Last spring when I was sorting out my classes for my final year of law school, I came across the Family Violence Clinic listed in the schedule of classes, and I immediately signed up for it. Our school has a Children’s Rights Clinic, that helps low-income families with guardianship, limited conservatorship, dissolution with domestic violence, and special education. Other than a vague idea, I don’t think I really knew what I was getting myself into. I just knew that this was a chance for me to get more involved in the cause that is so important me, to help people whose shoes I’m all too familiar of standing in, and to learn how the legal system works and is able to help victims of domestic violence.
I can’t tell you how rewarding this experience has been so far. Every time I meet a client, I immediately want to just give them a super big hug. I always want them to know that there are people on their side supporting them, and not just with the legal matters, and that they are most certainly not alone. Helping a victim of domestic violence goes beyond legal matters. The law as it stands at the moment, only does so much for victims of domestic violence. Ensuring safety and healing is a whole other challenge, but even more important.
If it were up to me, I would incarcerate domestic violence offenders for life. I’m not sure that will ever happen, but that’s why the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is so important. The VAWA authorizes critical funding for domestic violence and sexual assault programs in EVERY state and is a major source of federal funding for programs that specifically address the needs of youth facing dating violence.
This month, the Senate approved a reauthorization of the act by a 78-22 vote. It blows my mind that anyone would vote against it. Why wouldn’t you want to protect your women and your children? Why wouldn’t you want to help keep them safe? It boggles my mind that anyone thinks that a lesser, deficient version of the bill would be more appropriate. Today, the House will vote, and I greatly hope they will follow the Senate’s lead.
This week’s new episode of “Law & Order: SVU” titled “Funny Valentine,” was essentially a social commentary on Rihanna and Chris Brown’s story. If I didn't already love this series, I would now, because this show may be the first time someone in the entertainment industry has shed some true light on the situation. They even included a detail that my friend coincidentally brought to my attention only last night. Did you know Chris Brown has a tattoo of a beaten woman on his neck, which quite eerily resembles the picture we’ve all seen of Rihanna after the 2009 beating? She Google’d a picture of it, and showed it to me—I thought I was going to be sick. How can someone be such a brainless, senseless, incredible monster? The thought of him in general makes me ill.
This is the second time I’ve ever written his name in a blog, and only because I think it’s necessary. Otherwise, I try very hard not to contribute to the attention he still gets. I hate the jokes that people still make about the two of them and their relationship. Those jokes minimalize the seriousness of domestic violence. Domestic violence is not funny. I could list off the statistics I usually give in each post like this one, but in case numbers don’t help paint the picture clearly enough for you, let’s test your empathy. It’s not very funny when you have to fear for your life every waking minute, and then go to sleep to nightmares. It’s not very funny when there are three children in your house who are constantly afraid, locking doors, leaving lights on, and having nightmares. It’s not very funny when your husband/boyfriend is incarcerated for beating you, but sending threats through third parties, saying he’s going to kill you. It’s not very funny when your life is so consumed by fear for your life you’re constantly on the run, because you’re afraid of being found.
Just in case that didn’t help, I’m going to give you some statistics anyways:
EARLY 1 IN 3 TEENS
· ONE in FOUR WOMEN will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Look around you and do the math.
· Nearly ONE in THREE TEENS have been in relationships in which they have experienced the most serious forms of dating violence and abuse including sexual abuse, physical abuse, or threats of physical harm to a partner or self.
· Nationwide, nearly 1.5 million HIGH SCHOOL students experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
· Girls between the ages of 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average.
Many domestic violence and abuse situations go unreported, so imagine what the statistics would be if all instances of domestic violence were reported.
Additionally, recent statistics tell us that children exposed to domestic violence are:
· 6 times more likely to commit suicide
· 24 times more likely to be sexually assaulted
· 60 times more likely to engage in delinquent behavior as adults
· 1,000 times more likely to become abusers themselves
So again, I ask, why would anyone not want to protect our women and children, or anyone who is a victim of domestic violence or other abuse for that matter? Why would make light of these matters?
There is such a negative and uneducated stigma attached to domestic violence victims, but if only everyone could see them as their own brothers and sisters. If only everyone could see how brave many of them really are.
Read for yourself what VAWA does: http://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/VAWA-Action.About-VAWA.pdf.
Educate yourself on the signs of abuse and how to help. Abuse can occur to someone who is practically right under your nose, without you even realizing.
The homepage of “Love, Justine” has a list of resources and wonderful organizations, and the events page also has useful information including national hotline numbers.
Take care of yourselves and each other <3
BIG LOVE & HUGS