Archive for the ‘Violence & Abuse’ Category

October 18, 2013

New Study on Youth and Sexual Violence Considers Spectrum of Rape Scenarios

In a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, nearly 1 in 10 youths in the United States reported committing an act of sexual violence.

As part of a larger Growing Up With Media study on media consumption and exposure, the researchers surveyed 1,058 girls and boys ages 14 to 21 about their experience as perpetrators of sexual violence and their exposure to violent sexual media.

Rather than ask participants if they had ever raped or sexually assaulted anyone, the researchers asked more nuanced questions, including if they had tried to make someone have sex with them when they knew the other person didn’t want to, and if they had succeeded at doing so.

The participants were also asked if they had kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with an unwilling partner. Among the findings:

  • 9 percent of youths surveyed reported some type of sexual violence perpetration in their lifetime;
  • 8 percent kissed, touched, or made someone else do something sexual when they knew the other person did not want to (ie, forced sexual contact);
  • 3 percent got someone to give into sex when he or she knew the other person did not want to have sex (hereafter referred to as coercive sex);
  • 3 percent attempted – but were not able – to force someone to have sex (ie, attempted rape);
  • 2 percent forced someone to have sex with him or her (ie, completed rape).
  • About 3 in 4 victims were a romantic partner.

There was a good amount of overlap: 12 percent reported two different behaviors, 11 percent reported three, and 9 percent reported all four types.

When asked about the most recent time they tried to force or were able to force someone to have sex, tactics were mostly coercive. Arguing or pressuring the person (32 percent) or getting angry or making the person feel guilty (63 percent), were more commonly used than threats (5 percent) or physical force (8 percent). Alcohol was a factor in 15 percent of these situations.

It’s important to keep in mind that survey research like this — even when conducted via the internet — may underestimate true rates of actions like sexual assault, because perpetrators are motivated to avoid reporting their own crimes.

The authors note this as a limitation, adding, “Nonetheless, rates are much higher than the lifetime rate of 0.15% yielded in a national study of adults that was conducted face to face.”

Perpetrators & Victims
Women were much more likely to be the victim of an attempted or completed rape; perpetrators reported that about 80 percent of victims were female. The researchers also found that about 5 percent of victims were transgender.

White youths were more likely than nonwhite youths to report perpetrating coercive sex, and youths living in higher-income households were more likely to report attempted rape.

Perpetrators of any type of sexual violence were significantly more likely to have consumed any type of X-rated material, especially violent materials.

The authors note that while media consumption and violence could not be causally linked by their study, “it seems appropriate to suggest that frequent consumption of sexual and violent material and especially sexually violent material should be a marker for concern for adolescent health care professionals.”

Looking at the gender of assailants, researchers found that boys and young men accounted for almost all rapes and attempted rapes committed before age 18. The study notes that 98 percent of perpetrators whose first act occurred at ages 8 to 15 were male, as were 90 percent of perpetrators involved in an assault at ages 16-17.

Among 18- and 19-year-olds, women accounted for slightly more than half (52 percent) of attempted/completed rape perpetrators (seven women out of 13 total). The authors note that their broad definitions may result in finding an unexpectedly high amount of female perpetrators. They add, however, that it’s important to challenge the widespread notion that women cannot coerce men.

Some may argue that the definitions of rape and sexual assault in our investigation are too broad. Indeed, this may be why the perpetration rate among females is higher than might be posited. Rape includes acts beyond those in which the victim is physically overpowered, however. Restrictive definitions have potentially led to undercounting of sexual assault experiences.

For example, in the National Violence Against Women Survey, respondents were asked whether anyone had ever made them engage in a sexual activity “by using force or threat of force.” Psychological coercion was not clearly specified even though there are multiple coercive strategies other than physical force that can be used in a rape. To ensure that comprehensive rates of sexual assault and rape are identified as well as to begin building the research base on female perpetrators, research needs to include a fuller spectrum of rape scenarios.

Few Criminal Consequences
The findings on attitudes and punishment are chilling.

