Monday, April 16, 2012

The Status of Women and Girls around the World

As mentioned on our Facebook page, I attended the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, CO last week. I attended a panel discussing the status of women and girls around the world and very much enjoyed it. The panelists each took a slightly different approach to their discussions.

Judith Morrison, Senior Advisor of the Gender & Diversity Division at the Inter-American Development Bank, provided many of the statistics from which the panel drew.

  • women make up about 40% of the global labor source and over 50% of college students around the world
  • 1/3 of developing countries have more women in school than boys
  • productivity in the world's GDP's (gross domestic products) could increase by 3-25% if barriers to women were eliminated
  • Approximately 4 million women and girls have "disappeared" through infanticide, gender selection, and other similar acts
Morrison then went on to talk about 2nd wave feminism and the personal as political. She chose to focus in on maternity and paternity leave following the birth of a child, specifically noting that the US has some of the worst of these policies in the world. She suggested that by not giving men paternity leave, we're setting up a system in which the sexes are set up as opposites. Women should stay home and men should work. Essentially, we reinforce traditional gender roles.

Morrison then reverted back to the economic aspect of empowering women. She asked, "How can we make sure excluded, marginalized women are included in development?"

On that note the second speaker, Judithe (Judy) Registre, an international development expert who established Women for Women International began her talk. Judy spoke about her work on gender issues over the past 15 years, noting that much of her work is done in difficult locations such as Sudan, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan. She stated, "when we talk about gender, we often mean women." But, what she said next really brought home her point. She insisted that "the discussion around the status of women is in respect to men's privilege." Much of Judy's talk was about the experience of VAWG during war. She spoke about how her organization, Women for Women International works with women who are raped during war in an effort to reintegrate them into their communities. She said that the women often thank her and her organization, but have clearly stated, "If you really want to help us, you need to talk to our husbands, our pastors, etc. It's really nice that you want to help us, but we don't have a community to reintegrate back into." Considering this, Judy initiated the Men's Leadership Program (started in Nigeria). See THIS also if you're interested in the Men's Leadership Program. As the women suggested, this program is designed to address the head of the communities--the gate keepers for their cultures and societies. After it's success in Nigeria, this program expanded to Congo. 

One of the other significant things Judy said during her portion of the talk was that VAWG is not something caused by women. So, then, how can we address VAWG without addressing the role of boys and girls? How can we begin to change the dialogue and discussion?

The final speaker was Merle Lefkoff, President of Ars Publica, who has been a "Track Two" facilitator and mediator for more than 30 years in conflict zones around the world. Lefkoff reiterated some of the statistics and information mentioned by Morrison and Judy, stating that rape as a weapon in war is huge and historic. She stated, "What does it take for women to have the respect and status in the world so that men do not look at women as objects?" The way the women are looked at by the men that rape them.  She spent a large chunk of time focusing on technology and suggested that we're not spending enough time examining the role of technology in the status of women in the world. "What can give women more agency now (in the modern world) and not continue to be responded to as victims?" Unlike Morrison and Judy, Leftkoff suggested that the idea of economics and the link to women will not help restore women to the status that they once had (as necessary parts of the family and community).

I'll write more in the next few days. I'm sure this gives quite a bit to consider. So, what do you think? Does one view resonate more with you?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sexual Assault Awareness: The Interaction of Women & the Criminal Justice System

It's been a long time, right? I know. I haven't had a good opportunity to really get into a blog for a month now. Sad really. But, I've continued to add to the VAWG Dialogue Facebook page and that's going well. If you haven't already, definitely consider "liking" the page so that you, too, can stay up on the news related to recent events and ending VAWG. It is a quick and easy way to stay involved.

In the meantime, let's jump right in for today's entry. I just finished showing the movie Monster in my class. We've been applying various criminological theories to current events and Monster is an excellent example of feminist theory, but is also full of other theories. We've now transitioned into talking about the criminal justice system. How do these relate? The story of Aileen Wuornos, the first publicly recognized female serial killer, is featured in Monster. I won't spill the beans in case you haven't seen it, but the criminal justice system and Aileen interact a number of times. Keep your eyes open.

The criminal justice system was historically built for men. However, we have seen a drastic increase in the number of women being held in jail and prison facilities, not to mention juvenile detention facilities as well.  And, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so I thought it fitting that we look at how the criminal justice system has treated women in regard to victimization.  First, we know that it was not until recently that laws were actually put in place to prohibit a victim's prior history from being entered into evidence. Yep. Sad, right? Somehow sex without consent, rape, was seen as more justified if the woman was more sexually active when she consented.

