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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Positive Community Responses: Giving Options Rather Than Limitations

Often, survivors of sexual violence and specific groups of people, such as women or LGBQT* folks, are told to limit their movement and interactions with the world and society in order to be safe.  For instance, they may be told to avoid certain neighborhoods or walking alone at night, lest they be targeted for violence.  Women are told to how to comport themselves at parties and bars,  and not to consume too much alcohol in order to avoid being drugged and/or assaulted.  Survivors, specifically, are encouraged to avoid spaces and places where their perpetrator may be and to avoid mutual friends.  These precautions are necessary, so the logic goes, because sexual violence is inevitable, and these reduce chances of future assaults, triggers, and other negative impacts. 

When people make these arguments, they say that these messages are well-intentioned and meant to protect.  But what are these messages really telling individuals? They tell us that movement and agency within society, communities, and neighborhoods is restricted.  Safety is not guaranteed for everyone in the community,  but rather is dependent on the number of safety measures that each person takes on their own. 

One of the messages that we, as anti-violence advocates, try to stress is that communities and community leaders should be continually working to make their spaces safer for members rather than recommending people limit their participation or movement through a community.  If the community takes the perspective that everyone deserves to have the same ownership and access to the community, and works to promote that message then it can be a more welcoming, friendly, and productive space.  It would also create the impression and standard that community members can and should be promoting safety, respect, and freedom within themselves. 

The past few weeks have been really encouraging as we have seen many different examples of communities trying to come together and provide support, encouragement, and safety. 

Justice 4 Families created the concept of a Night Out for Safety, Democracy, and Human Rights as an alternative to the annual National Night Out event.  The NNO is created and led by law enforcement agencies across the country and brings them together with community members and local resources/organizations.  The message behind that event is that if people are vigilant and watchful and report suspicious activity to the police then they can make their neighborhoods safer.   

Justice 4 Families Night Out for Safety, Democracy, and Human Rights has a very different framework.  They recognize that community members have more than eyes and ears that can be used to watch their neighbors.  They have hands, hearts, and minds.  The organization seeks to remind and encourage people that community violence prevention efforts have worked in the past and across many communities and that those individuals deserve to be recognized.  Violence prevention comes from building community, relationships, and trust and that by working together people can “build a sustained movement to move resources away from locking people up and toward lifting them up”.

A recent tragedy in South Boston justifiably caused a lot of unrest, fear, and anxiety among residents.  A typical response in situations like this is to warn women not to move throughout the community by themselves or at certain hours.  However, women (and all residents) have the right to go to work, meet friends, go to they gym, walk to the store, etc.  One company took a very different approach to the apprehension: they created Southie Shuttle.  The Shuttle brings people from their residences to and from train stations, restaurants, shopping centers, and a variety of Southie businesses.  The message being that people have the right to move around and live their lives and deserve to do that safely. 

The last thing I ran across in the past could weeks is the new Privacy and Safety on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse.  The National Network to End Domestic Violence partnered with Facebook to address the concerns that many survivors have about online privacy and security.  Many times perpetrators will stalk people on Facebook either before or after an assault.  Oftentimes, a survivor knows who assaulted them and therefore they could be friends on Facebook already or have mutual friends.  NNEDV and FB created a guide that addressed the complications of online safety and the many instances where survivors cannot just ‘unfriend’ the person who assaulted them. 

The guide is separated into three ‘lines of defense’: managing friends, security settings and notifications, and being safe.  Facebook did not create anything new for survivors but rather did a great job of fleshing out the options that already exist, how to utilize them, and in what situations they would be useful.  For instance, they outlined what types of material can be kept private versus the type of material that an individual has no control over.  Since it isn’t always possible to ‘unfriend’ someone or if you are concerned about mutual friends, Facebook outlines how to put some individuals on a list that doesn’t get to see all or any of one’s posts or pictures.  It talks about the different settings that exist within the security and privacy functions and what their purpose is and how to make one’s account more secure.  The short guide ends with a description of legal services outside of Facebook and lets people know that while some material may not violate any Terms of Service of Facebook that a string of posts may constitute a case of online harassment and there could be some legal options.