“Sixty-six percent of perpetrators reported that no one found out about the perpetration. Contact with the justice system was uncommon: 1% of perpetrators reported police contact and 1% an arrest,” note the authors.

They also found that half of perpetrators said that the victim was completely responsible for the incident. Only 1 in 3 said that they, the perpetrator, were completely responsible for the incident.

The authors recommend that more effort should be made on education that avoids victim blaming and emphasizes perpetrators taking responsibility for their own actions. They also suggest further research on factors related to taking responsibility, such as motivations behind the sexual violence and feelings of remorse or regret.

Incidents like this recent one in Maryville, Mo., in which a family moved due to harassment after the daughter was sexually assaulted, highlight the cruelty of victim-blaming and the need for prevention programs that put responsibility on the assailant.

The authors also commend bystander intervention programs, but note that most of that research has been done at the college level, and more work is needed at the high school level.

Plus: To learn more about consent, including essential rules, ways to talk about it, and examples of the enthusiastic consent model, check out Scarleteen’s Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent.

June 21, 2013

WHO Releases Global Report on Health Effects of Violence Against Women

Violence Against Women: Health Impact

The World Health Organization has released a new report, “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence,” [PDF] that attempts to quantify how many women around the world are exposed to physical and sexual violence at some point in their lives, and describes many of the associated poor health outcomes.

The findings are probably not surprising, but they are still disturbing.

WHO reports that 35 percent of women worldwide — more than 1 in 3 — have been physically and/or sexually abused. These figures do not include emotional/psychological abuse.

Most of the violence is committed by intimate partners. WHO estimates that almost one third (30 percent) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner, while 7 percent of women have been sexually abused by a non-partner.

Among the key findings on health outcomes:

• Globally, as many as 38 percent of all murders of women are reported as being committed by intimate partners.

• Forty-two percent of women who have been physically and/or sexually abused by a partner have experienced injuries as a result of that violence.

• Women who have experienced partner violence have higher rates of several important health problems and risk behaviours; compared to women who have not experienced partner violence, they:
– have 16 percent greater odds of having a low-birthweight baby;
– are more than twice as likely to have an induced abortion;
– are more than twice as likely to experience depression.

• In some regions, they are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, and 1.6 times more likely to have syphilis, compared to women who do not suffer partner violence.

The authors describe a number of factors that likely contribute to high levels of violence against women, including economic factors, social norms that support male dominance over women, cultural acceptance of violence against women, and gender inequality in access to wages and education.

The report ends with an important call to action:

This report unequivocally demonstrates that violence against women is pervasive globally and that it is a major contributing factor to women’s ill health. In combination, these findings send a powerful message that violence against women is not a small problem that only occurs in some pockets of society, but rather is a global public health problem of epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action. As recently endorsed by the Commission on the Status of Women, it is time for the world to take action: a life free of violence is a basic human right, one that every woman, man and child deserves.

February 25, 2013

CDC Releases Data on Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence by Sexual Orientation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the first-ever set of national data focused on intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking victimization by sexual orientation.

According to the findings, lesbians and gay men experience higher rates of partner and sexual violence than do heterosexuals, and bisexual women have significantly higher lifetime prevalence rates of rape and sexual violence committed by any perpetrator (that could include an intimate partner, family member, acquaintance or stranger.)

The data, gathered from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, includes responses from almost 10,000 women; here’s a FAQ about the findings and methodology.

“We know that violence affects everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. This report suggests that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in this country suffer a heavy toll of sexual violence and stalking committed by an intimate partner,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a release. “While intervening and providing services are important, prevention is equally critical.”

