This morning news in Queens

This morning anti-domestic violence advocates in Queens face the news of Lana Morris’ death.  Ms. Morris was shot by her husband in St. Albans yesterday evening.  This tragic event is faced by us advocates with the questions that plague us every time a sister in the community falls to Domestic Violence: What did we do?  What didn’t we do?  What could we have done?  What needs to be done better?

An anti-domestic violence advocate faces a fatality as a real loss, a face we see every day, a client we cared for very much during her process of healing and her search for social justice.

I remember one time a friend had casually suggested that a challenge of the work I do was to face the place and time where I can’t do anything about the situation.  People will look at Ms. Morris case and think that perhaps any service provider who came in contact with her is now going through this difficult challenge.  They are, but perhaps not in the completely disempowered fashion my friend had suggested.  Sure, service providers, even those who are first responders like EMT and the NYPD, can’t take a gun away from a violent individual once he chooses to commit a heinous crime.  We can’t get into his conscience after the full effects of patriarchy implanted the anti-social trait that would make him a perpetrator of femicide, goes off after years of pressure building that makes him think what he is doing is completely justifiable by whatever problems were present in the relationship, which according to him: “she created”.

But that is not what makes me feel dis-empowered that I “can’t do anything about the situation”.  I am living in the era where the need for responsive services is still needed to prevent the further victimization of a person already victimized and I accept that.  I accept that my efforts may come too late or not have a big enough impact at the face of the huge social dysfunction that is Domestic Violence.  I can accept it, because I facilitate an amount of social justice to people who would otherwise not have it if I were not sitting at this desk.  I accept it because more Spanish speakers can have access to services once I arrived here.

What would have made me feel really dis-empowered at a time like this would have been to have chosen some other path in my career, to not have become politically active about Domestic Violence, to not have conversations at home and in my community about the real phenomena that is Domestic Violence, as opposed to the droned out message full of stigmas, isms, prejudice and oppression that still meanders about in society which reinforces every aspect of Domestic Violence.

What would make me feel real dis-empowered is to not have known, ever, that the preventive services needed for the next generation to have no Domestic Violence like this program are grossly underfunded.  The demand to educate young men and potential batterers in the community is huge, but the programs hardly have the fuel.  We have the money to build and privatize Correctional facilities, fund wars, pay high executive people, but not enough money to teach a young man that he needs to treat a woman with respect.  We have huge funding to clog the entertainment industry with misogynist messages, but not enough to change mentalities about aggressiveness, violence and family dysfunction.

We still live in a time where comprehensive conversations about Violence Against Women do not take place.  We want to exclude the topics of more immigration remedies, global solutions, women empowerment and equality, and present women inequality.  We want to talk about how men suffer from domestic violence too, even though the numbers are still and will be on a median of 80% female victims to 20% male victims ratio due to economic, educational and social factors.  But we want to pretend that this is a responding/reporting problem and not a social problem that actively discriminates on the female gender.  We want to pretend that during domestic violence incidents men are not empowered on a larger scale to leave violent home situations as opposed to how females are still to this day dis-empowered.    We want to speak in egalitarian terms about Domestic Violence so that all services are accessible to everyone.  Hey, I am all for providing equal services.  And I do every day.  I provide my male clients with no less information about services and resources that I do with my female clients.    What I am not for is a genderless conversation about Domestic Violence where the 80% to 20% ratio is completely ignored or credited exclusively to an underreporting problem.  By the way, these are not a made up number.  These are the numbers I see on the regular, inside of Criminal Court during my normal work hours, where I am one of the first people to receive referrals on Felony level cases.

We also want to keep talking about the clothing women wear while being sexually assaulted, as if these crimes didn’t have any other basis but pieces of fabric and cloths that precipitated a perpetrators motivation.  As if numbers didn’t show that most  sexual assaults happen to women operating on their regular schedule: inside of their own homes by their partners, walking to the dorm from the class room, taking a subway, during a date with someone who looked like a friendly person who wanted to get to know them better, a church member, pastor or priest using their position in an institution to gain access to a fellow church member, a co-worker and while trying to carry on under the influence of no control substance.  But wait…we need to talk about that mini-skirt one more time.

We like conversations where no institutions operate or oppress on the basis of patriarchy, no group of men are getting organized to commit pedophilia and human trafficking, no group of corrupt men are in positions of power to quiet down the noise around sex slaves or the lucrative economy created by perpetrators of human trafficking.

By the way, I am using the general social “we”.  Not the “we” that is me and my colleagues.  WE in fact hate that these conversations do not take place….or that we live in a world where they need to take place at all.

If I was ignorant of all these facts and was just providing services blindly to a person, whose gender is so neutral is unrecognizable, who was victimized by a violent situation that came “out of nowhere”, I may feel disempowered in the face of a fatality where I could not do anything about it.

