October 6, 2016
October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an opportunity to engage our family, friends, colleagues, and community partners in conversations on interrupting the root causes of domestic violence and the devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities.
An important national conversation on the impact of domestic violence centers on Bresha Meadows, a child survivor of domestic violence who just turned 15 while incarcerated in an Ohio Juvenile Detention Center. Bresha is charged with aggravated murder for defending herself and her family from a father who had a long history of abusing them. Bresha has been incarcerated for nearly 75 days. She has a court hearing today, and our movement to end gender violence is demanding her immediate release. We encourage you to join with other domestic violence coalitions and programs around the country by signing the Color of Change Petition by clicking here.
By engaging in conversations on Bresha Meadows, we can increase awareness of the traumatic impact of domestic violence on individuals, families and communities. According to the media reports, Bresha Meadows experienced long-term and severe childhood exposure to domestic violence and sought help of authorities to stop the violent behavior of her father towards herself and her family. Research has consistently found that early identification of abuse and appropriate intervention could have prevented or significantly reduced family violence, like that experienced by Bresha. Childhood exposure to violence has been shown to be associated with long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Researchers have been sounding the alarm that children exposed to violence are at a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life and becoming part of a cycle of violence.
In addition, girls of color, like Bresha, are disproportionality punished by the criminal justice system for engaging in acts of self-preservation in situations of recurring and severe abuse, and less likely to have systems effectively intervene to stop abuse. The Office of Violence Against Women and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have both found that race and gender “plays an enormous role in policing, prosecuting, and processing cases of in-home violence.” Criminalizing Bresha sends a harmful message to survivors and their children—that even in the most desperate of situations, they will be punished for taking measures to save their own lives, instead of being helped.
As a child impacted by extreme violence, Bresha needs a safe and supportive environment to heal and rebuild from the trauma she faced. Incarceration is a wholly inappropriate response to supporting Bresha in her journey in moving forward.
Bresha should be released immediately and not have to endure the re-traumatization of prosecution and incarceration. If Bresha is tried as a youth, she risks rampant abuses in the juvenile system, including a high chance of isolation in solitary confinement. If Bresha is tried as an adult, she risks direct transfer to an adult prison in Ohio. Young people incarcerated in adult prisons face horrifying rates of sexual and physical violence. If convicted as an adult, she faces the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison. Even if Bresha is acquitted of all charges, once she’s prosecuted as an adult, any future charges will track her into the adult system.
Bresha Meadows needs a system of community care and safety organized around the values of dignity, wellbeing, safety, restoration and love.
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence
A recent visit with Julia Robinson, the new President for Elmore County Domestic Violence Council (ECDVC), at their resource center in Mountain Home brought to mind this quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Elmore County DV Council is completely volunteer driven – including Julia’s position as President. A former sexual assault advocate at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Julia retired from service but still works full-time on base in addition to her new position leading Elmore County DV Council. The late afternoon sun filtered into the cozy yet spacious resource center as Julia outlined a list of questions and discussed the council’s priorities for the upcoming season and beyond. We talked about the challenges of providing services without any paid staff – and the value of every member of the team and community partners. Also the challenges of limited resources, and the even higher turnover rates of clients and volunteers due to the nature of military life. Higher turnover leads to more consistent need for recruitment, recurrent trainings, onboarding, and team building. Yet Julia believes that the dedicated volunteer force behind the council is up for the challenge.
What’s coming on the horizon for Elmore County Domestic Violence Council? They are hoping to continue to grow and offer services at their resource center more hours each week, reach more underserved survivors in their community, and provide prevention education in the schools. “Our whole team of volunteers is so incredibly vital in carrying out our mission. They are an unparalleled group of people with a drive and dedication that continues to amaze me. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to organize their efforts.”, says Julia.
ECDVC is preparing for their annual fundraiser Harvest for Hope Benefit Auction and Steak Dinner, October 22. It sounds like it’s worth the road trip for a good time and good cause… and Idaho Coalition’s Jennifer Landhuis will be a guest speaker.
In Opening Our Doors: Building Strong Sexual Assault Services in Dual Advocacy and Multi-Service Agencies, the Resource Sharing Project highlights the need for sexual-assault specific services that meet both the short and long-term needs of individuals seeking services from programs. The services that are provided by dual programs influence an individual’s decision to access those services.