Among the findings:

  • 43.8% of lesbian women, 61.1% of bisexual women, and 35.0% of heterosexual women had experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • Approximately 1 in 8 lesbians (13.1%), nearly half of bisexual women (46.1%), and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (17.4%) have been raped in their lifetime (translating to about 214,000 lesbians, 1.5 million bisexual women, and 19 million heterosexual women).
  • 1 in 3 bisexual women and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (15.5%) have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime. (Numbers were too small to be reliable for lesbian women.)
  • More than one-third of lesbians (36.3%), over half of bisexual women (55.1%), and more than one-quarter of heterosexual women (29.8%) have been slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
  • 23.6% of heterosexual women, 29.4% of lesbian women, and 49.3% of bisexual women had experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with fist or something hard, slammed against something, or beaten).
  • The majority of women who reported experiencing sexual violence, regardless of their sexual orientation, reported that they were victimized by male perpetrators. Most bisexual and heterosexual women (89.5% and 98.7%, respectively) reported having only male perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

Neither the full report nor the sexual orientation report provide information about intimate partner violence related to gender identity, although transgender women and men may be more likely to experience severe partner violence. The CDC notes that the Department of Health and Human Services is working on “developing standardized measures of sexual orientation and gender identity” to include in national surveys like this one in order to collect better data.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs provides some related information in its report, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence, 2011,” using data collected from member and affiliate programs — this limits the data, though, to LGBTQH-identified people who actually sought help from one of the programs.

It’s fairly clear, as the CDC explains, that “more research as well as ongoing data collection is needed,” and that violence against non-heterosexual, non-cisgender populations remains a major concern.

Meanwhile, House Republicans last week introduced their own version of the Violence Against Women Act without provisions for LGBT, Native American, and immigrant populations. We’re still waiting for Congress to do the right thing and pass an inclusive version.

Related: No Country for All Women: Holding Up Violence Against Women Act

February 13, 2013

One Billion Rising on V-Day: Are You Ready to Dance?

One Billion Rising

On Feb. 14, One Billion Rising events will take place around the globe marking V-Day’s 15th anniversary and inviting “one billion women and those who love them to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence.”

Why are we rising? The numbers tell the story:

1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

1 billion women violated is an atrocity.

1 billion women dancing is a revolution.

Yup, it’s a worldwide dance party, and we like the rationale:

Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It’s dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It’s free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It’s contagious and it spreads quickly. It’s of the body. It’s transcendent.

Check out the map and search tool to find an event near you.

Boston-based Our Bodies Ourselves staff members will be participating in an event at Lesley University, starting at 3:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public — join us if you can!

It starts with a procession and dance performance followed by a screening of “Power and Control: Domestic Abuse in America.” As the description notes:

This is an opportunity for men and women to form an alliance in ending the violence against women in an act of solidarity and demonstrating to women around the world the commonality of their struggles and our collaborative power to take action and bring awareness through dance! Bring flashlights and glowsticks!

Want to learn the One Billion Rising “Break the Chain” dance in advance? Debbie Allen will teach you!

January 11, 2013

The White Ribbon Campaign: Men Working to End Violence Against Women

In light of Congress’s recent failure to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, it’s heartening to hear about the ongoing efforts of White Ribbon, a movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls.

Here in Boston, the Men’s Initiative Project of Jane Doe Inc., a coalition of community-based sexual assault and domestic violence groups, is gearing up for the sixth annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day. The event will take place at the State House in Boston on March 7.

The event, which is open to all, aims to change societal attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate and make excuses for violence against women, promote safety and respect in all relationships and situations, and promote the safety, liberty and dignity of survivors.

Men can sign up online to be an Ambassador for the campaign and to participate in other ways.

OBOS Board member and MA White Ribbon Day co-chair Jarrett Barrios spoke about the campaign recently in an interview with New England Cable News’s BroadSide program. Jarrett talks about the negative media imagery about women that young boys receive, and the need for parents and others to take responsibility for actively countering those messages and work to address rather than excuse them.

Jarrett calls for people to wear the white ribbon, to talk to their sons about treating women with respect, and to not “let go” of or overlook the language that is used against women that is part of a culture of violence.

January 8, 2013

No Country for All Women: Holding Up Violence Against Women Act

The 112th Congress ended without reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), threatening the funding of programs and services that prevent and respond to domestic violence, rape, stalking, and other forms of violence against women. It’s the first time Congress has failed to reauthorize VAWA since it was signed into law in 1994.

