Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Challenging the Normalization of Violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Written by Alejandra Aguilar, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
Gender pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Over the past few years, there has been so much energy across our country on raising awareness about the prevalence of gender-based violence. Survivor-led movements like #WhyIStayed, #MeToo, and Time’s Up have done so much to bring attention to the critical topics we have seen all over our screens—abuse in relationships, sexual violence, and the social inequities that fuel them. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month and year-round, survivors want people to not only listen to their experiences, but also take action in our everyday lives to prevent further violence. Talking about it is not enough. We have so much more work to do!
As many people have experienced, and as many of us have seen throughout our spaces at work, and in our friendships and families, there are very real reasons why a large number of individuals choose to not disclose intimate partner violence or sexual assault: fear of being re-traumatized and ridiculed, having their experiences minimized, being blamed and humiliated… The list goes on. We know the reasons. We talk about them every day. And yet, we cannot stop talking! Now more than ever as more folks are looking for opportunities to engage!

In our Domestic Violence Awareness Month Campaign, Growing the Seeds of Healing and Justice, survivors across California are expressing how they could feel more supported, what changes need to be made in communities to make healing & justice more accessible, and their hopes for the future. Here are some of their powerful responses to our survey questions—which invite us to take action:
Q: How can schools, workplaces religious institutions, etc., create welcoming environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual survivors, and how would this work to prevent abusive tactics?
A: "Say out loud you are here for us. Say out loud that you welcome us. Say out loud that you need to do more training. Say out loud that you do not tolerate discrimination. Maybe others will be inspired by your bravery."
Q: What would you need from your friends, family, and community to feel safer and cared for?
A: “A nonjudgmental response to decision making about how to heal. Take action when I say I am not well. Offer to go for a walk, drive, or just sit in silence so I am reminded that I am not alone.”—Tina Rodriguez
Q: How do we move toward a California free from domestic violence?
A: “Begin at the pre-school level and teach healthy relationships, respect for individual sovereignty, and accountability for behaviors; and keep teaching through high school.”
Q: Answered by Native and immigrant survivors, as well as survivors of color: How do support systems need to be improved to meet your needs?
A: "Strengthen the support system. Legislate that DV victims be waived from deportation if an abuser reports to ICE or the court. Expedite the Violence Against Women Act processing time for victims to be able to find a job to support their family."
To determine how we engage others in the prevention of violence, we must deeply reflect upon guidance from survivors in our actions. But how can we get started? Answering these questions for yourself—on a regular basis—can help.
  • How can I hold myself accountable?
  • How can I share ideas with others about ways in which they can stand up against violence?
  • How do I challenge the norms that perpetuate the violence?  
This is going to take all of us—and each of us can become self-aware of the spaces in which we hold privilege and use it to stand up, speak out, and do something. Use the Oppression and Privilege Self-Assessment Tool that was shared in our blog post Intersectionality of Privilege, Oppression, and Tactics of Abuse, and consider the following questions:
·         As a parent or teacher, do you have access to spaces in which you can engage youth and adults in discussions around respect, equality, consent and what they look like?
·         Do you have spaces around you where you can add media and images that encourage healthy relationship behaviors and bystander intervention skills?
·         Have you emailed or called your elected official, encouraging them to promote laws that foster equality and liberation for marginalized groups?
·         Using language and examples that support survivors and challenge these norms: “They didn’t deserve it. No one does.” “The person who chose to rape caused the rape. Nothing else.” “Only a Yes is a Yes. Anything else is a No.”
How will YOU hold yourself accountable?
How can you INVITE OTHERS to engage in challenging the normalization of violence?
We encourage you to read and share the Piktochart that was created by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Violence. It’s a great way to start the conversation with others. Let me know how it goes by getting in touch with me at alejandra@cpedv.org. I’d love to hear back from you.
If you’re a survivor reading this, this is your movement—and we welcome you to get involved. We would be honored to have you join our coalition as a member. Please also explore the resources below:
·         Trans Lifeline
·         The GLBT Talkline
The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only, and CalVCB makes no representations of any kind regarding completeness or accuracy or security of the links within the blog. All opinions expressed in the blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of CalVCB. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Remembering Those We Lost and Helping Future Victims of Mass Violence

Remembering Those We Lost and Helping Future Victims of Mass Violence

By Anita Ahuja, MA, Manager, Mass Violence Response Team, California Victim Compensation Board

As we approach the 18th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, we remember those who lost their lives that day or were injured and how so many lives were forever shattered by terrorism. 

