U made the right call and sent an important message

Written by Helen Rubenstein and originally published in the Star Tribune on Thursday, January 5th, 2017:

Handling of the episode signals a strong stand against sexual assault on campus.

The University of Minnesota did the right thing by firing head football coach Tracy Claeys. Though university leaders have focused on benefits to the football program in recent media interviews, the most important message the firing sends is that the university is taking a strong stand against sexual assault on campus.

Even before Tuesday’s announcement, the university had responded forcefully to the horrific actions by multiple Gopher football players on Sept. 2 of last year. Building on the thorough and fair-minded investigation by the university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) office and the termination of Coach Claeys, the university can continue to show leadership in creating a campus environment that respects women’s human right to be free from sexual violence.

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In Whose Best Interest? Custody and Parenting Time Decisions in the Context of Family Violence

One in nine children are exposed to physical or psychological violence between their parents each year.  Exposure to intimate partner violence may include witnessing the violence firsthand, seeing a parent’s injuries afterward or overhearing a parent verbally abuse the other parent.

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Justice for Children

When children are exposed to intimate partner violence, the effects are profound.  Studies have found that children who witness domestic violence often experience negative health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and have difficulty in school.  Further, when intimate partner violence is normalized within a household, children face an increased likelihood of engaging in violent behavior in their adult lives.  Children may even become victims themselves, as there is a well-established connection between intimate partner violence and child abuse.

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The Women, Peace and Security Act: A Significant Step Forward For Sustainable Global Peace

peace-and-equalityIn a significant step forward for effective global peace building, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Act on Tuesday, November 15th. The act promotes the meaningful participation of women in peace negotiations with the goal of preventing, mitigating and resolving violent conflict.

Four years in the making, the bipartisan legislation acknowledges the critical role that women play in national security and foreign policy. Historically, women have been excluded from or underrepresented at the negotiation table in the U.S. and around the world, and extensive research exists to show that this has likely prevented progress in fostering sustainable peace. For example, a 2015 publication by the International Peace Institute entitled “Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes” reported that when negotiations include women, peace agreements are 35 percent more likely to be successful for a period of 15 years or longer.

This type of evidence helped fuel the creation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which has existed since 2011 and is aligned with the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). However, the WPS Act, if passed by the Senate, would establish legislation to ensure that the plan is fully implemented. Essentially, it would turn our action plan into law. Continue reading

The Darkness of Traumatic Brain Injuries: Not Just for Football Anymore

Headaches. Dizziness. Memory loss. Confusion. Irritability. Depression. Aggression.sadness-woman-looking-down

When imagining the people that experience these symptoms, who comes to mind? Based on current events, and potentially life experiences, you’d likely say football players. That was certainly the first group that came to my mind, as I played in college and am an avid fan well aware of the troubling information uncovered connecting the sad stories of many retired NFL players diagnosed with CTE resulting from brain injuries suffered during their playing days. You might also include boxers and/or soldiers in your answer. And all of those answers are correct.  Experts are finally taking note that, for each group, such symptoms may not appear right away but likely are the result of trauma from repeated blows to the head. But the experts’ findings are also true for another group largely forgotten in this discussion and left in the dark.

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The Impact of Violence on the Incarceration Rate for American Women

This post is part of an ongoing series on the intersection of law and how it interacts with violence against women, illuminating how it is equally critical to make effective implementation of law, as well as the legislation itself, a priority. For background and the inspiration of this series, start here.

Although the American public has focused its attention lately on criminal justice reform, the prison population in the United States still continues to grow. In fact, statistics reveal that the number of incarcerated American women has increased by more than 700 percent from 1980 to 2014—nearly 1.5 times the rate of men.

Woman handcuffsIt should come as no surprise that mass incarceration takes a toll on our society, not only costing the United States roughly $80 billion a year on corrections expenditures, or hindering an individual’s ability to meaningfully contribute to society, but also impacting Americans outside the prison walls. Seventy-five percent of prisoners have a hard time finding employment once they are released. When a family member is incarcerated, nearly 65 percent of families cannot afford to pay for basic necessities, like food and housing.

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Zika & HIV: The Connection to Violence Against Women

image-20160128-27180-f7kk2aWhile it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about epidemics like Zika and HIV/AIDS, there is a strong relationship between infectious disease and violence against women. This relationship goes in two directions: epidemics tend to cause an increase in violence against women, and gender based violence tends to facilitate the spread of infectious disease.

