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    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate

At The Haven: Support Groups 101

Support Group PhotoIf you are a survivor, you may have considered joining a support group to connect with other survivors and share your experiences. Tri-Valley Haven (TVH) offers support groups for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.

If you’ve never attended a support group before, here is some general information about what we offer!

What is a support group?
Support groups provide a safe space for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their experiences and connect with each other. Tri-Valley Haven’s support groups usually run 8 weeks and they are closed groups, meaning participants must sign up for the group in advance.

New participants are only accepted at the start of each support group. We do not accept for drop-ins.

What are the benefits of a support group?
Many survivors feel they are alone, so support groups give survivors an opportunity to connect with others who have also experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Often survivors are relieved to have a safe, confidential space where they can talk about the abuse or assault.

Our support groups also aim to support survivors as they begin the healing process and give them tools to help them along the way. We also focus on helping participants to develop healthy coping skills and practice self-care.

Who facilitates a support group?
Our support groups are facilitated by therapists or crisis counselors who have received special training to work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through Tri-Valley Haven.

How do I sign up for a support group at Tri-Valley Haven?
All participants must call Tri-Valley Haven and sign up in advance. After participants sign up, the facilitator will give participants more details about the group, including the location of group meetings.

Domestic Violence Support Group in Pleasanton
Start date: Friday, July 17, 2015 (1 – 2:30 pm)
Sign up: Call Liz at 925.449.5845 ext. 2718
Participants must call ahead. No drop-ins.

Sexual Assault Support Group in Livermore
Start date: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 (5:30 – 7 pm)
Sign up: Call Jessie at 925.449.5845 ext. 2727
Participants must call ahead. No drop-ins.

I am a loved one of a survivor. Can I attend a support group at Tri-Valley Haven?
Currently we only offer support groups for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. However both survivors and loved ones may receive individual counseling at Tri-Valley Haven.

Do you offer support groups for LGBTQ survivors?
Our support groups are open to LGBTQ survivors, though currently we do not offer separate support groups for only LGBTQ survivors. If there is enough interest, we may offer one in the future!

Do you offer support groups for men?
Currently we do not offer an all-men support group. We hope to offer specific groups for male survivors in the future. If you are a male survivor and would be interested in an all-men support group, please let our counseling department know!

How can I join a support group or find out more?
If you would like more information or are interested in one of our support groups, please visit our website www.trivalleyhaven.org or call:

Tri-Valley Haven Community Building: 925.449.5845
Domestic Violence Support Group: Liz @ 925.449.5845 ext. 2718
Sexual Assault Support Group: Jessie @ 925.449.5845 ext 2727


logoIf you or a loved one is survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, Tri-Valley Haven can help. We offer individual counseling, support groups, advocacy, shelter services and a 24-hour crisis line at 800.884.8119. We are a nonprofit organization that relies on the availability of grants and the generosity of our donors to fund our life-saving programs.

To learn more about our live-saving services and how you can help us keep our doors open, visit www.trivalleyhaven.org!

Tri-Valley Haven’s Highlights of 2014

Without your generosity, we could not continue to provide vital shelter and support services to women, children and families in need throughout the Tri-Valley area. Every successful program and event at Tri-Valley Haven is made possible thanks to our local community. We are so very grateful for your support.

Before we jump into the New Year, let’s look at some highlights of 2014!

