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.

Violence is No Love Story

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

“The media always…describes these things as love story. These stories are about criminals attacking crime victims. They are not about true love.”

Watch this short excerpt on the media’s portrayal of domestic violence from filmmaker Kit Gruelle’s documentary film, Private Violence:

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

Domestic Violence from a Child’s View

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Domestic violence affects children and parents and has lifelong effects on the parent-child relationship. This creative short PSA from Verizon offers a glimpse into the impacts of violence on children and mothers:

Want to learn more? Register now for the National Alliance to End Domestic Abuse’s upcoming webinar, “Domestic Violence and the Parent-Child Relationship.”

Glee on Domestic Violence, Part II

By Ann Rose Greenberg, JWI Marketing Coordinator

Two weeks ago on Glee, we found out that Coach Beiste was being abused by her husband, Cooter Menkins. She said she was leaving him, but then went back. This week, the storyline was resolved and Beiste left her abusive relationship, hopefully for good.

Before Beiste was ready to leave her husband, some of the girls in Glee Club confronted her saying they knew she was still in an unsafe situation. Beiste defended her choice saying that Cooter had changed and would not hurt her anymore. As Glee portrayed, the decision to leave the relationship must be made by the victim, and no one can convince her if she’s not ready. Until she’s ready, she will keep trying to convince everyone, as she tries to convince herself, that her abuser has changed.

When Beiste hears Puck talking about how he’s “nothing,” she realizes that by staying in an abusive relationship, she’s treating herself as if she’s “nothing.” She makes the decision to respect herself and leave. When she gets home that night, Cooter, in a classic portrayal of an abuser, is apologetic saying that it won’t happen again. When it becomes clear that her mind is made up, he gets angry and loses control. “Who’s is going to love you like I did,” he asks. And in a powerful moment, Beiste tearfully answers “Me.”

May all women in abusive relationships find the incredible strength they need to leave. And, because we’re talking about Glee, I’ll end with a relevant song from this week’s episode.

Glee on Domestic Violence

By Ann Rose Greenberg, JWI Marketing Coordinator

Though one in four women will be a victim of abuse in her lifetime, the issue doesn’t often rise to the surface in mainstream media. Just a glance at the twitter reaction to Chris Brown at this year’s Grammys shows us that more pop-culture coverage of violence against women is sorely needed.  So I was thrilled to see that this week’s episode of Glee – a show with more than 6 million viewers – stepped up and confronted the issue. Let’s talk about what they got right, and what else is important for you to know.

As Glee portrayed abuse…

  • It can happen to anyone: Your friend, your sister, your high school football coach.
  • After violent incidents, the abuser is often remorseful and apologetic.
  • “But I love him,” is one of the most common reasons for staying in an abusive relationship; feeling that no one else will ever love you in another common tether.
  • It often takes more than one attempt before a woman leaves for good.

More important things to know…

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.
  • The most dangerous time for an abused woman is right after she leaves. Murder and assault rates are much higher at this point.
  • While moral support is very important, if someone confides in you that she is being abused, you should refer her to a trained professional who will know how to guide her out of her relationship safely.
  • JWI has online resources to help you learn the facts about violence, find services, and understand the legal issues and protections available to domestic abuse victims.

I’m curious to see if they’ll extend this story line and how it will all play out. I hope Coach Beiste ends up in a safe situation.  And to end on an empowering note, here’s the song the girls sang to show Coach Beiste their support:

What Does Mother’s Day Mean to You?

This week our Mother’s Day Flower Project is in full swing! Hundreds of people across the country are making generous donations in honor of the special women in their lives, many with warm messages to accompany the card that JWI sends to honorees.  This project provides Mother’s Day flowers to women in battered women’s shelters across the United States, and also reminds each of us to take a moment to think about our mothers – and mothers who are less fortunate.  We asked Lyn Chasen, chair of the Mother’s Day Flower Project, to share her thoughts about her own mom. We hope you enjoy her heartfelt message:

If you haven’t already purchased a card for your mom, please do so today.

Send a message of support to the women who will receive our Mother’s Day flowers this year. 


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.

Monsters in the Closet

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pass it on.

By Alexandra Huss, JWI Intern

In “Monsters in the Closet,” a new PSA produced and funded by the Verizon Foundation and supported by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, we see the devastating effects of abuse through a young girl’s eyes. This video, the latest of Verizon’s efforts to break the cycle of abuse, depicts the powerful, devastatingly heavy emotions involved in a broken home, and what you can do to break the cycle. It is PSAs like these that spark necessary conversations, heightening awareness.

Children often learn of the effects of drug, smoking, and alcohol addiction from commercials before they learn about them in school. Now, domestic violence, especially from the voice of a young girl’s perspective, can be added to this category of attained knowledge, and for many children, a newfound understanding that there is help to be had in their own situation. Efforts such as Verizon’s awareness campaign are crucial to ensure that victims of abuse know they are not alone.

The Verizon Foundation has a longstanding commitment to domestic violence prevention, and has been a great partner in JWI’s National Library Initiative, which builds children’s libraries in domestic violence shelters across the country.

There’s no place like home…?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pass it on.

This week, the City Council of Topeka, Kansas passed a law decriminalizing domestic violence. The obvious question is “Why?” The answer: To save money. According to an article published by the New York Times, eighteen people have been arrested since September on charges of domestic violence and all of them have been released without charges.

Even in bleak economic times – when the incidence of domestic violence rises – wiping out life-saving programs is not the answer. The City Council’s move will only contribute to further strains on local and national resources. And at the end of the day, no amount of money saved can justify enabling attacks on women and families.