Category: BF NEWS

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Theresa

Hi! My name is Theresa Romualdez. I’m a senior at Georgetown University double majoring in English and Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science. I am Filipino and was born in the Philippines before moving to Singapore, where my parents still live, when I was 9. This year I’ll also be co-Captain of Georgetown’s Boxing Team and plan to continue competitively boxing this year.

Ever since I came to the US for college and began working at Georgetown’s Women’s Center, learning about the issues of gender equality and violence against women have been a prevalent part of my academic experience and my personal interests. However, these conversations about sexual assault often brought the same people to the table. This made me realize that; despite the increasing volume and prominence of discussions surrounding domestic violence in the media, issues of domestic violence in our own communities are often disregarded or ignored.

I am excited to intern at Becky’s Fund this fall and for the opportunity to advocate for survivors by continuing the conversation about domestic violence and educating others, particularly youth, about the prevalence of sexual assault. I am also excited to a play a part in bringing Becky’s Fund’s programs to life and seeing the impact that they can have in our community and to be working with others that share my passion for these issues.

July Update: Men of CODE / Support Becky’s Fund today!

Men of CODE is in Full Swing

Mid-summer finds Becky’s Fund right in the thick of this year’s Men of CODE program. This year, we are happy to return to Friendship Collegiate Academy and Ballou High School and start working with the football team at Walter Johnson High School.  So far, we have tackled lessons on positive male leadership, masculinity, and healthy relationships. The players have been engaged and thoughtful in our conversations. We are looking forward to our discussions about consent, personal responsibility and mental health.

If you would like to get involved through sponsorship, volunteering or speaking at Men of CODE, please email info@beckysfund.org.

We have a New Home!

We have moved from our location in Thomas Circle into the EcofyWorx community, a place where impact is accelerated.
1899 L Street NW, 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

Don’t Forget to Shop!

Every time you shop on Amazon, make sure to use their Amazon Smile feature and select Becky Lee Women’s Support Fund as your chosen charity. Amazon donates to Becky’s Fund when you shop deals at smile.amazon.com/ch/20-8486152.

Gun Violence and the Dismissal of Violence Against Women

The June 28th shooting at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland marked the 154th mass shooting in the United States in 2018. As this story continues to develop, it’s difficult to not be disheartened by the prevalence of gun violence in our country. The frequency with which we respond to news stories about gun violence can numb us to the often repeated narrative within them. Many of these shooters have a history of violence against women.  Although we hear the term “toxic masculinity” in connection with this story we rarely delve deeper into what that phrase means. For example, statistics show that 57% of mass shooters target intimate partners or family members, 53% of female homicides are related to intimate partner violence (IPV) and 54% of those female homicide and IPV victims were shot and killed,  and that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. This isn’t coming from nowhere. Women in abusive relationships, romantic or otherwise, are at a heightened risk of being killed by a gun. Even when a woman is not the target, violence against women is a consistent precursor to larger scale violence.

In order to not contribute any more notoriety to those that commit these crimes,  the names of the mass shooters will not be mentioned. What happened in Annapolis was the result of a deep grudge held by the shooter against The Capital Gazette after the paper reported on his harassment of a woman he had gone to high school with. After a failed lawsuit against the publication, the grudge remained. A factual publication about his behavior towards a woman was the catalyst for resentment a resentment he carried for years, resulting in the murder of five innocent people. While there is a need for more… we absolutely need more gun control laws in this country, we must also push for a shift in how we react to violence against women. This unfortunate narrative plays out consistently in the media and continues to dismiss violence against women. The media coverage of the shooting at Great Mills High School was a profound example with multiple media outlets referring to the shooter as a “lovesick” teenager. What does it say about our society when a teenage boy is able to walk into a high school to shoot his ex girlfriend and have the criminal act dismissed as an act of passion?

We now know that instances of domestic violence play a part in the histories of many mass shooters in the U.S. The Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Virginia Tech, and Parkland shooters shared a common propensity towards violence and anger against women. A Huffington Post analysis of of mass shootings (focusing on incidents which took place from 2009-2015) found that in 57% of the instances the shooter had targeted a family member or an intimate partner. The man who murdered 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November of 2017, had a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force and a history of domestic violence. Thus, he should not have been able to unable to purchase a firearm legally. Due to a failure in reporting the guilty plea, the four guns he purchased before the shooting were technically legally acquired. The Parkland shooter had been reported to the police multiple times for violent offenses. Lack of a cohesive system of when and how to report left his record completely clean so there was nothing to stop him from purchasing semi-automatic weapons that would end the lives of 17 people.

