Bees in My Bonnet: Before the Holiday

Bee in the Lavender

Enjoy another great installment of “Bees in my Bonnet” and for those of you in the US have a great Thanksgiving! 

A dad examines the message that telling jokes about buying a shotgun when his daughter starts dating send.

One thing I’ve learned is that one person’s illogical belief is another person’s survival skill. And nothing is more logical than trying to survive.”  It is so easy to judge others, criticize what have not experienced and do not understand.

Over at Defeating the Dragons the author is doing a series called “learning the words.”  One of her posts is about consent and how she, and others in fundamental, or overly conservative cultures, can take back the word. 

Another Defeating the Dragons post about what Twilight and the movie Fireproof have in common and how they contribute to, and possibly even encourage abuse.

The myths about domestic violence, abuse, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence are becoming increasingly visible.  What isn’t being discussed as much is how supposedly safe and progressive spaces can also harbor abusive individuals and how to deal with that.

A woman struggles with purity culture, feminism, and the concept of virginity.

The anti-domestic violence movement is still fairly new, relatively speaking.  And it is mainly focused on hetero couples.  This does a great disservice to the experiences of those in same-sex relationships that are abusive.  Domestic violence does not discriminate based on sex, gender, race, economic status, or education.  This article does a great job of addressing the silent epidemic of abuse in same-sex relationships.

The Male Privilege Checklist, compiled by Barry Deutsch, is an adaptation of Peggy McIntosh’s The Invisible Knapsack written about white privilege.  Both challenge privileged groups (men and white people respectively) to not only open their eyes to the privileges they enjoy but to acknowledge them.  For example, I as a white woman can go to the store and by a flesh-colored band-aid knowing that it is my flesh color, but my driving ability may be questioned because of my gender.

An awesome post about some amazing men who are standing against misogyny and sexism.

“Being an ally isn’t a title you claim. It’s not who you are – it’s what you do…”  Another great post about male privilege in relation to feminism.

For (cringe worthy) fun 25 super inappropriate ads that somehow made is past marketing into our magazines.

“This short doc [It Gets Messy in Here] challenges gender assumptions and gender identities of all kinds by delving into the bathroom experiences of masculine identified queer women and transgendered men of color…”

via YouTube

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How to be an Ally: Part Two

As a follow-up to my previous post, “How to be an Ally” I wanted to share another great article.

It really can be hard to know what to do or say when someone comes to you with their pain.  The following article is written by another woman who has worked at a rape crisis center.  Her main point is that it is not your job to become the counselor.  You don’t have to have all the right words.  You don’t need to have any words.  Just be present with the other person and be a witness to their story.

Be a Human: Helping People Through Trauma When You Don’t Know What To Say

“At some moment, perhaps several moments, in your life, you will be in a room with someone who is disclosing to you about their trauma, rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, suicide, etc. You may freeze up or panic. “What should I do?” You may not know this person, or you may not want to know this person. You may want to leave the room and not come back. Or maybe they’re your dad, or your girlfriend. Maybe you will leave, maybe you won’t. For argument’s sake, and because I have nowhere to go with this if you don’t stay, let’s say you stay. What now…?”

Read the rest here

Tomorrow is Halloween.  Have fun and be safe!  See you in November.

Survivors Reclaim Body Parts

People in abusive relationships are taught (and shown) that their body is not their own, it does not belong to them.  It becomes another thing that their partner uses against them.  It can be vulnerability they weren’t prepared for.  The body can also carry memories of the abuse long after the relationship ends.

Attention: People With Body Parts is a body positivity movement started by Lexie Bean.  She started out collecting letters that friends and family members wrote to their body parts.  She’s about to publish an anthology* filled with letters survivors have written to their body parts.  Body parts that hold secrets, visible scars, and invisible memories.  Letters that focus on reclaiming those body parts and denouncing their partners control over their body.  I love this idea.

