White House Obama Event to end Domestic Violence

This past October 27th the unimaginable happened! For the first time ever, a United States president spoke up about Domestic Violence! Where? How? you might be asking yourself. Through an event held at the white house in which leaders across the nation where gathered to hear our national leader speak out about this prevalent societal problem.

Some of the initiatives highlighted during the event demonstrate a broad, comprehensive response to reducing violence against women. Specifically, these concrete actions include steps to:

  • Protect Children and Break the Cycle of Violence
  • Improve Legal Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence
  • Increase Sexual Assault Arrests and Successful Prosecutions
  • Help Victims Regain Housing and Financial Independence

Obama stated in this event:
Those are just a few of the steps we’re taking. But the bottom line is this: No one in America should live in fear because they are unsafe in their own home – no adult, no child. And no one who is the victim of abuse should ever feel as though they have no way to get out. We need to make sure that every victim of domestic violence knows that they are not alone; that there are resources available to them in their moment of greatest need. As a society, we need to ensure that if a victim of abuse reaches out for help, we are there to lend a hand.

Sojourn Agrees with and applauds the Obama administration for fighting for the protection, safety and rights of battered women and children.


Guess Shirt made for Sojourn in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October its the month when if you are lucky, you can spot someone wearing a little purple ribbon pinned to their shirts as a reminder of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Well this October Ella Marciano, daughter of Guess CEO Paul Marciano went a step further by creating a stylish Guess shirt called the "Love Tank" as a way to stand against domestic violence.

Ella became aware of Sojourn services through a dear family friend Vanessa Marcil, and after learning more about Domestic Violence, Ella was convinced she wanted to make a difference!
As they decided to join forces, Marcil shared "I have been involved with Sojourn for years, so it is a very special project for us," Soaps In Depth.

Ella chose the words "hope," "love," "courage," "strength," "community" and "empower" that create a heart shape on the front of the shirt in purple, which is the official color of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"I thought a heart would be perfect because it symbolizes love, which is such a powerful word," Ella said.

The Sojourn Guess Tank is $24 and will debut Oct. 14th at a launch party at GUESS' Hollywood. With 100% of the proceeds going to Sojourn Services For Battered Women And Their Children we want to encourage everyone to check it out



Obama Takes A Stand

A truly great win for our community and the larger world.

This week the story of a Mexican woman with a history of domestic violence at the hands of her common law husband and her plight to overcome her terrifying but not uncommon situation demanded the attention of the Executive Office.

The Obama administration recognized her situation and granted her asylum within the United States.

At Sojourn, we could not be more thrilled. This case is groundbreaking and may open doors to those seeking asylum because of domestic violence in the future.

As quoted by The New York Times, Simona Agnolucci who represented the defendant, “The Department of Homeland Security has recognized that asylum should be available to women who have suffered domestic violence and whose governments won’t protect them. Now the day finally came when the department said these are the criteria required to show a case for asylum.”

photo thanks, Ms. Magazine


Katz: Gibson is a teachable moment

I am on the road and the lovely Pat Butler alerted me to this posting on HuffPo by Jackson Katz. Katz studies male violence against women and the cultural circumstances that allow and even encourage this type of behavior. His work deeply aligns with and supports the mission of Sojourn and this article speaks to his intelligence and ability to analyze violence against women.

Thank you Jackson.

The Huffington Post

By Jackson Katz, Ph.D.

Anti-rape educators around the world have Mel Gibson to thank for providing them with a truly global teachable moment in the wake of his violent, misogynist, racist tirade against his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. In the audiotape of the angry rant that has been replayed endlessly on cable TV and the Internet, Gibson is heard threatening Grigorieva (she needs a "bat to the side of the head") and calling her the c-word, not to mention telling her that because of the way she was dressed, if she is "raped by a pack of n***ers," "it will be (your) fault."

Grigorieva clandestinely taped Gibson, she said, out of fear for her own safety. She wanted prosecutors and the public to see what she had seen -- in private. The result is not only a boon to celebrity gossip shows, web sites and tabloid magazines. The star of Braveheart, Lethal Weaponand The Patriot has now inadvertently starred in an educational program of sorts that -- like some of his movies -- will be played and discussed for years to come.

In a (presumably) drunken tirade, the cinematic superstar did a great service to the anti-rape and anti-domestic violence movements by reminding everyone of the urgent need to expand gender violence prevention education, precisely to counteract the kind of ignorant and hateful attitudes and beliefs that -- as Gibson's comments suggested -- continue to fester in the psyches of too many men in our society.

