Towards Thriving Cover

February 9, 2017

Earlier this week, Judge Randy Stoker from Twin Falls, Idaho sentenced Cody Herrera, a 19 year old male, to statutory rape and ordered completion of the rider program before he could be released on probation. The New York Times and other national media covered this sentencing because the Judge required celibacy unless Herrera weds as part of the probation. Stoker said the probation condition was needed because Herrera told pre-sentence investigators he’s had 34 sexual partners. “If you’re ever on probation with this court, a condition of that will be you will not have sexual relations with anyone except who you’re married to, if you’re married,” Stoker told Herrera.

According to the criminal complaint, Herrera was 18 when he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl. Herrera broke into her room, “removed her clothes and raped her, even when she started crying and told him to stop” – which prompts the question why was this criminal case resolved as a statutory rape rather than rape?

Additionally, the probationary terms perpetuate the myth that sexual violence is about sex. Sexual assault is an act of violence, not sex. Sexual assault happens because individuals dominate and take away any control the survivor has in choosing whether or not to engage in a sexual situation. Among the harms of framing an act of sexualized violence as sex and not about violence, is to shift focus away from the survivor to the offender’s narrative. Focusing on the offender’s narrative is one of the ways society blames the person who was assaulted and minimizes accountability of the person who chose to engage in sexual violence.

From the news reports, the Judge was also responding to the fact that the 19-year old had 34 sexual partners. This distorts the act of breaking into a young woman’s bedroom through the window as the desire for sex rather than an overt act of power and control over another human being. While we do not know the circumstance of the 34 sexual partners regarding consent (he was not designated a sexual predator according to the news reports), the Judge’s order that Herrera not have sexual intercourse during probation unless he is married is problematic for multiple reasons. First, it infers that sex with or without consent within the bounds of marriage is acceptable. Second, the judge connected his values and perceptions of acceptable sexual activity to Idaho’s rarely enforced fornication law, which calls for a fine of up to $300 and six months in prison for “any unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with an unmarried person of the opposite sex.”

Unfortunately, the misconception that sexual violence is about sex was also at the center of the plea in the sexual assault of the black high school student with a disability in Dietrich. Both of these cases represent a devaluing of girls and vulnerable communities, make visible bias, misunderstand that sexualized violence is not about sex, and minimize unacceptable acts of domination and sexualized violence.

We need to continue to work to interrupt the root causes of gender violence – the devaluation of girls, women and people who are gender nonconforming. We need to encourage the criminal justice system to deepen their understanding on gender, racial and other biases as well as the motivation of domination and extraction of sexualized violence, and begin to explore means of community accountability.

We Choose All of Us,
 

Kelly Miller
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence

 

Promising Futures: Inaugural Peer to Peer Exchange Meeting

Melissa Ruth and Mercedes Muñoz attended Promising Futures: Inaugural Peer to Peer Exchange Meeting in Reston, Virginia on January 25-26, 2017 hosted by Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA) and Futures Without Violence. The Promising Futures: Inaugural Peer to Peer Exchange focused on administrative, programmatic and regulative issues as well as the promotion of evidence-informed and promising practices to address family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence. We were immersed in two jammed packed days of learning and growing.

On day one of the meeting, all ten grantees, shared their program strategies, evaluation tools, success, and challenges through a visual representation using a poster board and a gallery walk. The purpose of the gallery walk was for folks to share, through a visual and creative presentation, what each site was working on and create an opportunity for all of us to connect and to learn from each other. On day two of the meeting, and with the help of evaluators, Elenore Lyon, Ph.D. and Josephine Serrata, Ph.D., all grantees immersed themselves in a very in-depth evaluation discussion. Most grantees will focus on evaluating three levels of evaluation: system level change, practitioners change, and outcomes for families (parents and youth).

Most grantees will be working with marginalized communities through this funding opportunity; therefore, the evaluators were very intentional in discussing the following topics: cultural considerations, community centered evidence-based practice approaches, strength-based, and trauma-informed approaches. The evaluators also shared A Roadmap for Collaborative and Effective Evaluation in Tribal Communities as a resource.

Deepening Our Every Day Work with Families

Many of the survivors we work with are parents, and we know that the safety and well-being of their children is a major concern for them. Asking survivors what concerns they have for their children, and working together to see how we can be helpful, may make a world of difference for these families.

When we advocate with a positive outlook, we see more of the parent’s strengths… we see the complicated challenge of achieving safety and stability. We see love, frustration, hurt, and capacity to heal.

Parenting classes can be helpful, but they can’t be one size fits all. Offering parenting classes without also reflecting on parenting strengths can feel defeating to some parents who are facing incredible challenges to stay present, emotionally regulated, and safe in the face of violence. We can unknowingly “side” with the abuser when we focus on parenting deficits rather the strength of the survivor and the love they have for their children.

Some reminders to fold into our everyday advocacy with survivors who are parents:

  1. Even the most challenged parents have strengths. Find them, and point them out.
  2. Model empathy. If a parent seems to lack patience or understanding for their children, gently help them understand how violence can impact children and parenting, demonstrating empathy for the survivor and their children.
  3. Have more tools in our toolbox than parenting classes or counseling. Help provide or find respite, outside activities, and encourage quality time between parent and child. Host welcoming, culturally inclusive family nights or know where they are held in the community.
  4. Offer inspiration and education to parents on how thriving families are possible, no matter how bad it is now, or once was.
  5. Check our own reactions – it’s normal to struggle with some people or situations.
  6. Talk to a colleague, read, or do calming, grounding breathing or exercise.

These resources are available at www.promisingfutureswithoutviolence.org and can help in our work with families:

We Choose All of Us Campaign

Last week the Idaho Coalition launched the We Choose All of Us campaign. This campaign was developed in recognition of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention month, and the increasing incidents of harassment, intimidation, abuse, and sexual violence occurring in our secondary schools.

We Choose All of Us buttonThe campaign features youth from rural and urban communities – from youth activist Bukky Ogunrinola in Canyon County who worked on the Free Bresha campaign for the release of the young teen who was held in juvenile corrections after killing her abusive father to Nora Harren and Colette Raptosh the organizers of the Women’s March on Idaho. We Choose All of Us is a values-based campaign to interrupt the root causes of domination and violence by reinforcing values such as community, belonging, liberation, and justice.

Training & Events

Violence Against People with Disabilities and Deaf People 101
February 14, 2017
2:00-3:30 pm EST
Register Here

Immigrant Access to Federally Assisted Housing
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT/1:00pm CT
Register Here
The webinar is free and will last 90 minutes.

HUD’s Final Rule Implementing VAWA 2013
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT/1:00pm CT
Register Here
The webinar is free and will last 90 minutes.

Idaho Coalition Store Materials

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Visit the online store to view current Idaho Coalition materials available for order. For store questions, please contact Laura Diaz or call 208-807-2799.

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