An abusive partner often takes control of the other persons body.  This can look like forced physical contact or sex, hitting, pushing, choking, and other forms of physical abuse.  It could be forcing a woman to become pregnant or to have an abortion.  It could be restraining their partner or blocking them from leaving.  Hiding birth control.  Telling their partner how to look or what to wear.

Boundaries are healthy.  Everybody has some sort of boundaries when they start a relationship.  They can change and evolve overtime as a couple gets to know each other and becomes more invested in the relationship.  In an abusive relationship those boundaries are often eroded over time or stripped away at the whims and desire of one person.  There isn’t conversation about how this will happen.  There isn’t consent.  It can be sudden and violating or it may happen slowly over time with manipulation and increasing pressure.

These letters recognize a part of the healing process that I don’t think is talked about enough.  They also recognize that people heal at different rates and that there are many layers to these relationships.  I thought I would give it a try for myself.  If anyone else would like to write a letter to a body part I would love to publish them.  Please use the contact page to send me an email.

Dear Hands,

You have become strong these past few years though I know their was a time when you felt neglected; often reaching out for comfort only to find empty space.  You protected me when you could and soothed injuries when you couldn’t.  You worked tirelessly to pacify his mood swings and write letters declaring love and loyalty.

I remember that day when he stopped noticing you.  He treated you like a nuisance instead of a comfort.  His hand reached to you, but only in secret while the other reached for another woman.  But you are strong now.  You work not only to protect me but to protect others.  You reach now not for him but to be an anchor for others.  Through you I know that they understand.  We are of the same breed.  We are survivors; you, me, and the others.  Through you I can give them comfort and show them they are not alone.  Through you we will change the world.

You survived.

Thank you.

Much love.

____________________________

*The anthology is called Portable Homes and is due to be published on December 10th of this year.

Read the original article where I heard about these letters here.

The Wrong Question

Why didn’t you leave?  I would have left a long time ago.  Don’t you want what’s best for you and your children?  Why did you stay?

Almost anyone who chooses to stay in an abusive relationship hears some form of these words in their lifetime.  What might not be understood by those outside of the relationship are that there are so many complicated factors that play into this.  A better way to ask the question, why do women stay in abusive relationships, might be what keeps women in abusive relationships?  The first question sounds accusatory and produces feelings of guilt and shame.  It makes women feel defensive, embarrassed, stupid, and wrong.  The last thing we want to do as someone outside the relationship is push her further into isolation.  The second question can be answered more readily by women in the relationship.  It acknowledges the fact that there are things beyond their control that play in the decision to stay.

When asked this question here are some of the responses we hear.  There is a fear of the abusive partner and his ability to retaliate.  Staying with him provides security.  He may be the only source of income for the family.  If she leaves she will have no money, nowhere to go.  So she has to ask herself is it better to stay or to be homeless?  “Better the devil you know…”  He may have threatened her, her children, or her friends and family.  The most dangerous time is when she’s leaving and she is more likely to be killed.  There may be pressure from her community, culture and/or family to stay.  Sometimes women who leave are blamed, shunned, or disowned.  She may want to keep the family together.  He may not be a bad father to the children.

No one is all bad all the time.  Many abusers are quite charming and friendly at first.  What we know about abuse is that it happens in cycles.  There is a period of “making up” where he promises to change.  And she loves him so she wants to believe him.  Most of the time she doesn’t want the relationship to end, she wants the abuse to end.

It is never just one of these reasons.  It is 2 or 3 combined, and it is more likely all of them.  There are infinite more factors that keep women in abusive relationships, because while we can see general trends in these relationships each situation is different.  Each women and each man has a different story.  The most common reasons that keep women in abusive relationships are low self-esteem/poor self-concept, economic deprivation, witnessing violence as a child, and wanting to keep the family together for the sake of the children.

So the questions why didn’t you leave, or why did you stay, are not questions that encompass the complexity of the relationship and abuse she’s experienced.  Instead we should be asking why is he abusive?  Why doesn’t he stop?

Why do men abuse women?