Other new laws include those not requiring witnesses to corroborate the rape and those creating specific procedures for collecting evidence from victims.  I ask, "how many people are actually present when an individual is raped?" Who sits there and watches someone get raped and then goes and tells the police? Who tells the police and then doesn't have fear that they, too, might get hurt for being a "rat"?  Yet, in some countries, witnesses are still required. If enough witnesses do not come forward, the victim may be punished under consideration of "false reporting." The US is thankfully not one of these countries, but we must remove this requirement from all countries.

And, let's acknowledge that statistics show that most sexual assaults, rapes specifically, are at the hands of someone we know.  That's right. It's not that person dressed in black with a mask over their faces jumping out of the bushes. Indeed, acquaintance rape is the most common form. The aspect that makes this so disappointing is that some within the criminal justice system suggest these cases are too hard to solve. Cases between two individuals who know one another are too difficult to prove. Consequently, efforts are reduced. In 2010, the arrest rate for rape was only 24 percent. Okay. Okay. Not so bad you may be thinking. But, this percentage was the exact same in 1970. Huh? Really? With such improved technology, training, and knowledge, why are we not increasing our treatment and arrests of rapists?

Finally, let's not forget about rape kits. Performing a rape kit is extremely beneficial when considering conviction rates. The aspect that fails, however, is the analysis of these kits. Have you seen the news articles about untested rape kits? Here is a second article. Between 180,000-400,000 forgotten kits have gone untested.  As you can see, further improvement is still needed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Feeling Attacked? Let's Stop the War on Women

Feeling attacked? What is this business with seemingly reverting back 50 or so years and taking away the rights women for so long have fought to have? And, if taking away rights is not enough, calling us names seems to be another approach.

I've heard a number of people question why Rush Limbaugh is receiving so much flak, when Bill Maher did not. I would argue that Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher hold very different positions in our society. One is a political figure, the other a comedian. Now, I'm not saying either of these men should degrade women--it's not acceptable in any form. But, I will say that I think this contributes to the varying responses they receive.

When I say I feel personally attacked, I mean, of course, as a woman. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why certain changes are being made. Some proposed changes over the last year include:

  • Federal funding of Planned Parenthood was threatened.
  • Reproductive rights of women have been threatened (in many forms).
    • Virginia is attempting to mandate women undergo an invasive procedure, the transvaginal ultrasound, before any abortion.
    • Missouri and Washington, D.C. have proposed legislation that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage (even though most employers provide coverage for such things as Viagra for men).
    • Several states have proposed bills that would allow doctors who perform abortions to be murdered (South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa).
    • A Georgia State Representative introduced a bill that would make abortion illegal, in addition to making miscarriages illegal (what?!?!).
    • The Texas State House of Representatives has passed the Sonogram Bill requiring women to get a sonogram before ending a pregnancy, forcing even victims of rape to have a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure. Gov. Rick Perry has signed the bill into law, which takes effect September 1, 2011. There are exceptions in cases of rape and incest. As Planned Parenthood reports: “While a woman can opt-out of seeing the sonogram image and hearing the heart tone, she cannot opt-out of a medically unnecessary sonogram, nor can she opt-out of the fetal description except within very narrow parameters for situations of rape, incest, judicial bypasses, and fetal anomalies.”
    • Arizona passed a bill to allow doctors to lie to women to prevent abortions
What I've listed here speaks to reproductive rights specifically. However, in the U.S. and abroad, legislation to protect women against the violence and abuse from partners and family members fails to pass. Women are raped in war zones--and it's seemingly acceptable. Female babies are expendable and are disposed of with the trash. 

We must put a stop to this. We must speak up!

Many position the war on women in a political foundation. As a result, the following video was made:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Efforts to end IPV?

I've been reading up on laws being passed around the world in effort to stop intimate partner violence (IPV). I've posted a number of articles related to these efforts on the VAWG Dialogue FACEBOOK PAGE, but wanted to get into more of an analysis here.

Mandatory Arrest Laws
My research for the past few years has been on the implementation and effects of mandatory arrest laws in the U.S.  These laws, while slightly different by state, require officers to make an arrest when responding to a situation where probable cause to believe a crime has been committed between intimate partners. Notably, many states have these laws, and those that don't may have pro-arrest policies, which encourage arrest, but do not mandate it.

These laws have sparked debate since their implementation. Unintended consequences, the largest of which is the tremendous increase of women arrested for intimate partner violence, have founded many of the criticisms. Additional concerns revolve around this idea of mandatory arrest as a one-size-fits-all policy and a blanket approach.

