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Domestic Violence

Acid victims' photo shoot draws attention in India

This just in from AP:

Acid victimNEW DELHI (AP) — A fashion photo shoot featuring five victims of acid attacks is drawing wide attention in India. While the country keeps no official statistics on acid attacks, there are regular reports in the media of attackers targeting victims to disfigure or blind them, often because of spurned sexual advances.

The 41 photos show 22-year-old Rupa and four friends laughing and striking playful poses while wearing some of her fashion designs.

"I told them to be natural. I didn't do any makeup or editing. I told them, you look beautiful and you have to be the way you are," said the photographer, Rahul Saharan, who volunteers with the Stop Acid Attacks charity and is working on a documentary about acid victims. "They are very confident, so it was not too hard for me."

The photos have been shared widely since being posted Aug. 8 on the Facebook page run by the group, and have also been picked up by TV stations and newspapers.

The joy and confidence the five women display defy the horrific stories they tell.

Rupa's face was doused with acid when she was 15 years old by a stepmother unwilling to pay her marriage expenses. The wedding was called off. The photo shoot has brought in funding that will enable her dream of opening a boutique to come true.

Laxmi, now 22, was also 15 when she was attacked by her brother's 32-year-old friend after she refused his marriage proposal. Earlier this year, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama presented her with the International Women of Courage Award for campaigning against such attacks.

Ritu, 22, was attacked by her cousin during a property dispute. Sisters Sonam, 22, and Chanchal, 17, were asleep when acid was poured over them by a group of men who had been harassing them in their village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

In all five cases, the girls' attackers were convicted, though such crimes in India often go unpunished.

Some 1,500 acid attacks are reported worldwide every year, according to the London-based group Acid Survivors Trust International, though it says the actual number is likely higher. India passed a law last year severely limiting sales of acid, but Stop Acid Attacks said it has since counted at least 200 attacks.

 

Acid Survivors Trust International -

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Wearables that Want to Keep Women Safe

This article by Rebecca Hiscott is reprinted in its entirely because the ramifications are so important to protecting women from assault:

In December of 2012, a 23-year-old New Delhi woman and her 20-year-old male companion were returning home from an evening movie when they were lured onto a bus by a group of young men. The six men proceeded to beat the man into submission and take turns raping the woman, who eventually died from internal injuries sustained during the brutal attack.

Half a world away, in Amsterdam, Herman Veenstra was sickened by the news. Reading a Dutch newspaper article about the event, he was struck by a passing mention that in Amsterdam an average of two women each day report a sexual assault, and that police estimate the actual incidence of sexual assault is much higher.

"I was shocked by the statistic, but I was even more shocked when I realized this is not publicly known," Veenstra said. "The media doesn't write about these incidents on a daily basis. Apparently it's not worth an article anymore."

That same week, Veenstra's daughter gave a presentation at her school arguing that women in Amsterdam should be allowed to carry self-defense sprays like Mace, which is currently not permitted.

The two events prompted Veenstra, the CEO and cofounder of Dutch tech startup Everfind, to consider how technology might be able to give women a swift and legal way to call for help during a violent assault. He and a team of eight engineers, app developers, and marketing experts began to develop Safelet, a $129 connected bracelet that lets the wearer send out an alert to friends, family, and police during an attack. It's currently collecting funding on Indiegogo.

The device uses a Bluetooth low energy connection to sync to an app on the wearer's smartphone. The app lets the wearer decide who she wants to notify in case of an emergency: friends, family members, the police, or the "Safelet community," a group of Safelet users who agree to field emergency calls from other wearers. To activate the Safelet, the wearer must press two buttons, one on either side of the bracelet—a feature designed to cut down on false alarms, Veenstra said.

When the device is activated, the user's "guardian network" is notified of an emergency. Meanwhile, the app activates the user's smartphone microphone to record the incident. The app can also transmit the wearer's location and a recording of the incident to the police; in that case, one of the wearer's "guardians" would also call the police and indicate the location of the attack.


The geolocation feature is of particular importance in Europe, Veenstra said. Currently, emergency services in Europe are not permitted to use geolocation to zero in on a caller's location, meaning it's up to the caller to provide that information.

"If you call the police, the first question they will ask is, 'Where are you?'" Veenstra said. In the United States, in contrast, 911 operators can immediately pinpoint your location when you place an emergency call.

Safelet is hardly the only protection-oriented item out there. The wearable technology market could be worth as much as $5 billion this year, according to some estimates, and so far that market has concentrated mainly on smartwatches and fitness trackers. But now, a new crop of wearables is surfacing, and they’re taking aim at the largely underserved personal safety market.