I see these examples, and others like them, as proof that we are moving forward to be more inclusive and promote safety within our society and communities.  Every person can work to encourage respect, safety, and recognizing the rights of individuals both within and outside of their communities.

 

WRITTEN BY: Stacey

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Posted by stacey on 08/01 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Those Boundaries - Our own cover of the Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines”

There's been a lot of pushback about the Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines" song because of how the lyrics are permissive of sexual violence, degrading, and disrespectful.  We at BARCC absolutely agree.  It once again it put men in a power and control role and women in an objectification role.  While there has been some remakes of the videos to switch the genders involved, there hasn't been anything to redo the problematic lyrics.  What I did was rewrite the song to have the message be about a mutually respectful relationship that recognizes the importance of boundaries, communication, and independence.  

Disclaimer: I haven't won any Grammys so just keep that in mind when reading and listening to my remake.

And lyrics wouldn't be complete without an audio so you can even hear the new song: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htid6FmlUy4

 

Respected Lines

Rewritten by: Stacey Lantz

[Intro: Singer A]
Everybody, respect
Everybody, respect
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

[Verse 1: Singer B]
If you can't hear what I'm trying to say
If you can't read from the same page
Then I will repeat
Then I will ask again
Then let you decide
[Singer A]Everybody, respect

[Pre-chorus: Singer B]
OK now he was close, but he did not respect you
You’re just so confident, baby, it’s in your nature
He was a fool to try that
Hey, hey, hey
And you deserve better
Hey, hey, hey
Nobody can define you

[Chorus: Singer B]
And that’s why I’m attracted to you
I’ll ask what you want
And hear your answer
And hear your answer
Your confidence
Makes you so attractive
You know what you want
And I gotta respect it
Those boundaries
I’ll ask what you want
And hear your answer
And hear your answer
And your confidence
And your independence
Makes me wanna ask you
Can I get your number
[Singer A] Everybody, respect

[Verse 2: Singer B]
I know there are dreams for
Changes in society
Get rid of oppression
You’re more than a physical thing
I feel so lucky
Hey, hey, hey
You wanna hug me
Hey, hey, hey
I wanna hug you
Hey, hey, hey

[Pre-chorus: Singer B]
OK now he was close, but he did not respect you
You’re just so confident, baby, it’s in your nature
He was a fool to try that
Hey, hey, hey
And you deserve better
Hey, hey, hey
Nobody can define you

[Chorus: Singer B]
And that’s why I’m attracted to you
I’ll ask what you want
And hear your answer
And hear your answer
Your confidence
Makes you so attractive
You know what you want
And I gotta respect it
[Singer A]: Everybody, respect
We all have boundaries
I’ll ask what you want
(Respect boundaries)
And hear your answer
(Respect boundaries)
And hear your answer
And your confidence
And your independence
Makes me wanna ask you
Can I get your number

[Verse 3: Singer C]
One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you tell your dreams to
Dream from Malibu, to Paris, boo
Yeah, I will follow you, but I got dreams too
So tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine
We gotta take the time to have it work for me and you
I mean boundaries change all the time
Who we’re with or where we’re at
Factors that can switch up how we’ll act
Baby how you’re feeling or how my day was
This can impact whether we are in the mood
So that is why I always check and make sure
That you’re into it
Not just the first time, but each time after
It’s a turn on, making sure we know those boundaries

[Bridge: Singer B]
Shake the vibe, get down, get up
Do it how we like, how we like
What you wanna try next?

