Category Archives: Domestic violence

Bill Protecting Domestic Violence Victims Unanimously Passes in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

By Sarah Bugay, WLP Intern

On Tuesday, January 14 2014, HB 1796, legislation that seeks to prohibit local nuisance ordinances from penalizing tenants for calling the police to respond to domestic violence and other emergencies, passed unanimously in the Pennsylvania House.  HB 1796, a bill sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), is part of the  first phase of legislation of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a comprehensive, proactive initiative to help Pennsylvania’s women by focusing on a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality.  (Also see WLP-WomenVote PA press release about the Agenda.)

In August 2013, the New York Times brought national attention to a case which exposed a troubling consequence of local nuisance ordinances in its article, Victims’ Dilemma-911 Calls Can Bring Eviction. Domestic violence victim, Lakisha Briggs, had to choose between protecting herself and her three year old daughter from her violent ex-boyfriend, or eviction by her landlord for contacting the Norristown, PA, police too many times.  In April 2013, the ACLU brought a suit against the Borough of Norristown challenging the constitutionality of such a nuisance ordinance.   Thus, while these municipal nuisance ordinances may be intended to protect neighborhoods from disruptive neighbors, they fail to carve out protections for victims of domestic violence and crime who became faced with an untenable choice between having a home and living with violence.  HB 1796 prevents local nuisance ordinances from forcing domestic violence victims to make that choice.

Following its unanimous passage in the House, HB 1796 will now move onto the Senate for consideration.  WLP applauds the members of the PA House who clearly recognized the importance of this bill and protecting victims of domestic violence.

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Filed under Domestic violence, PA Legislature

Pennsylvania is Failing Women

By Kate Michelman and Sue Frietsche

So much for Pennsylvania as the birthplace of freedom and democracy. A report last month from the Center for American Progress offered some alarming statistics about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the way   it treats the six million or so women who live here, assigning us a “C-” grade, and ranking our state 28th of the 50 states on women’s rights.

In fact, a quote from the report reads, “Pennsylvania stands out as one of the states that is among the worst in the nation for women. Across 36 factors of economic security, leadership, and health, Pennsylvania ranks 28th in the nation for how women are faring. This illustrates the long path ahead before women in Pennsylvania can get a fair shot at achieving economic security, reaching success, and living a healthy life.”

It goes from bad to worse in the report, whether it’s the fact that we scored a “D+” on economic factors for women (e.g., the 76 cents we still make to every dollar a man makes or the fact that 15% of us live in poverty), a “D” in leadership (our entire Congressional delegation contains one lone woman, and we hold less than 37% of the managerial positions in the state despite being 52% of the population), or a “C” in health (there is only one OB/GYN for approximately every 20,000 women in the state, we have the 12th highest infant mortality rate in the country, and our lawmakers are making it as difficult as possible for women to get reproductive health care).

It is beyond dispute that when the women of Pennsylvania do well, their families do well, their children thrive and communities prosper. That is reason enough for Pennsylvania to start climbing up from the bottom rungs of the 50 states.

But there is an even better reason, and simply put, it’s that Pennsylvania women deserve an equal shot at a good life. They deserve a state where they are treated equally at home, at work, and at school. They deserve a seat in the boardroom and at the table of government. They deserve a chance to live and work safely, with dignity – even when they’re pregnant or raising a family. They deserve the basic economic security essential to getting and staying healthy. They deserve the freedom to decide whether or not to have children in accordance with their beliefs, not under the boot of other people’s politics or religion.

So what can you do? Read the report, get motivated and do something about it. Get involved by getting smart about who you’re electing (or not electing) into office. Become an educated, vocal participant in exercising your civic duty, whether it’s visiting your legislators, writing letters to the editor, helping out at the polls – whatever inspires your civic passion. Above all, make your voice heard by voting, because Pennsylvania badly needs you in order to get back on the right track for our state’s women.

We’ve made great strides in the last 50 years, but a report like this shows we have miles to go. The women and men of Pennsylvania need to unite to effect real change for women, whether it is access to healthcare, economic security, or freedom from violence. And we need to pick up the pace while we’re at it. It’s simply taking too long to reach a place of true equality.

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Kate Michelman is co-chair of WomenVote PA, an organization that educates, engages, and mobilizes Pennsylvanians to make equality a reality for women. She is also president emerita of NARAL Pro-Choice America and author of “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose.”

