Tag Archives: abuse

The Evil on Modern Campuses

By Lori Weinstein, CEO/Executive Director, JWILoriWeinstein

While I’ve never called out another woman, I have a problem with Camille Paglia. Here, I’m talking about her recent post on time.com, “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil.” In less than 750 words, she summarily dismisses the issue of assault on college campuses, denigrates women and attempts to set the domestic violence movement back decades. Her post is dangerous, misleading and ill-informed. When a 20 year old man takes advantage of an inexperienced 18 year old woman in order to have sex with her against her will, Camille, this is not a case of mixed consent, or “oafish hookup melodrama.” It is rape. Rape is not just committed by psychotic strangers. It is committed by acquaintances and friends and lovers. It is not about the animalistic male sexuality that responds uncontrollably to provocatively dressed co-eds. Rape is about power and control and is has become an epidemic on our nation’s campuses.

There is no hierarchy. We do not put predators at the top of the list and sexual assault on college campuses at the bottom. Violence is violence is violence.

We used to segment violence—stranger rape vs date rape. But rape is rape. And violence is violence. Paglia writes as if those women who were sexually assaulted against their will by another student should just shake it off—feel lucky that they weren’t the victim of a real crime. That they have no right to complain because somehow their attacks are less than.

Lilly Jay at the launch of White House Initiative

Lilly Jay at the launch of White House Initiative “It’s On Us.” Photo by Nicole Radivilov | Contributing Photo Editor, GW Hatchet.

So explain that to young women like Lilly Jay, who was raped as a freshman at Amherst and spoke last week at the White House about her struggle to “reclaim college.” Understand what actually happens here—imagine, being raped or assaulted and having to sit in class or walk the hallways with your assailant. Could you concentrate on your studies? Imagine being all to certain that any attempt to report the attack will go nowhere—or worse, that you’ll have to confront your attacker face to face only to have him exonerated because maybe you were drinking. Or were wearing a crop top. Or didn’t say no that final time.

So, you stay quiet. Or transfer. The physical and psychological pain forever scarring.

Just today, the University of Oregon, a school not even named on the list of 55 colleges under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education about their handling of sexual assaults, released the results of a survey that 10 percent of the students surveyed were raped and 90 percent of the students assaulted, never spoke of the violence.

And Paglia thinks colleges should “stick to academics and stop their infantilizing supervision of students’ dating lives.” Camille, it is the colleges’ responsibility to protect our students, even if that means from each other. More than responsibility, it is law. Our universities are charged with creating safe environments. The danger is not in violating civil liberties, the danger is when colleges are not honest about the number of complaints they do get; when they aren’t in compliance with the Clery Act or Title IX; when they protect star athletes; and leave women walking home alone and afraid.


Learning from Yeardley Love

By Ann Rose Greenberg, JWI Marketing Coordinator

As we near the end of the second week of George Huguely’s trial for the murder of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love, the tragic reality of dating violence is on the national stage, and we are once again reminded of the importance of speaking out.

Story after horrifying story is coming out about the troubling warning signs evident in the UVA students’ relationship. Love’s roommates have testified that she and Huguely had several fights in those final months, and according to prosecutors, Huguely sent Love an email that said “I should have killed you.” People knew about the violence in this relationship, but no one spoke up.

As Janice D’Arcy wrote in her Washington Post parenting column, “In retrospect, it’s incidents like these that make escalating violence seem so obvious. But in real time, it’s hard for teens and young adults to understand what’s happening.” Media and society are desensitizing us to abuse, breeding a culture of silence that enables – sometimes encourages – all kinds of abusive behavior. When teens are lightheartedly tweeting about Chris Brown’s abuse towards Rihanna, how can we expect them to recognize the warning signs in their own relationships or those of their peers?

We need to fight back against our culture that condones abuse, and to do that, we need widespread education. Dating violence happens every day and touches one out of every four girls. We need to teach our teens about the warning signs, and teach them what the healthy relationships they deserve look like. We need to teach them to recognize abuse and speak out when they see it.

The Violence Against Women Act is currently up for reauthorization. This important legislation includes provisions for innovative prevention programs that teach young people, especially teens, about violence and healthy relationships. Please contact your Senators today and urge them to co-sponsor and pass S. 1925. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to inspire violence prevention.


Speak Up and Support the Violence Against Women Act

VAWAThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has transformed our nation’s response to violent crimes against women and girls, providing a safety net of services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Recently, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 – legislation that will reauthorize VAWA’s lifesaving programs and services for another five years.

Despite widespread Congressional support in the past, the reauthorization of VAWA in 2012 is far from assured. Please contact your Senators today to urge them to co-sponsor the Leahy/Crapo VAWA reauthorization bill.