Immediate advocacy and support could include:
Long-term needs advocacy and support may include:
Providing a range of services ensures that our services are available to a range of individuals and emphasizes our attention to and support of individuals impacted by sexual assault. Many programs, especially rural programs struggle with setting aside advocate time and space to focus on outreach to these individuals. Take time to evaluate the range of programming you offer individuals who are impacted by sexual assault as compared to the programming you offer for individuals impacted by domestic violence. Ask yourself what can you do to ensure that survivors of sexual assault feel as welcomed and empowered by your agency as individuals who are impacted by domestic violence. If you would like to explore these questions with guidance from the Idaho Coalition, please contact Jennifer.
`The term “Trauma informed” has become so commonplace that it could practically be trademarked as its own brand. We may convey a higher level of service when we refer to trauma informed care, or trauma focused approaches. We can also normalize a variety of symptoms and needs that an individual may experience. Being trauma informed has helped us focus on strengths and resilience; strive for more personal interactions based on choice and comfort of the client, calming environments, and healthier, more balanced work environments. Trauma informed providers and organizations have supported countless survivors of trauma on their healing path by offering safe space, sensitive responses, warm referrals, burnout prevention, and more.
However, the trauma informed movement needs growth, and must continue to evolve to bring forth a deeper and broader lens of trauma and resilience, and be meaningful and accessible for all, not only some. One might argue it needs so much growth that an entirely new movement must evolve. Is this because the trauma-informed movement has remained compartmentalized and narrowly focused on individuals and specific occurrences? Cultural sensitivity and relevance should not be an add-on to trauma informed care, yet this is what we often see. A simple Google search will highlight the apparent difference between “trauma informed” and “culturally sensitive trauma informed”. No wonder people want a new movement! Culture cannot be extracted from people’s lived experiences, nor should it be. Somehow we now understand that trauma is carried with us, yet we still compartmentalize culture, spirituality, religion, historical and everyday oppression.
Where the trauma informed approach has fallen behind, or failed to catch up – depending on our perspective – is taking on the largest and most complex sources of trauma. Systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism can be traumatic in and of themselves, and they lead to increased risk for more trauma experiences. If not outright traumatic for some people who experience them, these oppressions are still challenges in addition to, and often even more germane to one’s healing and thriving. These oppressions and others are extremely prevalent and harmful yet they don’t fit neatly into an ACE score or trauma assessment.
Trauma informed systems, approaches and techniques should be rooted in the absolute awareness of these pervasive systems of oppression, and deeply committed to ending them. Trauma informed communities are equitable in opportunities and resources, welcoming and flexible to spirituality, religion, cultural practices, wellness and healing approaches, and the people within these communities practice constant diligence of examining how privilege and oppression show up in all interactions, protocols, and policies.
To truly heal trauma, we must stop recreating it through oppressive policies, social norms and structural oppressions. This requires community-wide commitment and individual and systemic approaches that liberate us from violence, crime, poverty, isolation and domination. Communities like Tarpon Springs Florida and South Potrero neighborhood in San Francisco, among others, are bridging services, social justice, and community based mind/body/spirit healing and wellness practices to address the challenges that not only trauma impacted individuals, but entire communities face. There is hope. There are solutions. Through deeper understanding of individual and community trauma, and individual, social and political engagement with what it means to be trauma informed, or a separate movement altogether that embraces the crucial community based holistic healing, prevention, and transformative work that has been left out of the trauma informed movement, we seek our liberation.
– Melissa Ruth, MS, LCPC
Statewide Movement Building Conversations
Idaho Community & Tribal Domestic Violence Programs – November 2nd & 3rd, 2016
We are excited to announce that Lynn Rosenthal, Former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and most recently with the National Domestic Violence Hotline will facilitate our conversation and share her perspective on the essential role of community and tribal domestic and sexual violence programs to create social change.
Eastern Idaho Learning Community
*** Additional details to come ***
1 Minute of Breathing… With Your Hands!
Hopefully in these past 15 days, you’ve become more conscious of your breathing! The breath is one of the best diagnostics we have of how we are doing. It acts like an alarm system for the body – we tend not to notice it when all is well, but when we feel anxious, scared or angry, the breath – or lack thereof – is a great indicator. Once we get into the practice of noticing our breath, we can use it to our strategic advantage. One way to observe your breathing is to visualize it with your hands.
Today’s Challenge –
Spend 1 minute focused on your breathing. Clasp your fingers together in front of your belly, palms facing up. On the inhale, lift your clasped hands up – when you can no longer inhale, rotate your palms face down, begin to exhale slowly and bring your clasped hands down for the for the duration of your exhale. Repeat 10 times.
Deepen Your Practice –
Do this at least 2 more times with a partner and see if you can lengthen the exhale each time.
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