In their own twisted way, Gibson's words are valuable precisely because they embody a range of male supremacist and racist beliefs that first need to be exposed if they are ever to be overcome. In fact, in just one sentence (of the longer taped conversation) Gibson not only provided concrete evidence that two long-discredited and damaging rape myths still persist; but he also managed to demonstrate the misogynous anger that lies close to the ideological core of a rapist mentality, and to provide one example of the many intersections of sexism and racism.

(Because of what you wear) if you are raped by a pack of n***ers, it will be (your) fault.
Anti-rape educators have encountered this type of victim-blaming for decades (e.g. her sexy clothes suggest she is asking for it; "it will be her fault" if she is raped). The Gibson tapes merely add the latest celebrity case study to a bulging file of victim-blaming statements made to and about women by misogynistic and aggressive men.

Far more interesting from a pedagogical standpoint is the way Gibson sexualized his anger toward his ex-girlfriend. People often say hurtful things when they are enraged. But when searching for a way to say something hurtful, Gibson quickly invoked the threat of sexual violence ("If you are raped..."). For anti-rape educators, this is the heart of the teachable moment. Gibson's performance offers intimate evidence of the fact that rape often is -- as feminists have long maintained -- an act whereby men seek to assert power and control over, and sometimes inflict cruelty and brutality on women (and other men), not out of frustrated sexual desire, but out of a range of emotional and psychological needs and identity issues.

In addition, because this was Mel Gibson, the aggressive misogyny came wrapped in racist language and caricature. But tempting as it may be for some to attribute Gibson's periodic outbursts to his serious psychological and substance-abuse problems, his sexism/racism, like his rape-myth acceptance and promotion, reflects beliefs that are, sadly, still held by a substantial number of white men.

In that sense, while it is easy and comforting to dismiss him as a disturbed and addicted man whose pathologies become public spectacles because of his celebrity, Mel Gibson's periodic rants provide a valuable -- if unsettling -- glimpse into certain aspects of the collective id of middle-aged (and younger) white American males. His role as an iconic movie star who over the years has touched a nerve with audiences in his depictions of heroic men driven to righteous violence by threats to them, their family or the larger community imbue his real-world transgressions with even greater significance, because he wouldn't have become so popular if his on-screen persona hadn't resonated with millions of men (and women, perhaps for different reasons).

In the wake of his recent self-imposed troubles, it might be comforting for many of his fans to take refuge in the idea that they respect the actor's work but cannot identify with the small man behind the curtain. This might be true for some. But Mel Gibson's misogynous racism is hardly aberrational.

Take Gibson's racist use of the n-word in the context of an angry diatribe against his ex-girlfriend, whom he has (allegedly) physically abused. Gibson's words drew their power from an old and powerful cultural stereotype of African American men as animalistic ("pack") rapists of white women. This racist trope persists well beyond the confines of Mel Gibson's deranged psyche.

Consider the current popularity among white men of interracial gonzo pornography, which features caricatured and racist depictions of big, strong African American men roughly penetrating petite white women and treating them (in typical gonzo fashion) like sub-human sperm receptacles. The sociologist Gail Dines, author of the newly-released Pornland: How the Porn Industry is Hijacking our Sexuality, suggests that this type of porn is popular because, like much of contemporary porn, it sexualizes men's hostility and anger toward women. In the eyes of (some) white men, Dines says, "what better way to debase a white woman than to deploy the racist cultural codes of black men as sexually predatory, savage and debauched?"

In other words, Mel Gibson's racist fantasies deployed against his ex seem to share much in common with those of a lot of white men -- the major difference being that he used racist language in a verbal assault against an actual woman in an unscripted encounter, not under the guise of entertainment in the privacy of his own auto-erotic pleasures. And of course, he got caught.

This latest Gibson debacle also reminds us of how far we have to go to shift social norms around the acceptance of men's mistreatment of women. Gibson has been roundly -- and rightly -- criticized by commentators for his racist comments. But in mainstream media coverage, reaction to his virulent sexism has been notably muted. In the infamous rant, Gibson alluded to a January 2010 incident where he allegedly punched Grigorieva in the face. She says he was violent with her on several occasions; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department is investigating. And yet in much of the media commentary about the potential repercussions of the leaked tape incident for Gibson's career, his alleged domestic violence is underplayed or absent altogether.

For example, in a July 13 Los Angeles Times piece by movie industry columnist Patrick Goldstein about Gibson's professional future, Goldstein wrote that many (white) talent agency chiefs and studio bosses want nothing to do with Gibson right now because they don't want to risk outraging their important African American clients. This suggests an encouraging trend in Hollywood (and beyond), where, presumably, professional consequences for racist behavior by whites seem to be increasing.

