Domestic Violence Matters: The NFL

Note: This is the 4th post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.

In the wake of two more domestic violence related incidences within the NFL regarding Ray McDonald of the Bears and most recently Bruce Miller of the 49ers, we sat down with the DASH Clinical Director to discuss how the NFL is handling domestic violence and, why their response even matters.

Q: In the last year the NFL has gotten a lot of media attention for the way that they internally handle domestic violence cases. Why do you think it matters how the NFL responds to domestic violence?

A: It’s important for the NFL to take action when one of their players commits an act of domestic violence because as an institution, the NFL has a lot of influence in our society. What the NFL does, in terms of the choices they make and the causes they support has a huge impact society wide. When I think about the good that the NFL could do on domestic violence – it’s extraordinary. They reach a lot of communities who wouldn’t ordinarily hear messages from the domestic violence service community including young people and men. So it’s even more important that they take a stand and say as a business, we are not going to stand for this, we are not going to have a participant who assaults their partner. It’s crucial.

Q: Aside from their influence, is there anything else that uniquely positions the NFL in the issue of domestic violence?

A: I think the big reason that the NFL has such an opportunity to impact the issue is that so much of our ideas about masculinity and what it means to be a real man are tied to being good at sports, being strong and physically aggressive. In pretty obvious ways the NFL perpetuates a culture of domination, specifically among men. And then when we look at the patterns that occur in domestic violence relationships we can see a lot of those same dynamics of power, control and aggression played out. The audience that the NFL reaches, the culture that they represent put them in a place to make a really positive impact on the issue of domestic violence in the United States.

Q: Because the NFL has received negative attention for their handling of domestic violence cases, specifically the Ray Rice case last fall, they have increased penalties for players involved in domestic violence situations. What do you think the impact of harsher punishment is on the wives, girlfriends and partners who are victims of domestic violence and their ability to speak out?

A: This is a big issue, I think that as the NFL has gotten stricter on domestic violence, it has put increased pressure on victims to not report assault or speak out for fear that their partner will be fired, their source of income gone and on top of that they face a huge amount of media attention and scrutiny. It’s already extremely difficult for survivors to seek help for domestic violence, but then when you are reporting a sports celebrity it creates all these other challenges and becomes harder for the victims to protect themselves. The dynamic is one where it’s the victim’s responsibility to report their abuse so that the individual player can be held accountable and then the NFL can take action. And it’s hard because the players should be held accountable, as all abusers should. But we need to make sure we are supporting survivors of domestic violence to be safe and empowered as well.

Q: The NFL recently instituted mandatory domestic violence training for all NFL staff and players and they have started financially supporting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. What are other ways you think they could make an impact on the issue of domestic violence?

A: I would really like to see their education efforts focused on prevention and talking about ways to communicate without being violent and how in a healthy relationship you don’t assault your partner. That would be really powerful education for the NFL to take a lead on not just for their players, but for athletes across the US. Make dating violence prevention a priority in college football, in high school sports they could even start reaching out to community recreation leagues. Think about the power of that message coming from the NFL to kids and teens, that healthy relationships, healthy communication is important. They have the money and the influence to really make that happen.

Q: You mentioned that the NFL has the ability to reach people who haven’t been exposed to domestic violence as an issue. What is one thing you would like them to understand?

A: Living free from violence is a human right and as a community we are saying we are not going to tolerate it. And if I could say 2 things, healthy masculinity and being a “real man” means you should use your strength for good and to take care of and provide for your partner and your children.

About DASH

DASH’s mission is to be an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms.

Support DC families escaping abuse today.

Learn more about DASH’s safe housing programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in the District.


What It Takes DC #5: The Housing Resource Center

Note: This is the fifth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

This is a guest post from the DASH Community Housing Resource Specialist.

I am Community Housing Resource Specialist at the DASH Housing Resource Clinic. The Clinic takes place on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:30pm at the Westminister Presbyterian Church on 400 I St SW, DC.