  • 2,600+ calls received on Tri-Valley Haven’s crisis line! That’s almost 10 calls every day, from women, children and families in need.
  • 267 clients served at our Domestic Violence Shelter! With 30 beds, Tri-Valley Haven’s Shiloh Domestic Violence Shelter houses and supports women and their children who are survivors of domestic violence.
  • 245 clients served through our Rape Crisis Center! Survivors of sexual assault receive advocacy and crisis counseling from state-certified advocates through our Rape Crisis Center.
  • 96 clients served at our Homeless Shelter! Sojourner House is the only homeless shelter in the Tri-Valley Area that accepts two-parent families, single fathers with children, and families with teenage boys.
  • 249 clients received counseling at Tri-Valley Haven! Tri-Valley Haven offers counseling and support group services to empower and support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Almost 30,000 visits to our Food Pantry! Each month, the Tri-Valley Haven Food Pantry distributes free groceries to more than 4,000 low-income Tri-Valley residents.
  • 70+ volunteers trained during this year! No only did we train over 30 new volunteers as crisis line and sexual assault advocates, we also trained volunteers for our food pantry, thrift store and childcare services.
  • 40+ incarcerated survivors served by our Rape Crisis Center! Now incarcerated survivors at Santa Rita Jail and FCI-Dublin are able to contact our 24-hour toll-free crisis line and request advocacy services through our agency.
  • 150+ walkers/runners participated in our annual Pace for Pace event! In the past, Pace for Peace has been a smaller event (averaging about 30 participants a year), so we were floored when over 150 participants signed up to show their support for Tri-Valley Haven.
  • $2,000 raised for Tri-Valley Haven during #GivingTuesday! On December 2nd, our Tri-Valley community joined the new tradition of generosity after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This was TVH’s first year participating and we received $2,000 in donations!
  • 4,036 individual family members signed up for our annual Holiday Program! With your support, we were able to provide food and gifts to over 900 local families in need this holiday season. Our Tri-Valley community went above and beyond this holiday season.
  • 1 incredibly moving experience at a middle school!  After one of our presentations on healthy relationships and bullying prevention at a local middle school in Livermore, a 12-year-old told our staff that no one had ever talked to them about ways to stay safe and prevent bullying. To thank TVH, the student gave the Preventionist .30¢ as a “a tip.”

With your help, we’ll raise funds to bring hope, healing and safety for women, children and families recovering from domestic violence, sexual assault and homelessness in 2015.

Make your 2014 tax-deductible donation by midnight to help Tri-Valley Haven to meet our fundraising goals this year, to enable our services to continue forward next year.

Together we can build a world without violence!

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Here’s what the Tri-Valley Haven is doing to Help!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

We are mid-way through the month of April already!  It’s amazing how time flies! Halfway through April also means halfway through Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  While in some ways, it might seem nice to be halfway through a month of an emotionally difficult topic, SAAM is such a valuable means of raising awareness about sexual assault – how often it happens, who it happens to, the effects it can have on survivors and the family and friends of those survivors, and what we can do to help.  You know someone who has been affected by sexual assault – as sadly common as it is, the odds make that a guarantee.  That person could be someone you only know in passing, or a coworker, a neighbor, a friend, a best friend, a relative, a parent, a child… or you.  Whoever that person is, he or she deserves support, someone to listen to their story, someone to remind them that sexual assault is never the fault of the victim, and access to resources for healing.  Read on for more information about SAAM.

Tri-Valley Haven’s SAAM Activities Still to Come

April 23rd – Denim Day. 

Join us and Rape Crisis Centers Nationwide.  Wear denim on April 23rd and tell people why!  For great ideas on how to spread the practice and teachings of Denim Day, go to the Denim Day Official Resources Page!  You can also connect with the #denimday online movement to end sexual violence.

April 24
Tri-Valley Haven and Los Positas Health Center Team Up for SAAM 

Tri-Valley Haven, in collaboration with the Las Positas Health & Wellness Center, will be hosting a Las Positas SAAM event at the college on Thursday, April 24th from 11 AM to 1 PM. There will be a Tri-Valley Haven table full of resources and information outside in the Quad near the student cafeteria.  Not only that, we will have a traveling display of our Clothesline Project with us as well!

April 25th – Candlelight March in Livermore
 

 Every year in April, supporters, volunteers and staff of Tri-Valley Haven converge on downtown Livermore to honor survivors  , celebrate our newest volunteer advocates as they graduate from our three-month, intensive training, give out information on services and resources, take strength from our united presence, and raise awareness of our mission to build a world without violence.  Previous guest speakers at Tri-Valley Haven marches have been Senator Ellen Corbett, Senate Majority Leader and great supporter of women’s issues, and other local luminaries. 