There's First Sign, which offers a $95 hair band or hair clip that use a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to detect head impacts indicative of physical assault, then activates a microphone that records the incident while the wearer's smartphone puts out a call to the police. There's Cuff and Artemis, two competing lines of connected jewelry pieces that sync with a user's smartphone via Bluetooth to alert police and family members when the wearer encounters danger. There's Bembu, a FitBit-like bracelet currently fundraising on Indiegogo that promises similar safety functions, although its clumsily-executed campaign page doesn't inspire much confidence.

And there are a slew of others, with more likely to come. Not only are safety-oriented gadgets a lucrative new space—the Yellow Jacket, a stun-gun iPhone case, recently leveraged a successful Indiegogo campaign into a booming business—they're also serving a real and pressing need.

"A woman would most likely carry [pepper spray] in her handbag, but at the moment of an incident, it would be difficult for her to reach into her bag." Veenstra said. Safelet, like similar safety gadgets, was designed to be easier to access than a smartphone or a can of pepper spray, which would likely be out of reach during an assault.

Of course, these products can all be worn and used by men, but most of them are designed and marketed to women. But the reason for this is obvious: In most countries, women are overwhelmingly the victims of violent crimes, and street harassment is largely directed toward females as well. 

Safelet is an ambitious and much-needed product, but, like any device that relies on crowdfunding to spread the word (including other safety-oriented wearables) its main hurdle will be adoption. Will women feel inclined to purchase and sport this $95 hair clip or that $129 bracelet? By that measure, Cuff, with its range of jewelry options at a number of price points, might have the best chance of scaling up, even though its functionality is relatively limited.

But there's another, perhaps more pressing problem with these devices: They're being produced by startups. Discoverability is one thing, but the mechanics behind any startup are dicey, prone to unexpected costs and challenges that a small, perhaps amateur team can't always handle. When it comes to a personal safety device, any misstep, whether a malfunctioning microphone or an app that's easy to hack, can cost a company its reputation. And crowdfunding campaigns are plagued by the extra hurdles related to delivering rewards and keeping backers happy.

In the case of Safelet, Veenstra insisted that most of the heavy lifting has already been done. The startup has already created a bracelet prototype and has begun designing and testing out the backend functionality of the smartphone app; Veenstra sees the Indiegogo campaign as more of a way to spread the word about the device. "We are more using it to test some marketing tactics in the online space than anything else, because we are already funded," he said.

Everfind has even run the product by Amsterdam's police, who Veenstra said were "thrilled" at the prospect of a product that would allow citizens to participate in keeping the women safe—so long as their actions "fit within the overall framework of how they want citizens to behave.”


Sick At Heart - Attacks Against Women All Around the World

Pink sariThe relentless barrage of articles about women being attacked - most recently in India, in Egypt, in Pakistan - makes me sick at heart. What is it about certain cultures, certain men and certain circumstances that make attacks on women not only routine but defendable? Something has GOT to change.

There are movements that are starting to get momentum that offer "safety in numbers" like the Pink Sari Revolution but you can't have a crowd following you everywhere. And it is difficult to protect yourself, even in a group, when there is an attacking group of men - often armed police - coming at you with mal intent.

I would like to make this a forum for comments. The question is: How can women in the global community best protect themselves (aside from always packing a gun which is not always possible) from any form of attack, whether on the street or in their homes?


Too Young to Wed: The Story of Child Brides

A recent article in the New York Times told of a 6 year old Afghan girl who was going to be married off to the 17 year olf son of a moneylender. Her father coiuld not repay the $2500 loan used for mediacl care for his wife and children. As a result of the story, an anonymous doner stepped in and paid the loan so the girl can stay with her family. She is lucky, despite her continued extreme poverty.

But so many girls from over 50 countries are routinely married off, often to much older men. Manizha Naderi, the executive director of Women for Afghan Women, a group that runs various shelters in the country, told the New York Times in a previous article that poverty is the motivation for many child marriages. That’s either because a wealthy husband pays a family well for his bride, or because the father of the bride will then have one less child to support. “Most of the time they are sold,” Ms. Naderi said. “And most of the time it’s a case where the husband is much, much older.”

Stories like Naghma’s come at a slow but steady clip out of Afghanistan and many other countries, including India. In 2010, two girls, ages 13 and 14, dressed as boys and fled their elderly husbands after refusing to consummate the marriages. They made it far from their remote village, but were eventually caught by police and returned home, where they were publicly, viciously flogged. Authorities did nothing, despite the flogging being caught on tape and human-rights groups’ efforts to intervene.

Here is a trailer for the new documentary "Too Young to Wed" that explains it. Please get involved.


If You Knew Me You Would Care - Women's Rights

If you are in NYC, please consider attending this book event:

Women's rights activist and Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi and photographer Rennio Maifredi will lead a slideshow presentation highlighting their experiences traveling together to Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to seek out women who overcame adversity after being subject to the worst trials individuals must ever face.