The failure is due to objections by House Republicans over new provisions adding protections for LGBTQ individuals, Native American women on tribal lands, and undocumented immigrants — protections that are considered “controversial,” according to Florida Republican Rep. Sandy Adams.

Those provisions are included in the Senate version, which passed with bipartisan support in April. The House passed its own version, stripping those provisions and making other changes that the administration has refused to approve.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women addresses objections to the LGBTQ and Tribal provisions with a smart analysis of myth vs. fact. The organization also provides a good outline of many of the problems with the House version and its possible effects on vulnerable communities, and it asks the 113th Congress to reauthorize VAWA immediately.

Please encourage your senators and representatives to pass an inclusive version of VAWA. You can also contact House Speaker John Boehner’s office (202-225-0600 or 202-225-6205) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office (202-225-2815 or 202-225-4000).

Here’s further commentary and analysis, on both the bills and the failed reauthorization. Feel free to suggest other commentary or news items in the comments.

April 18, 2012

Invasive Strip Searches Halted at Michigan Women’s Prison

[Note: this post and the linked materials contain graphic discussion of sexual abuse, rape, and prison genital searches.]

A Michigan women’s prison that was practicing a particularly degrading type of visual body cavity search on prisoners has agreed to stop the searches.

Earlier this month, the ACLU sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Corrections demanding that they end the practice of performing spread-labia vaginal searches at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility.  During such searches, women were required to sit on a chair or table and spread their own labia for inspection by prison guards. The women were sometimes forced to undergo such inspection in view of other prisoners, and if they objected, could “be forced to submit through physical force or punished with solitary confinement.”

Our Bodies Ourselves signed on to the ACLU’s letter objecting to these practices, along with several other organizations.

Despite the invasiveness of the inspections, no apparent attention was given to hygiene or to the women’s health. From the letter:

In addition, measures to assure sanitation during these invasive searches are often incomplete or ignored entirely, resulting in women being exposed to the menstrual blood or other bodily fluids of other prisoners when they sit on the chair, including those suffering from serious communicable conditions such as HIV and hepatitis. A disposable liner for use on the chair is rarely if ever provided, and women are seldom permitted to sanitize the chair or wash their hands after the search. At least one woman has suffered a vaginal infection which she believes was contracted during a spread-labia vaginal search.

These searches were not just performed on women newly entering the facility or on those suspected of hiding contraband – they occurred every time the women had visitors, even legal representation or religious workers, and after prison work shifts or receipt of medical care. No considerations were apparently made regarding the actual seriousness of the threat if there was suspected contraband, or for individual women’s physical or psychological needs. For example:

On one occasion, four kitchen workers were subjected to spread-labia vaginal searches in full view of one another because a guard believed that some chicken might have been stolen from the kitchen. No exceptions are made for women who are menstruating, pregnant, ill, or have been sexually abused, whether prior to or during their incarceration.

The ACLU received letters from more than 60 prisoners about these searches; some of their stories have been shared online. Here and elsewhere, women have described not wanting to receive any visitors (because of the search afterward); the discomfort of being forced to touch their own genitals in front of others or of having their PTSD triggered; and feeling that they are being raped when subjected to these exams.

The Michigan Department of Corrections said it had ended the practice in December, while the ACLU said it continued to get complaints about it more recently. Last week, the ACLU confirmed that the practice has now been stopped.

Such spread-labia searches are apparently *not* the norm in prisons nationwide. Even a spokesperson for the state prison stated (emphasis added):

“Corrections officers didn’t think it was necessary, prisoners felt it was an irritant, the prison psychiatric staff thought it was a stressor and, in nearly two years, it didn’t find any contraband.”

This type of search will now only be conducted when there is suspected smuggled contraband, although it is not clear how well that standard will be enforced.

An editorial at the Detroit Free Press called the practice “demeaning and unnecessary,” and notes that follow-up is needed to ensure compliance with the halt:

Warden Warren deserves credit for taking the initiative to investigate the policy and end it, at least officially. But given the department’s history of sexual abuse, Corrections must now take additional measures to ensure the new policy is followed, as well as review its polices on strip searches in general to determine if they are necessary and conducted in the least degrading manner possible.