A new development has recently been proposed that I believe strongly impacts the mandatory arrest laws. Recently the Indiana House approved a law allowing homeowners to kill police officers. This law, I believe, puts officers in a very difficult position. Situations of IPV are already often emotionally charged and unpredictable. This proposed law, however, simply increases the likelihood of danger. Officers are required to attend to situations of IPV and often are faced with making an arrest. If an officer enters a home upon hearing screams (probable cause) this law would allow individuals in the home to shoot the officer. Having laws that work against one another is certainly a predicament. HERE is a link to a news article.

I don't see mandatory arrest as a best-case scenario; I've definitely become educated about the effects (for officers and individuals identified as perpetrators). But, I also know not all officers attend to IPV appropriately.

Clare's Law
Just yesterday a link about Clare's law was posted on our FB page. Clare's law, dubbed after a woman murdered by a former boyfriend, gives individuals the "right to ask" authorities about their partner's criminal/violent histories. Currently there is a year-long pilot trial testing the effectiveness of this law in Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire, and Gwent.

Police already have common law powers to provide information about someone's background if officers think there is a pressing need to do so to prevent a crime. This law, however, provides greater accessibility to histories. Debate continues regarding whether the law (common law powers) should remain the same, or should be changed to a woman's right to ask the police or to the woman's right to know (where the police would automatically disclose information in certain circumstances). (NOTE: Men also have the right to ask under this law.)

Criticisms of this law focus on it's effectiveness and it's intrusion on personal privacy. Some organizations contend that education and awareness programs would be more effective. This law doesn't necessarily change anyone's mindset or provide resources once you find out information.  Additionally, claims against this law suggest that once an individual has served the time/paid the price for crime, s/he should not continue to be labeled.

Lebanese Efforts
I was so thrilled when I first learned about the efforts being made to criminalize not only physical violence, but also sexual, psychological and economic violence in Lebanon.  The proposed legislation has been drafted by the NGO Kafa and supported by a number of other groups. Currently, there is no such legislation and family law is governed by religious courts.

The law, as drafted, would have appointed public prosecutors to investigate incidences of violence, estibalished special police units, obliged medical personnel to report cases of expected IPV, and empowered women and children to seek restraining orders.

A problem has arisen. The parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing this law (made up of 8 MPs--7 men, 1 woman) has made numerous amendments to the law. The law was expected to be reviewed/held by the MPs for 3 weeks, but has now been held for over 6 months. In fact, one of the male MPs made a statement in December 2011 that "There's nothing called rape between a husband and a wife. It's called forcing someone violently to have intercourse." Yikes!!! So frustrating. So, marital rape has been eliminated from the law, and a clause establishing a specialized police force for IPV cases was also deleted. And efforts to identify and prosecute economic and verbal abuse has been weakened.

Protests have been held and organizations continue to put pressure on the government.

Below is a video. If you need subtitles, click on the button to the bottom right that looks like an upward error. A menu will pull up and click the CC button. Alternatively, if you double click on the video when beginning to watch it, it will pull up on youtube (as opposed to watching it on the blog) and you will see a CC button on it's own to the bottom right and you can click on it there.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spreading the word!

Lots of life changes. That's where I've been. It seems like there has literally been no time for blogging this last week. This has made me extremely grateful for the recent Facebook addition to VAWG Dialogue. I'd love to continue to grow the FB page and hope to get more dialogue and sharing of information happening--but I've certainly noticed an increase in readership and participation more generally since adding Facebook. Such a great resource...most of the time.  This week I've really been thinking about the various platforms we have for talking about, learning about, and communicating about VAWG. While I may not agree with all statements made on certain topics (that would only happen in my own utopia, right?), I think the variety of places and people I hear acknowledging and talking about topics related to VAWG is great.

Just this week I've posted a number of links to Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart, youtube links to slam poets, various newspaper articles, petitions, other blogs, and a number of other places, people, and things. What did we do without Internet? What did we do without television? Other sources of technology?

So, to the topics. Women's health and reproductive rights have certainly been the top of topics I've noticed from all of the sources I just listed. In particular, I wanted to share a Jon Stewart segment with you.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Punanny State - Virginia's Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Prime example of what I was talking about. While I may not think Stewart's presentation of the issue is 100%, I sure am glad he presented the issue nonetheless. His show, and others like it, reach populations that may not otherwise hear about the injustices and violence being perpetrated against women. So, heck yes--let's keep the word spreading.

And, please do spread the word about this blog and our accompanying Facebook page. Finally, let me know what you think about all of this. Better yet, if you'd like to be a guest blogger...I'd love it! Send a quick email my way so we can chat.

