Tag Archives: domestic violence

The Grammys’ mixed messages on domestic violence

By Hannah Stein, JWI

In between dramatic performances, corny jokes and tearful acceptance speeches at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, President Obama spoke out against domestic violence. Obama reminded artists and the music industry that they have the power to shape a culture that denounces domestic violence and sexual assault. In his video appearance at the awards ceremony, the president encouraged artists to take part in the It’s On Us campaign. Just a week after NO MORE’s eye-opening Super Bowl ad, domestic violence and sexual assault were again in the national spotlight.

After the president’s message and before Katy Perry’s performance, survivor and activist Brooke Axtell shared her own story of abuse. Axtell emphasized the reality that violence is not love, preaching, “authentic love does not devalue another human being.” She spoke directly to the audience and delivered an important message: domestic violence is inexcusable, and we need to talk about it. It seemed that on a night typically known for it superficiality, the 2015 Grammys stood for something bigger.

Or at least they tried to.

While heightened awareness marks progress, there’s a much bigger issue at hand: the entertainment industry continues to glorify abusers.

Sunday’s Grammys sent viewers very mixed messages. Our president demanded that celebrities raise awareness for and stand up to domestic violence, stressing the importance of being proactive. Axtell shared her gut-wrenching story of survival, empowering people around the nation to get help and recognize their worth. Yet among the nominees for Best R&B Performance were two men whose careers include instances of mistreating women, R. Kelly and Chris Brown.

In addition to his indictment on child pornography charges, R. Kelly faced numerous rape accusations throughout the 2000s. He was eventually acquitted of all charges in 2008. Chris Brown, just before the 2009 Grammys, beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna so badly that she went to the hospital. He recently finished his court-mandated community service and faced no jail time.

Adding to the confusion of the night’s message-filled show, rapper Eminem won the Grammy for Best Rap Album. His music is known for praising violence against women, often threatening female icons in his lyrics. He has rapped about hurting women from Lana Del Ray to Christina Aguilera and his own wife. And the recording industry just gave this guy an award? Listening to his lyrics, we should ask what message young people who are learning what it means to be in a relationship receive, when we are part of a culture that rewards violent imagery, or too quickly forgets aggression toward women and girls.

Our culture idolizes celebrities and makes them into role models whether they like it or not. We have to hold artists accountable for their actions, showing that violence is never acceptable. It shouldn’t matter whether a person has one dollar or a million to their name — abuse is abuse, and it’s not OK.

President Obama asked viewers to take the #ItsOnUs pledge to end domestic violence and sexual assault. This is a great start, but it cannot be the only thing we do. Most people feel that taking the pledge means they’ve done their part, but there’s so much more work to be done.

Start the conversation with your friends. Provide support to a local domestic violence shelter. Raise awareness on campus. Every action matters because, remember, it’s on all of us to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

The real game changer: Super Bowl ads

By Hannah Stein, JWI 

The day after Super Bowl XLIX, people aren’t just talking about the athleticism. The commercials alone draw in millions of viewers, and this year (in our opinion!) stole the show. From the NO MORE campaign’s chilling 911 audio to Always’ “#LikeAGirl” for female empowerment, advertisers evoked emotions that most viewers were not expecting.

Domestic violence and sexual assault PSAs are new to the NFL this year. After video footage of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée (now wife) leaked in July, league commissioner Roger Goodell partnered with NO MORE to take a stand. As a result, every NFL broadcast of the 2014-15 season aired PSAs to combat domestic violence and sexual assault, giving the issue a wide, national audience.

And then Super Bowl XLIX advertisements took sensitizing gender and women’s empowerment to another level.

Themes of this year’s commercials included empowerment, domestic violence awareness and the influence of fathers. Yes, the clichéd Victoria’s Secret ad and others that objectify women slithered into the lineup, though these were impressively overshadowed by more significant messages. Nissan and Dove each portrayed the importance of fathers in children’s lives, shifting the traditional focus on mothers as primary caretakers. The Always brand tackled girls’ drop in self-esteem when they reach puberty, challenging stereotypes of female inferiority by asking what it means to do something “like a girl.” Even Coca-Cola addressed cyber bullying, preaching the that “the world is what we make it.”

Why the sudden shift in tone from last year’s game?

The explosion of public awareness of domestic violence in the NFL has made the issue impossible for the league’s leadership to ignore. As a result of numerous high-profile cases, relationship violence is finally receiving the national attention it deserves. From incidents involving Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson, football fans who might not have previously considered the magnitude of domestic violence and sexual assault are forced to confront these issues.

