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Towards Thriving Cover

March 9, 2017

In response to the significant statewide and national impact of the sexual assault of the black high school student with a disability by three football players in Dietrich, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, the Idaho State Independent Living Council, Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities, DisAbility Rights Idaho, Idaho Parents Unlimited, Idaho Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, and the ACLU of Idaho will be convening a town hall the evening of April 25th in Boise, Idaho. Our purpose is to share the impact of the discrimination, hate, and violence that occurred in Dietrich High School and subsequent criminal justice system response, and to begin to work together to create communities and schools where everyone is valued and safe.

Prior to the town hall, the Idaho Coalition will collect stories from domestic and sexual violence programs, advocates, and survivors of sexual assault from around the state on the impact of the Dietrich case -in particular, the characterization that the actions of Howard were not a sex crime and the change from forcible penetration to felony injury to a child – and most importantly, suggestions for concrete solutions, all of which we will be compile into a document to share with governmental stakeholders. We are asking advocates and survivors to share their stories and solutions by going to our website. We are also seeking one or two advocates and survivors to share the impact in person – if you or a survivor you have worked with is interested, please send me an email at kelly@engagingvoices.org.

John R. K. Howard of Dietrich, Idaho was a white high school player who was originally charged by the Office of the Attorney General with “forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object” for kicking a coat hanger into the rectum of a black high school football player with a disability. In December 2016, the Deputy Attorney General amended the charge to “felony injury to a child” and offered Howard an Alford plea, allowing the defendant to avoid personal accountability for his actions, and recommended three years of probation. Judge Randy Stoker accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Howard to 300 hours of community service and three years of probation.

At the December court hearing, the Deputy Attorney General that the act itself was “not a sex crime.” The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence disagrees. The Office of the Attorney General originally charged the defendant with a sex crime and we believe it was a sex crime. The failure to acknowledge Howard’s actions as a sex crime sends the wrong message to the community that sex crimes are about sexual desire, when they are almost exclusively about domination, extraction, and violence.

Additionally, the Deputy Attorney General also stated that it “was not a racially motivated crime” despite a history of racial slurs and actions that dehumanized the black high school student. In addition to the racial slurs, the sentence is illustrative of the significant racial disparities in sentencing decisions in the United States, which result from disparate treatment of Blacks at every stage of the criminal justice system and are consistent with a larger pattern of racial disparities that plague our country. In response to the racism inherent in both the crime and the disparities in sentencing, Jeanetta Williams, the president of the NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, has requested that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation. “The NAACP alleges violation of civil rights against the White students involved and has requested the Idaho USDOJ to investigate whether the investigation in this case were consistent with the policies and procedures the office of Attorney General,” Williams said. “We would like the investigation to determine if such a heinous crime warrants community service and probation.”

The Deputy Attorney General also stated that “this was more of a vulnerable-victim motivated crime. I think it probably would have happened to anybody that was in the same kind of circumstances and mental state as the victim here.” Advocacy organizations believe that the statement normalizes violence against individuals with disabilities. “Unfortunately, this case and the statements made created fear and concern among families with children with disabilities, and shaken our belief in the ability of our schools to create environments where children are safe,” said Christine Pisani, M. Spec. Ed with the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities.

We have invited the Office of the Attorney General, the State Department of Education, and other state-level governmental leaders to attend and listen to the concerns of effected community members who believe that public recognition and acknowledgement of the harms experienced by the Black community, the disability community, and sexual assault survivors is necessary in order to begin the work towards creating schools and communities where everyone is valued and safe. Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb and Representative Melissa Wintrow will facilitate the conversations from the impacted communities.

From this community conversation, we will share the impact the Dietrich case has had across the disability, Black and anti-violence communities in Idaho and across the country, and identify ways to create communities where everyone is valued and everyone is safe, where our schools teach acceptance and the criminal justice system embodies community values of accountability and justice. We will identify ways forward to creating communities rooted in interdependence, resilience, and regeneration.

As Senator Cheri Buckner-Webb shared, “We want to rebuild the confidence we need in our state’s educational and criminal justice systems. We want everyone to understand that no one is expendable, that this young man who was so brutally violated matters.”
 

