimized again- ignored and abandoned by the very victim service providers that claim to help them. These publicly and privately funded agencies have no oversight – and are in desperate need of reform.

It’s hard to comprehend, but each month its estimated thousands of victims of abuse are turned away from state and federally domestic violence shelters and agencies. Many shelters refuse women with children, charge fees battered women cannot afford, and reject women because of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their abuser’s occupation. A majority of those shelters that DO accept all victims are not funded by the private and public sector through NNEDV, NCADV, and state coalitions, so they are limited to the numbers of victims they can shelter.

When a victim of domestic violence calls a hotline at the local, state or national level, instead of help, they are often referred to another agency, which in turn refers them to yet another agency. Many women tell of being referred back to the same agencies, but receiving little or no practical help.

Maria DiBari, an abuse survivor who has since created the Tri-County Crisis Center in New York, says, “A victim will reach out in need of a specific resource and no one can provide it. Hotlines will refer to shelters and shelters will refer to other agencies and programs and those programs and agencies will refer them back to the shelters. So it becomes a vicious circle.”

DiBari approached many agencies including LSHV, OPDV, NCADV, NYS Coalition, every shelter in NY, Justice Centers in NYS, and she contacted all of her state officials for assistance and still could not get the resources she needed.

Alexis Moore, head of Survivors in Action, and also a former victim of abuse, agrees. “I was referred and referred and referred… until finally I was referred back to the same agencies that I had already been through.”

They both point to battered women like Heather Williams, of Connecticut, who has reached out to more than 50 state and local agencies, but has yet to receive the help she needs. Heather’s most dire need: legal representation.

“I am a victim of domestic violence and stalking. I have a four year-old daughter and have been in an ongoing custody battle with my abuser. In the past, I’ve had numerous orders of protection that have been violated, have been unable to obtain my own police reports, and, most recently, have been falsely charged with domestic violence. I’ve already spent $100,000 in attorneys’ fees for child custody and have been unsuccessful in my attempts to protect my daughter and myself from my abuser. I live in fear of retaliation. Once you’ve left, the danger is far from over. Now your abuser is on the war-path, and there’s no one to help you.”

Finding and obtaining legal representation is the biggest challenge for victims. Many victims go without legal counsel because they can’t afford lawyers. Agencies will often refer them to Legal Aid, a service that provides free representation, but few if any of their attorneys are experienced in domestic violence law, an essential to help victims of abuse navigate the courts, DCF/CPS, the paperwork, the endless bureaucracy, and the legal tricks their abusers will play.

Heather, after requesting assistance from more than 50 government and private agencies in New York and Connecticut, as well as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has yet to find a pro-bono attorney to take her case.

Often services offered women are simply denied. Lily Morales contacted the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – one of the most heavily funded agencies in the United States – for free reconstructive surgery after her abuser disfigured her face. Though surgery is advertised as a service the NCADV provides, Morales was refused.

Other women are simply given incorrect or bad advice. Alexis Moore was told by prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, domestic violence shelters, and other agencies to change her social security number for safety reasons, only to have her request repeatedly denied by the social security administration, for “lack of ongoing abuse” – the standard reply in such cases. When the SSA does grant a social security number changes, victims have actually been arrested and accused of identity theft or fraud.

Karen Elkins, a pro-bass angler, abuse survivor, SIA advisory board member and DV Reform supporter was denied social security number change for safety in 2009. The letter she received from SSA denying her social security number change for safety is like what is estimated to be millions of letters received by abuse victims from SSA each denied by SSA for the same reason, “lack of ongoing abuse”.

There is little oversight of how federal and state funded agencies spend their money: no assessment as to whether or not these agencies are meeting the victims’ needs. Even worse, victims have no recourse when this happens – no place to report this second victimization.

The problem is NOT money but instead how monies and resources are allocated by publicly-funded agencies. DV Reform is about bringing oversight and accountability to these agencies. DV agencies and victim service providers are not regulated as other agencies are yet they deal with customers i.e. victims who are facing life or death circumstances. Victims left behind need to have a place to file formal complaints like consumers have today with law enforcement, businesses and other government agencies.

Everyone knows all too well what DV is. The problem now is victims who are reaching out for help find that no real help exists and there is no place to turn when they are left behind to complain or file a formal complaint.

We are advocating for there to be a federal domestic violence oversight committee for EVERY agency who operates in U.S. that receives funding from public or private sector – where victims can document experience and file complaints.

By writing to local, state and federal officials in support of DV Reform, individuals can use social media platforms to promote this cause as well and join with Tri-County Crisis Center and Survivors In Action by visiting our web sites and contacting us there.

www.SurvivorsInAction.org and www.TriCountyCrisisCenter.org

Amber Cole Alert: She’s 14

BettyJean Downing Kling
Reporting the one-woman crusade of AnnaBelle of Peacocks and Lilies

Excerpt:

At some point in the early morning hours of October 17, 2011 “Shes 14” and “Sketchers” (WARNING: Highly Offensive) began to trend on twitter and I explored it as I do many trends. Shortly I found out that the hullabaloo was over a young 14 year old African-American girl from Memphis, TN who had been videotaped performing oral sex on a male at what looked like a school. Apparently whoever posted the video posted the girl’s name as well–Amber Cole. I found the #AmberCole hashtag (WARNING: Highly Offensive) and began to follow it. It became evident rather quickly that this video was real and was being passed around on twitter. Amber Cole may have even created her own account in response to the video being posted. Her account is @DaRealAmberCole….