Have a great day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Expected to Pay: Girls Atone for Familial Misdeeds

She did nothing. She was simply born a female child in the family of a "criminal."

There are several practices, in a number of different places, that require young female children to atone for the misdeeds of their criminal family members/ancestors. In the trokosi system, if someone commits either a serious crime or social infraction, traditional leaders of the community order the family to send a young girl from that family to serve the priest of the local shrine. The trokosi system translates to "wife of the gods." Thus, the girl, sometimes very young, serves the priest as a means of repenting for her family member. In some instances, the girl serves a shorter time (3-5 years). However, in more established Trokosi systems, the severity of the crime determines the length of service (sometimes multiple generations of girls are expected to serve the priest). The girls serving are often left to their own devices (families are expected to pay for their food, but rarely do). One woman, 22 at the time she was freed, stated:

"I had to cut down trees and uproot tree stumps to burn into charcoal to sell and make some money to take care of myself," she says. "I did not have the right to take crops from the farm unless the priest allowed me to. Occasionally my parents sent me some food, but that was kept in the priest's room and I had to request it any time I needed some. I was forced to have sex with the priest as one of the rituals in the shrine, but luckily I did not get pregnant."

A similar practice, "baad" or "baadi," is illegal, but remains quite prevalent. Now associated with Afghanistan, young girls are taken as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders. This system is clearly related to the position women hold in society more generally. For example, the father of a young girl who recently escaped her capture expressed anger that the girl was abducted because he had already promised her to be married to someone else. The girl was simply a pawn in everyone's games. These young girls are often kidnapped and beaten. Given the cultural emphasis placed on family honor and the need to repent for acts that bring dishonor or shame, this practice uses the young girls as a source of retaliation--a way to regain familial honor.

A member of Parliament in Nangarhar Province said the following when discussing baad:
"The bad aspect is that you punish an innocent human for someone else's wrongdoings, and the good aspect is that you rescue two families, two clans, from more bloodshed, death and misery."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

V: Not Just for Valentine's

The word? Vagina. It's Scandalous. It's immoral. It's unnatural. It's about sex.

Eve Ensler's idea: "When you name things, you bring consciousness to things."

The Vagina Monologues has served as a liberating and empowering avenue through which women can express themselves. The Monologues support women of all ages, experiences, sociodemographic background as they talk about more than just vaginas. In fact, each year playwright Eve Ensler (of the Vagina Monologues) puts out a script for the type of stories she wants done. This year, the topic is ending violence against women, especially rape. While this may sound morbid and sad to some, if you've ever attended a performance of the Monologues, you know the stories are full of all different kinds of emotion--happiness, anger, humor, sadness. You'll find it all.

Ensler says she began this play because as we utter the word, a silence gets broken and a taboo gets eradicated. Freedom. She states that "one of the reasons violence is allowed to go on is because we don't have agency over our own bodies. And we don't have a way or articulating what happens to us. So, it happens invisibly." Interestingly, in some of the locations where the play is now, there originally was not a word for vagina. Words were borrowed. Or, the play was banned.

The play is meant to empower. The play is meant to give voice.

What do you think? Is it too much? Is it not enough? How does it make you feel?

I want to draw your attention to a unique situation. Perhaps a step toward breaking down barriers. A step toward uniting all women.  Guess who is presenting the Vagina Monologues in 2 days? Clergy from the Anglican Diocese of Niagara. That's right. Seven female clergy are performing the Monologues--4 letter words and all.

So, is it really such a bad word? I mean it's an anatomical label. Why then do we fear the word? Why do we teach our children to use funny names for their body parts. Not to say some of the words are quite funny, but we've got to think of the bigger implications of not simply saying...VAGINA.

For more information about the Vagina Monologues and Eve Ensler's V-day campaign to end violence against women and girls, click HERE and HERE.

And, for articles on the resistance experienced by the Vagina Monologues, click HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Placing Blame Where It Belongs

Rape is about power. It is about dominance. Rape isn't about sex. It isn't about love. Rape can be stopped. I know it seems like a crazy idea given the extreme frequency of this violence (both in the US and other countries--take Congo for example). But, really, it could be ended. The answer, however, is not in the victim. The answer isn't to buy every woman and girl pepper spray. The answer isn't to arm every woman and girl with self-defense techniques. The answer is in the perpetrator. While I'm not saying that women and girls shouldn't empower themselves. More power to them, me, you! But, we have to recognize where the change is possible. And, frankly, it is in men. It is in the perpetrators of rape.