If You Knew Me You Would Care represents a journey taken to collect the first-person accounts of women who have survived wars, violence, and poverty. The stories go beyond tears and victimhood and reveal joy, love, and forgiveness. Alongside the compelling interviews conducted by Salbi and the photographs taken by Maifredi are forewords by Meryl Streep, Annie Lennox, Ashely Judd, and Geena Davis and a review by Angelina Jolie.

Please click here for more information about the book.

All women featured in the book have been served by Women for Women International. WfWI delivers a tiered, year-long program that begins with identifying those communities that are most socially marginalized and works with women to reach their full potential. Book proceeds will go to Women for Women International. For more information please visit Women for Women International's website: http://www.womenforwomen.org

Zainab Salbi is a women's rights activist, humanitarian, and writer. Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International, an organization providing women survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. Salbi served as the organization's CEO from 1993-2011. She also authored the bestselling memoir, Between Two Worlds: Growing up in Tyranny; Escaping the Shadow of Saddam with Laurie Becklund (Gotham, 2005) and The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope (National Geographic, 2006), with photographers Susan Meiselas, Sylvia Plachy, and Lekha Singh. Among her numerous honors, Salbi was named as a "21st Century Heroine" by Harper's Bazaar in 2010. Newsweek, The Guardian, and the Economist Intelligence Unit each named Salbi as one of the most influential and inspirational women in the world in 2011.

Rennio Maifredi is a photographer whose fashion work has been featured in Allure, Vogue, and Marie Claire. He has a particular passion for portrait photography and his work in that area has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Time, and Wired among others. His work has been exhibited in private collections in New York City. Maifredi was born and raised in Italy and is currently based in New York.

Social Science / Women's Studies / Photography-Portraits
Hardcover, 10.25 x 15.125 inches, 144 pages, 62 four-color photographs.
ISBN: 978-1-57687-619-0, $65.00 To RSVP email: RSVP@powerHouseArena.com

Personal Safety Plan – Be Prepared to Defend Yourself

Violence against women April is sexual assault awareness month, and we cannot turn our backs on the shocking numbers that the Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported for 2008.  In the United States alone, an estimated 222,000 rapes or sexual assaults of individuals 12 or older had occurred, and these are the cases that were reported.  Even more startling is that studies indicate 18% percent of women in this country will be raped over the course of their lifetimes.

This information is a frightening wake-up call, and every woman and girl must meet reality head on and devise a personal safety plan that she can incorporate into her daily routine.  Several components are required to make a personal safety plan effective, which includes both physical and emotional decisions based on the comfort zone of the individual. Attitude, common sense, survival instinct and the motivation to fight back are all critical factors that need to be addressed on a very personal level.  There also has to be a firm conviction that developing an individual safety plan is as critical as having a disaster emergency kit in place. This belief is not only essential, it is crucial.

Even now in the 21st century there is still doubt that a woman could actually defend herself and are rarely thought of as Xena the Warrior Princess welding a powerful weapon to combat the evil Xena_narrowweb__300x520,0 forces of the world.  That’s a man’s job right?  Women are the weaker sex, soft and feminine and not strong enough to defend herself if confronted with a potentially dangerous situation – NOT!  Women have the power within them to be strong and in control, empowered to take on whatever challenges they are faced with head on without losing their femininity.  The perception that women need to rely on a man to save the day whenever she is in trouble is ludicrous.  Unfortunately, Superman is not going to sweep down and fight the bad guys and whisk the girl away to safety.  In reality, women and girls need to become more proactive in making personal safety a part of their everyday lives. 

The first step in developing a personal protection plan is to imagine different scenarios that may place you in threatening circumstances.  Play out in your mind what would you do in the event if someone attacked you while walking to your car with your hands full of packages while looking for your keys.  If you enjoy jogging or running solo and a predator jumps at you from behind, will you be ready to react?

 

The Women’s Self Defense Federation offers a very informative article on how to avoid predators which can be found at http://aaa-selfdefense.com/avoiding-predators, and all women and girls should make the time to read it.  Here are some common sense guidelines regarding how a woman’s mindset can help prevent her from becoming a victim:

·    Always walk with confidence and with a purpose: Stand straight with your shoulders and Woman walking with confidence your head held high.  Don’t exude a “shrinking violet” posture with shlumpy shoulders and a lack of confidence.  Predators seek out potential victims who look timid and vulnerable.

·    Always be aware of your surroundings.  Your instinctual radar should be up at all times.  Avoid multi-tasking and distractions while walking from point A to point B, i.e. talking on the cell phone while fumbling for your keys in your purse. 