The Housing Resource Center is the hub of DASH’s efforts to prevent homelessness among domestic violence survivors. Through the Housing Resource Center, DASH staff partner with My Sisters Place and the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project we work to provide a full spectrum of legal, housing and counseling services for survivors. We assist survivors in completing housing applications, obtaining safety transfers, navigating the public housing system, and making connections to community services in order to help them find safety from abuse.

The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space.

 

Providing Support for Survivors

Each week I work with between 6 and 25 men and women from all backgrounds and situations. There is no typical day at the clinic because no domestic violence situation is the same. Last week I spoke with a survivor who traveled from a small town in Delaware to talk to DASH about our services. She came from a small community with one shelter, her husband of 23 years would find out if she tried to access services there. Survivors come to the clinic in a variety of emotional states. Some are young and desperate, in the middle of a new domestic violence relationship, others have been with the same abuser for decades and finally decided it was enough, but regardless – they all need a safe place to go. I work with them to find some normalcy and stability.

The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space. Sometimes talking is all they need, they just need someone to say, “you can do this”. I worked with a woman in the process of leaving her abuser who couldn’t access housing because she had a $2,400 unpaid debt. While we were in the process of trying to support her financially through the Survivor Resilience Fund – she called the collection agency herself and negotiated her debt down to $1,000, set up her own payment schedule and decided she didn’t need financial assistance. All she needed was an ear and a safe place to hear herself think.

For some survivors, just seeing other people in the clinic waiting room going through the same thing is enough. It’s creates a sense of community – they are not alone. They often trade resources and tips while they wait.

Barriers to Safety

Many survivors I meet with face additional burdens outside of domestic violence. They often struggle with addiction, lack financial security or have a criminal record. Part of what makes DASH a safe place is that we are not the government or the police. Many of my clients have had negative experiences with Law Enforcement that make it hard for them to put their trust in the police. Some don’t feel that when they’ve called the police, they’ve been taken seriously, while others have even been arrested. I met with a transgender woman who called the police after a domestic violence incidence and had the officer tell her to, “pack a bag and never come back,” which would have pushed her into homelessness. Another officer allegedly told a client to stop drinking and go to bed when she called 911 on her physically abusive husband. Survivors need a place where they feel completely safe, and the DASH Clinic is that place.

The biggest barrier for survivors trying to find safety is housing access. Housing Programs in DC are at capacity – including DASH. I often have to work with survivors for months before I am able to place them in safe housing. Most recently I met with a woman who was living with her two teenagers in her place of employment because they had nowhere else to go when she left her abuser.

We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.

Her first husband and the father of her children had been supportive, loving and calm. When he passed away she remarried to a controlling and emotionally abusive man. She paid the rent in their 3 bedroom house but he wouldn’t let her or her children have a key. He often made them wait outside for 45 minutes when they came home before letting them come in. He timed her teenagers as they used the bathroom before school; each was only allowed 3 minutes to get ready. He even kept a padlock on the fridge that only he had a key to limiting their access to food in the house.

Eventually she decided it was too much. One Saturday she packed all their stuff and took them to her office. The office didn’t have a shower or kitchen so they had to eat take out almost every day. Sometimes they would get a hotel room just to take showers.  When her employer found out, she was forced to disclose her abuse and find a new place to stay.

Now at DASH, her children have a place to sleep and be comfortable. They are on time for school; one is graduating this year. She is still working, saving money for her own place. DASH allowed her to take a breath and for the next two years she can plan for the future.

The Housing Resource Clinic is a place where survivors can feel safe and heard. With our partnership with the DC Volunteers Lawyers Project and My Sisters Place, we are able to provide comprehensive, collaborative support for survivors. We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.

Take Action:

You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors.


Top 10 Silent Auction Items for #AlliesinChange ’15

This year’s Allies in Change silent auction is set up to be our best one yet! Below are 10 of our favorite items.

1. The Jefferson Hotel

A one night stay at the luxurious Jefferson Hotel in a delux king room – with a full breakfast. Breakfast in bed anyone?