I was certainly offended by the crass level of humor being tweeted about this poor girl, but it is Twitter after all, and that’s par for the course. It’s still a free country and people can talk. What they can’t do is distribute child pornography, which is what people were doing every single time they posted the link to the video. They were so blase about it. Here’s a 14 year old giving head! As if it were perfectly normal and it hadn’t occurred to them that it might be illegal, let alone immoral. …

Update2: I’ve decided I’m not stopping until this video is off Twitter. I’ve also contacted Sketchers to make sure they know that their brand is being associated with child porn. I don’t know if my one message will get through, though, so you might consider contacting them yourself. Here’s the link. I know you’re reading. I can see the blog stats shoot through the roof. Will you stand idly by while this happens? While more and more people victimize this young lady?

So far this is a one-woman crusade to stop the distribution of a child porn video that trending worldwide on twitter and virally finding its way onto myriad other sites, I can’t catch it all. Does anyone care about child pornography anymore? Or is it the girl’s race or economic status that is stopping you from acting? Gave head when you were 14? Got head? Well, you certainly didn’t sign on for someone to videotape it and post it to the internet with your name, for goodness sakes.

I could really use some help here, folks. I’m tracking #AmberCole and #Sketchers for people posting the video and then replying to them with this message: “Please remove the #AmberCole child porn video from your timeline or I will have to report you. #Sketchers Shes14”

Read full text here:
http://peacocksandlilies.com/2011/10/17/ambercole-child-pornography-on-twitter/

Read updates and to join the effort: http://peacocksandlilies.com/2011/10/17/action-alert-how-you-can-help-ambercole-and-fight-child-pornography/

Topeka, Kansas is going soft on wife beaters.

Jocelyn Andersen

I am outraged that Kansas would repeal laws to protect women from aggravated assault at the hands of husbands and boyfriends. Women have fought so long and hard to make what progress we have only to hear that now we are not worth the money it takes to protects us from violence?

In case any of you have not heard, the Shawnee County District Attorney decided last month that he would no longer prosecute domestic violence cases in the city of Topeka. Outraged at the power play by the D.A.—not the threat to the safety of women—the Topeka City Council voted to reduce felony domestic violence cases to “misdemeanor domestic abuse.” They promptly released eighteen offenders without pressing any charges.

 This was an issue of power and money between the Topeka City Council and the Shawnee County District Attorney. Women there are considered nothing more than pawns to be sacrificed on the altars of power and money.

We need three things:

First we need an Equal Rights Amendment. What happened in Topeka can happen again and again in one city after another until women are reduced to the shape we were in 50 years ago. Don’t say it can’t happen. It just happened in Kansas! An Equal Rights Amendment is the only thing that cannot be changed by a City Council or a simple congressional vote.

 Second, Women need to be declared victims of hate crimes. Hate Crime is a legal category used to describe bias motivated violence. Violence against women, especially when perpetrated by a spouse or boyfriend, should be categorized as a hate crime. In most domestic violence cases, women are assaulted because they are women. That makes domestic violence a hate crime.

 Hate crime laws enhance penalties associated with conduct that is already criminal under other laws. Conversely, domestic violence laws, by virtue of the language itself, often have the effect of minimizing the severity of criminal conduct in the minds of the prosecutors—as the Shawnee D.A. just demonstrated!

 But whether or not the crime was committed because of a generalized sense of male privilege or entitlement or because of a religiously motivated hatred of women due to deeply held Complementarian beliefs, what happened in Topeka underscores the need for women to be declared victims of hate crimes as well as the need for an Equal Rights Amendment which would do far more to protect women than local laws which, as demonstrated in Topeka, are easily repealed.

Third, the term “domestic violence” needs to be purged from our legal vocabularies. There is nothing domestic about violence, and such language used to describe violence against women minimizes the severity of the violence in the minds of those who hear such watered down verbiage. A crowbar does less damage when it’s wielded by a husband or boyfriend and smashes into the face of a woman? Aggravated assault is aggravated assault!

Over the past several decades, there has been an appalling apathy concerning getting the Equal Rights Amendment ratified. I hope what happened in Toledo will serve as a wake-up call to us all.

Domestic abuse cases ignored in Topeka as city & county fight over who should handle prosecution

BY Rheana Murray
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, October 7th 2011, 4:00 AM

Topeka, Kansas is going soft on wife beaters.

A 10 percent budget cut has forced local prosecutors to pull back on prosecuting misdemeanor cases – including domestic violence charges, Fox affiliate WDAF-TV reported.

In response, the cash-strapped city is considering repealing its anti-domestic violence law, the station reported, hoping it will persuade the Shawnee County District Attorney‘s office to reverse their decision.

As the city and DA’s office try to hash out who’s responsible for prosecuting such cases, at least three accused domestic violence offenders have slipped between the cracks, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

While that doesn’t mean the men won’t face charges down the line, interim city manager Dan Stanley told the publication, it does send potentially dangerous criminals home for the time being.

“The loser in that kind of scenario are the victims and the families,” Stanley said at a news conference Wednesday.

More than 30 other misdemeanor cases have already been dropped by the DA’s office since the September 8 announcement.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/10/07/2011-10-07_topeka_puts_domestic_abuse_cases_on_hold_as_city__county_fight_over_who_should_h.html#ixzz1b4HEj9Ec

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