·    If someone gets into your personal space or is following you, look that person straight in the eye and ask “what do you want?”  Predators don’t like it when someone looks directly at them because they can now be identified.

·    If you must go to a grocery store or shopping mall at dark, park as close to the entrance as Woman in parking lot you can and always in a lighted area.  Do not park next to a van or a vehicle with someone in it with the engine running.  When leaving your car, make sure the doors are locked.  When coming out of the store, make sure you have your keys out and ready.  While loading the car with packages, put your purse in first and always look around you while placing the rest of the bags in your vehicle.  Once you are in your car, lock the doors immediately and turn on the engine.  Don’t sit there for any length of time because even if your doors are locked, it doesn’t stop a predator with a gun at your window.  Get in the car, lock the door and take off immediately.

·    Avoid walking solo in dark, isolated areas and choose a path that is well lit and trafficked.  If you must walk a dark and isolated route, carry a flashlight, a personal alarm, a charged cell phone and a personal protection device such as a pepper spray, Mace, stun gun or TASER at ALL TIMES.  Non-lethal personal protection products are affordable, compact and very effective in protecting an individual from being attacked by a predator.  These devices are very easy to use and require very little or no training and are legal within most of the 50 states.

·    If you are confronted with a potential assault, scream as loud as you can or set off your personal alarm to attract attention. Yell “I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY!!”  and start running in the opposite direction as fast as you can.   If you have a pepper spray on hand, don’t be afraid to use it.  Pepper spray is made from hot cayenne peppers. The active ingredient is called oleoresin capsicum (OC) which is derived from chilis and most effective when sprayed in the eyes of a predator.  The immediate result is severe burning of the eyes, tearing and pain, which can last up to 35-40 minutes.  Some sprays also include an indelible dye to mark the attacker. Pepper spray

·   Another effective personal defense tool is Mace, which is an irritant similar to tear gas.  Unlike pepper spray, however, Mace will not have any effect on predators that are on drugs or alcohol.  Mace® is also the brand name for personal defense and security products.

·   TASERs are more expensive than a pepper spray or Mace product, but this personal defense device is one of the most powerful non-lethal tools a civilian can own that is legal in all states except Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.  Check local state laws on any restrictions regarding the use or possession of a Taser.  Tasers can incapacitate an attacker up to 15 feet away and can also act as a stun gun upon body contact.  The Taser is very easy to operate with a simple point and shoot mechanism with a laser light that will guarantee an accurate aim at the predator.

·   It is important that you learn more about these personal defense products and choose the one that you are comfortable with so that you are not afraid to use it when necessary. 

Women self defense ·   Learn some basic self defense techniques that are easy to remember but effective enough to escape a predator’s attack.  Self defense classes are relatively inexpensive and there are organizations who offer free self defense workshops for women and girls.  There is a great website that all young women should visit, which makes available a 20 minute long video that teaches girls how to fight back against sexual assault and abduction. Since 2006 Just Yell Fire has empowered 1 million girls in 44 countries with getaway skills and the right to live without fear of being a victim of sexual assault.

Date rape drugs are becoming a very popular method of disorienting an individual so that she will not have the ability to defend herself against a sexual assault.  The three most popular date rape drugs are Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine.  Rohypnol

 

These drugs are powerful, dissolve quickly in liquids and take effect within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion.  If you are going out to a club, a party or even to dinner with someone you don’t know very well, you need to take these precautions to avoid becoming a victim of these date rape drugs:

· Don’t take drinks from people you don’t know 

· Open your own beverage container

· Never leave your drink unattended.

· If a drink tastes funny, pour it out.

· Don’t drink from punch bowls.

· If you feel drunk and you had no alcohol, get help immediately

· Never leave a social situation with a stranger or even an acquaintance that you don’t know very well.

 

The rule of thumb is when you are out with friends or on a date, keep your wits about you, have a charged cell phone handy, and don’t drink too much alcohol.  It is also a good idea to ALWAYS tell a friend or family member where you are going and check in from time to time.

Assault doesn’t always have to happen outside your home, and the major cause of injury to women each year is from domestic violence.  According to the American Institute of Domestic Violence, http://www.aidv-usa.com 5.3 million women are abused each year in the United States.  If you are a victim of domestic violence, do you have a safety plan in place to prepare an escape from an intimate partner’s violent episode? Do you have resources such as trusted neighbors, friends or family members who can offer you and your children a safe haven from your abuser? Visit http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/plan.shtml for more information on a step-by-step Domestic Violence Safety Plan along with a link to download a “Family Disaster Plan” worksheet.