2. Knolls Erganomic Chair
A chair, valued at $800, that’ll make you enjoy sitting at a desk all day. They guarantee it.

3. DC United Game
Calling all soccer fans! We’ve got six tickets amazing tickets to the DC United Game vs. Columbus Crew on May 2nd. You’ll be so close you can see the sweat.

4. NPR Tour
Bid on an exclusive tour of NPR and viewing of the live taping of “All Things Considered.”

5. Nationals Tickets
We have TWO Nats ticket packages to bid on! 2 in field tickets to any game of the season as well as 4 tickets and a parking pass to the June 2nd game.

6. Restaurants, Restaurants, Restaurants!
Looking to try our some new places this summer? What about Cava Mezze, Brookland’s Finest, Bracket Room and Ambar? We’ve got gift certificates ranging from $50-$200 dollars.

7. Sky Wifi Smart Pen
Transcribe your notes, record your meetings, this pen will make you smarter and better at your job. Valued at $200!

8. Spy Museum
Get your ninja on at the National Spy museum. We’ve got 2 tickets, so you can impress a friend!

9. Learn to Ski or Snow Board!
Both Liberty Mountain and Whitetail Resort  generously donated skiing and snowboarding lessons for 2! This is your chance to perfect your form!

10. DASH Art
This year the kids Art Group made a one of a kind priceless quilt! It won’t keep you warm but it will definitely look beautiful hanging in your living room.

Check out our event website to buy your ticket today.


What It Takes Blog Series #2: Unjust Legal Treatment – How Battered Women Get Jailed for Their Abuser’s Behavior

Note: This is the second post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: WhatItTakesDC. 

Leaving an abusive relationship is harder than you may think. People often ask: “Why didn’t she call the police?”

It’s a very logical question. After all, most of us were taught to call the police in violent situations. It would seem obvious that physical acts of domestic violence certainly merit telling the police. We picture restraining orders. A kindly police officer telling a victim: “You’re safe now. He’s not going to be able to hurt you or your children again.” Problem solved… right?

Calling the cops isn’t always safe for domestic violence victims:

If only things were so easy. In fact, domestic violence is rarely reported to the police. It’s estimated that over 70% of domestic violence cases go unreported. So why aren’t victims seeking help from the people in society we trust and expect to protect us?

The reasons are varied and complex, but some common issues that stop survivors from calling the police include:

– Shame and stigma: Many survivors feel crippling shame and stigma admitting to friends and family that they are in an abusive relationship, as well as to authorities like the police. This is due in part because domestic violence victims are so often blamed for the abuse they endure.

– Fear of getting arrested themselves: Survivors who call the police looking for help are often arrested if the officer cannot identify the aggressor in the dispute. Almost 2% of domestic violence calls end in a dual arrest. 

– Past criminal record: Calling the police may cause greater harm if the survivor has a past criminal history or if children are present during the violent incident.

But that’s not even the worst of it. One of the most harrowing potential outcomes for women abused by their partners involves remarkably unjust state laws that lock up mothers whose children were harmed—even murdered—by their partner. A new investigative report by Buzzfeed identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In these cases, the mothers were charged with permitting child abuse, although they themselves were victims of chronic physical abuse, living their lives in fear of their partner. As a result, these women were imprisoned for their partner’s actions and their surviving children are deprived of their mother. As the article quotes: “It’s the ultimate case of blaming the victim.”

The report points out the key misconception that these cases are premised upon, and which DASH’s #WhatItTakesDC campaign is helping to overcome.

“Many judges and juries — still don’t grasp the answer to a question at the core of so many of these cases: ‘Why didn’t she leave him?’”

“Why don’t women leave abusive relationships?”

As DASH has explored in previous blogs, there are many reasons that survivors don’t leave abusive relationships. But the main reason in many of these cases was fear. As the article states, these women feared that by trying to leave they would provoke their partners to more extreme violence. Many feared for their own lives, as well as their children’s.