The attacks of that day impacted California directly, as all four of the hijacked planes were scheduled to arrive in our state, three to Los Angeles and one to San Francisco. 

Immediately following the tragedy, there was a lot of confusion which made it very difficult for the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) to obtain a list of victims so we could reach out to survivors and family members to inform them about benefits and resources available to them.  Initially, we relied on airline manifests and outreach including media announcements and press releases. 

The California State Legislature quickly passed emergency legislation to expand benefits for victims, created county tolerance programs in response to hate crimes that were occurring and provided $1 million in assistance to the State of New York for their recovery efforts.

On October 9th, the Governor’s Office held a Day of Remembrance on the West Steps of the Capitol to remember those who died and to honor first responders. 

Five-year old Sonali Beaven sang beautifully during the ceremony, less than a month after losing her father, Alan, on United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Amidst her tears and those of her mother, Kimi, they shared cherished family stories as we spent time learning about their family history and what would help them heal one step at a time. The memories of that day are vivid, as are the feelings we experienced of losing our sense of normalcy and not knowing what to expect.

The federal Office for Victims of Crime provided crisis response grants to CalVCB to host peer support group meetings — a practice that worked well following the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.

The groups met monthly for approximately three years in Northern and Southern California, becoming one of the greatest sources of healing for the family members and survivors.  Since everyone had experienced the same incident, they shared a common bond and were able to easily connect and support each other through severe trauma, depression, substance abuse, the inability to work, suicide and family separations. 

Sadly, since the tragedy of that day 18 years ago, mass violence incidents have grown significantly in frequency and size.  In California, we have witnessed horrific events such as those in San Bernardino, Seal Beach, Cedarville Rancheria, the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, the Chabad House in Poway, the Gilroy Garlic Festival and the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas where approximately 65% of the victims were from California. Too many people have joined the ever-expanding group of mass violence victims around the globe. 

In response to these mass violence events, CalVCB has established a mass violence emergency response plan which includes a field response team trained in trauma-informed crisis response and a detailed list of resources for assisting victims.  Through statewide victim forums, we have been able to learn about the ongoing and unmet needs of victims and survivors. CalVCB has partnered with other government and community agencies to help meet these on-going needs.  The Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) in the federal Office for Victims of Crime has also provided grants to assist with long-term recovery.  This program has made a tremendous difference through the support provided to victims.

More and more service providers are stepping forward to share resources during times of mass violence.  The FBI has expanded its Rapid Deployment Response Team which is activated in less than 24 hours.  The Red Cross helps with setting up Family Assistance Centers and providing for immediate needs such as food and clothing.  Corporations including Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, major airlines and others provide complimentary accommodations and transportation for victims and family members in need. 

It is impossible to make sense of the mass violence that has besieged our communities.  Our hearts are continually broken when we learn about the lives that have been taken.  I am reminded of my first encounter with victims of mass violence shortly after September 11th.  A husband and wife, parents of an adult son who perished on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center, asked me “what sin did we commit that God would punish us this way?”  I responded “you didn’t commit any sin.  I don’t know why this happened, but I know we will do everything we can to help you get through this.” 

And when the next mass violence tragedy occurs, we will do everything we possibly can to assist.  Our program provides assistance to reimburse for medical, mental health, and funeral/burial expenses as well as income and support loss.  We help those with catastrophic injuries with a variety of eligible expenses.

Know that we are ready to help victims heal and recover in the midst of horrific pain. We have learned a great deal about responding to mass violence and are prepared to respond when the time comes.  Our greatest hope is that these tragedies will cease, but until they do, we are here to help.

The California Victim Compensation Board is dedicated to providing financial assistance for many crime-related expenses. Victims who suffer physical injury, threat of physical injury or emotional injury as a direct result of a violent crime may qualify for assistance. To learn more visit: https://victims.ca.gov/.

Friday, August 2, 2019

National Night Out: Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships

National Night Out: Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships

By The Elk Grove Police Department

Since 1984, National Night Out has been an annual community-building campaign promoting police-community partnerships. In most states, National Night Out is held on the first Tuesday in August and consists of block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and much more. The goal of National Night Out is to strengthen relationships between neighbors and law enforcement and provide an opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances. Law enforcement agencies like the Elk Grove Police Department, understand that stronger relationships with the community help to create safer lives for us all.