Home invasion in the United States is also a very harsh reality and according to a United States Department of Justice report:Home invasion

  • 38 percent of assaults and 60 percent of rapes occur during home invasions
  • One in five homes undergoes a home invasion or break-in
  • There are more than 8,000 home invasions every day in North America
  • 50 percent of home invasions involve the use of a weapon; the most common weapons used are knives or other cutting instruments
  • In 48 percent of home invasions, victims sustain physical injuries
  • Victims age 60 or older make up 17 percent of home invasion victims
  • In 68 percent of home invasions, victims and the accused are strangers; in 11 percent of these cases, victims and the accused are friends, business associates, or family

Here are some recommended tips to help you prepare and defend against the threat of home invasion:

  • If your home uses hollow wooden doors rather than doors with solid cores, invest in some heavy duty locks.
  • Install security devices in windows such as alarm systems or bars.  These devices can be relatively inexpensive, and you do not have to spend a zillion dollars to secure your home.
  • Lock all entry ways such as doors and windows at all times.
  • If your front door does not have a peephole, have one installed.  Your investment will be about $30 which is worth having the ability to see who is at your door before opening it.
  • If you have some extra money to spend, install an alarm system such as ADT.  Do your homework and shop for the best deals to keep costs low.
  • It is highly recommended that you install surveillance cameras inside and outside of your home.  However, this equipment can be extremely pricey, and there are less expensive options such as dummy cameras that will give the illusion your property is being monitored.
  • If you live in a house, ALWAYS keep the front, sides and back of the property well lit when it is dark. 
  • When entering your home garage, be especially aware that no one has followed you in. Once you have determined you are alone, immediately close the garage door behind you. If someone has followed you into your garage, lock your car doors and back out immediately and drive away as fast as you can to safety. 

 

  • If you live in an apartment complex or dorm, always make sure no one follows you into the building.  Proceed to your apartment quickly and lock the door behind you. 

 

  • If your apartment, condo or dorm complex offers underground parking, try to park as close to the exit as possible in a well lit area.  Before getting out of your car, do a quick scan of your surroundings to make sure there is no suspicious activity at play.

  • Keep a personal protection device such as a pepper spray, Mace, stun gun or TASER close to reach inside and outside of your home.

 

  • If you notice any suspicious individuals in your neighborhood, alert neighbors or Neighborhood Watch groups.  If your community has an outside security company assigned to patrol your area, call them immediately to report any unusual activity.  

  • Have a discussion with your family regarding home invasions, preventative measures and escape plans in the event they become necessary. 

A well defined personal safety plan is an option that can no longer be ignored. The veracity of living in a world full of economic duress, raging unemployment, relentless foreclosures, and social apathy from too much online networking and very little human interaction clearly defines that society is becoming an increasingly hostile environment to live in.  Television shows it, the newspapers report it and statistics prove it.  We must stop sticking our heads in the sand like frightened ostriches and deal head on that it ain’t pretty out there.  We need to accept it but understand that we DO have the power to prevent the chance of ever falling victim to a ruthless crime. Women and girls must have the strength and the determination to fight back against violence without fear, embarrassment or guilt.  You don’t have to be Supergirl to defend yourself and win – awareness, preparedness, and a personal protection device will help you stay in control when circumstance puts you in a precarious situation. Strong_woman

 


Two Missing Teens end in Tragedy

Chelsea King My heart goes out to Chelsea King's and Amber Dubois' family for the devastating loss of their beautiful daughters whose lives were snuffed out much too soon. Chelsea was an honor student at Poway High and a member of the San Diego Youth Symphony. She was a cross country runner, a talented musician and well liked among her peers. Chelsea was in the midst of choosing a college after her graduation in May of this year but suddenly, she was gone. One day after school Chelsea decided to take a run alone on the trails of Rancho Bernardo Community Park near Lake Hodge. A few days ago, the search ended tragically when Chelsea's body was found in a shallow grave by Lake Hodges.

Amber_dubois On February 13, 2009 Fourteen year old Amber Dubois was on her way to school to exchange Valentine Day gifts with her friends. Amber was also excited to pay for a baby lamb through her school's Future Farmers of America program. She was last seen at around 7:00am only a block from Escondido High School. A little over a year later just days after finding Chelsea King's body, remains of Amber's body were identified in an isolated area of Pala. Her grieving parents suffered a year of not knowing whether their precious child would come home dead or alive. Today, Amber can finally be put to rest, and her parents can finally have closure.

John Gardner Registered sex offender John Gardner has been officially charged with Chelsea's murder, and he is also possibly being linked to Amber's case. Gardner pleaded guilty for child molestation in 2000 and received a maximum of 11 years. He only received 6, even though court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Matthew Cowell who interviewed Gardner, urged that the sex offender receive the maximum sentence allowed by law. Court documents reveal that Dr. Cowell reported Gardner was a "continued danger to underage girls in the community" and an "extremely poor candidate" for treatment. It is shocking that the Judge shortened this monster's sentence despite the foreboding warning that he will commit more crimes against girls.

