It’s that time of year again. In a state that barely has real seasons, trees actually start to change color, and the temperature drops below 80 — it’s finally October. For students, that means midterms are right around the corner. For parents, it’s time to start thinking about trick or treating. For everyone in between, pumpkin-flavored delicacies emerge to spice up every meal of the day.
We often forget that those who experience psychological or emotional abuse, sexual assault, and financial abuse all relationships — not just marriages and heterosexual relationships — are victims of domestic violence as well.
Relationship violence is based in one partner’s desire to exercise control over another partner, and that control can be realized using a variety of tactics of manipulation and abuse. These tactics often involve isolating the victim from their family and friends, working to lower their self-esteem, and coercing them to do things they don’t want to do.
[HB 2] overrides a recently passed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, prevents local governments from enacting a range of nondiscrimination and employment policies, and requires all public facilities, including schools, to allow restroom access only on the basis of “biological sex.” This bill specifically excludes LGBTQ people from legal protections and jeopardizes billions of dollars in federal funds that NC schools receive under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.
A central argument in this case was about the prevention of sexual violence and the use and safety of public bathrooms. NCCASA is deeply committed to the prevention of all sexual violence, and it is essential that any efforts to do so are rooted in fact. What we know to be true is that the majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the victim knows in a familiar place, rather than by a stranger in a public place. 200 cities across the nation have protections in place similar to the Charlotte ordinance, and none of them have reported an increase in sexual violence related to these protections.
On the other hand, physical and verbal assaults on transgender people in public bathrooms are not rare, and over 50% of transgender people have experienced sexual violence. We cannot end sexual violence unless we are committed to ending sexual violence for all people. What will actually prevent and end sexual violence is for us to create a culture in which respect for the identities and bodily autonomy of others is a deeply held value. Policies prohibiting discrimination based on one’s sexuality and gender identity, like the one passed in Charlotte, are a positive step toward ending sexual violence.
The Center maintains a commitment to providing excellent and culturally competent services to survivors of all genders, including support for survivors of gender-based or trans-phobic sexual harassment and specialized support groups for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence.
According to the UN, 35 percent of women and girls worldwide experience some form of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. In some countries, this number goes up to 70 percent. This violence against women impacts on and impedes progress in many areas including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security. This violence is preventable but often is a consequence of discrimination against women and persisting inequalities between men and women.
“Sexual abuse is a crime, and should not be the punishment for a crime.”
– US Department of Justice Letter to Governors, March 5, 2015
While this statement might seem obvious to those who work in sexual violence prevention and response, it represents a profound shift in how the wider public, and even those in corrections, view sexual assault in the context of prison. Rape and sexual harassment have long been considered an inevitable—or even deserved—part of the prison experience. Additionally, sexual violence is ingrained in the prison system, perpetrated (by inmates as well as guards) as a means of establishing and maintaining power dynamics and prison hierarchy.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 to address the epidemic of sexual assault in all corrections facilities, but comprehensive guidelines didn’t take effect until 2012, with the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape. Finally, just this month, May 2015, the Department of Justice will begin to enforce those guidelines by withholding funding from states that are not in compliance. The National Standards specify that any confinement facility (including prisons, jails, lock-ups, juvenile facilities, and community and immigrant detention centers) must:
Adopt a “zero-tolerance policy” towards sexual assault and sexual harassment
Train both staff and inmates on sexual abuse
Train staff on effective and professional communication with LGBTQ and gender non-conforming inmates
Provide at least two internal and one external way for inmates to report abuse
Provide access to outside advocates for emotional support related to the abuse, and provide as much confidentiality as possible
Discipline perpetrators of sexual assault, both guards and inmates
Separate youth in adult correctional facilities and prevent unsupervised contact with adults
Provide access to support services for inmates with disabilities and limited English proficiency
Ensure inmates have timely access to appropriate medical and mental health services, on par with community level of care
Aside from presents, way too much food, and time spent with loved ones, your holiday season was undoubtedly filled with debates about Congress and the looming “fiscal cliff”. If your family is anything like mine, I am sure those were very lively dinner table discussions. But with the fiscal cliff dust settling, you may not have heard that Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Since 1994, the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), has been charged with improving our nation’s ability to prevent and respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Nineteen years ago, then-Senator Joe Biden pushed Congress to promote a national strategy that would protect women from violent crimes and hold offenders accountable, in what is now a very historic piece of legislation. Continue reading “VAWA Is Still Alive and Needs Your Voice!”
When people ask me what it’s like volunteering at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, my first response is to say, “It’s so much fun!” People are usually surprised to hear that, of course, but it’s the truth. I am a Community Educator with the OCRCC, and it is a blast.
We CEs go into Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County schools to present violence prevention programs to elementary and middle school students. With very young children, we talk about good touches and bad touches and what to do if somebody makes you feel uncomfortable. With older children, we teach bystander education (teaching them to stand up for what’s right). With these middle school students, we even start to deconstruct rape culture and get at the underlying cultural assumptions that lead to sexual harassment. And over and over, I am amazed at the enthusiasm, maturity, and grace that students of all ages show.
Training to volunteer at the OCRCC is intense. There are days when you come home very depressed and discouraged. Your heart aches as you witness the damage done to a community by sexual violence. But when you start doing programs, it changes. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, by any means, but you realize that the vast majority of kids out there really do want to do what’s right. They don’t want to hurt people. They don’t even want to be complicit in a culture that hurts people. Even when they’re too young to understand the details, they hope for a world without violence, without harassment, without abuse. And you get to be the person who shows them what that world looks like.
Alice Drozdiak supports the Center in multiple capacities, including as a Community Educator. Alice has presented Safe Touch programs to elementary school students and Rape Prevention Education programs to middle school students for over a year.
Find out more about being a Community Educator at ocrcc.org/ce. Fall training starts in September 2012. Apply online by August 31.
Office Address: 1506 East Franklin St. Suite 200 Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mailing Address: P. O. Box 4722 Chapel Hill, NC 27515