We Choose All of Us,
 

Kelly

 

Advocacy and Family Preparedness Plans for Immigrant Survivors

Now more than ever it’s important to connect immigrant survivors to information about their rights and incorporate family preparedness plans into overall safety planning. Domestic violence survivors from immigrant families and mixed status families face even more challenges. Survivors have already experienced abuse and trauma, and the potential of arrest, deportation, and family separation is incredibly stressful. Knowledge is power and family preparedness is a huge protective factor for children and survivors as well.

This guide can help any survivors with children be prepared for emergencies. There are special considerations for immigrant families, and it can guide the process of creating a thorough plan. It includes checklists, additional information and considerations for survivors, a guide on how to respond in interactions with ICE in various settings, and more.

At a MINIMUM, advocacy for families should include offering resources and assistance to:

  1. Make a child care plan
  2. Find out about immigration options
  3. Know their rights, and what to carry with them, or not carry with them
  4. Talk to children about the plan
  5. Decide and document who alternate caregivers would be
  6. Document children’s health conditions/needs, including medications
  7. Sign Caregiver Authorization Affidavit
  8. Make sure children have passports

There are other helpful resources here: https://cliniclegal.org/resources/know-your-rights.

If you have additional questions regarding working with immigrant survivors or their children, please reach out to Melissa or Mercedes.

Boundary County Victim Services

Boundary County Victim Services of Bonners Ferry is a tiny program in a tiny town, with big impact. But as Advocate Melissa Krejci says, “Small numbers can do a lot”. Boundary County Victim Services’ office is in the basement of the courthouse in Bonners Ferry where Director Becky James and Melissa share their small office space with part-time advocates Jennifer and Jane squeezing in as well.

Becky and Melissa have worked hard to gain inroads within the criminal justice system. Being in the same building helps, but it truly comes down to relationships. Through Becky’s leadership, domestic violence survivors have benefited from numerous improvements in how domestic violence cases are handled in their area.

As with other rural programs, Becky and Melissa wear multiple hats. Fostering positive relationships with community is essential and Boundary County Victim Services appreciates neighboring DV programs who provide shelter and continued collaboration, local faith communities, mental health providers, and other local non-profits, as they work together to support survivors and their children. They are happy to have just secured a $10,000 grant so survivors can now access culturally relevant community based mental health services from the provider of their choice.

This team covers the bases! Short-term emergency shelter, court advocacy and accompaniment, resources and referrals, client centered empowering support, transportation, and now mental health services compensation – plus community outreach, collaboration, and training!

laughterHow do they cope with this workload? They laugh.

If you ever need a laugh, ask Melissa for a meme. A tough day often leads to a shared cathartic laugh in front of Melissa’s computer. (Pinterest is the secret for the best meme’s, we hear). They’ve also implemented more formal wellness strategies such as acknowledging their healthy activities with marble jars, such as adding marbles when they step away for a walk around the building, or more marbles for longer walks. When they accumulate enough, they trade in their marbles for quality time – which of course is yet another wellness activity!

Balance is key in other ways as well. Boundary County firmly stands for what they believe in and has “dogged persistence for survivors”. But they also know how much they need community partners, and therefore, must also be flexible. Becky also celebrates incremental successes, such as improvements in systems and relationships, which helps prevent burnout and fosters positive relationships.

Becky and Melissa seem to have found a way to live this work with passion and dedication, while still making time to step away and practice self-care for sustainability. Advocates of all people know how difficult this can be. Perhaps when you have a chance to meet up, you can ask Melissa for a meme, or pick Becky’s brain on self-care strategies and improving relationships within the judicial system. They’re great fun to talk to.

Training & Events

Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Workplace: The Role of Advocates, Counselors and Medical Professionals in Obtaining Remedies for Victims
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Hispanic Cultural Center – Nampa, ID
2:30pm – 5:00pm MT
NBCC Clock Hrs and Social Worker CEU’s available
Learn more and register

Film Screening of “Rape In The Fields”
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Hispanic Cultural Center – Nampa, ID
7:00pm MT
Learn more

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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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