What is wrong with our justice system today where we let known sex offenders back on the streets to abduct, rape or murder another child? Does anyone in the District Attorney's office have daughters of their own? How would they feel if they had to experience the horrific pain and devastation of losing a child to a sexual predator who was let back out on the streets due to parole? What would they do if their daughter went missing and had to spend agonizing and gut-wrenching days waiting to hear if their little girl was found alive or dead?

The laws for convicted sex offenders must change. First time sex offenders should NEVER be released from prison but should be given the death penalty if proven guilty. It is a known fact that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, and they are a threat to society no matter how much therapy they receive. To allow these vicious animals back into society so that they can prey on another innocent child is the same as giving permission for the criminal to do so. Forcing sex offenders to register their address and information apparently doesn't do any good. Neighbors of Gardner's parents had no idea that a child molester was living right next door to them, because many times, the information on these sex offenders are often not available or inaccurate.

In light of the tragic loss of Chelsea and Amber, I hope deaths are not in vain and that their murders will invoke changes in the law on the sentencing of sex offenders. It's a terrible shame that we had to lose two beautiful children to serve as a wake up call that just because a sex offender is "registered," it does not make us any more safe from the predator's sick and twisted thoughts and actions. There is no cure that will take away a sex offender's urge to perform unspeakable acts against humanity. Why in God's name do we give these deranged fiends any rights at all to live among society and give them another opportunity to brutally hurt and possibly kill another human being?

It is also grossly unfair for the justice system to allow such scum to walk our streets to yet again to act out their evil and twisted behavior on our children. If the law doesn't change to reflect the horrendous aspects of child molestation, rape and murder, then we as citizens of the United States should have our constitutional right to bear arms to protect ourselves and our family from these predators.

My final thought on the shocking deaths of these two girls is that as parents, we need to do a better job in protecting our children against violent crimes. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and believe that this could never happen to my daughter. But it did -- twice that we know of and who knows the countless other missing girls we still haven't found with their parents holding on to a glimmer of hope that their chld will come home alive. We need to educate our children of the dangers of walking alone and the risks of talking to strangers. Our children need to be taught effective self defense techniques so they have a fighting chance to get away. Children love to scream while playing, and they need to know to use their vocal cords the same way in times of danger. Our children need to be armed with a personal alarm that they can set off if a predator tries to abduct them. Rapists do not like attention drawn to them, and the loud shrill of an alarm or whistle may scare them off before any harm is done. Teenagers are responsible enough to carry a personal protection device such as a pepper spray or Mace as another tool to fight back if faced with a dangerous situation. Lastly, children must be taught to always be aware of their surroundings and to avoid listening to their music devices, texting or talking on a cell phone while they are out and about. Distractions are their worst enemy and sex offenders seek out potential victims who are not paying attention.

I wish you and yours a very safe 2010 and that you never have to experience the heartbreaking loss in which Chelsea's and Amber's parents are going through right now. I will not suggest that I have any idea of how the King and Dubois family are coping with their unimaginable situation, but we pray that they will somehow find the strength to carry on through their daughters' spirits and the memory of how their lives touched so many people.


Teen Relationship Violence – Is your Child a Victim?

Mary is a single mother and has been raising her seventeen year old daughter, Jill, by herself.  Lately, Jill has been coming home from school every day in a bad mood. The old Jill would bolt into the house, throw her books on the table and give her mom a big hug.  Now she goes directly to her room and locks herself away for hours.  Jill’s puzzling behavior worries Mary.  Her daughter has always been a happy, energetic girl who engaged in sports; managed straight A’s in school and a very popular student among classmates and teachers alike.  But in the last few months, Jill’s personality has gone from sunny and vivacious to darkly intense and moody.  Jill’s grades have also dropped to C’s and D’s; she has quit the soccer team and has isolated herself from her friends and family.  Mary constantly hears Jill arguing and crying on the phone with her boyfriend, Max, from behind closed doors of her room.  Mary really can’t hear what the fight is about, but whatever it is, the arguments are happening every day, several times a day.  Jill started going out with Max about 3 months ago, and he seemed like a nice boy, very attentive and caring.  Max seemed to become attached to Jill instantaneously, and the two of them became an “item” almost overnight.  They spent so much time together, Jill barely took the time to eat dinner or complete her homework.  Mary gently lectured Jill several times about spending too much time with Max and that she has been neglecting her studies, her friends and her family. Jill, extremely defensive about her relationship, tells her mom to “mind her own business.”  Mary is hurt by Jill’s disrespectful attitude, but she chalks it up to teenage hormones and leaves it at that.