Kudos to the women who wrote letters to the ACLU and to the ACLU for bringing this invasive, unnecessary, and traumatizing practice to light.

March 2, 2012

Massachusetts Men Join Effort to End Violence Against Women

Since 1994, when the Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law, support for this law to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking has usually been a bipartisan issue. Not so in 2012, when not a single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a re-authorization last month.

At issue are provisions that call for protections for LGBT individuals, expand the availability of visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse, and provide limited jurisdiction to Native American tribes to prosecute Indian and non-Indian offenders.

As we wait for Congress’s next steps on VAWA, it’s worth noting the work being done at the state level in Massachusetts. This week, Jane Doe Inc., held its fifth annual White Ribbon Day, a men’s initiative that pledges to be part of the solution in ending violence against women.

As the website for White Ribbon Day notes:

We’re taking our cue from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that speaks to how violence against women is a human rights violation and how these abuses around the world are obstacles to efforts for peace and gender equality in all societies.

In addition, we link importantly with The United Nations Secretary General’s new campaign UNited to End Violence Against Women, which is celebrated on International Women’s Day, March 8th.

More than 300 people attended the White Ribbon Day event on March 1 at the State House. Phallacies, a UMass Amherst student group that challenges notions of masculinity and works to end violence against women, took part.

“I always felt like I was forced to act a certain way, even if that was against the way I actually felt,” said UMass Amherst sophomore Chris Lowe. “Like why do I have to treat women [negatively] to be accepted by society?”

“My father, so he was abusive to my mother,” Lowe added. “But the lesson is to break out of the social roles that we’re put in as men.”

UMass “Phallacies” men against violence:

February 1, 2012

Help Knock Out Barstool Sports, Advocates of Rape for, You Know, Fun

by Meg Young

Everyone can agree that rape is not a joke, right? Apparently not, based on the popularity of the blog Barstool Sports.

At first glance, the blog appears to be a collection of comedic sports commentaries interspersed with predictable photos of scantily clad women, or “smokeshows,” to use the vernacular. However, this archive of good, clean misogynistic fun has a darker side. Many of the postings make jokes about rape and sexual assault, such as this commentary about the acquittal of a man accused of raping a woman wearing tight jeans: “[E]ven though I never condone rape if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?”

Now, Barstool is hosting the “Barstool Blackout Tour,” a series of sponsored dance parties on or near college campuses across the country. Think that sounds a little dicey? Women shouldn’t worry, according to the blog: “Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid January. However if a chick passes out that’s a grey area though.”

Your humble blogger is not the only one shaking with indignation. When Barstool scheduled the Northeastern University Blackout Party at the House of Blues in Boston, a group of Northeastern students called Knock Out Barstool began to rally students in the Boston area to boycott and protest the event scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 2.

In an letter published in Northeastern’s Huntington News, students and members of Knock Out Barstool wrote, “We demand Northeastern University and its administration stand for women and denounce Barstool Sports and the NU Blackout Party. These organizations do not represent the values of our community nor our institution.”

Much to their (and my) dismay, Northeastern University has not come out directly against the parties, other than to tweet it doesn’t officially endorse them.

Visit Knock Out Barstool’s website, and if you’re in the Boston area, stand in solidarity with Northeastern students protesting this event outside the House of Blues in Boston at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Meg Young is a sophomore at Tufts University, where she studies anthropology and community health. She became interested in women’s reproductive health during her time as an intern at Our Bodies Ourselves in 2009.

August 1, 2011

Yes! HHS Approves IOM Recommendations for Preventive Care for Women

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is adopting the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for preventive care services for women. This will ensure that women have access to the following services under health insurance plans without having to pay a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible:

  • well-woman visits
  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • HPV testing
  • STI counseling
  • HIV screening and counseling
  • contraception methods and counseling
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
  • screening and counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence

Coverage for these services is expected to begin Aug. 1, 2012.