[Pre-chorus: Singer B]
Baby can you share? I got to know your feelings
It always works for me, but I can change it for you
Don’t like pretending
Hey, hey, hey
Cause now we dating
Hey, hey, hey
Here’s our beginning

[Chorus: Singer B]
I always loved your confidence
(Singer A: Everybody, respect)
I’ll ask what you want
And hear your answer
And hear your answer
Your confidence
Makes you so attractive
You know what you want
And I gotta respect it
(Singer A: Everybody, respect)
Those boundaries
I’ll ask what you want
And hear your answer
And hear your answer
And your confidence
And your independence
Makes me wanna ask you
Can I get your number

[Outro: Singer A]
Everybody, respect
Everybody, respect
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

 

WRITTEN (and sung) BY: Stacey

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Posted by stacey on 07/25 • (2) CommentsPermalink

Friday, July 19, 2013

RACISM & MALE PRIVILEGE: Breaking the Silence after George Zimmerman’s Acquittal

Like many, I’ve been experiencing a host of feelings and reactions to Saturday’s verdict. Sadness. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Rage. Hopelessness. Exhaustion. In the wake of the Voting Rights Act, Abortion Rights, Affirmative Action, Indian Child Welfare Act, and Immigration Reform, I was not surprised when I heard the toll of that “not-guilty” verdict. But something broke for me when I saw those words on the screen. Somehow, I had been holding on to some desperate kind of hope that if Zimmerman was convicted, I could still have faith that these broken systems can change. Like many, I found grief and solace with my communities. Sleepless on Sunday night, I pondered Langston Hughes’s poem “Kids Who Die” and despaired.


Like Hughes, I do believe that we carry Trayvon Martin and the countless others who die unjustly as a monument in our hearts. We feel them in the marching feet, hoarse throats, and typing fingers of the masses. Many brave people across the States have come together to respond to the unjust verdict in this case through rallies, marches, and riots. The blogosphere is teeming with posts on racism, privilege, and injustice in America.  I would like to highlight some of those voices and the themes they covered for you this week.


Racism still exists.


This seems only to be news to select white peoples and the people in that Florida courtroom. Trayvon Martin’s death was a product of racial profiling and the deeply-rooted American belief that being black and male is to be a threat to society. George Zimmerman’s acquittal on Saturday is a product of that belief as well.


•  Actress Laverne Cox discusses her experiences of gendered oppression as a black trans* woman: “When I was perceived as a black man I became a threat to public safety. When I was dressed as myself, it was my safety that was threatened.”  
• The Roots’ Questlove shares the emotional tolls of being black and male in America—including a moving story on the impact of always being seen as a potential sexual predator.
Alice Walker discusses the grief and ache of losing so many black men. 
Black Girl Dangerous founder Mia McKenzie invokes Emmett Till and poignantly asks us: when will we be mad enough to take America to task on racial in/justice?
• A researcher demonstrated that “killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified”.  When the same researcher looked at homicide cases in states with Stand Your Ground laws, he found that the percentage of justified killings of black people by whites was significantly higher.


White people have racial privilege.


Many people, myself included, would not have been seen as “suspicious” in a hoodie, armed only with an iced tea and skittles. Since the start of this case, many people have been discussing privilege, especially white privilege. In response to the universalizing approach of the “I Am Trayvon Martin” campaign, the “We Are Not Trayvon Martin” tumblr is one of the forums in which people from many kinds of backgrounds share their stories of privilege.


While we have seen the power of people coming together and recognizing their unearned privilege, not all of the conversations around privilege have been revolutionary.  People have pushed back about the impact of racism and declared that the only reason this case received such big media coverage was because of the fact that Trayvon was black.  They questioned where the media was when white male youth were killed.  They claimed that since Zimmerman was also a man of color that racism could not be a factor, despite the evidence that racism is also prevalent within communities of color. Despite all these ill-informed reactions, at least we won’t be seeing a book deal  by Juror B37!


Male privilege is also a thing.


Racism was not the only issue ignored during the Zimmerman trial. George Zimmerman’s documented history of violence against women (including domestic violence and child sexual abuse) was allowed in court.  This evidence demonstrated Zimmerman’s history of violent behavior and lack of personal accountability. However, it was deemed irrelevant by media and society and the defense attorneys worked to discredit the witnesses that came forward with these stories. This sends the message that sexual violence and violence against women is not as important as other types of violence. The same legal and social systems that allowed Zimmerman to walk away after battering his fiancé and abusing a child also allowed Zimmerman to get away with killing Trayvon Martin.