Sue Frietsche is a senior staff attorney in the Western Pennsylvania office of the Women’s Law Project.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Economic Justice, economic security, Family Violence, Health Care, Pennsylvania, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Violence Against Women, Voter turnout, women voting, Women's health, Women's Law Project, women's rights, WomenVote PA, working mothers, working women

Problematic “Stand Your Ground” Law: Does It Protect All Florida Citizens Equally?

By Nora Kenty, WLP Summer Intern

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, celebrities, pundits, and bloggers have all been commenting on Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which takes self-defense beyond the usual confines of one’s home. The Florida statute states: “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself [...].” The statute, similar or identical versions of which are shared by 30 other states, is not only controversial due to its extended definition; it seems to be applied in a highly discriminatory way, as evidenced by a 2011 case in which an African-American woman in Florida was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the presence of her abusive husband. 

In July of 2010, Marissa Alexander felt she was in great danger when her ex-husband, Rico Gray, became enraged, tried to strangle her and threatened to kill her. She fled to the garage, retrieved a gun, and fired a single warning shot into a wall inside their home. She later said, “I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.” The judge, however, believed that re-entering the house was not consistent with someone in fear of their life, and the jury took only 12 minutes to decide on the 20-year prison sentence for the mother of three.

In both Alexander’s case and the more recent Trayvon Martin case, there have been complaints that the “institutional racism” inherent in Florida and its laws is to blame for the controversial decisions, which both display a significant bias against African Americans. Considering some of the details of Alexander’s case—she had no prior criminal record, did not kill or injure anyone with her warning shot, and was fleeing a lethally abusive man who had previously gone to jail for his violence toward her—a 20-year prison sentence certainly seems unjustified.

The Florida statute has not been found to be unconstitutional in its definition of self-defense. What is problematic is how the law is being applied, and the fact that those needing protection are unable to use the law to get it. This is not the first time a law’s interpretation has had a disproportionately negative effect on a specific minority group or class of women. Unfortunately it has happened before, and in our own state of Pennsylvania. Municipal ordinances governing rental properties punished victims of abuse who called the police on their batterers more than three times in one month. A woman in Norristown named Lakisha Briggs was brutally attacked by her ex-boyfriend, who hit her with a brick and stabbed her in the neck with broken glass. But Briggs had already called the police on her boyfriend twice in the past month, and they said one more incident of what the ordinance classified as “disorderly behavior” would be grounds for her eviction. So she bled on the floor rather than get kicked out of her home, and was eventually hospitalized. The ACLU successfully challenged the ordinance, but many municipalities across the country still enforce similar laws that disproportionately impact victims of domestic abuse.

The stories of Briggs, Alexander, and Trayvon Martin serve as a reminder that in many cases, our legal system punishes the victims of crimes, rather than placing the blame on the shoulders of the perpetrators. Unfortunately, Florida’s “stand your ground” law is only one example of the many unjust laws and ordinances that exist. With such laws coming under increased exposure and scrutiny, perhaps reform efforts soon will yield more fairly enforced legislation.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Family Violence, profiling, racism, Violence Against Women

PA Superior Court Hears Argument on Insurance Claim of Domestic Violence Arson Victim

By Susan Frietsche, WLP Senior Staff Attorney

Q.: What’s worse than having your house burned down by your abusive spouse?

 A.: Finding out your insurance company won’t cover the damage.

On April 2, 2013, the Women’s Law Project presented oral argument to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Lynn v. Nationwide Insurance Company, a case of first impression involving the insurance claim of a domestic violence survivor whose abuser intentionally set fire to their house.

At stake is the continued vitality of a 2006 Pennsylvania law (referred to by the Women’s Law Project as the “Innocent Co-Insured Victim Act”) that requires insurers to pay the claims of innocent co-insureds when their property is deliberately destroyed by an abusive partner. This statute was passed after a ten-year lobbying effort by dozens of domestic violence advocacy organizations led by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney of the Women’s Law Project. The passage of the Innocent Co-Insured Victim Act was part of a larger initiative to fight a host of insurance industry practices that disadvantaged or endangered domestic abuse survivors, described here.  The trial judge in the Lynn case misinterpreted this statute to require insurers to pay the property claim of a domestic violence survivor only when the claimant can show that the insurer’s reason for denying coverage was because of discriminatory animus against domestic violence victims—a showing that is virtually impossible to make.