As an anti domestic violence movement we pushed hard for a woman’s right to leave the relationship.  What we are discovering now is that the pendulum has swung too far.  She has the right to stay in the relationship as well.  I know that sounds a little weird but this is a movement about empowering women.  It is not empowering to fail.  It is not empowering to leave before she is ready because everyone else is telling her it’s the right thing to do.  Sometimes it really is safer to stay.  She knows how to keep herself safe and was been doing so long before she reached out to anyone.  So again, the question should not be about her, but him.

What is he doing to keep her in that relationship?  Why is he abusing her?  How is the larger culture teaching him that it is okay to be violent toward women?

_________________________

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free, confidential, and safe hotline staffed 24/7.  Advocates are there not only for those in abusive relationsips but for friends, family, and allies as well.  Please call if you are looking for support or answers.

1-800-799-7233

How to be an Ally

It can be hard to know what to do or say if someone comes to you and shares their story of abuse, especially if it is not part of your trauma narrative.  And even if it is, even if you’ve experienced something similar it can be hard to hear another person’s story.  You may not have dealt with your own trauma and listening to someone else can be triggering.  It can bring out not so great feeling feelings like jealousy, fear, and even realization.  Jealousy that they were able to come forward and you still don’t feel ready.  Fear that they came to you because they know what you went through, or are going through.  The possible realization that you may be going through something similar.  Any of these feelings can also produce guilt.  Guilt that you are thinking about yourself while someone else is opening up to you.

It doesn’t matter if the abuse is currently happening or if it happened in the past, it can make you feel helpless.  You may want to fix it and bust into their life guns blazing, ready to save them.  You may want to move faster than they do.  Imagine if you are the very first person to believe their story.  On average women (and girls) have to tell 6-8 people before they are believed.  They may still be getting over the shock of your belief while you are gearing up for battle.  It’s natural to want to protect those we love.  But it is important to let the person sharing with you set the pace.  It is important to let them name what is happening or has happened.

There are several things I want to share in this post about how to be a good ally to a survivor.  The first is an article by The Healing Center.  This is a great website and a great resource to both survivors and their friends and family.  The article is called “How to be an Ally” and if offers 12 suggestions of ways to be supportive of the survivors in your life including, listen, believe, and educate yourself.  Read the full article here.  I originally saw this posted on another woman’s blog, Purposefully Scarred.  On her “About” page she shares her own story and states that the purpose of her blog is to “[raise] awareness for survivors of abuse and [help] one another find purpose in our scars.”  I encourage your to click around her site, she’s got a lot of great articles and stories.

The second thing I wanted to share is a YouTube video I found posted on One Woman, another blog written by an amazing and brave woman who has been sharing her story.  I encourage you to check out her blog as well.  The video is a young man sharing words that are important for every survivor to hear, whether it is from him or from you.

As we continue to move through October and domestic violence awareness month I encourage you to be sensitive to the people around you.  1 in 3 women worldwide will experience violence in her lifetime.  So the chances are high that  either you or several women in your life have been affected by violence.  Love each other well.

________________

Update:  Read another article and part two of “How to be an Ally” here.

There is Power in Storytelling

I facilitate a weekly support group for the women I serve who have experienced intimate partner violence.  Often times all I do is pose a question or topic and it takes off from there.  I am constantly being surprised and touched by the women in this group and what sticks with me the most is the power in their storytelling.  First of all it allows each woman to see and hear the similarities in each others stories.  They know and connect with other women who have been in violent, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.  An abusive person often keeps his or her partner isolated from their friends and family.  Sharing what they went through helps to break this isolation.  They learn that the relationship they were in was not normal or healthy.  They hear their experiences being spoken in another woman’s voice and they feel connected to something bigger than themselves.  Through sharing they help to break the silence surrounding intimate partner violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and this week is the Week Without Violence at my work.  For this we decided to participate in something called The Clothesline Project.  This is a project that was started in Massachusetts in 1990 to address violence against women.  It is a way for *women who have been or know someone who has been affected by violence to share their stories by decorating a t-shirt.  After the t-shirts are finished they are hung up on display as a testimony to these women and their stories.  Originally different colored t-shirts meant different things.  For example, a white t-shirt symbolized a woman killed by an intimate partner, blue for sexual abuse and incest, purple for women who were attacked based on their sexual orientation, etc.  But it has grown from there mostly based on availability and economics (white shirts come in larger packs…).  The project has also grown to a world-wide one.