Each year I teach about victim blaming. Each year there is a least one student who engages in victim blaming. They don't understand the problem with it. They don't think it's wrong. So, each year, I show THIS 9-minute video (seriously a great way to spend the next 9 minutes, promise). Sorry that I can't figure out how to embed the video itself on the post. Satire, right? But it works. Students get it. People get it. The video seems to help everyone understand what victim blaming truly is and how absurd it is that we, as a society, expect victims to be responsible for change. And, while some continue to engage in victim blaming attitudes, they can't help but agree that rape and other violations wouldn't happen if not for the actions of the perpetrator.

If you just don't have time to watch the video, I'll recap the tips provided to offenders (statistically men):

1. When you see a woman walking alone at night, do not rape 

2. As a general rule, do not have sex with someone who is not 
awake or aware of what is happening.

3. Always use the buddy system - if you think you cannot 
resist the urge to sexually assault someone, ask a friend to 
accompany you whenever you go out in public.

4. When buying or providing a drink for someone, be sure to 
deliver said beverage without putting any drugs in it.

5. If anyone happens to fall asleep on your couch, or even 
your bed, remember not to sexually assault them.

6. The best course of action when entering a woman's home is 
to wait for an invitation through the front door - resist the 
urge to crawl through a window or sneak through an unlocked 
back door.

7. Always carry a rape whistle - if you feel the urge to rape 
someone, blow the whistle so that your buddy from #3 can 
call for help.

8. If hired to perform a service in a woman's home, such as 
fixing the cable, be sure to provide the requested service, then 
exit the house without raping her.

9. If you find yourself stalking a woman in your car, 
immediately change course towards the nearest police station 
and notify them of your intent to commit sexual assault.

10. Watch for signs of miscommunication with friends - if 
someone asks you out, it is probably an indication that they 
think you will not rape them. Be sure to clearly state your 
intentions so that they know what to expect.

So, let's take the onus off of the victim. Off of the women who are expected to walk home in fear, hyper vigilant at every turn, and instead place it where it belongs!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Welfare Drug Testing: WHO are We Really Worried about?

I'm sure many of you have heard about the implementation of drug testing for individuals on welfare in some states. Yes? I have seen and heard great support for drug testing. Yet, it seems a complete waste to me. And even more, it clearly targets particular populations. In fact, more recently, results are proving the financial outcome does NOT support continuing drug tests.

The support I've largely heard for drug testing of individuals requesting government assistance, stems from the notion that women are having babies only in order to manipulate the system, that they are staying on welfare for extended periods of time, and that they are not using the money for the correct things. And yes, these comments are always targeting women when I hear them.

The gendered comments I hear fail to acknowledge the feminization of poverty.  So, instead of looking at the real issue (that women are disproportionately poorer than men), we degrade women, make claims against them, and question their intentions. Clearly, they must be using their welfare money for drugs. And, clearly, it is only women. Of course, this is not serious. We know men also use drugs and we know men also are on welfare. But, somehow, over time, this has been lost. We make women who seek financial assistance out to be monsters. You know the ones? Those horrid "welfare mothers". They're taking all of the taxpayer money. These are the women who have babies simply to get more money from the government. They don't work and they don't care for the children they have. They use the money all for themselves. Yet, in Indiana (a state with a recently introduced bill for drug testing of welfare recipients--see below), the average welfare payment is $346 for a family of FOUR.

What people fail to mention as they characterize women in this nature, is that in 1996, hoping to free people from what some saw as a culture of poverty in the United States, Congress changed the welfare system, which had provided a federal guarantee of financial assistance to poor people since 1935. The federal government continues to send money to the states to distribute to needy people, but benefits now carry strict limits—in most cases, no more than two years at a stretch and a total of five years altogether if a person moves in and out of the welfare system. The stated purpose of this reform was to force people to be self-supporting and move them away from dependency on government. 

So, will drug testing scare all of these monsters of women away? No. Why? Because the percentage of individuals (yes, women AND men) who have tested positive while on welfare is so low and that it is more expensive to perform the urinalysis. In Florida, for example, the cost of the drug test is at the expense of the individual seeking assistance. However, if they pass, the state reimburses them. The State of Florida would save less than $240 a month by denying the 2 of 40 individuals who failed their tests 

And, I want to mention that a newer version of this drug testing law has recently been repealed. A recent bill was withdrawn from the Indiana General Assembly that would create a pilot program for drug testing of welfare recipients. Why was it withdrawn? Because it was amended to include drug testing of lawmakers as well. Seems to me drug testing of welfare recipients is simply another way to keep those in the lower class in line. And, as established above, this means women.  Lawmakers, largely men, don't need, want, or think they should be tested. Yet, they're the ones that likely have the money to afford the drugs. Notably, the sponsor of this bill has stated he will be reintroducing a modified version of it. See here.

