Thursday, February 28, 2013

VAWA... Still Needed 18 Years Later

Today advocates across the country breathed a sigh of relief as the House passed the Violence against Women Act, more commonly known as VAWA. Eighteen years ago then Senator Joe Biden coauthored VAWA, which  became law and ushered in initiatives to build community responses to aid victims of domestic violence, dating violence sexual assault and stalking. VAWA’s  impact has been unmistakable. One of VAWA’s largest discretionary initiatives is for Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies. This support has helped communities build responses systems to help victims and provide training and support so that law enforcement and prosecutors can hold offenders accountable.

In those 18 years the criminal justice response to domestic violence has improved greatly. Veteran police and advocates both remember when the police response to a domestic incident was to separate the parties until things could calm down a bit… now police have the tools and training to determine the primary aggressor and to arrest the abuser; holding offenders accountable  deters future violence and escalation of violence. Since VAWA was implemented there has been a 50% increase in reporting of domestic violence because victims are reaching out for help and a dramatic decrease in intimate partner homicides.

VAWA’s impact is best illustrated by a bumper sticker that still hangs in a dusty corner of our office.

ShameCRIME!   That shift in thinking was transformational. .. and it has saved lives. There’s still a lot of work to do though. I’m glad VAWA is still there to provide the resources we need.

Now I know some people have concerns that VAWA was implemented to reduce violence against women and the crimes VAWA addresses don’t only affect women. That's true. Men can be abused by an intimate partner. Men can be sexually assaulted or stalked. I don’t disagree. Male victims deserve the same access to support services and justice as female victims. At DVRC we provide services to both male and female victims … and we understand that it can be even more difficult for a male to seek support services or to report to the police because of stigma.  But women are more often the victims of sexual and relationship violence. VAWA hasn’t solely benefited women though. The changes VAWA has created improve our response systems and bring safety and support to all victims of relationship and sexual violence.

Let’s work toward an end to violence against women…and men… and children.

That’s my goal and DVRC’s vision for Saratoga County.

International Women's Day Celebration

On February 14th at One Billion Rising, about 100 local men and women who care about issues of violence and sexual victimization gathered together and opened their minds, voiced their concerns, and danced in support of creating a movement to create change. As that enthusiasm reached a crescendo with the drum circle, the evening ended and the doors closed and lights were dimmed in the Dance Museum. But the dream has lived on past the ringing of the alarm clock on the 15th, and will continue with an opportunity for women to gather together in recognition of International Women’s Day.
Friday, March 8, 2012 12 – 2
Saratoga Springs Public Library
2 hours of music, dance and intimate
conversation. Discover the wealth of spiritual activities locally. Network and connect with like minded women and bring flyers to advertise your programs.
We will inspire each other and celebrate our paths and perhaps go to lunch afterwards. Take the day off! Bring your friends.
This years committee: Amejo Amyot, Lin Murphy, Libby Coreno, Shari Parslow and Helene Brecker
RSVP appreciated. for more information, contact amejo amyot, ph.d aamejo@gmail.com 518-584-1036

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A New Kind of Dance Revolution

I frequently speak to community organizations about how most of us are really  unaware of the prevalence of intimate partner violence. Think about it- this crime affects one in four women and one in six men…yet it continues.
Until each of us speaks out to expose, challenge, or educate we won’t change the social norms that perpetuate domestic violence. For too long we've looked to victim assistance agencies like DVRC as the solution to end the violence. Helping victims become survivors is essential, but it doesn't address the root cause. We must stop the violence from ever happening. Only then will we end domestic violence- and we need everyone’s help to change attitudes.
 Luckily, I've been noticing a trend in that direction. On Valentine’s Day the National Museum of Dance hosted a One Billion Rising event. What’s One Billion Rising? It’s an international movement to raise awareness about the one billion girls and women on our planet who are raped or beaten in their lifetime. It’s a peaceful revolution using dance to create a movement to end this violence. And the Saratoga’s National Dance Museum did just that.  The full day event culminated with a drum circle led by Chris Ballerno of the NYS Coalition against Sexual Assault. Men, women, girls and boys drummed and danced and joined together in their wish to end sexual violence. The energy in the room reverberated from the drums and hands and feet  pulsating off the walls. As that inspirational day came to a close I found myself hoping that each person would keep that passion for peace burning brightly as their dance led them back out into the day-to-day world… because our ordinary lives are where we create change.
And just a few days later I found that the dance wasn't ending after all. So whether you missed One Billion Rising or you want to continue the momentum, there’s another opportunity on March 8. Look for more details tomorrow.