Elk Grove Police Department has taken an innovative approach to improving thing in their city. In January 2014, the City of Elk Grove received a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to fund a full-time advocate position. The city partnered with WEAVE to provide victim services to individuals in Elk Grove. The advocate assists victims/survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Clients can receive crisis counseling, emotional support, long-term or short-term case management, accompaniment, advocacy and connections to other community resources, such as CalVCB.  The advocate provides training to professionals in the community including EGPD officers. They also ride along with officers and are called out to scenes after a domestic violence incident. The advocate wants each client to know there are resources available and they can receive support when they are ready.

Law enforcement agencies play a vital role in connecting victims to services like CalVCB. Law enforcement officials are often there during some of the worst times in a victim’s life and want to make sure that victims can get the help that they need. By referring victims and loved ones to CalVCB, law enforcement officials can help  them access lifesaving services such as relocation, mental health benefits and more.

The California Victim Compensation Board is dedicated to providing financial assistance for many crime-related expenses. Victims who suffer physical injury, threat of physical injury or emotional injury as a direct result of a violent crime may qualify for assistance. To learn more visit: https://victims.ca.gov/.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in California

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in California 

By John Hartmire, Associate Government Program Analyst, California Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services 

Adult Protective Services (APS) is present in every one of California’s 58 counties, and it is busier than ever these days. More of California’s elderly and dependent adults were abused last year than ever before, and at a cost of more than $165 million. APS investigated nearly 191,000 reports of abuse in fiscal year 2017-2018, up from the 184,000 reports received the previous year, and up 49% from the 128,124 reports received in 2011-12. Of those reports,167,081 were investigated, and 76,056 were confirmed as recognized instances of abuse. 

The upsurge in instances of abuse continues a trend partly attributed to the well-documented growth in the nation’s senior population, as well as an increasing awareness of what the abuse of elderly and dependent adults looks like and how it penetrates the fabric of family and community. It is not as simple as the fact that America’s Baby Boomers are retiring to the tune of about 10,000 every day, but also that the avenues of reporting elderly and dependent adult abuse have become more accessible. Every county has a 24-hour toll-free reporting hotline, there is improved understanding and working partnership between agencies, and the training for mandated reporters continues to expand and improve. The scope of the potential problem can be found in demographics: in 2011, for example, seniors comprised 12% of California’s total population, by 2016 14%, and by 2050 that number is estimated to swell to 20%. By 2030, there will be 36 seniors living in California for every 100 working Californians. The number of potential victims increase annually. 

APS is obligated by law to confidentially investigate every allegation and report received, and, when appropriate, offer to any elderly or disabled adult found to be a victim of abuse a case plan that seeks to help them recover. The plans are voluntary, and the cases run the gamut, with some resolved as easily as providing a hot meal or bag of groceries until a lost wallet can be replaced, while others are vastly more complicated, involving family members, while still others will involve outside agencies chasing down bank accounts and elaborately fraudulent property transactions. Financial abuse may be the most common form of abuse APS investigates, it is certainly not the only one. 

More than half of the reports of abuse APS investigated and confirmed last year were cases of self-neglect—42,813 to be precise. There were over 6,100 confirmed allegations of physical abuse, and over 9,600 confirmed allegations of psychological and emotional abuse. Across the board, in all categories, the numbers have increased annually. 

The California Victim Compensation Board is dedicated to providing financial assistance for many crime-related expenses. Victims who suffer physical injury, threat of physical injury or emotional injury as a direct result of a violent crime may qualify for assistance. To learn more visit: https://victims.ca.gov/.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Domestic Violence and its Effects on Children

By Alexandria Farrell, Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention

CalVCB logo and text: Domestic Violence Awareness Month, October 2018.
Imagine being a child, sitting in your room playing, quiet and carefree. Then out of nowhere, the happy space you have created is drowned out by an unpleasant and familiar sound. Mom and dad are fighting again. Do you run out of your room and try to intervene or do you stay, trying to escape the noise in the safe space of your room. As the fights go on, becoming more frequent, louder, and scarier, your safe space continues to get smaller and smaller until eventually it doesn’t exist anymore. This may seem like a bad dream to you, but for some children, this is reality. More than five million children witness domestic violence in the United States each year. These children are three times more likely to repeat this cycle as adults.

Now, what constitutes domestic violence? The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as a pattern of behavior that one person in a relationship uses to control the other. The pattern of behavior can be expressed in a variety of ways, such as via verbal, emotional, physical, financial and/or sexual abuse. When a child is exposed to domestic violence it means that the child has heard or seen one or both parents or guardians engage in violent behaviors or has seen the effects of violent behaviors. This can include witnessing or hearing the violence firsthand, hearing about it when it is discussed after the fact or seeing marks or bruises on a parent or guardian.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: A Time to Take Action

by Sandra Henriquez, CEO, CALCASA

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) is excited to partner with public officials, college campuses, law enforcement, victim advocates and communities across California to raise awareness.