Last week during support group I explained this project and we painted t-shirts.  The experience was an incredibly moving one.  Mostly we painted in silence; each woman lost in her own memory.  But as they began to finish they began to share about their t-shirts.  There were a lot of tears, hugs, and nods of understanding.  This project served to connect this group of women in such a powerful way, more so than the rest of the groups we had done in the weeks prior.

One woman had painted a scene with flowers under a sky that was half sun and half clouds.  She explained that the flowers were for her and each of her children, and that they were growing through what they had gone through.  The smaller flowers were for the children because they were still growing and had so much potential still.  There were both clouds and the sun because tomorrow is always another day.  They had the chance to run and start over, and they took it.  Another woman put what she called her “freedom date” on the shirt; the date she left.  Another women wrote, “I have rights.”  And still another wrote that “love shouldn’t hurt” surrounded by the initials of women she knew who had survived.  Another woman painted a heart with wings in a cage.  On the back was the same picture but with the cage door open.  Still others wrote things like, “Stop the Silence,” “Never Again,” and simply “I survived.”  Others painted a purple ribbon with the names of those they knew who had been killed.

As they explained and held up the t-shirts they shared their experiences.  They named their abusers.  It was powerful for everyone involved.  This week the t-shirts will be put on display with others.  I am excited to share these t-shirts and vicariously be a voice for the women I work with.  For me DVAM is about more than making those in the community aware about domestic violence, it’s about sharing stories and breaking the silence for those who may be in abusive relationships themselves.  It is about connecting survivors with other survivors and letting them know they are not alone.

Clothesline Project

If you ever get the chance to view a Clothesline Project in your community I would highly suggest that you do it.

____________________________________________

*Please note that the language I am using is reflected by the project itself.  Domestic violence can affect anyone and does not discriminate based on gender, sex, religion, economic status, or education level.

Bees in My Bonnet: Time to Speak Out

Bee in the Lavender

Welcome to Bees in My Bonnet.  If this is your first time reading one of these posts check out some previous ones from the archives here, here, here, and here.

1.  “…when it comes to domestic violence, the silence can be deafening.”  This is so true it hurts.  Abusers benefits not only from the silence of their victims but the silence of everyone else as well.

2.  In case you haven’t heard yet Angelina Jolie chose to reduce her chances of developing breast cancer from around 80% to less than 5% by undergoing a preventative double mastectomy.  I will have more to say about this in another post but for now please read her article, My Medical Choice.

3.  Vows of Silence Aren’t Always Holy.  Naked Pastor writes an article to go with his cartoon “Don’t Tell” explaining that sadly there is a lot of groundwork that has been laid to keep victims of abuse in the church silent.

4.  I love slam poetry.  Check out this poem called “Dear Straight People: We Have to Talk” by Denice Frohman, a world poetry slam champion.  Also “i know girls (body love)” by Mary Lambert, another amazing slam poet.  Mary Lambert’s voice is featured in the song Same Love by Macklemore.

5.  Read a wonderful fictional piece inspired by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll and his latest sermon series.

What are your thoughts on the below cartoon?

Shopping

Found at Funny Times.

 

Surrounded by Violence

SAAM RibbonApril is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  I have been working on a post for just about a month now and I have decided that I am not going to finish it.  There is too much violence in my life and I need a break.  I think that is why I haven’t posted anything for a while.  I can hardly bring myself to read the news or the posts of fellow bloggers.  It is just too much.

