For The Last Child

On the first day of October Artemis House Staff began their celebration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month at Northern Virginia PRIDE Festival (NOVA PRIDE). We tabled and mingled, networked and shared cards, and felt the energy and joy of safe spaces. Near the end of my shift at our resource table a blended family stopped to learn more about Artemis House services, and as we began to converse I felt hopeful that I was speaking with “The Last Child.”

picture2In September, at a membership meeting for Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) a group of advocates invested in the anti-violence movement were tasked with identifying a “North Star”, a potential guiding statement for Action Alliance work. Though the process was difficult, this gathering of diverse people agreed that what gave us hope when the work makes us weary is the shared idea that we have committed ourselves to creating safe spaces until “the last child” is able to live free of violence and oppression.

Since leaving Richmond I have carried the hope that I am working towards the day of “the last child” with me everywhere. The last child has been to all of the Artemis House staff, Domestic Violence task force, and budget meetings this month. I see them take shape in our monthly review of data and program reports. I look for “the last child” in daily interactions with community partners, friends, loved ones, and strangers. This child reveals their self in the gaps of our data, the conflict and resolution in each meeting, and fellowship with others to remind me that there will be an end to our work.

On that day at NOVA PRIDE I was relieved to find hope in these children while discussing their experiences with violence and their love of Artemis, goddess of fertility and the wilderness. Unknowingly they shared a few truths of what the last child needs from those of us invested in this work: a seat at the table (inclusion); a voice in the dialogue (representation); a safe place for disclosure (accessibility); and unshakable support during post-traumatic growth (advocacy).

“Success is not one more woman in shelter, one more man in jail, one more child in foster care.”  

–Sandra Camacho

Most importantly I was reminded that the last child needs our investment in the anti-violence movement to be extended outside of our typical 9-5 work day. They require that we challenge our privilege in safe places so that they too may be included while maintaining awareness of our differences to increase representation. Though Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended for this year, Artemis House staff will continue our investment in increasing the awareness and reach of the anti-violence movement until we meet “the last child.”

Raven Dickerson is the Director of Artemis House, a program of Shelter House Inc. Artemis House is Fairfax County’s only 24 hour emergency shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and stalking. For more information on Artemis House services and opportunities to volunteer or donate contact us at (703) 435-4940.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

Standing With Standing Rock

 

They say history repeats itself. Unfortunately, the blatant disregard for Native American life and culture is part of our nation’s history. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we are reminded of the brutal history behind the holiday through a present-day battle for Native land.

Around this time one year ago the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL was approved. It was to be a 1,134 mile-long pipeline to carry oil across multiple states. Originally set to cross through Bismarck, North Dakota, its initial path was rejected after an environmental assessment pointed out that it might endanger the water supply. Citizens of Bismarck, whose population is listed as 92% White on the U.S. census, rejected the pipeline and it was rerouted.

Fast forward to the DAPL’s new route, and a similar concern has been brought forth. This time, the pipeline could threaten the Missouri River, the sole water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In addition, the construction of the pipeline disrupts and has even destroyed lands sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. However, the rerouting of the pipeline is an option that has not been offered to the tribe. Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson calls the situation “the ripest case of environmental racism I’ve seen in a long time.”

Since the pipeline does not technically run through the reservation, the Sioux Tribe has been shut out of decision-making about the DAPL route. This act, however, is illegal. According to The Atlantic, “Regulations require Federal agencies to consult with Native American tribes when they attach religious and cultural significance to a historic property regardless of the location of that property.” Because Army Corps did not consult the tribe, they are also in danger of violating the Clean Water Act as well as the Environmental Policy Act if the water supply were to ever be contaminated by a break or leak in the pipeline.

Still, the Army Corps fails to hear out the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. They insist the pipeline is what is best, as it will create construction jobs that will benefit the economy. Just the same as their forefathers did centuries ago, they are attempting to silence indigenous people by projecting their own ideas of what is best for them.

Once again, non-Natives have decided how they will occupy land that remains sacred to Native Americans. Once again this is being done with no regard to the needs or wants of indigenous people. Once again, non-Natives have defended their actions with the assertion that they are doing what is right for the Native community, while neglecting input from the people, themselves, stating otherwise. Unquestionably, water is essential to life. A boost in the economy will mean nothing to a community without a reliable water source. With the tribe’s sole source of water being compromised, Native American tribes and non-Native advocates from all over the United States have gathered at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the pipeline.