In the Lynn case, a woman drugged her two children, left her husband an angry suicide note, and set fire to the family home with herself and her children inside it. She did not succeed in harming herself or her children, fortunately, but the house was damaged, and the woman is currently incarcerated for these offenses. When her husband filed a claim under their homeowner’s policy, he was turned down, and among the grounds for its denial of the claim, Nationwide cited a clause in their contract that excludes coverage of damage caused by the intentional acts of anyone insured under the policy. As applied here, this intentional act exclusion essentially blamed the victim for the wrongs the abuser committed.

On appeal from the trial court order holding that Nationwide did not have to pay the husband’s claim, an all-female Superior Court panel (Judges Bowes, Donohue, and Mundy), sitting at a special session at the Beaver County Courthouse in western Pennsylvania, heard argument from attorney Gary Davis, representing the appellant Brian Lynn, and from Sue Frietsche of the Women’s Law Project, representing the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and two dozen other Pennsylvania non-profit organizations that serve domestic violence survivors. To read the amicus brief, click here.

If the lower court’s opinion is permitted to stand, the impact on domestic violence victims will be devastating. One of the primary reasons abuse victims cannot get out of violent relationships is economic: they face destitution if they leave. Permitting abusers to leave their victims homeless will make it very difficult for survivors to put their lives back together. It also violates the plain language of the Innocent Co-Insured Victim Act, a statute specifically adopted to avoid this very injustice. The Superior Court may issue its ruling at any time.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Family Violence, Insurance Discrimination, PA Superior Court, Pennsylvania

Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence Need Paid Leave

Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director, WLP

Victims of domestic and sexual violence need paid sick leavePromoting Healthy Families and Workplaces would require employers with six or more employees to provide up to seven paid days of leave for employees to use when they are sick, receive preventive care, address needs related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or take care of a family members.  This important legislation provides domestic and sexual violence victims the opportunity to take steps to protect themselves from further domestic violence without risking loss of employment.

The Women’s Law Project stands firmly in support of this legislation.  We have made great progress with the Nutter administration to improve the response of law enforcement to domestic and sexual  violence as well as to expand social and health services.  This bill is a significant component of what needs to be a multifaceted response to a complex problem.  With the enactment of this bill, Philadelphia will take the lead in helping Pennsylvania victims of abuse achieve economic and personal independence.

We know firsthand how important adoption of this bill is to victims of abuse.  Through both our telephone counseling service and policy initiatives, we hear from women who are unable to obtain protection orders or seek the assistance of other social services to help them address the abuse to which they are subjected because their jobs do not give them time off for such activities.  Unable to risk losing their ability to support their families, these individuals continue to live in fear and suffer abuse without legal protection or other support.  Those who take time off from work to address the domestic violence even though they lack leave time, risk loss of employment, destitution, and homelessness.

Except for the domestic abuse hotline and emergency services in Philadelphia, the courts and most social services operate on a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule.  While someone faced with imminent danger may call 911 or file a petition for an Emergency Protection From Abuse order at any time, anyone seeking a final order of protection or relief from the criminal justice system must ultimately appear in court during the work week, typically for many hours, and often on a repeated basis.  Women seeking such orders have told us they simply could not take more time off from work to return to court again.  If the plaintiff does not appear for a hearing, the court dismisses the petition and no relief is granted. This bill, if adopted, will enable victims of abuse to seek legal and other protection.

We anticipate that the business community may assert concerns about misuse or overuse of the leave provided by this legislation.  This concern has been raised in other venues in which we have worked to confront discrimination against and achieve accommodation for battered women: insurance discrimination and waivers of welfare work requirements.  We have seen no abuse in those arenas.  In conversations with state insurance departments around the country, we have been assured that the number of individuals seeking relief under statutes prohibiting insurance discrimination against battered individuals has been extremely low.  In our work in Pennsylvania on implementation of the Family Violence Option, which allows domestic violence victims to be excused from work requirements if domestic violence impedes their ability to comply, we have also seen no abuse.  Despite estimates that domestic violence victims make up 40-60% of the TANF population, the number of TANF recipients in Pennsylvania seeking to be excused from work requirements is very small, only approximately 2 % or less of the TANF adult population statewide.  Philadelphia’s numbers are even lower, with the percentage of the city’s welfare population seeking work waivers consistently below 1% (Department of Public Welfare, unpublished data April -August, 2007).  Just as fears of false allegations of domestic violence have not been realized in these situations, we do not anticipate false claims in this one.