So, let's think about this. Who are we really helping by drug testing welfare recipients? Current information proves that individuals on welfare are most often not using drugs (2 in 40 in Florida--and one of the two is repealing).  And more importantly, who are we targeting by implementing drug tests?

I want to acknowledge that some people have posted the below picture on their Facebook pages. I've seen it around. It's important that we know this type of poster and remark are not based in fact, but rather anger and frustration. Performing urinalysis tests on all individuals receiving government assistance is actually only furthering using your tax dollars.

While the video I've posted below clearly takes a particular stance, there are elements that I think anyone, regardless of your stance on this issue, can agree with and recognize as truth. Check out the video and participate in the poll (below). And, don't forget, we have a Facebook page now, so like us there as well :) Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. It be great to better understand both sides of this argument.

Don't forget to like our new Facebook page to keep up with new posts and to post your own!

Friday, February 3, 2012

UPDATE: Susan G. Komen Foundation Reverses Decision (but maybe not really)

The below is the statement from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Note: They are not promising to renew grants, but rather to continue existing grants. There's still work to be done.

Apology released by SGK founder, Nancy Brinker:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives.
The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.
Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics - anyone's politics.
Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public's understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.
We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.
A response by president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richard:
The outpouring of support for women in need of lifesaving breast cancer screening this week has been astonishing and is a testament to our nation's compassion and sincerity.
During the last week, millions spontaneously joined a national conversation about lifesaving breast cancer prevention care and
reinforced shared values about access to health care for all. This compassionate outcry in support of those most in need rose above political, ideological, and cultural divides, and will surely be recognized as one of our nation's better moments during a contentious political time. Planned Parenthood thanks each and every person who has contributed to elevating the importance of breast cancer prevention for so many women in need.
In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women. We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers. What
these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer, and we honor those who are at the helm of this battle.
“Planned Parenthood has been a trusted partner with the Komen Foundation in early cancer detection and prevention services. In particular, Planned Parenthood helps the Komen Foundation reach vulnerable populations — low-income women, African-American women, and Latinas — especially in rural areas and underserved communities where Planned Parenthood health centers are their only source of health care. With Komen Foundation grants, over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals. With the outpouring of support over the past week, even more women in need will receive lifesaving breast cancer care.

Click HERE and HERE to read full articles.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Susan G. Komen Cuts Funding to Planned Parenthood: How Do They Decide which Life is Worth Saving?

I think it can get tricky when organizations, such as Susan G. Komen, which are meant to serve anyone and everyone and ultimately aim to prevent and cure a horrible health issue take a stand against another organization aiming to help the same people. Planned Parenthood provides high quality reproductive health care and age-appropriate sex education. Additionally, Planned Parenthood provides information on body image, birth control options, men's sexual health, sexually transmitted infections, and general health care needs. In fact, Planned Parenthood reports that only 3% of its services are abortion, while 16% takes the form of breast cancer screenings.

Susan G. Komen chose to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for breast health screenings. The divisive factor: pro-life/pro-choice positions.

The picture above has been circulating. And while I support the work Susan G. Komen does for individuals with breast cancer and believe the items they produce help in creating a sense of community, the picture is accurate in my mind. Why would an organization aiming to prevent and cure breast cancer cut funding to an organization that provides affordable health care screenings to so many people each year? Susan G. Komen has made a terrible mistake in my opinion. They have allowed politics to supersede their ultimate mission and goal. Planned Parenthood is the primary source of health care for women in low-income and underserved communities. The provide 830,000 breast exams each year. 170,000 (over the last 5 years) of these screenings and 6,400 mammogram referrals are funded through Susan G. Komen. The result of this cut in funding? More women are likely to go without breast screenings and mammograms. Regardless of your beliefs about abortion, it is essential we remember that Planned Parenthood serves MANY women in MANY different ways.  And, while perhaps the below picture is a bit blunt, I do find it strange that an organization supporting a pro-life stance, is ultimately taking away services that could save so many women.

More than ever, I encourage you to read THIS article. And, if you feel so inclined, please consider signing THIS petition and/or donating to your Planned Parenthood

As a note, several affiliates, one of which is Denver, have withdrawn their support for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. You can read about these HERE.

And, please take part in the poll below.

I'd like to leave you with this:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Launch of Facebook Page

Because I can't post about everything going on in detail here on the blog, I've created a FACEBOOK COMMUNITY PAGE. I will post news articles, relevant photos, etc. BUT, what I am really hoping, is that you, as members of this community, will post links of your own to share with me and everyone else. Engage with me & one another. Share what you find interesting. Post articles about relevant current events. I would LOVE to see news articles you find, videos, know about events or groups. Share them with everyone by pressing "like" on the facebook page and then participating by sharing what you find.