Left out of this account and many others was any similar discussion about repercussions for sexism, such as women clients being upset that their agency might consider working with a raging sexist and alleged woman abuser. And where are the comments from men -- inside or outside Hollywood -- that express strong disapproval of Gibson's sexist violence?

I must confess that even before this latest incident, I was annoyed that Mel Gibson -- a man with very conservative gender politics in the real world -- was given the opportunity to satirize sexism in the 2000 romantic comedy, What Women Want. It felt wrong that a sexist man got to make fun of sexism and get props for it. Now I can see that there is retroactive value in that casting decision. If Gibson ever puts the pieces of his broken life and reputation back together, perhaps the talented director can make an autobiographical documentary feature about his own abusive behavior. The title has already written itself: What Women Don't Want.

To see the original post and comments on The Huffington Post, go to:


Victim Blaming: The Today Show is Ridiculous

While the Mel Gibson story is still fresh, many news outlets are discussing the fight caught on tape by radaronline.com.

Most analysis is limited but one I found was so horrific I had to post about it.

The wonderful Men's Anti Violence Council has an extended analysis of the Today Show's attempt at addressing the abuse endured by Mel Gibson's partner. The Today Show's Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, made this statement about the taped conversation:

This is not to excuse any of the behavior on either side, but she was very passive aggressive. She was baiting him and really knew which buttons to push. She kept pushing, pushing him. When questioned by Meredith, Dr. Nancy clarified by saying She knew how to engage the rage. She was very quiet, used a soft voice. She pushed him, pushed him, pushed him in a very passive aggressive way.

First, this statement implies Oksana (or any victim of Domestic Violence) was partial at fault for the assault she endured. No one can EVER do ANYTHING to deserve (Dr. Snyderman says "bait" which reads deserved) emotional or physical assault from a partner. If a partner is a batterer, it is a learned behavior that can emerge with any partner -- it has nothing to do with the victim.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman is also an example of someone with absolutely no experience or expertise in domestic violence that feels she can pass judgement on a situation she does not understand. Dr. Snyderman is a ear, nose, and throat doctor (a degree that teaches nothing of the psychological and social causes of DV) and has a platform to discuss a very serious and violent epidemic.

It is this type of media coverage that encouraged us, at Sojourn, to start this blog and I am glad I can write about this infuriating discussion of DV. Hopefully I have dispelled some misconceptions about DV that were reinforced by the Today Show interview.


Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson admitted to domestic violence -- both emotional and physical -- against his partner and mother of his daughter, Oksana Grigorieva.

Radaronline.com released audio tapes that confirm Mel's emotional abuse of Oksana and his violence against her. In the transcripts Mel embodies many battering characteristics that we see at Sojourn, daily.

One portion of the tape highlighted a part of DV that is rarely talked about in news stroies regarding domestic violence.
The tape depicts Mel blaming Oksana for his violent behavior. As reported by Radaronline, Mel says:

You don't have any f*cking friends except me, and you treat me like shi*! So
that's why I'm so fucking angry...

Mel turns the tables on Oksana and blames her for his aggressive and violent behavior. This is a typical tactic of batterers. However, battering is never the fault of the victim. This tactic allows batterers to maintain control of a situation in which they are obviously in the wrong. Batterers are able to make themselves feel justified in their violence and emotional manipulation.

Moreover, this tactic can convince the traumatized partner that she can fix the problem that initiated the violence.

Batterers can not be "changed" by the partners they batter. The myth that women incite violence against them by any particular act is entirely unfounded and simply serves as a tool to continue abusive partnerships.

The cycle of DV is incredibly evident in this case and we, at Sojourn, hope Oksana stays safe and Mel Gibson's case is taken seriously and justice is served.

image via radaronline.com


The Plight of Padma Patil

The brother and father of Afshan Azad, who plays Padma Patil in the Harry Potter films, have been charged with threatening to kill her. According to the BBC, Azad's family are conservative Muslims and did not approve of her Hindu boyfriend. This disapproval led to threats and a physical assault by Afshan's brother and father in the last week.

This is an obvious case of violence against women and domestic violence. At Sojourn, we often stress the occurrence of intimate partner violence between a woman and her current or former romantic partner. However, Azad's assault highlights domestic violence in familial contexts by male family members. It is important to remember that the desire to control another person can and does emerge in familial contexts and that these situations can become violent.

Moreover, some news outlets have pointed to the similarities to Azad's situation and the growing number of Honor Killings in the UK. Honor killings are described by the UN as the murder of a family member (mostly female) by a fellow family member (usually male) to save the "honor" of the family. Wearing inappropriate clothes or engaging in sexual acts are some of the ways a female victim can bring dishonor upon a family. While Azad has not confirmed the details of her attack, her situation offers a platform for discussing the on going domestic violence (honor killings) against women by male family members today.