“I done tried to leave plenty of times,” Arlena, one of the article’s profiled survivors, testified, but he “actually called and threatened to kill my family.” The last time Arlena tried to escape, her partner came to her father’s house (where she was staying), grabbed her, threw her into his car trunk, and slammed it shut. She thought he was going to kill her. He didn’t, but Lindley moved back in with her abusive partner, saying that she “didn’t want to bring trouble into her father’s house.”

Arlena’s partner continued to assault her and her three-year-old son, eventually killing him. For this, Arlena was sentenced to 45 years in prison for failing to protect her son from her partner.

While in many states, a lot of the laws that are used to prosecute these women were originally intended to help curb child abuse, few of them recognize the complex dynamics of violent abuse involved in these cases.

Blaming women for their partner’s abuse of their children is also tied to American society’s broader notions of motherhood as sacrifice. The article explains that “lopsided application of these laws reflects deeply ingrained social norms that women should sacrifice themselves for their children.” In comparison to the 73 cases of women being sentenced to 10 years or more for their partner’s abuse of their children, Buzzfeed found only 4 comparable cases for men.

Defending domestic violence survivors from failure-to-protect laws

As abysmal as the situation is, there is reason for hope of reduced sentencing for these domestic violence survivors, as well as legal changes that protect those being abused from prosecution. When Minnesota and Iowa created similar child protection laws in the mid-1980s, “they added specific defenses for parents who reasonably feared they would be harmed if they stepped in to stop child abuse.”

The article also tells the story of a judge who had a change of heart upon realizing the gravity of abuse that a battered woman endured. The woman had been previously sentenced to 35 years in jail for failing to protect her daughter, who was killed by her husband. When the judge realized the gravity of this woman’s abuse, he imposed a strict probation plan and suspended the rest of her sentence.

DASH is leading the campaign for policies supporting domestic violence survivors in DC:

In the DC metro area, a domestic violence call is made to the Metro Police Department every 16 minutes. But for every domestic violence-related police call made, it is estimated that 70% of  incidents remain unreported.

Since 2006, DASH has doubled the amount of safe beds for survivors of domestic violence while also working to safety plan with survivors who choose to stay.

Take Action:

You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or register to attend our upcoming fundraiser, Allies in Change.


6 things you need to understand about domestic violence

1. Domestic violence is all about one person maintaining power and control over another. It isn’t a one-time loss of temper, it’s a pattern of intentional abuse.

2. Domestic violence isn’t just physical abuse, it’s emotional, psychological, financial and sexual. Domestic violence is put downs, threats, isolation and jealousy.

3. Domestic violence does not discriminate, it occurs in every occupation and income level, across all races, sexual preferences and gender identities, and in every family type.

4. Domestic violence is a learned behavior. It isn’t caused by alcohol abuse, anger management or stress. Abusers see it growing up, in their community, family, peer group or school.

5. Don’t ask, “why doesn’t she just leave.” Questioning the intentions and actions of victims of domestic violence contributes to a culture in which victims are blamed for their abuse, instead of abusers.

6. There is no right way to be a survivor of domestic violence. Every person has a different experience with abuse and deserves support and respect as they make their own choices regarding their relationship.

October is domestic violence awareness month. Purchase something from the DASH Amazon Wish List to directly impact a survivor of abuse and their family.


Family Movie Night Done Right

Friday, June 13th, DASH held one of its monthly Family Movie Nights. Rather, The Women’s Information Network (WIN) held a movie night  for the families and children residing at DASH’s Cornerstone Building. Three volunteers brought cookies, Capri-suns, fruit and veggies and a copy of Despicable Me.

WIN is a non-profit organization that invites women to network with each other and help one another succeed in the professional, political, and social worlds. With this mission in mind, WIN is a perfect fit to help DASH pursue its own mission of helping people live their lives on their own terms. Three women from WIN generously donated their time to bring the two organizations together, in a fun, family-oriented way.