The reasons are the same:  battered women want to work and need to work to support themselves and their families.  In addition, victims of domestic violence do not easily disclose domestic violence to anyone, let alone their employer: shame and fear of loss of benefits and employment are a strong deterrent to disclosure of domestic violence.  Because requesting domestic violence leave requires such a disclosure, we do not expect domestic violence victims to request leave unless it is absolutely necessary for them to be excused from work.

See more information at:  http://www.phillyearnedsickdays.com/

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Filed under Domestic violence, Earned Sick Leave, Economic Justice, Family Violence, Paid Leave, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Council, Violence Against Women

Urge Congress to Reauthorize VAWA

By Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney

On January 23, 2013, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 47, a bill that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In the U.S. House, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced H.R. 11, which is identical to S. 47. If passed, these bills will continue vital programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, VAWA is a monumental piece of legislation. In 2011-2012, a strong VAWA reauthorization bill passed the Senate, but the House passed a substantially different bill that limited protection for immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT victims of domestic and sexual violence. The partisan politics at the time derailed VAWA’s reauthorization.

This session, it is vital that Congress reauthorizes VAWA by passing a comprehensive bill that includes protection for all victims of domestic and sexual violence. The bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill is similar to the bill that passed the Senate in the last session in that it includes enhanced protection and services for tribal, LGBT, and immigrant victims. The current Leahy-Crapo bill does not, however, include a provision that would increase the number of U visas available to immigrant victims of sexual, domestic, and other violence (A U visa offers temporary legal status to victims of certain crimes who assist law enforcement).  Senator Leahy’s office has stated that it hopes the concession will “better ensure passage of the Senate VAWA” and has indicated that the Senator is planning to include the U visa provision in separate immigration reform legislation.

Please contact your Senators and Congressional Representative to urge them to support the bipartisan S. 47 and H.R. 11. The health and safety of sexual and domestic violence victims is a high priority and should not be subjected to partisan politics.  To call your Senator or Representative, dial 202-224-3121.

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Filed under Congress, Domestic violence, Violence Against Women

Women’s Law Project Releases Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women

The Women’s Law Project (WLP) released today a major report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, linking sex bias to adverse health outcomes in women.   The release of this report coincides with National Women’s Health Week (May 13-19th), during which time organizations around the country are raising awareness about the benefits of the health care law.

Inspired by the public debate on health care, WLP embarked on an examination of the relationship between the sex bias that women experience and their health, resulting in the publication of Through the Lens of Equality.  “As familiar as we were with ongoing bias and discrimination against women and with data on critical health measures for women, our in-depth examination of the linkage between the two truly shocked us,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.  “The focus is on Pennsylvania, however, the finding and recommendations have nationwide application,” she added.

“For all of the years that I have been involved in women’s rights and women’s health care, I have never seen the connections between health and equality more dramatically demonstrated that it is in this report,” said Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America and long-time Pennsylvania resident who served as a consultant to this project.

Through the Lens of Equality examines the health impact of sexual and intimate partner violence, caregiving responsibilities, poverty, and bias in the workplace, school, and health care.  The report delves into the politicization of women’s reproductive health care and shows how women are harmed by limited access to abortion, contraception, and maternity care.  It repeatedly points to the importance of implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand access to better health care for women, while acknowledging the ACA’s serious gaps, including not mandating abortion coverage.

“This is not a publication about diseases, but instead an exposition of how biased environments in which women live, work, study, and receive health services are infected with outdated notions about women’s role in society which in turn have negative health consequences for them,” said Amal Bass, staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project.

The publication also provides a series of recommendations tailored to both overcoming sex bias and improving women’s health.  “Numerous targeted interventions well beyond improving access to insurance through the ACA — are necessary to cure institutional and individual prejudices about women,” said Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney of the WLP.  “Failure to do so will result in significant inequitable and avoidable health problems for women,” she added.

Through the Lens of Equality acknowledges the impressive strides that have been made in women’s rights over the past fifty years, but shows that past victories are not enough.  “Looking to the future requires insistence on equal treatment, equal access, and equal opportunity to achieve not just healthy women, but a healthy society,” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney

The Women’s Law Project is a legal advocacy organization based in Pennsylvania.  Founded   in 1974, its mission is to create a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives.  The Law Project engages in high impact litigation, public policy advocacy and community education.   Through the Lens of Equality is available at http://www.womenslawproject.org/NewPages/wkTLE_Base.html.