I know Facebook is highly used, so this will serve as a second source for spreading the word and making our move toward ending violence against women and girls (VAWG).

"Like" VAWG Dialogue on Facebook and become a Follower of the blog and let's get to work. Post away and spread the word! Please tell your friends, colleagues, family members, and acquaintances.  HERE is the link again for the FB page!  :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Dirty Little Secret: The Super Bowl & Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking remains prevalent. In fact, it continues to increase and is expected to overtake the drug trafficking industry in the next 1-2 years. Just yesterday, for example, 14 people were indicted in a sex trafficking ring of children across the state of Colorado. And, the individuals overseeing the ring were not much more than young adults themselves (20-22 years of age). At least 4 teenage girls were victims of this ring, which worked in Denver, Boulder, Lakewood, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction. The Colorado Human Trafficking Task Force is prosecuting this case. You can read more about this particular case here (video included).

It's right around the corner. Sex trafficking happens everywhere, even in places you wouldn't expect it.

So, while this topic was particularly current given the recent bust of this CO ring, the Super Bowl is also coming up. You might be asking, "What does that have to do with anything?" Well, prostitution and sex trafficking generally increase during large sporting events, such as the Super Bowl. In fact, last year the Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, stated, "The Super Bowl is one of the largest human trafficking events in the United States." Young girls are often offered to johns as "Super Bowl specials." In one particular case, this meant paying $300 for two girls, a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old. Domestic sex trafficking (the moving of primarily women from city to city, state to state) for the purpose of exploitation is a significant and severely troublesome social problem.  According to Shared Hope International, over a 5 year period of time, an under-aged prostitute who works 5 nights a week could be "raped" 6,000 times by men. This number dramatically increases around sporting events. Shared Hope International reports that prostitutes are generally given a quota to reach of 10-15 buyers per night. However, around peak times, such as the Super Bowl, girls have reportedly been sold to as many as 45 buyers in a single night.

The good news? Some people and places are working to combat this incredibly horrendous and exploitive practice--even targeting time frames specific to the Super Bowl. For instance, a bill in Indiana to toughen penalties for sex trafficking is being reviewed by the Governor. It passed both the House and Senate in Indiana with unanimous support. The bill would make it easier to prosecute cases involving victims 16 and younger and broadens the law for cases involving older victims.

And, perhaps even more interesting, there is a group of nuns in Indiana that are taking to the streets to catalyze change and combat sex trafficking. One group of nuns buys stocks in hotels and motels so that as stockholders they have a say and can demand action. And, many of the hotels within a 50-mile radius in/around Indianapolis have pledged to report any human trafficking issues. You can find out more through the Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force.

And, there is "The S.O.A.P. Project." TraffickFree will be offering bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-3737-888) on them. These bars are also placed in some hotel and motel bathrooms.

You may also be interested in learning more about GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services) which acts as the only service in NY aimed at helping girls who have been sexually exploited and/or domestically trafficked.

Finally, below I've included a video made by GEMS in honor of President Obama's National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  GEMS supporters from across the country sent in messages of love and support to girls recovering from exploitation and sex trafficking. The message? You are loved and cared about.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Making a Difference

I've been feeling a bit down lately about the blog, what I want to write about, etc. Then I came across this picture and remembered why I started this blog and the corresponding FB page. I hope you have the same "ah-ha" moment I did. Be inspired.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rick Santorum's message to victims of rape--Public Morality & Criminal Law

I was scrolling through the news today and came across a headline reading, "Rick Santorum: Rape victims 'should make the best of a bad situation' if they get pregnant and give birth to the 'gift from god'". I specifically looked for other articles about Santorum's stance and found article titles such as, "Rick Santorum: 'Make the best' of rape by rejecting abortion" and "Santorum to Rape Victims: 'Make the best Out of a Bad Situation". Appalling. I couldn't believe what I was reading.  Talk about retraumatizing. Not only is he telling victims how they should feel, but what they should do, also. I wanted to verify what was said, so found the following video.

Indeed, Rick Santorum states, "I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created--in the sense of rape--but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given you." It seems Santorum has created a bit of a paradox. While he ends by identifying the product of a woman's rape as a "gift", he begins by calling it something "horribly created".