This year’s march will start at 7:00 PM on Friday, April 25th.  Meet us at Lizzy Fountain Park in downtown Livermore, at the corner of First Street and North Livermore Avenue.  This is a family-friendly event and everyone is welcome!  Come see the display of t-shirts from the Clothesline Project, get your candles, and join us in our short march along First Street.  The weather is always beautiful and we would love to have you join us. 

April 25th – The Clothesline Project


The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a program started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address the issue of  violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women. With the support of many, it has since spread world-wide.

Last year, the Clothesline Project took off at Tri-Valley Haven.  Haven supporters, staff and volunteers all made shirts in support.  Most importantly, however, residents at our shelter and members of our support groups created t-shirts detailing their experiences and their hopes for the future.  These powerful works of art were displayed at our Candlelight March, at Las Positas College, and in front of the Tri-Valley Haven Community Building during the month.

This year, we invite you to make shirts and bring them to the Candlelight March to add to our display (see below).  New shirts from the shelters and other supporters and survivors will join the traveling exhibit at Las Positas College on April 24th and in downtown Livermore on April 25th.  All the rest of the month, the shirts will be on display every day outside our Community Building on Pacific Avenue.  We urge you to participate by making a shirt, or coming to see and be moved by the shirts made by others.

Tri-Valley Haven’s Newest Advocacy Efforts – Santa Rita Jail and the Prison Rape Elimination Act

Prisoner rape is a national human rights crisis, but it’s a crisis we can end. Every year, at least 216,600 people – more than a quarter of the population of San Francisco – are sexually abused in U.S. detention facilities. That’s the number of people who are abused, not the number of incidents; each victim is assaulted on average three to five times a year
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Sexual abuse is never an appropriate punishment and never part of the sentence, no matter what the crime. This type of abuse is also not inevitable. Over the last decade, a growing number of people – including many corrections officials – have begun to agree with what advocates have been saying all along: We

can stop prisoner rape.Now, thanks to a landmark law, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), we have the tools to do just that.  Within the past six months, Tri-Valley Haven has begun to collaborate with the staff of Santa Rita Jail to provide sexual assault advocacy services for incarcerated survivors of sexual assault.  This collaboration part of the PREA standards passed last year which have given the law (which has been around since 2003), some real practical ability to address the problem of sexual abuse of persons in the custody of U.S. correctional agencies.

  Among its unprecedented provisions, the standards mandate strong protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates; a ban on routine pat-down searches of female adult inmates by male staff; strict limitations on the housing of youth in adult facilities; and a requirement that all facilities undergo independent audits every three years.The standards also require that facilities offer survivors access to rape crisis counselors – trained experts who provide crisis intervention and emotional support in the aftermath of an assault. In other words, in the case of Santa Rita jail… Tri-Valley Haven advocates.

Within the six months since Tri-Valley Haven has begun responding to reports at Santa Rita, we have been able to provide outreach, crisis intervention, and resources for multiple inmates. We are glad to have the opportunity to reach these individuals, who are – by the nature of the system – vulnerable to assault, and who also – by the nature of the system – may not have many opportunities to get support after an attack.

How Big of a Problem is Sexual Assault Against Inmates?
  • 1 in 10 former State inmates reports having been sexually assaulted while incarcerated.
  • About half of these assaults are perpetrated by other inmates, the other half by staff.
  • Perpetrators tend to target people living with a disability or illness, those with a previous history of trauma or sexual assault, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming inmates.
  • Prisoner rape, either by other inmates or by staff, is regarded as torture under international law.  
How You Can Help
Tri-Valley Haven receives no additional funding for this outreach into the detention system to help survivors of sexual assault behind bars.  Donations by our supporters are always gratefully accepted.

Why People Don’t Report Rape

This is mostly just a reblog of a blog post by Sexologist on Tumblr.  The blog itself was posted to my personal Facebook wall by a friend who knows I work at a Rape Crisis Center and exploding-headit languished a few days without my seeing it, because… you know… Facebook.  (The way Facebook decides whether or not to notify about new posts is a subject for another blog and not one related to the subject matter of this one.)  Anyway, when I did read it, I found to my dismay that my brains had exploded all over the walls of my office.  It was quite a mess.  I am still cleaning up.