  Considering this information, calls for stricter background checks and closure of any remaining boyfriend loopholes cannot be  a partisan issue – they are a step towards public safety. While a popular response after a shooting is to dissect the mental health of a shooter, to dismiss gun violence as just a mental illness issue further stigmatizes those who have mental illnesses while dismissing the accountability of those who commit gun crimes. Yes, more mental health supports are needed in this country. But we also need gun control laws and a background check system, ideally a national, digitized one, that successfully keeps dangerous weapons out of the hands of abusers wherever they are.  New York State Legislature recently passed a law that prevents domestic abusers from owning or purchasing all guns, a step which has the potential to remove a major threat for women in abusive relationships. As mentioned above, the likelihood for homicide in a domestic violence situation by increases 500% when guns are present, but any and all laws that are directed at keeping guns away from abusers must still contend with a flawed national system.  By digitizing gun sale records and making these background checks mandatory and national, technical failures such as the one exploited by the Sutherland Springs shooter could be greatly reduced.

The connection between domestic violence and mass shootings is clear and we cannot continue to ignore it. Doing so is an insult to those who have died at the hands of an abuser or mass shooter. It is time for acknowledgement of these facts, and  hope that they will lead to changes which will greatly reduce mass shootings and domestic violence related homicides.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

During April, we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a national effort to educate about the realities of sexual assault. According to the Department of Justice, “sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape,” (“Sexual Assault”). However, sexual assault is also for survivors to define for themselves.

 

Part of educating people about sexual assault includes addressing misconceptions about it. Where many people believe that sexual assault is the survivor’s fault, either because of the way they were dressed or because of their behavior (drinking alcohol, doing drugs, acting promiscuously, etc.), the truth is that the only person responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator. Anyone can commit sexual assault, including someone’s significant other; consent to a relationship is not open-ended consent to all activities.

 

Sexual assault can also have long-term repercussions for a survivor’s health, including depression, flashbacks, PTSD, sleep disorders, and eating disorders. There are also physical concerns, such as unwanted pregnancy and an increased risk of a STD, a STI, or HIV (“Effects of Sexual Violence”).

 

To support someone who has experienced sexual assault, the most important step to take is to believe them. Victim blaming and questioning them can cause them more trauma and make it more difficult for them to speak out, and has resulted in the statistic that about two-thirds of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement (“The Criminal Justice System: Statistics). The second step is to support whatever decision your friend or loved one makes; what they need more than anything is to feel like they have autonomy and are having their choices respected. If they need further support, go with them to exams or connect them with local resources. Some examples for the DMV area are listed below. By being proactive, educating ourselves, and working together, we can end the epidemic of sexual assault.

 

Resources:

RAINN

National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7): 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)

24/7 Online Chat: https://www.rainn.org/

 

DC Rape Crisis Center

Crisis Support Hotline (24/7): 202-333-RAPE(7273)

Counseling services: 202-470-1188 to schedule an intake session for therapy

 

Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC)

Advocacy services, part of SANE Program: DC Victim Hotline – 1-844-4HELPDC(1-844-443-5732)

Legal services and general Phone #: 202-742-1727

 

Works Cited:

 

Casteel, Kathryn, et al. “What We Know About Victims Of Sexual Assault In America.” FiveThirtyEight.com, FiveThirtyEight, projects.fivethirtyeight.com/sexual-assault-victims/.

“The Criminal Justice System: Statistics .” RAINN, Rape Abuse Incest National Network, www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system.

“Effects of Sexual Violence.” RAINN, Rape Abuse Incest National Network, www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence.

“Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: Statistics.” RAINN, Rape Abuse Incest National Network, www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence.

“Sexual Assault.” The United States Department of Justice, The United States Department of Justice, www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault.