There is one caveat for some women regarding access to contraception without a co-pay — a provision that “Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services.”

An announcement at the site indicates that public comment is welcome on this provision. Although I haven’t yet been able to locate it on, instructions for comment and more detail about the exemption is provided in this document.

July 28, 2011

IOM Recommendations Also Support Screening/Counseling for Violence

Last week, we highlighted the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that birth control be covered without co-pays as a preventive service under health care reform.

Several other aspects of women’s health were also covered by the Institute’s recommendations, including “screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.” While the birth control prevention got a lot of attention online, we’ve seen less discussion of this and other recommendations, so thought we’d highlight it.

An email we received from Futures Without Violence called it a “historic victory,” and explained, “This is not a requirement for screening for domestic violence. It does however, break down significant barriers to integrating comprehensive responses to domestic violence and we believe it will create new opportunities to train providers how to identify and help patients in abusive relationships.”

Seen any good discussion of this violence screening/counseling recommendation? Let us know in the comments.

As a reminder, you can view the Institute’s press release, recommendations, report brief, and full report, “Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gap,” online. The Department of Health and Human Services will still need to adopt this list of recommendations for the care to be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

Somewhat relatedly, the Department of Health and Human Services (which will decide whether to accept the Institute’s recommendations), is holding an “Apps Against Abuse” challenge, inviting people to develop applications that “provide young adults with tools to help prevent sexual assault and dating violence.” More information on entering the challenge is available here.

March 2, 2011

Justice Department Forms Task Force on Violence Against American Indian Women

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the formation of the Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force to address the staggering rates of violence against American Indian women. The Justice Department estimates that 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped in her lifetime, and most victims who do report their assaults describe their attackers as non-Native.

The task force is composed of six assistant U.S. Attorneys and six tribal attorneys, along with other DOJ, health care and law enforcement officials. Within a year of convening, the task force is expected to:

[...] produce a trial practice manual on the federal prosecution of violence against women offenses in Indian Country. In the short term, the Task Force will explore current issues raised by professionals in the field, and recommend “best practices” in prosecution strategies involving domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

While this issue certainly deserves attention, I can’t help but be cautious about a Justice Department-led approach. The U.S. government doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to violence and Native Americans. Part of the problem stems from issues of jurisdiction. In 2007, Amnesty International released a report (more here) that outlined the various barriers to justice that these women face, noting: “The United States government has created a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that often allows perpetrators to rape with impunity — and in some cases effectively creates jurisdictional vacuums that encourage assaults.”

INCITE! provides this toolkit, Police Violence Against Native Women and Native Trans & Two Spirit People, which outlines history and current problems of law enforcement and military violence against American Indian women. As the organization makes clear, decreasing and preventing violence against American Indian women is not simply a matter of increasing law enforcement:

Native women and Native Two Spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming people are subjected to gender-specific forms of law enforcement violence, such as racial profiling, physical abuse, sexual harassment and abuse, and failure to respond or abusive responses to reports of violence.

We hope the DOJ effort will represent, as one task force member suggested, “the Obama administration’s willingness to take seriously the crimes of rape and domestic violence against Native American women,” and that genuine safety improvements for American Indian women take place.

This issue has been in the Canadian news recently as well. According to the Abbostford News, a British Columbia newspaper, “The Native Women’s Association of Canada reports that 582 indigenous women and girls have disappeared or were murdered over the last five years.” The Canadian government has recently provided $2 million to the NWAC for an initiative to “help communities understand, prevent and respond to violence against aboriginal women and girls.”

See resources linked from our previous posts for additional background reading on this topic.

September 1, 2010

Study: Conversation Can Help Reduce Intimate Partner Violence and Reproductive Coercion

A new study in the journal Contraception reveals the power of a simple conversation: When trained counselors at family planning clinics ask young women if they have experienced reproductive coercion, it reduces the odds of their male partners forcing them to become pregnant.