Because… HOLY MOLY did darned near EVERYBODY do EVERYTHING wrong.  Thankfully, toward the end, some Good Stuff ™ happened, mostly due to the Rape Crisis Advocate who eventually came out to the scene… but nearly every other component to this endurance-race of a report was horrible.  This is a great reminder of why we, who work at Rape Crisis Centers, need to be on top of our game not just most of the time, but ALL the time.

As a sanity check for myself and my agency, I’d like to say up front that our agency does quarterly police briefings with all three local police departments in order to increase police awareness of what we do and the role of sexual assault advocates.  We also have a system where at any time, day or night, not only do we have a volunteer (highly trained in our 65-hour training) advocate on call, but we have a staff back-up to step in if the advocate for some reason can’t respond to a call, and above that person is the head of our Rape Crisis Center, who could also go out on a call in a pinch.  (Although in all the 12 years I have been here, I don’t know of a time we’ve had to fall back to that response.)

So I would fervently LIKE to think that NOBODY who reported to our local PDs or to our agency would EVER have an experience like this.  But the truth is… systems can break down.  People can become tired, or cynical, or have an off-day.  But the fact of the matter is, we can’t afford that.  Not ever.  Because one off-day for us in this support web can equal a complete emotional disaster for someone who is already struggling with one of the hardest challenges of their lives.

Without further ado… here is the original blog.

I accompanied someone to the police station to report a sexual assault, and this is what happened

He Had No Shoes

Fay Piovet is the Office Manager for Tri-Valley Haven.  She has been with TVH for nearly 8 years. Before that, she worked in the corporate world.  She is a mother of three beautiful children, and two lovely mini daschund dogs.  In her spare time she likes to BBQ, shop and cuddle up in a blanket with a good book.

Fay Piovet is the Office Manager for Tri-Valley Haven. She has been with TVH for nearly 8 years. Before that, she worked in the corporate world. She is a mother of three beautiful children, and two lovely mini dachshund dogs. In her spare time she likes to BBQ, shop and cuddle up in a blanket with a good book.

  As the Office Manager at the Tri-Valley Haven Community Building, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing people here in all different lights—clients and staff at their worst and their best. Nothing means more to us here at Tri-Valley Haven than seeing our clients grow with confidence and success. Our clients come into our shelters scared and unsure of their future, and for their children this change is just as scary and confusing for them. We are a crisis shelter, which means often our clients don’t have time to pack their belongings when fleeing from an abusive situation. They are only left with the clothing on their backs.

Which brings me to a certain little boy who came into my office with his mom and baby brother looking for help; mom, holding her baby brother on her hip, was very upset. The other boy was probably no older than 11 years old; he sat very quietly in the lobby area. I was speaking to mom and she was explaining her very stressful position.  As she was talking, I glanced over at the boy and realized he had no shoes. This was such a heart-break; imagine a family so scared they have to leave without their shoes. Most of us can’t imagine it, even if we tried.

Luckily, I was able to give mom resources including information about our shelters, but while I was finding her those other resources, I was also able at that moment to call Clare, Food Pantry Coordinator of Tri-Valley Haven, and she was able to issue a voucher to Buenas Vidas Thrift Store in Livermore so that mom would be able to get her son some shoes and other items she may have needed.

When the mom and two boys left my office, the 11-year-old got up, looked up at me, and waved good-bye with a sweet, warm smile as if everything in his life was just fine. At that moment, that little boy had forever left an imprint on my heart, and it has always impressed me that even in the worst situations people are still able to smile.

Donations for the Tri-Valley Haven are extremely important; this enables us to help provide clothing and supplies for our clients when needed.  Tri-Valley Haven now has a new addition to our agency—Buenas Vidas Thrift Store. This is a great addition to our agency for the benefit of Tri-Valley Haven and our clients.