Incidents of violence against women and girls continue to occur at alarming rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 4 women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped in her lifetime.

JWI is playing a leading role in the effort to reauthorize VAWA this year. In the coming weeks and months we will continue to work closely with the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, Members of Congress and national advocates, to ensure that this legislation is passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law. But we can’t do this without your help.

Contact your Senators today and tell them to stand against violence by co-sponsoring the Leahy/Crapo VAWA reauthorization bill.

Rihanna’s “Man Down”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pass it on.

By Alexandra Huss, JWI Intern

In a CNN opinion piece, Leslie Morgan Steiner explains why she believes Rihanna’s video for the song “Man Down” sends a positive and important message. The video begins with Rihanna shooting a man on the street, and ultimately flashes back to show that this was a man who had raped her the previous night. Despite the backlash from those who believe the film was too violent, Steiner goes so far as to thank Rihanna for depicting “the rage and vengeance fantasies that often constitute a normal, healthy reaction to rape and domestic violence.” She also believes the video should become mandatory viewing as part of a real world sexual violence awareness campaign.

There are valid points on both sides of the argument. On the one hand, Rihanna’s bold act glorifies the shooting of her attacker, and conveys the message that violence breeds violence, a vicious cycle that domestic violence awareness hopes to end, not perpetuate. Perhaps a scene of Rihanna ultimately coping in a more constructive and realistic manner, such as seeking support and bringing the man to justice legally, could send a far more positive message.

Yet it is also true that so often, victims feel voiceless and helpless, leading them to fantasize about bringing their attacker to justice on their own terms. It is only natural that these emotions can come from such an intense violation of a woman. As Steiner suggests, perhaps what offends and disturbs some viewers is not the death of the rapist, but the portrayal of a victim with regained her inner strength, fighting back.

Rihanna is an artist who has also become a representative for domestic abuse victims because of her own experience. She is a signal of strength, and thus her messages have very far reaching consequences and reactions.

Hollywood Legend Mickey Rooney Victim of Abuse

Last week, Hollywood Legend Mickey Rooney received a protective order against his stepson and daughter-in-law after experiencing abuse. According to court documents, the 90 year old actor “was a prisoner in his own home” allegedly subjected to verbal abuse, financial exploitation and deprivation of food and medication.

“All I want to do is live a peaceful life, to regain my life and be happy,” Rooney wrote in a statement to his fans. “I pray to God each day to protect us, help us endure, and guide those other senior citizens who are also suffering.”

For the entire article

Increasingly older Americans are targets of abuse. Persons 85 and older are the fastest growing population group in the United States. Although each year the number of reported incidents of abuse in later life grows, approximately 84% of elder abuse incidents are not reported. According to a 2009 report, in 76% of incidents against older Americans, the abuse was committed by a family member.

On March 2 2011 Mickey Rooney will provide testimony on his harrowing experience before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The Committee will hold a hearing sponsored by Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to address the U.S. response and prevention of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

The hearing is a critical first step to highlight this growing epidemic against an already vulnerable population. To scale up efforts to prevent, prosecute, understand, and mitigate the impact of physical, sexual and psychological abuse of elders increased federal leadership is needed.  The hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 2 at 2 pm AM at the Dirksen Senate Office Building (Room 106).

The hearing is open to the public.

Learn more:

NCALL Abuse in Later Life Fact Sheet

Sexual Violence In Later Life Fact Sheet


A member of the JWI family shares her story

JWI is grateful to the member of our staff who bravely and graciously offered to share her story, to help spread awareness during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.


I was a straight-A student, an outstanding athlete, a girl from a middle-class Jewish neighborhood in a mid-size Mid-Atlantic city. I had dreams of becoming a doctor – sports medicine – and had gotten in early to my first-choice college. While a shy girl, I had a small, close group of similarly high-achieving girl friends. I came from a perhaps over-bearing but fully supportive family. I had a lot of things going for me and, to the outside world, I did not present the image of a victim. Yet I was one of the one in three adolescent girls in the United States who have faced physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

What Happened:

I was raped by my first boyfriend at seventeen. I didn’t know then that there was a word for it – date rape – and had thought it was my fault. While my parents had warned me to avoid strange men, to carry a key between my knuckles while walking through a parking lot at night, and to always have a phone on hand with 911 on speed dial for emergencies, I had never been warned about dangers closer-to-home. I did not know that most incidences of sexual violence are inflicted by people we know rather than strange men lurking in empty parking lots.

My boyfriend did not have to catch me in an empty parking lot and he didn’t have to hold a knife to my throat. He only had to hold his hand over my neck in a way that impaired my breath just enough to scare me, to put another hand lightly over my mouth to silence me when I said “no,” and to make me feel like I deserved it by saying things like “Why did you ask me to come over, then?” and “Do you honestly expect me to believe I’m your first?” I did not know how to defend myself against this rape-that-I-did-not-know-was-rape. He caught me off-guard at a time when I felt most safe, with my boyfriend in my bedroom at my father’s house.