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How Allies Can Support Rape Survivors: Avoiding the Denial, Shame, Minimization that Perpetuates Rape Culture

Though the work of Global Rights for Women focuses on systems change and legal form, we believe that in order to do our work effectively, we have to be continuously connected to the voices and experiences of survivors. In a four-part series on trauma-informed skills, Twin Cities, Minnesota advocate and survivor Sarah Super shares her insights on how we can be trauma-sensitive in our support of survivors of gender-based violence. Read on for the third installment in Sarah’s series. Click here for Part One and Two in the series. 

bd00582c5786f906cd4611657e370677In all human relationships, there are expectations that feel healthy to assume: your caregiver should protect you; your spouse or partner should love you; your friend should be supportive of you; even a stranger walking past you on the street should respect you – your space, your body, your human dignity. This is the unspoken human contract for how we should treat each other and be in relationship.  

Perpetrators of gender-based violence follow this unspoken contract most of the time, which allows the community to be deceived in believing perpetrators are people worth trusting all of the time. When a perpetrator commits an act of gender-based violence, it is an extreme and horrific deviation from the way they behave with most people most of the time. When they do this, they not only abuse a person’s human rights, but they also betray the very relationship they have with the victim; they betray what it means to be family, to be a friend, a partner, a colleague, a leader, a coach, a teacher, a human being. The victim, who most often knows and trusts their attacker, is left to pick up the pieces when trust is shattered, questioning, “Is there anyone I can trust?”  

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Ending VAW in Muslim-Majority Countries: A Panel Summary

It was a packed house early on the morning of July 12, 2016, when Global Rights for Women moderated a panel of experts discussing the unique challenges with violence against women in Muslim communities and in the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”) region. The energy in the room was palpable as more chairs were brought in to accommodate later-arriving guests. After a warm welcome from host Stinson Leonard Street, esteemed panelists Stephanie Willman-Bordat from Mobilising for Rights Associates (MRA), Safia Khan from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, and Anse Tamara Gray from Rabata were introduced.

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From Private to Public: The Impact of Domestic Violence in the Workplace

This post is part of an ongoing series on the intersection of law and how it interacts with violence against women, illuminating how it is equally critical to make effective implementation of law, as well as the legislation itself, a priority. For background and the inspiration of this series, start here.

It is well established that domestic violence disproportionately impacts women.  It is also well established that economic independence and stability are crucial for women to escape an abusive relationship.  What is less obvious, however, is the impact domestic violence has on women’s employment.

When women deal with the consequences of domestic violence, they have to miss work to do so.  Women must take time off from work to obtain an order for protection, engage in safety planning, seek medical attention, obtain counseling services, secure legal assistance, find childcare and/or relocate.  For many victims, leaving an abusive relationship means completely starting over—a time consuming and financially burdensome task.

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Healing and the Power to Choose

Though the work of Global Rights for Women focuses on systems change and legal form, we believe that in order to do our work effectively, we have to be continuously connected to the voices and experiences of survivors. In a four-part series on trauma-informed skills, Twin Cities, Minnesota advocate and survivor Sarah Super shares her insights on how we can be trauma-sensitive in our support of survivors of gender-based violence. Read on for Part Two in Sarah’s series. Part one can be found here

At the heart of trauma is disempowerment: being powerless, forced against your will, immobilized. In a traumatic event, there are seemingly no choices; a perpetrator is overpowering you, in control of you, and something horrific is happening to you without your consent. This extreme sense of powerlessness felt within the context of horror follows the survivor in the aftermath of violence. Thus, any following interaction where the survivor senses power being taken from them can be triggering.

Because at the heart of trauma is disempowerment, healing happens with empowerment – restoring a survivor’s sense of agency or ability to act and choose for themselves. In a culture that celebrates assertiveness, ego, and expertise, sharing power equally for the sake of helping survivors heal is a radical act. Learning to balance power equally requires effort and intention. In my work organizing sexual violence survivors and in my own healing, I have found two things to be the foundation for empowerment: 1. the ability to offer choices in a trauma-informed way, and 2. the belief that I only know what’s right for me, not for anyone else.

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