 

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Filed under Domestic violence, Economic Justice, Education, Employment, Equality, Family Planning, Family Violence, Gender Discrimination, Health Care, Reproductive Rights, Sex Discrimination, Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment, Violence Against Women, Women's health

Urge Your Representative in Congress to Oppose H.R. 4970 to Protect the Safety of Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), domestic and sexual violence victims are in danger of losing important protections under the law.   Unlike previous reauthorizations of VAWA, a law originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, reauthorization this year has been a largely partisan process in both the Senate and the House.  As we have written previously, the Senate’s bill to reauthorize VAWA had bipartisan sponsorship, but passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on only a party-line vote of 10-8 without a single committee Republican voting in favor of reauthorization.  The bill ultimately passed the Senate in a 68-31 vote, with several Republicans supporting it. 

In the House, partisanship has resulted in a maneuver by Republicans that will undermine previously enacted protections under VAWA.  On May 8, 2012, the House Judiciary Committee approved a marked up version of H.R. 4970 introduced by House Republicans to reauthorize VAWA and to reduce protections for victims.  It passed out of committee in a 17-15 vote, with only one Republican voting against the harmful bill. 

Among its harmful provisions, H.R. 4970 targets immigrant domestic and sexual violence victims, who are among the most vulnerable victims because of language and cultural barriers to accessing services and, for some, undocumented status.  Sections 802 and 806 of the bill are particularly harmful.  Section 802 would limit the circumstances under which a victim qualifies for a “U” Visa, which provides an opportunity for undocumented victims of serious crimes to gain lawful status if they meet certain criteria.  Congress created the “U” Visa in 2000 to encourage immigrant victims to report crime and to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes.  Section 802 of the bill would undermine these purposes of the “U” Visa in several ways, including by requiring that victims report the crime within 60 days, a burdensome obstacle for immigrant crime victims who have difficulty accessing services.  It would also require that the “U” Visa applicant provide information that assists in identifying the perpetrator of the crime, even though it is sometimes difficult for victims to be able to identify a perpetrator accurately.  Section 806 of the bill would further undermine the purpose behind “U” Visas by terminating the visa recipient’s eligibility for permanent residence.  

If passed into law, these provisions of H.R. 4970 will harm immigrant domestic and sexual violence victims, making it harder for these women to report and escape from violence in their lives.  The safety of these women should not be subject to partisan politics. 

Please tell your representative in the House that all domestic and sexual violence victims deserve protection.  Urge him or her to oppose H.R. 4970.  To call your representative, dial 202-224-3121 and tell the operator the name of your representative.

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Filed under Congress, Domestic violence, Immigrants, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

VAWA Receives Only Partisan Support

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has never been partisan legislation. Signed into law in 1994, it was reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2000, and again in 2005. But earlier this month, anti-violence advocates were shocked when VAWA passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8, without a single committee Republican voting for the reauthorization.

Senate Republicans are concerned about two provisions in the new bill: one that expands allowances for undocumented victims of violence to obtain special visas, and one that prohibits resource centers that receive VAWA grant money from denying services on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Most anti-violence advocates consider those provisions necessary improvements. Immigrant women have always been more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than their citizen and legal- resident counterparts, with abusers often using their partner’s immigration status as a means of control – for example, by hiding or destroying important documents. Since its inception, the Violence Against Women Act has sought to aid undocumented victims of violence through what is called the VAWA Self-Petition, which allows battered spouses and their children to petition for lawful immigration status without their abuser’s knowledge or permission, freeing them from dependence on their abusers’ willingness to petition for lawful status on their behalf.

Meanwhile, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs surveyed service providers last year and found that 85% have worked with victims who were denied services because they were LGBT – among advocates who had worked with LGBT victims who were denied services, 91% witnessed such discrimination coming from domestic violence organizations, and 64% saw it coming from law enforcement.

Despite this data, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, claims that “advocates of this [LGBT-nondiscrimination] provision haven’t produced data that shelters have refused to provide services for these reasons,” calling the protections “a solution in search of a problem… a political statement that shouldn’t be made on a bill that is designed to address actual needs of victims.”