Working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault means that I am surrounded and immersed in the trauma of others on a daily basis.  I’ve worked hard at building boundaries between my home life and my work life but lately there’s been some leakage.  The thing about intimate partner violence, or even violence in general, is that you cannot unsee it.  You cannot unhear the stories of the people you work with.  And once you are made aware you cannot unnotice the things that go on around you.  You hear a neighbor yelling at his wife and your first thought is not wishing they would quiet down so you could sleep.  You lay in bed wondering if you should call the police.  You see a child misbehaving in the grocery store and you wonder what is going on at home; you wonder if this will be the time you call CPS on a stranger.

Once you are made aware of violence you notice it everywhere.  It doesn’t matter where you are, the store, the movies, out to eat with a friend.  I recognize violence in the movies I watch and the books I read.  I hear red flags in the stories my friends tell me and I see them in the ways they interact with their partners.  You become hypersensitive to the behavior of the people around you, and sometimes you stop believing that people are basically good.

This is why I am taking a break from writing about violence and why I am not participating in SAAM.  I cannot handle it.  I need a break.  I need to be able to stop dreaming about violence.  I will often end a meeting with a client by asking them what they are going to do to take care of themself this week.  It is time I do that with myself.  I do not want to stop writing.  This blog is part of my self-care.  So, if there’s anything you as my readers would like me to write about or a post you would like to see that is not related to sexual assault, domestic violence, or rape culture let me know.  Thanks for reading and be sure to check out some other blogs who have done excellent posts for SAAM.  You can also check out some of the posts I wrote last year here, here, herehere, here, and here.

Peace.

When Stalking Wasn’t a Crime…

The vote in the Senate for the Violence Against Women Act is expected to pass by a wide margin.  Then it will move to the House where advocates are a little more unsure of the outcome.  This is fundamentally wrong.  In the 18 years since the inception of this piece of legislation it has never not passed.  There has never been a question of its importance.

I’ve posted a couple of times on my feelings on this act and the failure to pass it.  I will continue to do so until Congress stops acting a fool and passes it.  As an advocate for women who have experienced violence this is very important to me.  I am also very disappointed in the lack of news coverage this has received in major media outlets.  25% of women experience domestic violence in their life time.  That means that more than likely you and/or several women you know have been the victim of intimate partner violence.  This is a huge part of our population.  It should be something that is important to us as a nation.  People should intimately care about the outcomes of this vote and the fate of this act.

That being said I’d like to share with you a story that was posted on Being Feminist’s Facebook Page in January.  One of their readers shared the following story and I share it with you now with their permission:

This is a letter from one of our members who chooses to remain anonymous.

*trigger warning*

I suffered terrible abuse from a boyfriend I broke up with. He seemed nice but something was always nagging at me in the back of my head and when I finally broke up with him my nightmare began.
I broke up with him as he never respected my boundaries. I was a single full time working Mother and i tried to keep my dating him separate from my home life. I was afraid to allow any man too close to my daughter. However he started showing up at my home anyway. I did not allow him in most times but he became more and more insistent. When I broke up with him he physically assaulted me. He started stalking me everywhere. He broke my window to my apartment. I had police at my house all the time to report all the threatening calls. He even threatened to abduct my daughter from her daycare. This went on for months and despite the police going to talk to him over and over it just got worse. He had a drinking problem which was another reason he was out of control. I begged the police to press charges but they never did. Finally I found out about a law under the child protection act in Toronto Ontario where I lived. They MUST act if I child is in any physical or mental danger. I went down to the police station and had to be very forceful. I told them if anything happenend to my child I would not only sue them I would contact every media outlet that would listen! Finally they pressed charges and he was in jail for 5 days. As soon as he got out it was worse than ever. I was poor I could not just MOVE. In the end after three months of terror one night I just thought maybe if I just sleep with him one more time and blame myself for being unworthy of him etc he would be satisfied and go away. So I drank a huge bottle of wine called him up went to his house and did the DEED.

Unfortuantely I ended up pregnant and had to get an abortion. All I got from the doctor was that was a stupid thing I did! I KNOW IT WAS STUPID BUT I WAS SCARED TO DEATH! He only backed off when he found out I got pregnant. I not only had to stop paying rent so I could afford to move I ended up in court for non payment or rent, had to leave the city and it messed up my job and my career in that field.