Reproductive coercion refers to abusive male behaviors to promote pregnancy, including “birth control sabotage” (interference with contraception) and/or “pregnancy coercion,” such as threatening to harm a woman if she uses birth control or if she has an abortion, and threating to leave her if she doesn’t get pregnant.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund responded enthusiastically to the results of the study:

A brief intervention was associated with a 70 percent reduction in the odds of male partner pregnancy coercion among women who recently had experienced intimate partner violence. Study participants who were asked about reproductive coercion and then counseled about harm-reduction strategies — including switching to longer-acting contraceptives and contacting domestic and sexual-assault resources — were also 60 percent more likely to report ending a relationship because it felt unsafe or unhealthy.

“There is a strong, indisputable link between domestic and dating violence and unintended pregnancy. This study is extremely important because it identifies an effective solution that can be implemented relatively easily,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President and Founder Esta Soler. “We need to build on these results by making this intervention the norm in health care settings throughout the nation as quickly as possible.”

The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the intervention was designed by reproductive health experts, UC Davis School of Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the FVPF.

An earlier study this year, also published in Contraception, concluded that 20 percent of women experienced pregnancy coercion and 15 percent experienced birth control sabotage.

The FVPF is calling for immediate action based on this latest evidence: “This study is extremely important because it identifies an effective solution that can be implemented relatively easily,” said Soler. “We need to build on these results by making this intervention the norm in health care settings throughout the nation as quickly as possible.”

Go to FVPF’s Know More Say More website for more information and opportunities for action. The site includes resources for healthcare providers, including suggestions on how to assess for reproductive coercion [PDF], including sample scripts, and how to integrate assessments into clinical practice [PDF].

April 12, 2010

Giving Survivors a Voice: Maggie Ginsberg Schutz

View all Women’s Health Heroes. Voting closes May 14. Background info here.

Entrant: Deborah Schutz
Nominee: Maggie Ginsberg Schutz, freelance writer and creater of Violence UnSilenced

Violence UnSilenced was created by Maggie Ginsberg Schutz in February 2009, to shed light within the blogging community on domestic violence and sexual abuse/assault by giving survivors a voice. From the mission statement:

One of the last hurdles to eradicating abuse is the culture of silence and shame that exists yet today. You very likely have people in your life that are being abused, you just don’t realize it. Victims are led to believe they are alone, that no one will believe them, and that people will think less of them. Heavy societal pressure generally falls on the victim (ie, “Why doesn’t she leave?”) instead of on the person committing the crime (ie, “Why doesn’t he?”)

Every situation is complicated and unique, and there is no stereotype. Every single survivor of abuse is different from his or her comrades, and by sharing stories here we can educate ourselves as to just how pervasive domestic violence and sexual abuse/assault is, and how it crosses all cultural, racial, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic lines. This is our society’s collective issue, not simply a problem of those directly impacted. There are 70 million blogs out there, and one in four women will experience abuse in her lifetime. We who are active in the blogosphere have a responsibility to listen to our friends and to spread the word, so that we can strip abusers of this critical power. I also believe very, very strongly in the cathartic power of writing.

The video below was created in honor of the project’s 1-year anniversary.

April 1, 2010

A True Gem: Rachel Lloyd

View all Women’s Health Heroes. Voting closes May 14. Background info here.

Entrant: Meghan Ward
Nominee: Rachel Lloyd, Founder and Executive Director of GEMS

It is with profound admiration and respect that I nominate Rachel Lloyd as a women’s health hero for the 2010 Our Bodies Ourselves Women’s Health Hero awards. Rachel Lloyd is the founder and executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services in New York City, also known as GEMS. GEMS helps girls and young women escape lives of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.

GEMS provides counseling, shelter, educational services and many other services needed for victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. In addition to helping young girls and women escape lives of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking, one of GEMS primary goals is to educate the public about the current attitudes and beliefs which treat victims of sexual exploitation as criminals.

Treating victims of child sexual exploitation as criminals is one of the worst possible things one can do. It does not help eradicate commercial sex trafficking. In fact, it does far more harm than good to those victimized by men who buy and sell young girls. Rachel Lloyd works tirelessly to change such absurd views, speaking out against these laws and sentences in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »