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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Probation: A Key Element in an Effective Coordinated Community Response

In March of this year Global Rights for Women hosted NGO advocates and public officials from Lithuania, Latvia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan for a workshop in Minnesota on Coordinated Community Response (CCR). CCR is a method of implementing laws and policies that prioritizes victim safety and offender accountability for domestic violence within a social change framework. CCR guides communities to build interventions that respond effectively to victims’ actual experiences. In a CCR, agencies such as police, prosecutors, courts, probation and victim advocates work together to create policies and procedures for collaboration and communication. CCR originated in Duluth, Minnesota and has been implemented all over the world.

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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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“Twenty minutes of action” leads to a tipping point

According to Malcolm Gladwell, a tipping point is the moment a social trend passes a threshold and starts to spread like wildfire. The Stanford rape case is a tipping point in our understanding of rape. The circumstances of this case have converged in a way that many people in this country now understand that women have the right to be free from sexual violence.file000704919536 An unnamed victim’s searing statement brought the reality of her experience to everyone who read it. The statement by the rapist’s father that callously referred to his son’s “20 minutes of action” perfectly articulated the reality of rape culture in which a man’s entitlement to enjoy a steak – or a woman’s body – outweighs a woman’s right to bodily integrity. A judge’s sentencing decision that showed more regard for the rapist’s future than for the seriousness of his crime embodied the judicial system’s inadequate response to an act of severe violence.

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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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The Economy of Safety: The Importance of Financial Freedom for 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

Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, is largely thought of as occurring in private, within the home. However, violence perpetrated by men against women occurs in the public sphere more often than one might think. Physical intimate partner violence is only one element in a larger framework that subordinates women. Societies all over the world use the law to maintain social norms that define the role of women and limit their independence. Remarkably, it is exactly these legal restrictions that hinder countries’ economic prosperity and development.

The World Bank Group recently released a Report examining the laws of 173 of 196 countries in the world.  In focusing on seven indicators of economic opportunity – accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, going to court, building credit and protecting women from violence – the report finds that 90 percent of countries reviewed have at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities.  The report noted the direct correlation between a woman’s economic empowerment and being protected from violence.

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The Power of Convening: A Reflection on CSW 2016

The Global Rights for Women team spent last week in New York with thousands of women – and some men – who traveled from around the world to attend the United Nations’ 60th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting. This was my first time attending CSW and gathering with such a diverse and energized group of women who are working to promote women’s human rights was deeply inspiring and informative. The insights gleaned from CSW 2016 provide us with excellent guidance as Global Rights for Women looks toward the future of growing and deepening our work on violence against women and girls (VAWG) around the world.

Emerging from the many conversations, panels and connections at CSW I was struck by two key takeaways. First, violence and coercion against women by men thrives around the world. Female to female alliances, with the support of critical male allies, is a powerful force to counter this violence. Second, women who are working within their own organizations and communities to combat VAWG have a deep need for convening and connection with other women doing similar work.

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