Raising such awareness has also influenced the challenge of gender stereotypes, redefining “what makes a man stronger” and what it means to “throw like a girl.” The last six months mark a pivotal change in societal views of domestic violence and gender roles. With its national reach, it’s clear that the NFL has played a role. We’re wondering, what else do you think has induced this shift in focus?

Let us know what you think! Comment here or contact me at hstein@jwi.org to weigh in on this year’s Super Bowl ads.

Stories of DVAM: Caroline Griggs

This past August in Oklahoma City, 20 year old Caroline Griggs was shot and killed in the middle of a park surrounded by school children when her estranged boyfriend, 25 year old Ricky Knowles opened fire. Knowles had a history of violence, including arrests for domestic assaults against Caroline.

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are honoring the women who lost their lives at the hand of their husbands and boyfriends by sharing stories of those who have been affected by the lethal intersection of gun violence and domestic abuse.

More than half (54%) of women killed by guns in the U.S. are murdered by a current or former dating partner or spouse. Federal law only prohibits the purchase of guns by a person who has been convicted of a felony, not a misdemeanor crime like domestic violence. The loophole in the current law is allowing domestic violence incidents to escalate to murder when an abuser can lawfully purchase or possess a firearm.

These are the stories we hear daily in this line of work. Stories like Caroline’s remind us why we work so hard to strengthen gun laws and spare the lives of American women.

Tell Congress to support closing dangerous loopholes in federal firearms protections for victims of dating violence and stalking.

Developmental Disabilities and Abuse: Know the Facts

By Dana Fleitman, Program Coordinator

Though research on violence against women with disabilities is limited, a 2009 research update from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence highlights findings showing that women with disabilities experience shockingly high rates of abuse and violence. These findings include:

  • Women with disabilities are more likely to experience physical and sexual violence, increased severity of violence, multiple forms of violence, and longer duration of violence.
  • People with disabilities experience over twice the rate of rape or sexual assault than persons without a disability.
  • In one survey of 200 women with mobility disabilities, and mobility and intellectual disabilities, 30% of the women reported that interpersonal violence kept them from maintaining employment, 61% said interpersonal violence stood in the way of independent living, and 64% indicated interpersonal violence kept them from caring for their health.
  • Women with intellectual disabilities identify more barriers to reporting violence than women without disabilities, such as fear of losing independence, past negative experiences in reporting, and perpetrator retaliation.

The CDC reports that 27 million women in the US have some type of disability, and the prevalence of developmental disabilities is increasing.

Want to know more? Join our upcoming National Alliance webinar, “Working with Survivors with Developmental Disabilities,” by registering here. The webinar will take place on Thursday, January 17th from 12 to 1:30pm Eastern and features expert speakers Paul Feuerstein (Barrier Free Living), Shirley Paceley (Blue Tower Training) and Nancy Smith (Vera Institute of Justice).

“We do have a lot of rights…but they don’t seem as important to people.”

By Dana Fleitman, Program Coordinator

Watch this short video from Women with Disabilities Victoria about the challenges and needs of domestic violence victims who have developmental disabilities. Want to learn more? Register here to join our upcoming National Alliance webinar “Working with Survivors with Developmental Disabilities” with expert speakers Paul Feuerstein (Barrier Free Living), Shirley Paceley (Blue Tower Training) and Nancy Smith (Vera Institute of Justice) on January 17th from 12-1:30pm Eastern.

Defending Our Lives

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Filmmaker and advocate Margaret Lazarus shares, “Nothing is as wonderful as a piece of powerful media and someone who is an activist or educator that wants to bring about change. Learning happens when people make ideas their own, rather than just sit and watch.”

Visit Defending Our Lives‘s website to view the moving trailer for Margaret Lazarus’ Oscar-winning 1993 documentary.

Register now to hear Margaret Lazarus join fellow documentary filmmakers Olivia Klaus and Kit Gruelle to discuss their films. The National Alliance webinar “Lights, Camera, Social Action: DV Filmmakers Speak Out” will take place December 20th at 12pm Eastern.

“We Need All Our Sisters Home”

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Olivia Klaus’ award-winning film, Sin by Silence, tells the story of women who defended themselves against their abusers and are now incarcerated.

Watch the trailer:

Register now to hear Olivia Klaus join fellow documentary filmmakers Margaret Lazarus and Kit Gruelle to discuss their films. The National Alliance webinar “Lights, Camera, Social Action: DV Filmmakers Speak Out” will take place December 20th at 12pm Eastern.