SART (And The Importance of Assertiveness)

imagesThis awesome post is by one of our recent graduates from our 65-hour advocate training. She is a great writer and will be a tremendous advocate to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I loved reading her reflections on one of the trainings (detailed here) and wanted to share with you all! 🙂

Thoughts of a Thinker

Two blog posts in 24 hours- an impressive feat, I know. If you read my first post today then you already know I went to Highland Hospital this evening as part of my training with the Tri-Valley Haven (TVH). This training session was by far the most interesting and informative of all the training classes we have had and I wanted to share some of what I learned in hopes of spreading some sort of awareness and also just to keep you guys informed. I know a lot of you are really interested in my training and what I would be doing as a volunteer and I have not been keeping you guys as informed as I had originally planned. So hopefully this post catches you up a bit.

Tonight we met with a physician’s assistant who gave a presentation detailing the entire sexual assault medical examination: the process, general…

View original post 1,211 more words

Who Would You Want to Help You If You Had Been Raped?

It just happened again. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a young woman’s report of having been raped on the UC Santa Cruz campus in broad daylight earlier this month was determined to be a false report, and within three hours, almost 100 people had weighed in on the “comments” section to express their opinions as to why women falsely report sexual assault, and what the punishment for false reports should be.

Disturbingly, several readers opined that the woman should be sentenced to “work with real rape victims” in order to gain an understanding of how serious a charge rape is. Do these commenters seriously feel that it would be therapeutic for a person who has been traumatized by sexual assault to spend time with someone who is being punished for filing a false rape report? Why does “teaching a lesson” to the bogus victim take precedence over providing specialized services to survivors of sexual assault to assist them in recovering emotionally from their trauma, and providing support and advocacy as they negotiate the systems of law enforcement, the courts, health care and social services? And why is working with rape survivors perceived to be a punishment rather than a respected calling that requires enormous dedication, empathy and knowledge?

The volunteers at Tri-Valley Haven’s Rape Crisis Center have all completed a 65-hour state-approved training to prepare them to provide crisis counseling, advocacy, case management or professional psychotherapy to survivors. It is a comprehensive and emotionally difficult training, and not everyone who begins the training completes it. Sometimes trainees discover that their own emotions are so triggered by the content of the training that they are afraid they will break down in tears themselves when they should be providing support and reassurance. Sometimes our staff observes that a trainee persists in holding victims responsible for their rapes by questioning why they allowed themselves to get into a dangerous situation, or in dictating what a survivor “must” do rather than empowering a survivor to determine what she or he feels is the best course of action.

When we see that a trainee is struggling to contain their own emotions, or that they propose interventions that are detrimental to survivors, staff meets with that person to express our concerns and ask for feedback from the trainee. Depending on the response, the person may need additional training and role-playing with staff before being certified to work with survivors, they may be re-directed to other volunteer opportunities at the Haven that do not involve providing client services or, if they have a serious conflict with our agency values, they may be asked to leave the training and not volunteer in any capacity.

Our first responsibility is to provide the highest quality of services to the survivors who turn to us for support in the aftermath of trauma. These services can only be provided by volunteers and staff who have a passion for the work and are motivated to support and empower survivors. It is not a job for court-ordered convicts who may be struggling with mental health issues of their own.

Tri-Valley Haven provides community education about the realities of sexual assault, the services the Haven provides, sexual assault prevention and self-defense for women and girls. To schedule a presentation for your school, workplace, club or place of worship, please call our community building at (925) 449-5845. Together we build a world without violence.

Vicki Thompson

Director of Domestic Violence Services

To My Fellow Survivors

Your Story MattersThe following letter, To My Fellow Survivors, was written by an amazing survivor who recently participated in a support group at Tri-Valley Haven. We are so grateful she has given us permission to publish this:

My rape happened over ten years ago and for ten years, I thought I was fine. I told myself to suck it up, that it was not as bad as some other stories that I had heard, that I was being selfish and to not let it affect me, that I deserved it because I was not good enough.  These thoughts replayed in my mind over and over again.  They became deep-rooted in my soul.  I went through these ten years making bad choice after bad choice—from an eating disorder to self-injury, promiscuity, stealing, lying, anger, and depression, you name it.  I thought there was something wrong with me as to why I could just not be happy.  Why was I making these unhealthy choices?  I knew that I had all this anger built up inside me, but I thought that I had dealt with this part of my past, so when my therapist mentioned that she wanted me to go to a support group, I was very hesitant to say the least.  I was willing to try anything, though, because I was at my breaking point.  I made the call.  I thought, even if I do not like it, I can get out of work early on Fridays.