A few more months go by, and Jill is cold and distant to everyone around her, except Max.  Mary is extremely concerned about Jill, and she calls the counselor at school and discusses her daughter’s recent change in behavior.  The counselor reinforces the “teenage hormone” theory and tells Mary not to worry about it, and that Jill will eventually snap out of it.  Then one day, Mary gets a phone call from the police.  Jill has been severely beaten by her boyfriend, and she is in the hospital under intensive care.    Mary rushes to the hospital, and the doctors inform her that although Jill should make a full recovery, she will need extensive therapy to heal not only physically, but also emotionally.  Since Max is considered a minor, he is sentenced to Juvenile Hall for the remainder of his school year and will continue on with probation for two years after that.  Max gets a slap on the hand, Jill’s life is in ruins, and Mary tearfully wonders how could she have let this happen to her daughter?  Why didn’t she see the signs that Jill was in a violent relationship sooner? 

According to the US Dept. of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Liz Claiborne Inc. teen dating violence survey, 1 in 5 high school girls is physically and sexually hurt by a dating partner.  These statistics are shocking, and they should serve as a wake-up call to communities across the country that the epidemic of teen relationship violence is very much a reality.  Many parents, like Mary, are unaware that their child is in an abusive relationship until it is too late.  Today’s economy has dictated that both parents need to work, which rarely leaves an adult around to pay attention to what is going on with their children. That being said, awareness regarding teen relationship violence has to be disseminated to the public on the same national level as domestic and intimate violence.

The circulation of information regarding teen relationship violence needs to begin at home and within the school system.  It is critical that High Schools and Middle Schools across the United States incorporate a mandatory policy for both teachers and students to attend a course that educates them on relationship violence, the warning signs of abuse, and how to prevent this growing issue among our kids.  Teen relationship violence can happen to anyone and because of the immaturity of the victims; they don't even realize that it is happening to them.  Women and girls between the ages of 16 and 24 are the highest risk factors in experiencing relationship violence.  Teen girls are much for susceptible to intimate partner violence, and they are 3 times more likely to be involved in an abusive relationship than adult women.   Only 33% of teens who were either involved in a violent dating relationship or knew of one communicated it to family or friends.  Sadly, relationship violence is a vicious pattern of control and abusive behavior that can manifest itself verbally, sexually, emotionally, financially and physically.  Relationship violence is not prejudice to race, color, economic status, sexual orientation or cultural upbringing.  It is a serious social issue that is having a devastating effect on our school system, our core family unit, and on the well-being of our children.

It is critical that teens are educated on the warning signs that may indicate they are in an abusive relationship with their partner.  Controlling behavior, intense jealousy, threats of violence, stalking, verbal and sexual abuse is symptoms of an unhealthy pattern within a relationship.  The cycle of abusive behavior and the “in-denial” type of reaction from the victim can go on for months until the perpetrator has total control over the relationship.  The abuser sucks the victim in with compliments, gifts and loving words and then demands a commitment.  The victim gives in, and slowly but surely, the abuse begins.  As the relationship continues, the mistreatment becomes worse until it escalates.  The abuser begs for forgiveness and the victim gives in wanting to believe the lies and promises.  The cycle continues until the victim is so beaten down and fearful, there is no motivation to leave and will change their own behavior to avoid the abuser’s rage.  The abuser isolates the victim from friends and family so that eventually there is no longer a support system in place to get help.  Over the course of the cycle, the victim is beaten down psychologically and made to feel worthless and insignificant.  Statistics reveal that the average number of times the victim will return to the abuser is around seven times before they end the relationship for good.  Unfortunately, there are many victims who never leave and either suffers the abuse for years to come or eventually may be killed by their abuser.

The state of Rhode Island is helping to set a precedence to support and educate their local communities in the prevention of relationship violence.  Lindsay Anne Burke, a 23 old Rhode Island College graduate, was murdered while trying to escape her own vicious cycle of violence.  Lindsay’s mom was devastated by her daughter’s death, but she used her grief to start a non-profit organization to fund efforts in the prevention of relationship violence through education and awareness.1  

It is imperative that teens are taught that abusive behavior is unacceptable in any manner and that no one deserves to be threatened or mistreated.  Victims of abuse need to understand that they cannot change the abuser’s destructive behavior and that the violence will only worsen. Victims should never be ashamed to seek assistance either by calling the toll free numbers listed below or by speaking with an adult or a local agency that provides a safe haven for domestic violence survivors.  For resource hotline numbers in each state, visit www.stingergirlz.com and click on the category, “Victims of Violence Resources,” and then click on “Hotline Numbers.”