BUT I have been blamed. I was willing…maybe but maybe not. I was desperate! I felt raped. I felt I had to give him what he wanted to keep myself and my child safe! What happened to me? Date rape?

You can share this but not my name because I wonder if I am the only woman who ever went through a stalker situation and did what I did?

PS: This took place about 18 years ago so I hope they are more vigilant regarding stalking now. I still feel like “I asked for it” in some ways but after months of being terrorized I could not think straight anymore. It did not help that I am disabled. I am legally blind so trying to avoid him was impossible. I could not see well enough to see him until he was within yards of me!”

Stalking was not always considered a crime.  That seems crazy, right?  Police had to wait for the perpetrator to commit another “real” crime before he or she could be arrested.  As stalking can escalate over time the next crime may be murder.

It was not until 1990 that the first anti-stalking law was passed in California [source].  This was a reaction to the death of Rebecca Schaeffer.  It took an actress being stalked and then murdered before “we the people” decided to do anything about it and this was only in one state.  In 1994, under the Violence Against Women Act, stalking was made a federal crime.  In 1996 this was expanded to include any type of stalking, regardless of the presence of a previous relationship or not.

1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced being stalked.  Stalkers may do anything from follow a person, or send them “gifts,” to threatening to harm a pet, friend, or family member.  Stalking is a very serious crime.  For more information please check out the Stalking Resource Center.  It is important for victims to have the knowledge to understand what is happening to them and the resources to get help.  The Violence Against Women Act made this possible.  It made people take this crime seriously.  This is only one of the many reasons it must be reauthorized.

More Concise Thoughts on VAWA

**Trigger Warning – this is not a sugar-coated post**

Earlier this month I posted that the Violence Against Women Act had failed to be reauthorized.  I know that this is “old news” in the internet world but I have been taking the time to come up with more concise thoughts on the matter.  My first post was a gut reaction coming off of a grave shift.  Considering the circumstances I did a fairly good job at expressing my feelings.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first enacted in 1994.  The then Senator, now Vice President Joe Biden was one of the main players.  Since 1994 it has been reauthorized with support from both parties.  It really is a ground breaking piece of legislation that not only provides services for survivors but has tough consequences for perpetrators as well.  The combination makes this an incredibly holistic piece of legislation.  Each time it has been reauthorized new provisions and protections have been added.  Here are some things that VAWA has done:

  1. Created a federal “rape shield law” – this means that a survivors past sexual history and behaviors cannot be used against her in a rape case.  To some this may not seem necessary but considering the amount of victims blaming that goes on when a woman is raped it is absolutely necessary.  I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it.  Rape is not about sex.  It is about power.  The only person responsible for rape is the rapist.  Period.  It does not matter what the woman is wearing or what she behaves like, whether it is the day that she is raped, three weeks before, or three years ago.  It does not matter how many people she has had sex with, if she flirts at parties, or drinks alcohol.
  2. Strengthened federal penalties for repeat offenders.
  3. Survivors do not have to pay for the expense of an exam, after care, or getting a protection order.  Any survivor, no matter her income level or class, can go to the hospital and does not have to pay for a rape kit to be done.  This is so important.  Can you imagine if after a woman is raped she also has the additional financial burden of being able to take care of her body?  This includes wellness exams also.  A rape kit is looking for evidence should the case go to trial where as a wellness exam is just taking care of the woman’s body.  This often includes some sort of morning after pill.
  4. Training law enforcement and people who work within the legal system with the realities of domestic violence and sexual assault.  When the police are called to a home for domestic violence it can often times be the woman, the survivor, who is arrested.  Sometimes this is because she chose to fight back and therefore left visible marks, like scratches, on her abuser.  Bruises that she may have will not show up right away.  Another reason for this is that when the police show up often times the survivor is the distraught one and the abuser is calm.  He gains trust by calmly explaining his version of what happened; he is clear, concise, and in control.  This is why a survivor can have domestic violence charges on her record.  Trainings are specifically designed to help law enforcement identify who is the abuser and who is the survivor.
  5. Training for advocates to understand the complexities of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  6. Expanded access to services for survivors and establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline which receives over 22,000 calls per month.  For many callers it is their first time reaching out for help.
  7. Bringing together different types of groups and organizations to provide holistic support to survivors whether it is medical, legal, mental health (counseling/therapy), victim advocacy, etc.
  8. Focusing attention on underserved communities such as immigrants, and supporting tribal governments in their work to support survivors by strengthening their capacity to protect Native Americans and Alaska Native Women.
  9. Encouraging women to report abuse.  Since its enactment more women than ever have reported domestic violence and sexual assault.
  10. States are taking violence against women more seriously.  Marital rape is not a myth or seen as lesser than stranger rape.  Stalking is a crime.  States have authorized warrantless arrests were the officer determines there is probable cause.  Criminal sanctions for violation of a civic order.  Many states have started addressing violence in the workplace.  For example to protect survivors against discrimination due to the violence they experience and unemployment insurance if they have to leave their job due to it.