This blogger is a huge fan of Despicable Me, and was very excited to spend the evening sharing what she thinks is one of the best, funniest, and most charming movies of all time with the kids at Cornerstone. Unsurprisingly, the children loved Despicable Me.

The night ended with a dance party as Gru, his minions, and Agnus, Edith, and Margo boogied on screen. Dancing in front of the TV, the kids invited the volunteers to dance with them. All in all, the children at Cornerstone and the volunteers from WIN spent a
wonderful Friday night together, laughing at the movie and along with each other.

 

If you and a group of friends or coworkers would like to host a Family Movie Night – email Mari at mvangenadams@dashdc.org.


Do More 24: Resident Addition

Sarah* moved into the DASH Cornerstone Program in October of 2012 with her son, Brian*. At first she was both cautious and overwhelmed, she didn’t know what to expect as her experience with housing providers in the past had been largely negative. Before she found DASH, she was at times treated with disrespect or turned away from shelters because she had a young son. For Sarah, splitting up her family was not an option.

After a few weeks living in her one bedroom unit in the Cornerstone Program, she was able to relax, “DASH has a real support staff full of loving people who really care about you and your family.” She reflects on how dedicated her advocate was when she arrived, “she even went to the doctors office with me after the abuse because I was afraid and ashamed to go by myself.”

Sarah’s favorite part of living at DASH has been the support groups and counseling that allows her to reflect on her past relationships and the cycles of abuse that people get caught up in. “When you’re younger it’s “cute” for your boyfriends to be possessive and tell you what to do,” she said, “now I look back and can see the warning signs. I look for them in my relationships and I can see the control and the isolation and say, ‘that’s abuse.’” Sarah also mentions discussing red flags and warning signs with her younger sister to help her understand what a healthy relationship looks like. More than anything, Sarah is determined to get a fresh start on life.

Sarah also spoke about the importance of the services that DASH provides for the children, specifically her son who is an active participant in Children’s Art Group, pet therapy and family movie nights. This is important to Sarah who says that, “at DASH you don’t divide the family, and you have services for the children so they can heal from what they saw as well.”

When asked what makes DASH unique, Sarah didn’t hesitate, “DASH is not just here to house you, they want to support you and help you so you can heal on your own terms.”

Give your dollars real impact with families like Sarah’s by donating to DASH for Do More 24 on June 19th!

  • $24 welcomes a survivor and her family to DASH safe housing with a gift basket of emergency supplies.
  • $48 allows DASH to pay the fee for a survivor to apply for permanent rental housing. With your help DASH can cover a survivor’s application fee for rental housing – which is one small but impactful way you can help an abused family find housing stability, perhaps for the very first time.
  • $96 will provide a transportation pass for a survivor and her family to arrive safely to and from work and school.

Click HERE to donate today

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy and safety of the DASH residents


Goodbye Bobbi!

Today marks my last day as the Cornerstone Housing Director at DASH.  As I bid my final farewell, I am in the midst of trying to describe and deal with some very robust, mixed emotions.  DASH has been an awesome employer for the past two years, and an even better service provider to our residents.  I am very blessed to have been a part of such an innovative organization! My emotions are running very high today and I am not sure exactly what they all are; but, one thing for sure that I can attest to is how blessed I am to have played a key role in so many successes with our residents! Thanks DASH staff for being a part of this blessing with me!

My most memorable moment at DASH was the KaBoom Playground build in the

IMG_2280

Fall of 2012.  Although it took a lot of time and effort in a short preparation time period to get it all planned and ready to go; on the actual build day, I felt it was all worth it! That day was chaotic and hectic, and at the same time fun and exciting!  I enjoyed working side by side with the residents and their children; as well as working with volunteers who gave their time and dynamism freely to make the build happen in one day! This experience will forever be etched a corner of my heart!

I want to say thank you to everyone at DASH for believing and trusting in me to carry such a huge responsibility for two years! May God continue to bless you all, the residents and the program’s growth and expansion, with abundance and greatness.