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Image credit: heavy.com/news

The peaceful protests began around April of this year and the number of protesters continues to grow. However, over the course of seven months, the peaceful protesters have become targets of militarized counter forces. Shortly after peaceful demonstrations began, the National Guard was sent out to Standing Rock in riot gear in massive numbers. Protestors tell the Huffington Post  “law enforcement is using pepper spray, tear gas and beanbag rounds on [us] and responding to peaceful demonstrations, pipe ceremonies and prayer circles with militarized force.”

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Image credit: cldc.org

Mass numbers of arrests have been made. Some of the protestors who have been arrested report being kept in chained, netted enclosures similar to dog kennels, and having numbers drawn on their body parts by law enforcement officers.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault Jr., spoke out on the damage being done by both the construction of the pipeline and the law enforcement protecting it, saying, “The oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights. …[They have] knowingly destroyed sacred sites and our ancestral graves with bulldozers. [They have] also used attack dogs to harm individuals who tried to protect our water and sacred sites.”

Some media outlets are choosing to defend the dehumanizing actions of these officers. The New York Times recently published an article that attempted to evoke sympathy for the officers out in Standing Rock. It focused on one officer in particular, Jon Moll. The Times gave details completely unrelated to the pipeline or the protests. It mentioned how Moll grew up as the only White child in his classes and, as the son of farmers, “worked hard for everything [he has].” The irony lies in the fact that after growing up in a diverse environment and seemingly understanding the work that goes into building and keeping up with a community, he is now infringing  on that right of others as he takes away what they too worked hard for. Moll goes on to vilify activists, who he says, in their protesting, have trespassed on federal property. He omits law enforcement’s recent vehicular destruction of sacred Native American burial sites out of his trespassing rant.

Instead of publishing this article defending the initiators of this battle, the Times could have focused on alternatives to the current route of the DAPL.  One such alternative is an oil railway. Railways are already used for the majority of North Dakota’s oil shipment and one was used in the past as an alternative to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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Image credit: elitedaily.com/news/politics

 

Though a slightly different method than that used in the past, the construction of this pipeline endangers a mass population of indigenous people. The seriousness of its threats must be understood, and it is time to listen to the people most affected by its construction.

#NoDAPL  #StandwithStandingRock

Dominique is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

The Real Story Internship analyzes and rewrites news stories to reflect a trauma-informed, survivor-centered and racial justice lens.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

 

Why Believe?

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Credit: Tim Meacham

Have you ever witnessed something so fantastic that you could not accurately describe it to friends or family? Have you thought, “They would not believe this?” Yet, you tell your story anyway. You tell it with vim and vigor, hoping that people believe the unbelievable. Some will believe you and speak to how incredible your story is. Some will not believe, but simply tell you that there has to be some underlying explanation that has not revealed itself. You feel validated by those that believe; and, for those that do not, you still feel accepted and certainly not denigrated. Yet, you desire for all to believe.

I have worked in public safety for almost 30 years. I have heard a lot of amazing stories, and experienced many, many more; some of these stories humorous beyond belief, and some of them tragic beyond comprehension. I know that were I to reduce what I have witnessed and heard to writing, there would be those that do not believe. I accept that. No one wants to believe some of the choices people feel forced to make just to survive. No one wants to believe some of the desperate acts I have witnessed.

As a younger patrol officer, I knew my functions were: 1) answer calls for service (reactive policing); 2) provide high visibility patrol and handle problems as I find them (proactive policing); and, 3) get to know the people living in my patrol area (community policing). In reality, I spent most of my time answering calls for service. That is the nature of the beast for law enforcement. You are supposed to handle a call to some resolution, quickly document your actions and head out to the next call for service. Resolutions were difficult to manage at times. Sometimes I could refer to another agency like Social Services, a counseling center, a church, or another government or non-profit organization. Sometimes I could refer the matter to my department’s Investigative Unit. Whatever the situation, though, I had to handle it and move on.
Even in the small agencies (where there are about 20 officers in the entire department), calls for service can stack up. There were times when I could spend some time working with community members who needed some extra help in navigating the problem, but I was always supposed to “stay in my lane”, which was patrol. Patrol, for almost every police department, is the primary function. When it came to community members reporting serious crimes, I was required to determine if I had enough information to call out one of our detectives. To do this, I quickly asked the: who, what, when, where, how, and why questions. Usually, most patrol officers can go through this information in about ten minutes or less. The thinking behind this efficiency is: 1) I have other calls for service to answer; and, 2) if this crime just happened, we are losing precious time locating the offender by standing around and talking about it.