In contrast, in 2010 Marissa Alexander, a 31-year old black woman, was sentenced to 20 years for firing two warning shots into the air to defend herself against an abusive husband.  During the previous year, she had multiple documented cases of physical abuse and an active restraining order. Acting in self defense, Alexander also attempted to use the Florida’s “stand your ground” law. She was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after a 12 minute deliberation by the jury.  Where is the justice in this case?


I know reading about Zimmerman’s acquittal is hard. It pushes us to realize that too many wrongs are going on in this country. Yet reading the works of these amazing people has been healing for me. I hope it is for you too. If you need a refresher on self-care, I suggest revisiting our awesome blog post about self-care here.


Please add some of the amazing articles you have come across in the comments below.

 

WRITTEN BY:

Lee Doyle, Coordinator of Community Mobilization

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Posted by stacey on 07/19 • (1) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

News Roundup for Independence Day

Good afternoon BARCC blog readers! I came to work this morning, convinced that I would not be able to write a blog piece today.  However BARCC is closed on Thursday and Friday so I knew the pressure was on to actually write one this afternoon.  While I am looking forward to having time off and seeing my family, I am not terribly excited to celebrate Independence Day this year.  The past week and half has overflowed with stories of rights being taken away, complete disregard for the multiple forms of discrimination that still exists throughout our society, and attempts at trying to blind people as to the intersectionality of these issues.

Last week, I wrote an amazing blog post (although I admit I am a bit biased) about the intersections of the Voting Rights Act, Texas SB5, and DOMA. I feel that I could write the EXACT same blog this week taking into consideration the legislation that is coming out of Ohio, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  But that doesn’t seem like the best use of the forum. Although I do encourage you to go back to last week’s blog and read it if you haven’t. 

This weekend, as you celebrate Independence Day and all the freedoms that come with living in this country, I encourage you also to start a dialogue about the freedoms and rights that withheld from people throughout this nation.  The injustices that oftentimes are overlooked because of how they impact marginalized populations.  Working towards true equality, freedom, and a violence-free society requires us to look not only what has been done well but also at poor decisions made by those in power and how they impact everyone. 

With that, I leave you a selection of stories to keep in mind …

The military is still addressing a huge sexual assault problem that is impacting an estimated 26,000 service members every year.  There’s been a push to remove pornography from bases and ships.  The Coast Guard is, and has a history of, sweeping reports of sexual assault under the rug oftentimes discharging survivors under the guise of mental health or behavioral problems.  Instead of focusing on what changes can be implemented to reduce assaults, people focus on how women don’t belong in the military and ignore the thousands of male survivors.

Native American rights and identities are only recognized by the federal and state if a certain percentage of blood can be verified.  Somehow this makes sense to despite how  we don not measure any other race or ethnicity in this country in the same way.  Native Americans have experienced centuries of colonialism, forced assimilation, and discrimination.  It was only this year that VAWA included additional rights for Native Americans who were sexually assaulted by non-Natives.  However those stipulations were hotly contested and one of the major issues that dragged on the debate of VAWA in Congress. 

College survivors of sexual assault are demanding that their cases be taken seriously and that Title IX is enforced on the many schools that ignore or silence incidents of rape and sexual assault. 

Republican states are taking every dirty method possible to pass laws that restrict, limit, and essentially eradicate family planning and abortion services for the people of their state.  Texas attempted to pass SB5 and even said that it passed despite the vote being started after 12midnight.  They are now in a second special session to address the same bill.  Ohio passed new abortion legislation that was attached to the budget, was not debated, and was sneakily inserted without the public knowing.  One of these new protocols state that certain agencies, even rape crisis centers, can lose their state funding if they talk about abortion with clients.  North Carolina attached multiple abortion restrictions to a bill meant to ban Sharia law.  These restrictions would force many of the clinics in the state to close thus leaving many individuals without access to safe abortion and family planning care.  New Jersey governor refuses to sign a budget that provides funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics.  The budget included additional funds for these organizations since so many clinics have been forced to close since Gov Christie has taken office.  He has now refused to sign five state budgets.