With Love,

Bobbi


Mother’s Day

DASH Art Group is a favorite among the kids. Every Tuesday night they get to unleash their creativity in a fun, safe environment.  The Art Group lead volunteers, Ann-Marie and Beth, come every week with a specific art project – we have done Andy Warhol drawings, impressionist still life collages and nature stamps. There is no coloring in the lines at DASH Art Group. At DASH we believe in the healing power of art, and every Tuesday night we get see the evidence as the kids express themselves with glitter, crayons and papier  maché.

AG4

Last week Art Group took on a new challenge, making Mother’s Day gifts. Over the course of three Tuesdays  the group made cards and then batiked and dyed scarves to give to their mothers on Sunday. Beth talks a little more about the details of the project, “What was more incredible about this whole process was not necessarily the intended designs, but the happy accidents that happened. Sometimes wax dripped in a spot where it was not wanted, sometimes there was too little wax applied, and other times we rubber banded the scarf and tie-dyed it just to see what would happen. All of these incidents helped to make every scarf we made a beautiful and unique gift for our DASH moms.”

AG7

The result was stunning! After three weeks of work, each child had a unique gift to give their mom on Mother’s Day. As Ann-Marie states, “the process of making the scarves was a lot of fun and very kid-friendly. We first dyed the scarves, and then used brushes, stamps, and various shapes dipped in wax to create the designs. The best part was that even if it got a little messy, every little drop of wax created something beautiful. ”

It should be noted that after the dying process, Ann-Marie and Beth stayed up until the sun came up washing and ironing the scarves and then sewed each swath of material to make the final product, infinity scarves. In the end, the children had the opportunity to create something beautiful and the mother’s got meaningful gifts. We are so thankful to Ann- Marie and Beth for their unwavering dedication and art genius!

If you would like to donate to DASH for our Mother’s Day Campaign – please Click Here.  All donations go to furthering the DASH mission to provide access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms.

IMG_2141The Final Product!


Intern Profile Part 6: Langan Denhard

Her name is Langan and it rhymes with hanging!  She’s a senior at University of Maryland, soon to be an alum. She has been the Wellness Intern since January 2014. We asked her a few questions to showcase both how amazing she is and the impact she’s made at DASH.

–          Why did you choose to do your internship at DASH?: I started volunteering here last summer and I wanted to see how long it would take for them to notice I never left.  Just kidding, a little!  I’m a public health major and I think the lack of safe housing is a HUGE but under-recognized public health crisis.  I wanted to really immerse myself in that for my final internship.

–          What social justice issue are you most passionate about?: I am all about reproductive justice and comprehensive sexual education that isn’t cissexist or heteronormative.  I also see a lot of classism in the current feminist discourse and I want to see that shut down.  I could also go on and on about barriers to effective mental health services, and specifically stigma as a barrier.  And—housing for everyone, now!

–          What has been your favorite moment while working at DASH: Lots of the most *important* moments for me weren’t fun at all—they were hard.  The favorite moments usually involved holding a baby.  If I could relive one moment, it would be the Winter Wonderland Talent Show Extravaganza!  We have amazingly talented residents!!!

–          What are your plans for after DASH: Why would you ask a graduating senior that question?!  I hope I’ll either be doing something involving sexual health education or providing direct services to people who have experienced/are experiencing violence and homelessness.  I also am considering watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. *Editors Note: Langan recently accepted a position as a full time advocate at DASH – welcome aboard!

–          What is your spirit animal?: I’m pretty sure I was a whale in a former life!  Contact me personally if you are interested in a longer discussion re: whales.

What staff say about Langan:

“Langan took the Wellness Program to a new level! She really made the Community Health and Wellness Internship her own, and sets the bar high for whomever follows her.”

“Langan has made such a big impact on wellness program at DASH. Plus she’s fun, organized, and likes whales. She is also extremely skilled at bulletin board upkeep and maintenance. I am excited that she will be staying with us permanently.”

Langan