International Women’s Day

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a celebration of the progress that women have made against gender-based discrimination and violence. Beginning with the suffragette movement at the beginning of the 20th century, International Women’s Day eventually came to include issues that affect women around the world, at every socioeconomic status and with every background, particularly when it was adopted by the United Nations in 1975 (“About International Women’s Day”).

 

This year, International Women’s Day will have a special focus on rural and urban activists. While these groups are different in many ways, they are both important for political mobilization for women’s empowerment. Rural women are particularly marginalized; where the global pay gap is 23%, rural women make up to 40% less than rural men (“Announcer: International Women’s Day 2018”). Another example of how rural women can be marginalized is in the case of immigrant farmworkers. One study of 150 Mexican women working in California revealed that 80% had experienced some kind of sexual harassment, which will be another important focal point for this year’s International Women’s Day (Ramchandani).

 

The rise of #MeToo and similar movements around the world have put sexual harassment and violence at the forefront of social discourse. Celebrities wore black to the Golden Globes in order to raise awareness of sexual harassment and to stand in solidarity with survivors. One could even argue that the momentum from #MeToo that ended with the fall of people like Harvey Weinstein also swept through the White House, as two of the President’s aides resigned over domestic violence accusations. According to a survey from Stop Street Harassment this year, 81% of women reported having “experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lives,” making #MeToo and the conversation about sexual violence an absolute priority for women (North).  

 

It is especially important today that we work vigorously to expand and strengthen the movement toward gender equality in general. The Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality, or gender parity, based on 4 themes: “Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment,” (“World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality”). According to the most recent data, it will take 217 years to close the gender gap in the four categories, as opposed to the last estimate of 170 years (“World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality”). As a society, we should reflect on the changes that have occurred to widen the gap and take determined steps, represented by the goals of International Women’s Day, to reverse the trend.

 

If you want to get involved with International Women’s Day’s efforts to promote gender equality, check out the official website to search for events in your area. If you live in the DMV area, FINCA Impact Finance will be holding a panel and networking event for professional women. Poppir will also be hosting a Women in the Arts pop-up gallery and happy hour at L2 Lounge in Georgetown.

 

Works Cited

“About International Women’s Day.” International Women’s Day, International Women’s Day, www.internationalwomensday.com/About.

“Announcer: International Women’s Day 2018.” UN Women, United Nations, 26 Jan. 2018, www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/1/announcer-iwd-2018-theme.

North, Anna. “Measuring #MeToo: More than 80 Percent of Women Have Been Sexually Harassed or Assaulted.” Vox, Vox Media, 21 Feb. 2018, www.vox.com/identities/2018/2/21/17036438/sexual-harassment-me-too-assault-hollywood.

Ramchandani, Ariel. “There’s a Sexual-Harassment Epidemic on America’s Farms.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 Jan. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/agriculture-sexual-harassment/550109/.

“World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report Measures Gender Equality.” Where Women Work, Where Women Work, www.wherewomenwork.com/Career/640/Global-Gender-Gap-WorldEconomicForum.

New Survivor Support

 

Rape Survivor Family Protection Act:

On February 13th 2018, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland signed into law the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act. Originally introduced by Delegate Kathleen Dumais in 2007, this act allows women who become pregnant as the result of rape to request the termination of her rapist’s parental rights over the child. These laws are essential for the safety of a rape survivor and help ensure that she will not have to interact with her attacker. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, between 17,000 and 32,000 sexual assault resultant pregnancies occur each year, making the necessity for these laws overwhelmingly and unsettlingly clear.

As of last year (2017), 30 states and the District of Columbia had laws that allowed for the limitation of parental rights of rapists, and about 20 allow for the complete termination of rights. There is some state by state variance in the level of evidence required to do so; for instance, the new Maryland law requires a survivor to appear before a judge and provide  “clear and convincing” evidence that sexual assault occurred. While this bill and others like it may be imperfect, their increase over the last two years shows a shift on the state level to push through protections for survivors of sexual assault.

Delegate Dumais has stated that she believes part of the difficulty in getting this bill through has been the lack of female lawmakers. She publicly stated, “There were certainly times, particularly in my first few years, that it always seemed like it was the men versus the women on some of these issues, but as I’ve been on this committee and become more involved in the issues, really what my committee battles with all the time is a balance between victims’ rights and due process.”  Supporters of this bill have cited increasing female empowerment as a factor in this year’s success. Although Dumais believes the bill was set to pass this year she agrees saying, “I think the #MeToo movement certainly helped.”