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Posted by stacey on 07/03 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Friday, June 28, 2013

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere: How DOMA, SB5, and VRA are interrelated

There’s a lot to celebrate from the past couple of days.  In case you’ve been under a rock and missed the news: DOMA and Prop 8 were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  Additionally, the Texas SB5 was effectively filibustered (for more than 11 hours by one woman) so that it did not come to a vote which prevented the most stringent abortion regulations from going into effect..

I have seen the celebration in all aspects of my life.  My phone has lit up with excited text messages from friends who had previously planned on getting married and now can enjoy the full benefits.  I have received messages just of pure excitement from allies who recognize the true importance that the repeal of DOMA can have for so many current and future relationships.  I have seen pictures and statuses of joy on Facebook and Twitter.  I watched the strength and will power of Senator Wendy Davis as she stood without a single break for more than 11 hours.  I witnessed tens of thousands of people overwhelm the TX State House with noise when the filibuster was ended so that the bill could not be called for a vote and then erupt into cheers when the clock passed midnight.

Indeed there has been a lot of joy, celebration, and recognition of rights over the past couple of days.  And it is appropriate to recognize that.  These victories are the outcome of the hard work, diligence, and unfaltering efforts of countless advocates and organizations.  Each one of them deserves the credit for the change that was created.

However, there has also been great tragedy over the past few days as well as monumentally important legislation was deemed unconstitutional and struck down.  Among them, important pieces of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Originally, VRA required any state with a history of racial discrimination at the polls to have any redistricting, new polling places, and any other new voting procedures to be approved by the DOJ.  That all changed this week.  According to Chief Justice Roberts, the country has changed and therefore these protections are no longer required in order to ensure proper representation and safety of racial minorities at the polls.  Ginsburg had a poetic dissent where she equated tossing the VRA with tossing an umbrella when it is raining because you aren’t getting wet.  Essentially her point is that there has been less gerrymandering because of the VRA and to get rid of it because it’s working is completely absurd. 

If you watched The Daily Show or The Colbert Report this week, you will have seen segments about how quickly states are taking advantage of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.  Texas has moved to enact a voting ID law that requires proof of citizenship and residency and putting redistricting maps into place; both of these actions were previously struck down by the DOJ.  South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi all have announced plans to move forward with voter ID bills.  All of these states were originally required to get preclearance from the DOJ before implementing new regulations but now all are free to carry forward without regulation.

At first thought, perhaps it is a bit confusing as to why voter ID laws are racist and problematic.  Shouldn’t everyone have an ID anyways and wouldn’t this protect against voter fraud?  There have been numerous studies about voter fraud and virtually no evidence has been found to support the claim that, without IDs, people are lying about their identities.  For many people, acquiring an ID is not so easy.  For many low-income individuals or recent immigrants, obtaining birth certificates (which can cost around $50) can be impossible.  Others may not have cars or access to transportation in order to go to the necessary facilities to request the documents.  Or perhaps they are not in job where they can take time off during the week without a significant loss of pay or being fired.  There are many reasons why it can be difficult to obtain an ID but one thing is certain: these laws and requirements don’t affect everyone equally.  The Brennan Center found that the majority of people without photo IDs were significantly higher among African Americans, people over age 65, and low-income Americans.  Therefore by implementing strict photo ID laws, states are severely limiting the voices and representation of these citizens.

Having a social justice and oppression/privilege focus and lenses, makes one realize just how interconnected everything is.  The repeal of DOMA and Prop 8 are recognizing the rights that married LGBTQ couples deserve to have and that these rights should not be limited by the federal government.  However, the repeal of sections of the Voting Rights Act is diminishing the rights of people of color, specifically African Americans.  So where do we celebrate and where do we call the injustices to light? For instance, what about LGBTQ people of color?  Should they be celebrating because they are now allowed the full rights and benefits of marriage?  Or should they be outraged because of how many will be discriminated against in the elections  to come?  Their identity as a person of color and LGBTQ are not separate but intertwined and deserve to be fully recognized, respected, and protected.