Grassley proposed a substitute bill that, in addition to removing the additional protections for LGBT and undocumented victims of violence, called for a major reduction in authorized financing and elimination of the Justice Department Office on Violence Against Women, but the measure was defeated along the same party lines.

This sudden partisan turn came as a surprise to many of VAWA’s supporters. One of the bill’s primary sponsors, Senator Mike Crapo – who is not on the Judiciary Committee – is a Republican, as are four of its thirty-four co-sponsors. Democratic sponsor Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said, “I’ve had other senators tell me — Republican senators — that they just cannot understand how this happened.”

Supporters on both sides of the aisle are confident that VAWA will pass the Senate in a floor vote – but we can’t take chances. Call your senators today (if you call the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, you can ask to be transferred directly to your senator’s office) to find out where your lawmakers stand. Tell both of your senators that you are a voting constituent, that the issue of relationship violence is important to you regardless if the person being victimized is straight, gay, transgender, immigrant, or citizen, and that you believe elected officials should not prioritize his or her own feelings toward a group of Americans over addressing a pressing public safety issue.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/violence-against-women-act_n_1273097.html

http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/02/02/senate-panel-approves-lgbt-inclusive-domestic-violence-bill/

http://www.now.org/news/blogs/index.php/sayit/2012/01/30/more-bipartisan-support-needed-for-violence-against-women-act

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/opinion/republicans-retreat-on-domestic-violence.html?_r=3

http://www.domesticviolencecenter.org/get-help/information-for-latina-and-immigrant-women.htm

http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/content/features/detail/778/

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Filed under Domestic violence, LGBT, The New York Times, Violence Against Women

Monica Henry: Women and Girls Still Bear Brunt of Domestic Violence

Recently, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett wrote a guest post for WeNews which cited Mary Straus’s research findings that women and men tend to instigate violence in roughly an equal number of domestic violence instances.  Monica Henry, who holds a master’s degree in gender and peace building and has served as a domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and elder abuse victim advocate for the Quileute Tribe since 2006, wrote a response to Rivers and Barnett’s article, finding flaws in Straus’s research methods and emphasizing that the kinds of violence women and men usually instigate do not equate.

Rivers and Barnett stated that “surveys of U.S. households have found rates of wife-to-husband violence “remarkably similar” to those of husband-to-wife violence.  And an early cross-cultural survey did not find that men were significantly more aggressive than women.”  However, Henry takes issue with the data they cite, noting several critiques of studies showing similar rates of violence committed by women and men that Jack C. Straton, Ph.D. noted in his article “The Myth of the ‘Battered Husband Syndrome.’”

Straton, in critiquing studies Straus co-authored in 1980, said that researchers used a “set of questions that cannot discriminate between intent and effect.  This so called Conflict Tactics Scale (or CTS) equates a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs.”  The studies also “excluded incidents of violence that occur after separation and divorce, yet these account for 75.9 percent of spouse-on-spouse assaults, with a male perpetrator 93.3 percent of the time, according to the U.S. Department of Justice,” and did “not include sexual assault as a category although more women are raped by their husbands than beaten only.  Adjusting Straus’ own statistics to include this reality makes the ratio of male to female spousal violence more than 16 to one.”  Numerous other critiques of the study can be found within Straton’s article.  Henry also notes that “[t]he survey’s finding is also based on claims of innocence by friends and family members on behalf of the accused. [However,] [t]here have been several cases where the accused admits to committing domestic violence or sexual assault and family and friends continue to deny it simply because they can’t handle the thought that their loved one could commit such an act.”

While Rivers and Barnett noted that women usually suffer more severe injuries than men in instances of domestic violence, Henry gives more detail to illustrate the severity of the disparity.  She states that “[a]fter analyzing the results of the U.S. National Crime Surveys, Straton writes that ‘sociologist Martin Schwartz concluded that 92 percent of those seeking medical care from a private physician for injuries received in a spousal assault are women.  That same study shows that one man is hospitalized for injuries received in a spousal assault for every 46 women hospitalized.’”  Henry ends her article by stating that “I am very aware that there are male victims of domestic abuse and I strongly believe that we need to provide them with support…I am also aware that people sometimes make false accusations.  But neither of these facts should be used to minimize the degree to which girls and women take the brunt of household violence.”

To learn about efforts to end domestic violence in the U.S. and what you can do to help in the effort, visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence website.  You can learn about what the Women’s Law Project has done to “improve system responses to violence against women” here.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Family Violence, Violence Against Women