These are just some of the provisions and changes that have come about because of VAWA.  The newest version included protections for women in the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, and Immigrants.  This once again was going to be ground breaking.

Abuse in the LGBTQ community is just starting to be widely recognized.  This partly stems from age-old gender stereotypes.  Man equals strong, big, proud, able to take care of himself.  Woman equals weak, emotional, caring, and in need of protection.  When a man is being abused by another man it can often be a difficult thing to admit.  He not only has to fight against his own sense of pride and shame but the shaming and disbelief of others.  When a woman is being abused by another woman it is not taken seriously.  Outsiders generally assume that women are not abusive and if they are it is not physical.  Physical abuse is thought of as the worst type of abuse, especially by people who have never experienced it.  I have talked to several women who have a hard time taking their abuse seriously because their abuser did not hit them.  Instead he hurt her in ways that were less visible.  Financial, sexual, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse are very real, and in my opinion can be worse than physical.  When someone hits you, you have a provable mark on your body.  There is evidence that can be shown to another person.  Other types of abuse are not visible and therefore hard to prove.  I am not trying to say that women are not physically abusive.  Abuse, like rape, like sexual assault is about power.  It is about controlling another human being, not matter their age, gender, or sex.

Protection for immigrants is another very important piece.  Abusers will use a survivors legal status as way to prevent them from seeking services.  This added protection says that it does not matter if a person is here illegally.  Abuse is abuse.  Rape is rape.  Abusers will tell the person being abused that if they go to the police they will be arrested and/or deported.  This prevents that.  It takes away a part of the abusers power.  Can you imagine coming to this county only to be stuck in an abusive relationship or to be raped with no way to come forward, no way to seek protection or resources, and no way to seek legal recourse?

Protections for Native Americans is also important.  At this point in time if a non-native commits an act of violence, such as rape on native land he gets away with it.  The US government cannot prosecute because it was on native land and the tribal government cannot do anything as the person is not a member of the tribe.  1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their life time.  1 in 3.  Most will be raped by a non-native person.  The most recent version of VAWA would have given tribal governments the ability to prosecute these men.  As it stand there is nothing, nothing that can be done.  Pardon me for being crass but a non-native man could walk onto tribal land and repeatedly rape every woman there and walk away scott free.  How is this okay?  How is this something that we are okay with?

These last three points are the ones that House Republicans have a problem with.  They decided that illegal immigrants, lesbians, and Native Americans (that’s the kicker) are not people.  At least not people deserving of  the rights and protections provided other women in this county.  I firmly believe that it is our job as people of this country to protect each other, and especially to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.  I do not care who you sleep with, or where you are from, violence against women is wrong.  It is unacceptable that this was not reauthorized.  Not only did they not want to authorize it with the additional protections they wanted to take away provisions already in place.  I cannot even fully express to you how angry this makes me.  Seriously Congress get your act together.