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Bitch Issue 53

Bitch Issue 53: The Underground Issue

Looking for thought-provoking feminist perspectives, recommendations, and reflections on pop culture? Bitch magazine, a project of Bitch Media (they have an active online presence with blogs, podcasts, and more) is exactly what you’re looking for. I devour each new issue on my commute to work (don’t worry, I take the T), wondering how many people will notice I’m reading a magazine entitled Bitch, how many strange looks might be cast my way, and how many approving, conspiratorial nods I might be getting. I wonder this because I’m too wrapped up in reading to notice. From in-depth analyses of current pop-culture trends and politics to recommendations on the latest awesome music, movies, and books, they offer such a range of compelling fodder for feminists—and everyone else, too!

I love the frame that Bitch Media uses to look at our modern world and the ways they creates such rich dialogue. That’s why I was especially excited to open the new issue (53) and see a letter to the editor I wrote! After reading an article in the last issue that posited the word “victim” is a powerful tool for people who’ve survived sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of violence, I sent the following response:

I appreciated Carrie A. Rentschler’s desire for powerful language that can describe “the harms, injuries, and experiences of oppression and domination” (“Waking Wounded,” no. 52), but I find it curious and worrisome that she doesn’t mention using “survivor” language as a way to do that (for cases in which the person is alive, of course, such as with survivors of sexual assault that were mentioned). Using “survivor” acknowledges the negative power of oppression and domination while also highlighting the strength of the person who has endured them. In work that I’ve done as an advocate and volunteer for organizations supporting survivors of domestic violence, I’ve found such language important and empowering.

Language is so important and powerful—we use it to shape our worlds, our lives, our experiences. That’s one reason I think “survivor” is such an vital word when we’re talking about domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of oppression. And that power of language is also one reason I am so glad that Bitch Media is out there, empowering people with their contributors’ compelling words, cultivating discussion, and just generally totally rocking.

If you are still making last-minute decisions re: end-of-year donations, definitely consider donating to Bitch Media—or if you’re looking for a perfect gift for your favorite feminist friend (or maybe someone who might not think of themselves as a feminist), a subscription is an awesome way to go!

PS. Goal for 2012: submit a piece to Bitch!

OK, total Jessica Fail. I know it’s not October anymore (those last few days of it just disappeared without warning), but I think every month should be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s not like the violence stops the other 11 months of the year. In a country, a world really, where domestic violence is shrouded in silence, where it’s all too often overlooked as “not our business,” where we see headlines of women murdered, it’s so important to educate ourselves, speak out, and offer our support.

Remember that domestic violence effects people of all races, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, and more. Remember it is not about love, no matter what an abusive partner says. It’s about power and control. And remember there are many forms of abuse, not just physical violence. Mental, verbal, and emotional abuse can and often will eventually lead to physical abuse. And even if it doesn’t, the detrimental effects of mental, verbal, and emotional abuse are serious. I find the Power and Control Wheel to be a useful tool in considering the many aspects of domestic violence:

Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel courtesy of the Duluth Model (click image to enlarge)

If you want to print out a copy of the Power and Control Wheel, check out this PDF from the Duluth Model. Remember, no one deserves to be treated this way.

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Starting Point, the crisis center in New Hampshire that I used to work out, printed the following list of things that you can do, to which I’ve added a couple ideas:

  • Purchase, wear, and distribute a purple ribbon. The purple ribbon is a unifying symbol of courage, survival, honor, and dedication to ending domestic violence. By wearing the ribbon, you are conveying the strong message that there is no place for domestic violence in our homes, schools, or neighborhoods.
  • Take action and speak out when you hear a myth about domestic violence and replace it with the truth.
  • Assist with the production and distribution of educational and awareness programs and materials.
  • Listen to a victim and say, “I believe you.”
  • Record public service announcements or write an article or letter to the editor for a newspaper.
  • Wear a purple bracelet.
  • Participate in a walk or candlelight vigil, which are held throughout the country.
  • Volunteer for your local crisis center.
  • Donate to your local crisis center.
  • Read a book about domestic violence and lead a book-group discussion about it.
  • Know what the local resources are for victim-survivors of domestic violence so that you know where to direct someone that could use them.
  • Find out what you can do to support a friend in a domestic violence situation by calling your local crisis center.

Some further information and resources:

Image courtesy of SEIU blog post.

Image courtesy of SEIU blog post.

I just learned from a SEIU blog post that in eight states (plus DC), eight of the sixteen largest health insurance companies have denied coverage to people based on their experience of being a victim/survivor of domestic violence. Way to further victimize them, insurance companies. I can’t stress enough how completely harmful this is. Think of this scenario (which I am sure happens all too often, based on the number of people uninsured in our country): A women gets physically harmed by her partner. She has no insurance, so maybe she forgoes treatment, because she can’t handle the debt she’d incur for treatment without insurance. That isolates her from not only necessary healing treatment, but also from the contact with medical staff that may be able to reach out to her, make her feel safe and strong enough to share her story and seek out additional help and support to get away from an abusive husband or boyfriend. Or say she does go the hospital or her doctor for treatment despite having no insurance, and she comes out with a huge bill. This might make her all that more economically dependent on her abusive partner. Domestic violence perpetrators often use finances to control their partners, and economic issues can be a huge match to spark domestic violence incidents.

Further proof that health-care reform is desperately needed in this country.

Today my friend Rachel shared a Feministing post (do you know Feministing? highly worth checking out) with me that reports how Governor Schwarzenegger eliminated 100 percent of state funding for domestic violence shelters and services in California in his budget cuts. Unreal. Incredibly disturbing.

Starting Point

Starting Point: Services for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Having spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps victim advocate at Starting Point: Services for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence in northern New Hampshire the year after college, I can tell you that state funding is absolutely critical for the operation of DV services throughout the country. Crisis centers—which provide a range of services that can include 24-hour crisis lines, emergency shelter, court advocacy, support groups, assistance navigating social services, community outreach and education—are underfunded as it is. I don’t even want to imagine the impact that a complete withdrawal of state funds will create in California. Especially because, in addition to working against financial strains and understaffing, crisis centers are working against the massive social silence that surrounds the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Less money means less outreach, more silence, and more people without options in the face of the very real violence—physical, mental, and emotional—they experience every day. And keep in mind that incidents of domestic violence often rise and intensify in times of economic hardship.

AmeriCorps: Getting Things Done

Seven months into my AmeriCorps service term, I spoke to the Volunteer NH! Board of Directors about my experiences as an AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program victim advocate. I spoke about the range of work that I did, from helping people with restraining orders to talking about dating violence at the local teen health clinic; the challenges of the work; the amazing support of the program staff and the crisis center staff; and how much I was learning every single day. Most importantly, I spoke of one of the main reasons that I was doing what I was doing:

Ultimately, I’m doing this program because of the feeling you get when a client looks you in the eye and says, “Thank you,” or when a client hugs you just because you helped them with some paperwork and sat next to them during a hearing. Because it’s great to see a mother and two kids who you’ve worked with in shelter for three months move out of the shelter to move into a new home where they feel safe. Because as broken down and scared as a client might be when I first speak to them, I can see how strong they are just for the fact that they are talking to me.

If you live in California or know anyone that does, check out the action alert from Stop Family Violence. And if you don’t live in California, even just finding out where your local crisis center is, what services they offer, and how to get in touch with them is a great first step in supporting the work they do.

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