We, at Sojourn, hope that Afshan remains safe and feels the British law offers her sufficient legal responses to her emotional and physical assault. We also hope her horrific situation can raise awareness about family violence against women as well as the rise of honor killings in western countries.

Updates on this situation as it develops.

(Photo Via www.msmagazine.com/blog/)


Texting and Dating Violence

The blogosphere erupted this week regarding a recent article from the Washington Post about the connection between texting and Domestic Violence. At Sojourn, we are extremely interested in new forms dating and domestic violence takes, so naturally this conversation caught our eye.

The Post article is couched in the widely reported and horrific -- but not uncommon -- story of Yeardley Love and her abusive boyfriend George Huguely who murdered her on May 3rd of this year. As it turns out, Huguely exhibited extensive abusive behavior that went unreported. This abusive behavior included threatening and relentless calls, texts, and emails -- just now being uncovered by the police . Huguely's extensive methods of abuse are now becoming a useful method in evaluating the severity of his malicious behavior.

This crime serves as a case study for both the extensive abuse achievable through technology as well as how technology can assist in proving abusive behavior by saving threats in emails and text messages.

Obviously in Love's case, the potential positives of recording abuse are entirely outweighed by the horrific dating violence she endured and ultimately her death. Perhaps, however, the ability to record abuse might make it easier for survivors of DV to prosecute the people who abuse them.

This issue highlights the fact that when combating DV it is important to constantly rethink and reevaluate the context in which DV is perpetrated. At Sojourn we intend on staying on top of all tactics abusers utilize.

Also, we are always relieved when dating violence and domestic violence are addressed in larger public forums. This is the issue of our time and gets far too little public attention considering the millions of lives impacted by relentless abuse.

(Image via Google Images)


The World Cup and Domestic Violence

As the World Cup begins the lovely staff of Sojourn thought a re-post from the feminist blog, The Curvature, could kick off a discussion of the relationship or non-relationship between domestic violence and sporting events.

Many media outlets and popular assumptions state that drunken and upset men (perhaps returning from a lost soccer match) are more likely to batter their spouses and partners.

For this reason, the England police department crafted new PSA's, warning telling men and women about the consequences of domestic violence with a World Cup theme.

While I applaud the English police department for attempting to curb the rates of domestic violence during this time, I find it aggravating that domestic violence is understood in such basic terms in these adds. According to the English police, domestic violence is just that -- physical violence -- against women. Of course physical violence is a terrible outcome of an abusive relationship, and the most visible, but domestic violence is also defined by many other behaviors: emotional manipulation, use children, money, pets, and denigration to control their female partners -- this is abuse, not just one crazy night of drunkenness.

Batterers have learned abuse. Simply warning them that if they beat their partners after watching the World Cup they may go to jail does not undo the dangerous and abusive tendencies of the batterer.

The Curvature explores more in depth,

We Love To Blog!

At Sojourn, there is a ton ton ton of work to do, all-day-every-day-maybe-even-nights.

Our staff works tirelessly (go them! we love them!) and rarely get a chance to really get to the BLOGGING. Blogging is so fun and I am sad that my fellow Sojourn friends cannot blog with me all the time but for now it will be me! Posting! As much as my little volunteer heart can muster!

I just wanted to introduce myself before the stream of blogging begins. I am the SOJOURN BLOGGER -- Sierra -- and I will be relaying priceless insights from the staff at Sojourn to you (the amazing reader) regarding any and all current events.

We all hope you will check out our blog ALL THE TIME and if you have any amazing suggestions on what we should talk about, please post them in the comments section!

Thank you and now, without further ado, SOJOURN TAKES A STAND.


Should parental love be used as a tool for controlling children?: NO

At Sojourn, we advocate for comprehensive and compassionate parenting, and denounce conditional or aggressive parenting. With this in mind, we were obviously thrilled to see a Alfie Kohn's article on unconditional parental love in the New York Times.

As analyzed by Alfie Kohn in his article, "When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ ", two recent parenting books by Phil McGraw of the talk show "Dr. Phil" and Jo Frost of "Suppernanny" tell readers that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And, as stated by Dr. Phil, “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.

Kohn asks, Should parental love be used as a tool for controlling children? At Sojourn we respond with a resounding NO.

Kohn agrees. Instead of conditional parenting, Kohn suggests that unconditional parenting is far superior, "In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view."

At Sojourn, we are always pleased to hear further proof that nonviolent, compassionate, and unconditional parenting continues to be widely supported and we hope that misled writers (we are looking at you Dr. Phil and Suppernanny!) will take the time to read the studies cited by Kohn.

Read the full text: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/health/15mind.html?_r=3&src=twt&twt=nytime