 

Laura and Reid’s Law:

This month Laura and Reid’s Law was introduced to Maryland’s state legislature. The law was named for a Maryland teacher, Laura Wallen, and the child she hoped to deliver before she was allegedly shot in the back of the head by her on-again, off-again boyfriend. The effort has been spearheaded by Wallen’s parents, Mike and Gwen, who hope to preserve the legacy of their daughter and protect other women who may be in increased danger during pregnancy. Her mother, Gwen Wallen, as quoted in The Baltimore Sun, says, “There’s so much we can’t control and can’t do. This feels like we’re doing good.”

Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times for women who experience intimate partner violence, and those who support the bill hope that it will serve as an additional deterrent and protection for women already at risk. According to the CDC, homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women under the age of 44 and half of those deaths occured at the hands of an intimate partner. The CDC numbers also show that 15% of women who are murdered by intimate partners were pregnant or had recently given birth; half of that percentage are slain within the first trimester. Subsequently, Laura and Reid’s Law would seek to replace the current wording of “a viable fetus” with “unborn child,” and the bill will expand the definition of fetal homicide in the state of Maryland to fetuses before traditional viability (22-24 weeks).

While some sponsors are concerned that this rephrasing will become caught up in the current debate over abortion, the bill as drafted specifically exempts pregnancies terminated through abortion, a caveat that Gwen Wallen made sure to include to increase the bill’s chances of passing and to try to separate the protection of at-risk women from the abortion discussion. You can read the full draft of the law as it was introduced here: http://bit.ly/2GfIkKt.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Devani

Hi! My name is Devani and I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at George Washington University. I am originally from Colorado, where I received my undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Political Science. On a slightly less academic note, I am also a certified yoga instructor. I am very excited for the opportunity to work with Becky’s Fund as I pursue my degree.

My research interests have generally focused on women’s equality and how that relates to both reproductive justice and the cultural rhetoric that is used to define women’s status in our society. I believe each of these dialogues have had a part in how the rhetoric surrounding domestic violence has evolved in our society, or how it hasn’t. In working with Becky’s Fund I hope to be able to be a part of a solution and address these issues in a hands on manner.

Starting with Becky’s Fund this Spring I am looking forward to being a part of prevention-based programs that work directly with young men and women to break down the cycle of domestic violence through education.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Lauren

Hello! My name is Lauren Testa, and I’m a senior at American University in Washington, D.C. I’m currently pursuing a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Communications, Law, Economics, and Government with a minor in History. I am originally from southern New Jersey right outside of Philadelphia. I’m thrilled to be working with Becky’s Fund for my final semester of college!

I began my studies with a general interest in politics and social justice, and I have always been passionate about women’s rights in particular. As a member of AU Students Against Sexual Violence, I learned more about domestic violence and it ignited my passion for the issue. As I continued to study issues related to domestic violence and other issues such as LGBTQ rights, I realized how important it is to have dedicated individuals working to solve the issue of domestic violence, especially for the sake of marginalized communities. I wanted to work with Becky’s Fund because of the organization’s commitment to prevention and education; two things that I believe are essential to the discussion surrounding domestic violence and gender inequality. I am especially excited to be able to work with youths through Becky’s Fund’s targeted programs because they are the future of ending domestic violence. It is a great privilege to be able to work with people who are also passionate about this issue.

I’m excited to not only be able to contribute more to the movement to end domestic violence, but also to gain meaningful experience working in the non-profit sector, where I want to spend my career. In the future, I want to continue working towards the goals of prevention and education, and my position with Becky’s Fund will give me my first taste of working with my passion on a professional level. I am thrilled to be given this amazing opportunity!

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Margaret

Hello! My name is Margaret Dorokhina and I am a sophomore at American University. I am majoring in Public Health and minoring in Women, Gender Sexuality Studies. I was born in Canada, but have lived in various cities on the East Coast for most of my life. I also speak Russian fluently, and it was actually my first language!