               I was really nervous my first class.  I did not want to talk to these people that I had never met about something so personal; plus, I do not trust anyone.  The more you let people in, the more they can use that against you.  I had learned this too many times.  I went week after week, did my homework and opened up as much as I could.  We then received an assignment to create a collage of how we felt at the time of the rape, and how we wanted to feel as a survivor.  I was not a fan of this.  I felt it was stupid, childish, and a waste of my time, but I was going to do it and prove myself right.

I clipped out a pile of sayings in magazines that jumped out at me, not knowing which side I would put them on.  Once I completed that task, I just started to glue them on.  I felt nothing, no emotion, like this was just a school project for a grade.  After I was done, I looked at my board and was astonished.  My “bad side” truly represented that horrible night—the pain, the horror, the sadness and the depression—everything I felt then and at that moment ten years later.  It hit me.  Somehow, looking at those words that were lost within me made it actually real.  I finally felt something other than anger.  I felt sadness for the girl I was, the girl that I would never be again, the girl that lost a piece of herself that night.

I then turned the board over and looked at my “survivor side.”  I started crying.  Is this really what I am supposed to feel like as a woman, as a survivor?  Proud, Strong, Courageous.  Even if I could not be or feel all of the things I had glued on that board, the possibility of being a little free from this pain and darkness is what I wanted.  This was probably one of my first, “AH HA” moments.  I think after this project is when I started to open up a little more to the other women in the group.

Then the teacher told us that the next assignment was going to be writing our story.  “Um, WHAT?  Not going to happen.”  What could possibly come out of doing this?  I was very skeptical. I know what happened to me.  Why do I need to write it out?

Needless to say, I sucked it up and started writing.  As I wrote, I again felt nothing.  It was like I was writing someone else’s story.  This is stupid, I told myself.  I had gone through years, telling the same version of my story—the bare minimum with friends and family who were concerned.  Wasn’t that enough?  It wasn’t until I actually started writing details of what he did to me that I started to feel sadness and anger.  I finally sat there and realized fully what had happened, what he did, what he said, what he made me do.  I remembered things that I had forgotten about, things that I think my mind made me forget until I was ready to process them.  I did not think it would be ten years later, but I know now that I wasn’t ready then.

I then had to find a safe person to read this to.  That was the scariest part.  I had never confided in anyone about the gory details. I kept those parts locked away inside me for so long.  No one knew the shame I felt, the guilt I placed on myself for not fighting back, for freezing, for letting someone do this to me, but writing my story and reading it to my counselor proved something to me that day.  It proved that I said, “No” numerous times; it proved that I did what I had to do to Survive.  As hard as this was to swallow, it did give me a little bit of peace.  I was able to forgive myself.  It made me open up to the women in the group, to care about them.  It was amazing to actually be somewhere I could just be myself and know that I would not be judged, to actually be surrounded with people that knew the pain I felt.  I had felt alone for so long.

As this course is coming to an end, I am confused with how I feel. I am happy that I was allowed this time to really look inside me and face some of my demons, but I am saddened to part ways with these women that I feel truly understand me.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me.  Am I fully healed?  I do not think I will ever be, but understanding who I am makes it a little easier.

As you read this, I want you to know that this will be hard.  I will not sugar-coat this process.  Will you want to quit?  Probably, but some of the hardest things in life have the greatest reward, and growing as a person is one of those rewards.  Just remember, you are strong, you are courageous, you are worthy, you are loved, and YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!!!

Can I Help Save VAWA? Why, Yes! Yes, You Can!