Since the rape, my self-esteem was shattered. I felt used and dirty and alone. Worse, I was sexually harassed when the news got out at my after-school job where my abuser and I worked together and was propositioned daily by my other co-workers who now thought I was “easy.” Again, I did not know that this behavior was sexual harassment at the time and that it was illegal. I did not learn this until two years later, in a Gender Studies class in college.

Even after I learned about “date rape” and “sexual harassment” and “no means no” in college, I had already learned the lesson that I “deserved abuse.” After all, I could not blame my victimization on a difficult background; I must have let it happen. In college, I spent two years in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend who would push me into walls and sent a male friend to the hospital during one of his jealous rages.

How the Situation Changed and How I Coped:

While in college, I started working at a rape crisis line and became an advocate on campus for students as well as women throughout the surrounding area. I helped set up college staff trainings on domestic violence as well as the school’s Take Back the Night. Through these activities, I learned that many of my peers, girls like me, had experienced similar types of abuse. Now, not only did a have the vocabulary for what happened to me; I also had faces to the name, and that was life-changing. I was no longer alone. I was no longer a freak. And I was no longer deserving. After all, how could I say that it was deserved after I had learned that many of my classmates, some of my closest friends, had been similarly victimized? I would never believe that they deserved it, so how was I any different? And so I stopped blaming myself and started going to counseling and focusing further on my work combating domestic violence as a therapeutic activity. While laying down roots in this feminist community, I gained greater self-esteem and was further reassured that I was not to blame for the abuse but instead should be proud of myself for surviving it.

What I Know Now:

I know that the abuse was not my fault and I know that, while I could not control the situation under the circumstances, girls need to be given more resources that can increase their sense of control. I know that girls need to be taught about teen dating violence from an early age, as early as middle school. Girls should be able to name the abuse as well as to know the warning signs to prevent it. Girls should also be taught about healthy relationships, about the dangers of slut-shaming and bullying, and should be engaged in activities that build their own self-esteem as well as positive relationships with other women. Schools should have support structures for the one in three girls dealing with this type of violence and school personnel should be fully trained to handle it sensitively and effectively. Most importantly, the issue should not be kept silent. Parents should talk to their teens. Youth groups, sports teams, etc. should recognize the problem. Programming on teen dating violence should be a part of standard school curricula. A variety of narratives must be told and it must be emphasized that this epidemic of violence can affect any girl: your daughter, your neighbor, your best friend, or even you.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

It’s official: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, which urges the entire country to get on board with JWI’s year-round mission to empower girls, raise awareness about abuse and ultimately break the cycle of domestic– and dating – violence.

Here’s a taste of JWI’s goings-on around TDVAM:

  • JWI had a hand in writing the Senate Dating Violence Resolution, S.Res.32, which passed in the last week of January.
  • Our National Alliance will host a special webinar February 3rd: “Teens Trafficked in the U.S.:  How You Can Help.”
  • Two of our Life$avings® Financial Literacy for Young Women workshops will be presented at the University of Georgia the first week of February, presented in partnership with Sigma Delta Tau sorority.
  • We are co-sponsoring a community program in Cleveland, Ohio with the Jewish Family Service Association: If you’re in the area, join us at Expect Respect, Tuesday, February 8th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. You can register online at www.jfsa-cleveland.org.
  • JWI is speaking out – literally: Deborah Rosenbloom, our director of programs, will be a featured speaker at a Human Rights Watch film festival panel, February 9th at the West End Cinema in Washington, DC. She will be answering questions about IVAWA and the ongoing need to raise the profile of global violence against women girls, following a screening of the new documentary Pushing the Elephant.
  • JWI is co-hosting a Capitol Hill briefing February 10th: Teen Dating Violence Prevention: Why Middle School Matters. Our co-hosts include the Family Violence Prevention Fund, Break the Cycle, MTV, Liz Claiborne, Inc., the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline and several members of Congress.
  • On February 27th, our executive director, Lori Weinstein, will keynote the Sigma Delta Tau leadership conference in Baltimore.
  • Our popular and groundbreaking healthy relationship curriculum, When Push Comes to Shove… It’s No Longer Love!®, is even more widely embraced since our January “push” to get the newly-revised program out to communities nationwide.

So what can you do? Check out JWI’s website for advocacy initiatives and programs on healthy relationships and financial literacy that you can bring to your community. The Liz Claiborne Foundation and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline are both dedicated partners in the mission to end violence; their sites are rich with information and events. And contact us at programming[at]jwi.org to let us know what you’re doing to confront dating abuse in your community!