 

For Immediate Assistance

If you or someone you know is a victim, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:  <쁜࿭>          1-800-799-SAFE     or visit their website: www.ndvh.org

Teen victims can also call the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline:<쁜࿭>          1-866-331-9474      or visit their website at www.loveisrespect.org

1The Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund is a non-profit 501(c )(3) charitable corporation. All donations are tax deductible and directly support our mission of ending relationship violence through education. We have no paid staff. Our workshops to train middle and high school health teachers, school staff and parents are made possible by your donations. In addition, we provide free educational and curriculum materials to Rhode Island workshop participants and trained health teachers in Rhode Island.  Visit http://labmf.org/ for more information on teen relationship violence and how you can help stop it.


Why Does She Stay?

Why does she stay? Why does he hit? In many cases low self esteem is a factor, and HE knows it.  It's also about power, control and male egos - a deadly combination when the man has emotional and anger issues.  The woman becomes his punching bag, and it makes him feel that he is in charge.  The woman becomes more afraid and shrinks under the man's rage, and it goes on and on like a nightmare she can’t wake up from.

 

Women need to be educated that there are resources available to help them and even provide shelter if they are victims of domestic violence.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, toll free number 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), and their website http://www.ndvh.org/ has an abundance of information.   

 

Law reform also has to happen and legislation needs to make domestic violence a very serious crime with a long prison sentence.  Awareness of domestic violence in every community is important, but until the laws change and abusers are punished harshly for their actions, many women and children will continue to become victims.  Restraining orders against the abusers also must be enforced and if violated, punishment needs to happen quickly and severely.  There are too many women who file restraining orders against an abusive partner but wind up hurt or even dead because she wasn’t taken seriously.   

 

Women should not have to be afraid of their spouse, boyfriend, father, or any other male figure in her domestic circle.  Once fear enters the picture, it is time to leave and don’t look back.  Of course, this is easier said than done especially when the victim does not have a safe place to go to.  The government has thousands of dollars of grant money available specifically dedicated to the prevention of violence against women.   Unfortunately, winning grant money is not an easy process and may take years to finally be awarded the funds to help set up non-profit safe houses for victims of domestic violence.  If you are a victim or know of a victim of domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Hotline listed above or go to  Stingergirlz’ resources page to find the hotline number in your state.

 

It is also important that women start finding effective ways to defend themselves either by taking self defense classes or using a non-lethal personal protection device.   Tasers, mace, stun guns and pepper sprays are very powerful tools in temporarily bringing an abuser to his knees for up to 40 minutes.  In today’s economic downturn, domestic violence has increased substantially, and the following statistics have been reported by the American Institute of Domestic Violence:

· Over 5.3 million women are abused each year.

· Over 500,000 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year

· 85%-95% of all victims of domestic violence are women

· 1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner

· Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury among women

· Women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than a stranger

 Women should not take these statistics lightly and must do whatever is necessary to keep themselves and their children safe.  Living in fear and intimidation is NOT an option, and with all the affordable personal protection products that are available today, women need not have to.  

 

*Check your local and state law before purchasing a TASER®, Mace, Pepper Spray or Stun Gun.

*The purchase and use of any personal protection devices such as TASER®, Mace, Pepper Spray or Stun Gun is the sole responsibility of the purchaser. The purchaser assumes all rights and liabilities from the use of any of these products.


Is Entertainment Industry Exploiting Violence Against Women?

There are many factors that contribute to the increasing numbers of women being violently assaulted. The economic decline, foreclosures, and the highest unemployment rates in years have all triggered an atmosphere of anger, desperation and hopelessness. The entertainment industry, in some respect, exploits the profusion of murder, sex, and rape that is happening in today's society.  Consequently, these images may trigger violent reactions in certain individuals. Realistically speaking, however, we cannot entirely fault the media as a major contributor to the violence that is happening to women.

Preventing violence against women starts within the family unit, and parents need to educate their sons to respect the opposite sex as well as teach them that equality is true across all cultures, races, and religions. In turn, female family members need to be taught self-respect and that they have the power to control the destiny of their lives without fear of intimidation and violence.

At the end of the day, violence against women is not going away anytime soon, at least not until there is tough law reform on how criminals are prosecuted and sentenced. The ignorance from cultural beliefs and prejudice behavior plays a part as to why there is victimization of women on such a global level. It's been nearly 50 years since the feminist movement spoke loud and clear that women are equal to men in every way, but have we really come a long way baby? Women in the 21st century are still being paid lower wages than men, their reproductive rights are under scrutiny, and the female population in foreign countries are still being sexually mutilated and tortured.

The entertainment industry is not only at fault here. In fact, if it weren't for the exposure of heinous treatment of women through movies, television and documentaries, many of us would be ignorant to the truth of what is happening not only in the U.S. but around the world. We need to wake up and realize that there is not one factor to blame but a collective response from hundreds of years of intolerance, discrimination and chauvinism.