But the truth is WE do everything we can do about it.  But there are too many people who are not.

The challenge is not to face what I can’t do.  The challenge is facing what you are not doing.  The conversations you refuse to have at home, the educational material you will not read, the workshops you won’t attend, the parenting of boys and girls that is still not in place, the funding you are not providing, the stigmatizing you still insist on partaking on.  And by you, I do mean the general social you who are not actively doing something…anything.

Read the Daily News article again.  See if you can live with the huge cost of that fatality.  Or the huge cost of every fatality.  The women who leave us unnecessarily, regardless of how much the provided for all of us in the community.  The children left without parents to fates unknown, marked for life after the loss of their mothers.  Families left mourning.

I can only live with it because I am doing something.

Become empowered.  Here is a list of what you can do:

  1. Have conversations about Domestic Violence
  2. Have conversations about gender based violence
  3. Support your local non-profits
  4. Organize around this much needed cause
  5. Support organizations financially or with your time and effort.
  6. Write to corporations who can be potential sponsors.  Write to politicians who make policies.   Many letters.  Heartfelt letters. Long letters.
  7. Learn of ways to stop stigmatizing survivors so that they can feel the support in their communities.  Be brave to face any internalized or socialized sexism and misogyny.
  8. Become a mentor to youth.
  9. Become a facilitator in schools.

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Further Analyzing Rick Ross without any misunderstandings

We have had two weeks full of interesting Twitter threads regarding Rick Ross and rape culture. Hip Hop Activists like Rosa Clemente have stood up to denounce the rap artist as not being part of Hip Hop. However as I read on and analyze the conversation, I kept seeing the main focus of the conversation center around the two lines that blatantly speak about date rape.

Both Clemente’s video and Kirsten West Savali’s article in The Clutch are fierce and unapologetic their discussion about male rap artists repeated offensive objectification of women in their lyrics.  And it is a good strategy to focus on what is blatant about the song.  But please allow me a moment…

After hearing of the rappers offensive lyrics I sat and read the text of said lyrics. I had to since I often gloss over a lot rap music’s offenses in order to protect my sanity. I realized that not only were women treated and labelled as objects of the artist’s extravagant material wealth, they were also placed inside a bag, that he plays with. Then at the very end of the rap, he talks about a “bitch that speaks no English  and you don’t even know it. As a Latina who speaks English as a Second Language and advocates for Latina and many bilingual survivors of Asian, Black and European ethnicity I took issue with this line as well. And I couldn’t space out on it even when it wasn’t blatant, because this piece spoke directly to me on a whole different level. If you really read this piece and do the work advocates do, or have survived a heinous gender base crime as an Immigrant woman, you know that these lyrics can represent a world of crimes against women such as forced prostitution, domestic violence and human trafficking. Now of course, Rick Ross and male artist can point out how I am further misunderstanding the lyrics and man-hatting and acting on emotional impulsive femininity et al. Well, that’s fine…that is what has been happening here even in the debate with the most explicit lyrics of the song.

But if you have a woman next to you who doesn’t speak English and no one else knows it, I’m going to do my job as I always do. I’m going to ask a few questions and then I’m going to call 911 and ask the NYPD to ask a few more questions, like for example:

“Where is her interpreter ” “How did she get here?” “How do you communicate with her?” “And if she can’t communicate with you, why is she with you?” “Do you allow her to speak to other people?” “If you don’t let her speak to anyone else, is this the reason no one knows she doesn’t speak English?” “Why is the fact that she doesn’t speak any English secretive?” “Does she know how she got here?” “Does she know what she is doing next to you?” “Do you hold her visa and papers with you?” “Is she granted access to her papers?” “Could she speak to me with my interpreter and explain what is she doing here?”

Etc.

Are we coming to the point that materialism and rape culture has affected black rappers so much that they have a potential of learning to place value on the purchase of Sex Slaves? What would our black ancestors who were enslaved and forced to serve sexually have to say about that?

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Victories-Reposted from Tumblr

http://la-boricua.tumblr.com/post/47194433135/victories-big-and-small-victories-need-to-be

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Las Caras de Niños:

Anoche había sido una noche antes de Navidades normal.  Mi pareja y yo, como cualquier mujer en esta época en los Estados Unidos, fuimos con una misión importante al mall.  Encontrar los regalos de todos nuestros sobrinos, 33 del lado de ella y 4 de mi lado, 37 en total.  No era ni siquiera el acto de comprar grandes y caras cosas lo que hizo de estos momentos algo especial.  Era la emoción de imaginar a cada uno de los pequeños y jóvenes usando algún que otro regalo.  Era la imagen de cada carita que iba a resplandecer con la inocencia que Dios entrega a nuestros hijos.  Cada regalito traía una imagen que conmovía mi más profunda emoción maternal.  Esta blusita se le vera bien a ella, este lazito se vera bien en el  pelito de la otra, a ella le encantara este perfume, el se verá muy guapo en estos pantalones, él se merece lo mejor porque este es mi heredero, y este nunca se queda atrás en mis pensamientos asi que para él la mejor camisa.  Mi pareja y yo sonreíamos con cada regalito y nuestro trabajo y esfuerzo cotidiano valía la pena para ver esas sonrisitas, tesoros que nos entregó el cielo.