I am so excited to intern at Becky’s Fund this spring. Despite having many interests within public health, I think domestic violence and sexual health are the topics I feel most passionate about. Educating and raising awareness around these topics is absolutely essential as we work towards reducing the frequency with which domestic violence occurs. Becky’s Fund does just that for the local community, making it a valuable asset to public health.

This spring, I am looking forward to learning more about the behind- the- scenes operations of a non- profit organization.  It will also be incredibly rewarding to have a direct impact on those who are struggling with unhealthy and abusive relationships. Especially with the focus on teenagers, programs like the ones led by Becky’s Fund will continue to improve students’ relationships for years to come.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is a national effort to raise awareness of dating violence, promote programs that support young people, and encourage young people to have open conversations about what a healthy and happy relationship looks like. The term dating violence refers to the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship. It is also when one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse/violence.

 

Dating violence can take many forms, and does not just have to be physical. The CDC defines intimate partner violence as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner,” (“Intimate Partner Violence: Definitions”). 1 in 5 girls have been threatened with self-harm by their boyfriends if they attempted to end the relationship. 1 in 5 college women also report verbal abuse from their partners (“Get the Facts & Figures”).

 

Technology is also an important factor in the spectrum of dating violence among young people. 1 in 4 teens in abusive relationships experienced this abuse over texting platforms or through the Internet (“Get the Facts & Figures”). This is especially distressing because according to the Urban Institute, “victims of digital abuse and harassment are 2 times as likely to be physically abused, 2.5 times as likely to by psychologically abused, and 5 times as likely to be sexually coerced,” (Zweig and Dank). Young people are becoming increasingly involved with technology and the Internet, so it is important for everyone to understand that these things can be tools of abuse.

 

Addressing intimate partner violence early on is important for several reasons. 69% of female victims of intimate partner violence and 53% of male victims reported having experienced some type of IPV for the first time before 25 years of age, indicating that said age group is either more vulnerable to IPV, or that there is a correlation between IPV experienced early on and IPV in adulthood (“Get the Facts & Figures”). Girls who have experienced abuse are also more than twice as likely to test positive for a sexually-transmitted infection or disease (“The Facts on Teens and Dating Violence”). Mental health also severely deteriorates in situations of intimate partner violence; rates of attempted suicide increase to 50% among teens who have experienced IPV, compared with 12.5% of girls who were not abused and 5.4% of boys who were not abused (“Dating Abuse Statistics”).

 

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of how prevalent dating violence is among young people, or how to address it. 2 out of 3 teens who experience abuse will not tell anyone, including their parents and closest friends (“Teen Dating Violence”). Of 82% of parents who said they could confidently recognize signs of dating violence, only 58% actually could successfully recognize the signs (“Dating Abuse Statistics”). Additionally, 58% of college students admitted that they would not know how to help a friend who was experiencing abuse and 38% said that they would not know how to get help for themselves (“Get the Facts & Figures”). Before we can combat the issue of intimate partner violence among young people, we must first educate ourselves as a society about what it looks like and how we can prevent it from happening.

 

Check out local DVAM events this month, such as the Prince George’s County Family Justice Center’s workshop on healthy relationships. If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC (1-844-443-5732) or one of the following organizations: DC Safe (202-879-0720), My Sister’s Place (202-529-5261 or 202-529-5991), or NVRDC (202-742-1727).

 

“Dating Abuse Statistics.” Loveisrespect.org, Loveisrespect.org, www.loveisrespect.org/resources/dating-violence-statistics/.

“The Facts on Teens and Dating Violence.” FuturesWithoutViolence.org, Futures Without Violence, 2009, www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/Teens/teens_facts.pdf.

“Get the Facts & Figures.” TheHotline.org, The National Domestic Abuse Hotline, www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/.

“Intimate Partner Violence: Definitions.” CDC.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/definitions.html.

“Teen Dating Violence.” Just Say YES, Just Say YES, www.justsayyes.org/topics/dating-violence/.

“Understanding Teen Dating Violence.” CDC.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/teen-dating-violence-factsheet-a.pdf.

Zweig, Janine, and Meredith Dank. “Teen Dating Abuse and Harassment in the Digital World.” Urban.org, The Urban Institute, Feb. 2013, www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/23326/412750-Teen-Dating-Abuse-and-Harassment-in-the-Digital-World.PDF.

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