I am not debating the issue of abortion in this post. I've done that before and with politics on the board right now, I am sure you have been hearing many different perspectives. Instead, reading these articles about Santorum made me think about the lecture I just gave to my Criminology class. As an opener to the class, we talk about the definition of crime. I ask them what television shows they watch that tells them something, true or untrue, about crime. Law & Order,  CSI, Bones, The Sopranos, Criminal Minds...the list goes on and on. Literally, I think the entire 75 minutes could have been filled simply listing various types of entertainment that sends messages about crime. As we talk about these shows, I ask them what message is sent. What do we learn about victims from these shows? Who are they? What do they look like? What about offenders? What do we learn about various types of crime?  How is crime constructed in our society? How do we come to understand a behavior as criminal or not?

In preparation for the this lecture on defining crime, they read an article discussing public morality and criminal law. There are essentially two sides to the debate. The first argues that public morality should not control criminal law, but that criminal law should be created in correspondence with what causes direct harm to others. The law is viewed as an improper instrument for regulating one's private moral conduct. In contrast, the other side of this argument is that criminal law serves an important function in the facilitation of personal responsibility. Thus, criminal law serves as a fundamental means by which individuals learn personal responsibility.

I ask my students to consider two main questions.
1) Should the law control public morality?
2) Can the law control public morality?

Admittedly, I am quite frustrated by not only Santorum's position, but also his choice of words.  As I listened to him and his desire to make abortion illegal, I reran my lecture and the thoughtful, intelligent things my students had to say on the matter through my mind. Santorum, in my opinion, is suggesting he will aim to control my private morality through use of public criminal law. Am I okay with this? Is this what happens everyday, regardless of who the President is? Sadly, I'd say it likely is. And I tell my students that, too. So, we then transition to "Can the law control public morality?"

I've created two polls below to get your thoughts on these questions. Think about whatever issued you'd like. And, in addition to participation in the poll, comments are welcome and hoped for. My students and I engaged in a fantastic dialogue about issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, drug use, prostitution, etc. and the role private morality and public law play. I hope we can do the same here.

For full articles on Rick Santorum's position toward women who are victims of rape, you can click HERE, HERE, and HERE.


Event Announcement: Chocolate Lovers' Fling

Have you heard about this event? If you're in the Boulder, CO area, I highly suggest you attend. It's a ton of fun and benefits a very worthy organization, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence. Great food, a silent auction, dancing...come one, come all.

Simply click HERE and you can reserve your spot!

February 11, 2012 - 7pm - 11pm - UCAR Events Center 
3080 Center Green Drive Boulder, CO 80301
Chocolate Lovers' Fling Logo 2012

There's still time to support the 31st Annual Chocolate Lovers' Fling!  The Chocolate Lovers' Fling is our most important fundraising event of the year, with a goal of raising funds to support services that are changing lives, even saving lives. 
Our event is going to be the best yet and we are delighted to bring you some exciting (and delicious) details in this email. Please take a look at all we have to offer and spread the word!  To purchase tickets visit  To donate items for the auctions or to ask questions about the event, contact Chelsea at or 303-449-8623.

Chelsea O'Neil
Fundraising Events Organizer
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence

Chocolate Tastings...

We have a wonderful group some of the area's best chocolatiers set to provide a variety of delicious chocolate candies, confections, sauces, and more!  Vendors include...
If you are a chocolatier or know of a vendor who might be interested in donating chocolate samples for the event, contact Alev at

Dinner & Dancing...    
Our menu this year will be a delicious assortment of gourmet appetizers and tapas! Sample shrimp scampi, beef skewers del mar and more as you browse the silent auction items or have a seat in the ballroom and mingle with other guests.  

The evening will end on on a high note with dancing to live music provided by "The Mark Diamond Band" featuring Ricardo Peña, Ed Edwards, Amy Biondo, and Dean Kielian.  
Explore new combinations of specialized beer, wine & port paired with chocolate samples.  Participating vendors include...

Silent & Live Auctions...

There are some exciting and diverse options in place for our silent auction. Specialty baskets, art, jewelry, event tickets, Spanish lessons, gift certificates to your favorite restaurants, and more!

We are absolutely thrilled to welcome back our favorite auctioneer, Mr. Don Martin of Martin Auctioneering.  If you haven't experienced Don before, you are in for a treat!  He's sure to keep the evening moving by providing an exciting and entertaining auction experience!  Some of the items to look forward to this year...

Order now!

There is still time to donate gift certificates, baskets, items, etc.!  If you're interested in promoting your business or services by donating items to be sold at auction, contact
for details.
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) 

is a human rights organization which provides emergency shelter, counseling, community education, legal advocacy and transitional services to adults and children who are fleeing violent relationships in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. 
 If you or someone you know is in need of help, call our 24 hour crisis line at:
Find us online:
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