There’s no saying the extent of the impacts that the Voting Rights Act will have on the future both for individuals and for the laws of this nation.  It has protected countless situations to ensure that people have equal access to voting and representation.  In fact, ironically enough, it protected the districting maps that eventually led to Senator Wendy Davis to being elected.  Senator Davis represents a district that is predominately made up of racial minorities and lower socio-economic neighborhoods.  In 2011, the Texas GOP tried to create a redistricting map that would have divided the majority of people who voted for her into predominately white and Republican-voting districts.  Senator Davis brought the issue to the DOJ under the VRA and the redistricting maps were not approved.  The proposed redistricting would have most likely prevented Senator Davis from gaining reelection which would have made Tuesday’s filibuster completely impossible. 

Without the filibuster, the Republicans would have easily pushed through the strictest legislation in the country pertaining to abortion.  The state’s abortion facilities would have dropped from over 60 to 5.  Only 5 facilities  in a state of over 24 million people and almost 270,000 square miles.  This would have forced millions of women* to drive for hours upon hours to reach a safe and legal abortion provider.  In order to do this, women must have the ability to take time off work, proper expenses, child care, and reliable transportation.  All of those difficulties would have been exponentially worse because of another statue of the bill that stipulated a woman must have two in-person visits with a doctor before obtaining an abortion.  Texas also would have required that doctors read a script to the woman that is created by the state and cannot be altered regardless of the condition of the woman or the reason for terminating the pregnancy.  The bill also would have outlawed abortion in Texas at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization.  All of these stringent and completely pointless regulations would have gone into effect with no exception for rape or incest survivors.

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in this country in the 1970s.  However many states have gone to great lengths to limit, restrict, and regulate a person’s ability to access abortion care.  Does it truly matter if something is legal if one cannot access the services? 

Everyone, regardless of the reason why they are pregnant, deserves access to safe, affordable, and attainable medical care and abortion.  This bill, without a doubt, would have made it virtually impossible for many women, rape and incest survivors included, to gain access to such an abortion.  Prohibiting, limiting and restricting abortion does not actually reduce the number of abortions that are needed each year.  Instead it increases the number the unsafe abortions that are done each year.  These new regulations could have forced many to instead utilize previous ‘back alley’ methods that would likely harm or kill the woman. 

Despite abhorrent, ridiculous, and downright incorrect recent testimony from Republican legislators, many survivors of rape and incest become pregnant as a result of their rape.  In fact, it is estimated that it happens 32,000 times per year.  Some survivors decide to keep the baby, others decide to complete the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption, while others decide that they do not want to continue with the pregnancy.  Regardless of what they ultimately choose to do, they should be able to have access to all three options.  Without the proper options and services available, survivors may be forced to carry a fetus to term when they actually do not want to do so.  Carrying the fetus, going through labor and delivery, and giving birth to the child could be very detrimental to their healing and recovery from the assault.  Each day they are reminded of the assault, their attacker, and the revictimization from the state by not being allowed to carry through with an abortion that they wanted. 

To close there is nothing more appropriate than a phrase written in a letter from the Birmingham Jail in 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  To this day those words hold true and we must continue to advocate for the rights, safety, and identities of everyone to be respected, recognized, and upheld.

 

*Update 7/3/2013: I want to apologize for the gendered language and terms in this blog piece.  This legislation impacts more than cis-women.  There are many trans* individuals who can become pregnant and will experience the same barriers and restrictions to seeking an abortion. Oftentimes, access to comprehensive and compassionate healthcare is limited which prevents many trans* indivduals from seeking regular medical care and can also add additional barriers to seeking abortion care.  

 

WRITTEN BY: Stacey

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Posted by stacey on 06/28 • (0) CommentsPermalink

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