See?  I said I’d do more than one blog post on the Violence Against Women Act!  So… here is Post #2!  It’s nice and short.You-Can-Help

The National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Against Women is imploring the 113th Congress to restore VAWA immediately. The new Congress is a change of leadership, and so there is of necessity a brief pause in advocacy efforts.  But be ready to jump in and join the call to mobilize!  Check out the the VAWA Tool Kit.

In California, statewide coalitions such as the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault are also helping to mobilize concerned citizens and advocacy groups in the same effort.

For a first-person perspective on the sorts of services that will be put in jeopardy if VAWA is not revived, and the impact on survivors of violence, read this excellent article from Truth Out!

STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT VAWA AND HOW YOU CAN HELP.

What the Heck is a “VAWA” and Why Do We Care That it Was Allowed to Die?

While most of the United States was worried about the Fiscal Cliff and whether we were going off it or not, another piece of legislation went by the wayside and died before the 12th Congress adjourned for good. That piece of legislation is VAWA – The Violence Against Women Act.

I’ll be putting out more than one blog 735075_451227128272165_1180963144_npost about VAWA and why it’s being allowed to die is a Big Hairy Deal.  So, I figured the best way to approach this is to first put out a VAWA 101 post since you may not know what the heck it is or why it is important. So… strap in, here it comes!

WHAT IS THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT?

The Violence Against Women laws provide programs and services, including:

  • Establishing the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice;
  • Community violence prevention programs;
  • Protections for female victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking;
  • Funding for female victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines;
  • Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities;
  • Programs and services for female victims with disabilities;
  • Legal aid for female survivors of violence;
  • Funding toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.

WHO SUPPORTED THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT? (At least until recently.)

Everybody!  Well, okay, not EVERYBODY.  However, it was drafted with support from a broad coalition of groups, including:

  • The battered women’s movement;
  • Sexual assault victim advocates;
  • The victim services field;
  • Law enforcement agencies;
  • Prosecutors’ offices;
  • The courts, and the private bar.

It passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994 and was reauthorized in similar manner in 2000 and 2005.

SO WHAT RESULT HAS VAWA HAD?  HAS IT DONE ANY GOOD? 

SINCE VAWA WAS ENACTED…

  • Reporting of domestic violence has increased as much as 51%.
  • All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and have strengthened rape laws.
  • The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34% for women and 57% for men.
  • After using VAWA funding to institute a Lethality Assessment Program, Maryland’s intimate partner homicides have been reduced by a remarkable 41% over four years (July 2007-July 2010).
  • A 2010 study demonstrated that an increase in the number of legal services available is associated with a decrease in intimate partner homicide.
  • A 2009 Department of Justice Study found Kentucky saved $85 million in one alone year through the issuance of protection orders and the reduction in violence

WOW!  SO THAT MEANS THAT SOCIETY NO LONGER HAS TO WORRY ABOUT RAPE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, RIGHT?  VAWA’S WORK IS DONE?

Sadly, no!  We still need VAWA desperately!

  • Three women are still killed every day as a result of domestic violence;
  • Nearly 1 in 4 women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood and each year approximately 2.3 million people are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner;
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape;
  • Teens and young adults suffer the highest rates of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
  • Domestic violence takes its toll on our economy. Even by conservative estimates, domestic violence costs our economy more than 8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs alone.

SO WHAT HAPPENED TO VAWA IF IT WAS SO USEFUL?

The Act’s 2012 renewal was fiercely opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act’s protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas. In April 2012, the Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and the House subsequently passed its own measure (omitting provisions of the Senate bill that would protect gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations, and illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic violence). Reconciliation of the two bills was stymied by procedural measures.

In the most recent news… on January 2, 2013, The Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of VAWA was NOT brought up for a vote in the House; effectively ending the Bill after 18 years in effect.

SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT THIS LAW HAS BEEN AROUND NEARLY 20 YEARS WITHOUT MUCH FUSS AND NOW IT’S JUST BEEN ALLOWED TO KEEL OVER?

Why yes, that is what I am saying.

In other words, THIS IS NOT GOOD for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking!  On a societal level, we are going from being active bystanders, to people who just walk on by and ignore the problem.

More blog posts to come…

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