En la noche ya nos preparábamos para hirnos a dormir.  La televisión en el fondo.  Como todas las noches de esta semana no falto un reportaje de el crimen cometido en Sandy Hook elementary.  Anoche yo quería resistir mirar nada que ver con ese reportaje, con la excusa de que solo quería hablar con mi pareja antes de acostarnos.  Pero ella es amante de las noticias de las 11.  Asi que no me quedo mas remedio que oir las noticias, que en fin eran de interés para mi por la naturaleza de la victimización de cualquier persona como el campo de trabajo que me dedico.  Telemundo resalto en las noticias con el reportaje que enseñaba cada carita de cada victima inocente.  Esta le gustaba este plato, ella hacia esto en su iglesia y el decía que su hermana gemela era su mejor amiga, la cual también presencio los disparos desde otro salón. 

Entre los detalles de los gemelos y la carita de Ana Grace Green Marquez, la niña Puertorriqueña entre las victimas, mi alma se despedazo hasta quedar en granos.   El reportaje con las caritas y los momentos navideños con las imágenes de mis sobrinos y sobrinas creo un paralelo insólito en mi mente.  Todos ellos son lucecitas de vida, primaveras puras, lo más cerca de la materia prima que somos todos nosotros y que se nos da de la creación.  Por eso la niñez y juventud son sagradas en esta tierra. 

 Llore, pero lo que quería era gritar.  Y alguien que trabaja en una corte criminal no tiene un lugar para escapar de que estas crueldades existen no solo un dia, sino todos los días.  Niños muertos o maltratados existen en este mundo en el que tantos adultos han perdido alma y biología para sentir por criaturas nuestras como seres humanos.  

Que descansen en paz estos angelitos.   Y que la gracia Divina proteja a todos los niños que han venido a alegrar mi corazon.     Image

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Advocacy Post-Sandy

Due to hurricane Sandy in New York City, the last two days at work have been rather unusual.  Hallways inside the courts were empty even though cases were being called.  All day I felt a bit disoriented and on edge.   The fact that I am the Senior Case Manager in Felony cases made me hyper aware that our clients safety may have been affected by these set backs in court and in communications.  At the end of my work day, I became clear of the reasons why.  Here are some safety plan issues we advocates need to keep in mind in the next couple of days.

1. Some court cases were automatically adjourned to later dates and resolutions in sentencing may keep abusers either released or lacking information regarding consequence after a crime.
2. Police personnel is responding to Hurricane safety issues and may not be as ready to respond to calls or serve court papers essential to Family Court Orders of Protection.
3. Movement is somewhat deterred by conditions in Public Transit, that may include movement of survivors trying to access safe spaces and resources.
4. In three days the District Attorney’s office was closed, those are three days complainant witnesses did not have access to essential information about the cases, able to print out Orders of Protection or have access to interviews with the DA’s office.
5. City shelter beds are housing people affected by the hurricane, so there are less beds available to those who need emergency spaces away from possible assailants.
6. Shelters who were in flood areas had to evacuate and now beds may need restoration.
During these next days of confusion and restoration, survivors need all the support available.  The Safe Horizon Hotline is available 7 days a week / 24 hours a day, and not even hurricane conditions kept the organization from running their 24 hour programs.  And non 24hour programs have been up and running in the last two work days, regularly: Mondays through Fridays from 9 AM to 5 PM.  If anyone needs immediate help please reach out: 1-800-621-4673.

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Street Harrassment by NYPD in Hollaback NYC

Message: Dear Mr. Kelly:

It is very unfortunate that I had to publish a story of NYPD misconduct just to bring attention to a behavior that has very little response from your department.  This is my second CCRB reporting an NYPD officer sexually harrassing me or physically intimidating me during my hours of work.  I am a victim’s advocate in Queens Criminal Court with Safe Horizon and both incidents happened while performing job related duties.  

I am submitting the link to the story I had to publish in Hollaback NYC.  

http://www.ihollaback.org/blog/2012/07/24/shanalis-story-the-statement-was-sexual-harassment-and-completely-inappropriate/  

I’ve had such good experiences with Detectives, Domestic Violence Police Officers and PO’s who have helped my clients have a safer life away from violence.  It is always a shame when officers give a bad name to the force and do not work with integrity to their badge and uniform.  

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Guest Video Blogging Link

A big thanks to friend and fellow activist Dominick Guerriero for featuring the Video Blog in his Blog 

Keep spreading the good word hermano!

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