Over the past year, we have witnessed sexual assault receive national attention through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Survivors who once suffered in silence for decades have found the courage to publically speak out and have been greeted by a society no longer tolerant of rape and abuse. As we enter Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to continue to create positive change.

In February, CALCASA released a new report The Costs and Consequences of Sexual Violence in California. The report was commissioned by CALCASA in an effort to create greater comprehension of the physical, emotional, social, and economic impact of rape and sexual assault upon California taxpayers. For some, the idea of discussing the economic impact of sexual harassment and violence appears unseemly. While sexual harassment and assault are very personal, in order to understand their impact, we need to look at them in the aggregate and in their environments. Families, friends, partners, neighbors and co-workers know firsthand the time and resources necessary to recover from sexual violence. But never before has there been a comprehensive, quantitative analysis of how much this utterly preventable crime costs the state. By collectivizing rapes and other acts of sexual violence, we can see their broader impact.

At a minimum, the report reveals how ALL Californians have an investment in eliminating sexual violence. This year CALCASA’s focus for Sexual Assault Awareness Month brings out key components of our report in order to create greater comprehension of the physical, emotional, social, and economic impact of rape and sexual assault. We believe, and the research demonstrates, that building thriving communities and supporting healthy relationships can prevail over sexual violence and we can do this by investing in prevention.

Moving forward, we need to focus on prevention in response to the impacts of sexual violence in our communities. For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, CALCASA developed resources to share the consequences of rape and sexual assault, enhance the visibility of our efforts to end sexual violence, and the need to move forward with prevention. Focusing on prevention can help strengthen and grow the support for survivors and our communities.

CALCASA is honored to support the 84 rape crisis centers and rape prevention programs that serve all of California, provide survivors with a place to turn in their time of need, and take action to prevent sexual violence. The time for survivors is now, to support and elevate their voices, and the time for prevention is now.

What will you do for Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Join CALCASA’s effort with the Partnership for $50 Million to end sexual and domestic violence.

If you are a victim/survivor of sexual violence, help and resources are available. Victims can call the free and confidential National Sexual Assault Helpline at 1-800-656-4673 or find their local agency at www.calcasa.org/agencies/.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Supply and Demand: The Complex Nature of Human Trafficking

by Emily Butler, on behalf of The Grace Network

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It occurs in every country, including most regions and cities throughout the United States. California is no exception. Over the last five years, California has reported the most human trafficking cases in the nation according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It takes many forms, including commercial sex, bonded labor, domestic servitude, etc.

Victims may be both minors or adults, foreign-born or U.S. born, males or females. Trafficking may take place in homes, hotels, massage parlors, bars, online or any other myriad of locations.

So, what can be done to help victims and potential victims of this exploitation?

Photo of young girl with barcode on her arm. CalVCB logo. Text next to photo: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. victims.ca.gov.
While law enforcement plays an important role, the truth is that there is work that can be done by any community member to help prevent trafficking in our communities. In trafficking, there is a supply of victims, demand from people willing to pay for their exploitation and facilitators looking to make a profit. The prevention of human trafficking requires that we address all three.

In sex trafficking, most of the supply of victims in California come from youth who end up in the system — kids who are runaways, throwaways or victims of abuse or neglect. These kids are vulnerable to facilitators who pose as loving boyfriends or father figures, people who prey on their vulnerability.

Fortunately, there are already groups and organizations doing just that, often without the label of “fighting human trafficking.” They simply need more resources and manpower to continue their good work.

Groups that are directly or indirectly working to stop the supply of victims are any organizations that help empower and protect vulnerable youth. Among these agencies are group homes, foster care homes, after school programs, community centers, homeless shelters, drop-in centers and trauma recovery centers.

These groups are also helping to transform those who could become facilitators in the commercial sex trade. Young men and women who could become exploiters can find a different path through the influence of mentors and other opportunities.

The demand in sex trafficking comes from sex buyers, mostly men, who consume commercial sex, whether online, in clubs or on the streets. Groups that contribute to ending the demand work to stop the consumption of pornography, provide support groups for men and pursue other forms of accountability in the commercial sex trade.

The fight against human trafficking requires an army — it requires people to be aware and it requires that people get involved in their communities to serve vulnerable youth by helping give them opportunities for a safe future.

If you are a victim of human trafficking, help is available. Victims can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or The Grace Network at (916) 850-0846 for assistance.