Crimes that the above mentioned form of questioning fails are crimes of intimate partner violence. Intimate Partner Violence (or IPV) crimes include domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. With these crimes, it is not always as easy as who, what, when, where, how, and why. I have learned through many years and many, many calls for service that survivors of IPV experience a lot of abuse that someone would not be expected to tolerate. The reasons for this tolerance are as varied as the number of survivors. This is not assigning blame to survivors. I mention only to explain that everyone’s experience of abuse is different and people can exist with abuse in their lives for many reasons.

Survivors of IPV have some of the most extraordinary stories to tell. These stories can and will exceed a belief threshold. IPV survivors know their stories are extraordinary. Because a victim of IPV has experienced the extraordinary, the question format of who, what, when, where, how, and why cannot scratch the surface of what happened to them. Because IPV survivors have suffered trauma, they, most likely, cannot tell you everything about who, what, when, where, how, and why; although they want to. When IPV survivors tell this extraordinary story of what happened to them, they want to be believed.

When IPV survivors tell their story, they hear, “Why did you go back to him/her?”; or, “Why did you let it go on this long”; or, “Why did you drink (or get drunk) with him/her?”; or, “Why did you wear those clothes?”; or, “Why didn’t you ______ (call for help, scream, fight back, say, “no”)?” These are the questions they hear from friends and family. The IPV survivor blames themselves more than they blame the offender. The saddest encounter for the IPV survivor, though, is when the police ask those same “why” questions. The people sworn to protect and serve instead blame and denigrate.

I have had uncountable number of people tell me that someone stole something from them. I have had innumerable people tell me that someone broke something that belonged to them. I have had numerous people tell me someone broke into their house. I have had copious amounts of people that someone hit them. I do not ever recall asking those victims if their behavior led to the criminal behavior of their offender. Instead, I have accepted what they said, recorded what they said and applied my authority as appropriately as possible in their situation.
Survivors of intimate partner violence deserve the same respect as other victims of crime. They deserve more compassion and less hurried response. Most of all, survivors of intimate partner violence deserve to be believed. A simple gesture such as talking to them in a place that is safe is a great start. Telling this person that they do not have to convince you that they are telling the truth lets them know, from the start, they will be believed. Instead of asking the: who, what, where, when, how, and why, simply ask them to describe their experience and thank them for trusting you. This response can lead to them feeling validated in telling their story. It is that simple.

Have you ever wanted to be believed when you had an extraordinary story to tell? I have. This is why I Believe.

Tim Meacham is a detective for a Central Virginia university. He is currently assigned to investigate criminal complaints of sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. He has over twenty years of experience in Law Enforcement, beginning his career in 1990. Tim teaches sexual assault investigations for a local prosecutor’s office and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Tim earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 2009 from Liberty University in Criminal Justice, and earned his Master of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, in 2011. Tim has worked for a private police department, a municipal police department and campus police department. His training background is in investigations, crime analysis, and accreditation.

Start By Believing is a campaign of End Violence Against Women International

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

Start By Believing

Every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted, 80% of whom are under the age of 30. Knowing how to respond is critical—a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face zero consequences for their crimes. Because perpetrators attack an average of six times, one failed response can equal five more victims.- Northern Neck Taskforce

One of the negative factors of surviving sexual assault is the blame that often gets put on survivors by the community. Sexual assault survivors often report that blaming the victim is as traumatic as the rape itself. When a survivor is blamed for the crime against them, they often feel isolated by the very community and providers who should be helping them.

Start by Believing is a public awareness campaign designed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) to change the way we respond to rape and sexual assault in our communities.

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Credit: Northern Neck Task Force

This campaign has spread across the United States and beyond. Campaigns are starting up in universities, community programs, law enforcement agencies, local sexual and domestic violence agencies and coalitions.

 

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credit: EVAWI

Campaigns across Virginia:

Central Virginia – The campaign involved collaborating with local campuses, including Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the University of Richmond, and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. At VCU, nearly 50,000 students learned about the campaign through a personal email sent by University President Dr. Michael Rao.

Citizens Against Family Violence – started a local broadcast reaching over 52,000 people to promote Start by Believing.

Doorways for Women and Families – On Wednesday, April 6th, 2016, Doorways for Women and Families is joining the first-ever, global Start by Believing Day.

Northern Neck Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition  – The Northern Neck Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition along with The Haven Shelter & Services, area Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART), law enforcement, community volunteers, and advocates for individuals who have experienced sexual violence will launch a Start by Believing public awareness campaign on April 6th, 2016, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, across the Northern Neck.

 

Want to launch a Start By Believing in your area? Go here for instructions and materials.

 

Carol Olson is the Development Director at the Action Alliance. She was previously the Director of a local rape crisis center. She has continued to engage in community activism through her work with the Alliance and through radio at WRIR 97.3 FM. 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org