Posts Tagged ‘Violence Against Women Act’

On a morning when most of the news involves the ecstasy of Russian Olympics and the agony of its bordering state, Ukraine (where the city of Kiev is about to implode), the ratio of 1:5 is what sticks in my craw. According to the White House, one in five women in college will be raped. I don’t know about you, but I found this to be rather alarming.

Equally infuriating is that one in three teenage relationships has experienced dating violence. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26263171

Our little town has been singled out recently for two contradictory things: 1) Charlottesville has been voted the second most “Friendliest” small city in America http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/friendliest-small-cities/; and 2) the One Love Foundation has developed a new App to help students and their friends assess their level of dating danger http://www.joinonelove.org.

Just weeks before her graduation from UVA in 2010, lacrosse player Yeardley Love was killed by her ex-boyfriend. Her mother and sister have started the One Love Foundation in order to address dating violence and educate students about the signs and symptoms of a relationship on the brink of chaos.

The “One” represents the number Yeardley wore on her jersey during her high school and college lacrosse career. The number has since been retired by the University of Virginia in her memory.

The Bride volunteered at a rape crisis center on her Duke campus. And I’ve just found out that my cousin Anita, in Richmond is being trained as a volunteer advocate for rape and abuse cases in her local hospital’s Emergency Department. I was surprised at my immediate reaction to this news; I was proud of her at once, while knowing deep down I could never do it.

It pains me to admit it, but I know I would want the women to immediately leave their abuser, to get a restraining order, to go into the witness protection program if need be and move to Arizona. I’d buy the plane ticket! This is most likely the same reason I could never see myself becoming a psychologist, like my MIL Ada or my brother Dr Jim, it’s just not in my DNA to suffer for days and weeks and years on end vicariously with patients.

It’s not that I don’t feel compassion for the abused, but I would have trouble feeling empathy. I cringed when I wrote this, so I had to look up the word – empathy “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” And I guess it’s true, because I myself would be the first one out the door if a man ever tried to hit or rape me, I can’t really identify with women who stay. I learned to love from my foster father Jim Mahon, and it never included a raised hand or a harsh word.

And I get that the abuse comes on slowly, that the abuser is so remorseful and kind after the incident and soothes his victim into thinking it will never happen again; he just has to stop drinking so much or she just has to make his eggs a certain way. I know it’s a slow insidious dance of death – if not physical, an emotional disconnect from her family and friends that strangles any hope of salvation.

I wonder if an App can help a victim understand she is in danger, or can it help one of her friends in our friendly city to alert her parents or a counselor? If it can, then I applaud One Love, which means more than just a number on a jersey. If we never learn to cherish and love ourselves, we can never expect others to do the same.


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My news sabbatical is over. While nursing this cold I’ve taken to watching CNN in the morning with my oatmeal, tylenol and Vicks scented tissues. And somehow I thought that maybe everything on a Facebook news feed wasn’t necessarily true. Yet there it was, a story I’d merely glanced at online because it made my stomache churn, was now being reported as fact on morning TV: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/04/justice/ohio-rape-online-video/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

This story hits all the wrong notes – the high school football team of Steubenville, Ohio is somehow implicated in a gang rape of an unconscious 16 year old girl. Two 16 year old football players are identified and charged with rape, but the real question is was the town and its police force trying to cover this up since it happened in August? And what sets this rape apart from any other is the evidence; it’s not just he said, she said. A hacking activist group called Anonymous has posted video of a drunken boy boasting about the crime, along with pictures of the girl…which is why I saw it online before national media picked it up.

Now juxtapose these two images: CNN reporters interviewing Steubenville shopkeepers about how we mustn’t judge the whole town by the actions of a few, with the protests from India. A 23 year old medical student died after being brutally gang raped on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th. There have been daily protests in the streets since that day calling for justice and the men to be hanged. Five, possibly six men have been charged with “… murder, kidnapping and rape… voluntarily causing harm during a robbery, armed robbery with murder, and destruction of evidence.” http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/03/world/asia/india-rape-case/index.html?hpt=wo_c2

I know our legislators have much to do after their first day back on the Hill. They must keep kicking the can down the road of fiscal temerity; they must agree with some form of realistic gun control; they have to pass a budget, and oh BTW, thanks for that last minute Super Storm Sandy pass…on the heels of your humiliating first vote. And it saddens me that Congress could not reauthorize the 2012 version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It seems the GOP balked when language was added to include “…expanded provisions to protect victims even if they’re gay, illegal immigrants or Native Americans living in tribal jurisdictions.” Rumor has it that R-VA Eric Cantor balked at the LGBT provisions, but a rape is a rape is a rape, no matter who you are or where you live. I am hopeful that the increasing number of women in the new 113th Congress can make this happen.


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