Reposted from Star Tribune, Jim Davnie (MN House) and Scott Dibble (MN Senate)
The state has waited too long, but the pieces are in place for progress. For Minnesota to be successful, we need all of our children to be successful. This includes those of all heights, weights, races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders and abilities. We cannot differentiate the members of the football team and the members of the marching band when it comes to how we treat our kids.
While Minnesota has done much to try to raise achievement, including establishing academic standards, requiring high-stakes standardized tests, increasing scrutiny over teachers and principals, and other initiatives, we have little success to show for all that work. But we now have the opportunity to position the state as a leader in the next generation of education reform by focusing on building strong, safe and supportive school climates for all students.
Recently the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act (HF826 and SF783) passed both the House and Senate Education Policy committees. We are the chief authors of this legislation. It will, for the first time, provide our schools with an antibullying framework to protect and keep kids safe, assist local schools and school districts in developing comprehensive local policies, and establish a resource center at the Department of Education to serve parents, educators and communities.
Providing safe and supportive school environments is a necessary precursor for learning. Minnesota has long been noted for having the weakest antibullying statute in the country. We have waited too long to address bullying that occurs in schools across our state. Quite honestly, we had already waited too long when a 2010 survey conducted by the state Departments of Health and Education revealed that 13 percent of students reported being bullied once or more a week.
Over these past few years, we have been deeply moved by the courage shown by the young people who were willing to step forward and tell their stories of pain and marginalization. We have felt the frustration of parents and teachers who wanted to help but who — lacking resources and support — were powerless.
We must ensure that every kid who goes to school in Minnesota knows that he or she is valued, will be safe and will have an equal shot in life. Passing strong and comprehensive antibullying legislation is necessary if we are to improve our schools and ensure that our children have the support that they need to succeed academically and socially.
Thankfully, we have a governor who understands this problem and the need for a solution. Gov. Mark Dayton’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying has put forward comprehensive recommendations, which form the template for the Safe and Supportive Schools Act.
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act would replace the nation’s weakest antibullying law with comprehensive measures designed to establish safe and supportive school climates and provide educators with tools when bullying does occur.
This means providing clear definitions of bullying, harassment and intimidation; providing training and resources for students, staff and volunteers, and putting forward specific procedures for schools to report bullying incidents. It also means an emphasis on restorative responses that work with bullies on changing their behavior rather than simply suspending the student.
It will no longer be acceptable to turn our backs.]]>
Reposted from Minnesota Women’s Press
“Potentially a breakthrough shift in the way abuse and violence against women is discussed by looking through the lens of men,” is how the “With Impunity” documentary has been described.
Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar thought progress had stalled after working together for 30 years on gender-based violence. They had written books, created curriculum, and lectured and led trainings nationally and internationally. They could point to a lot of successes-changes in laws, in law enforcement and in criminal justice.
But when they looked at our culture-where boys grow up to be batterers or rapists, a culture that allows trafficking of women and girls for sex and has a proliferation of violence-based pornography-they saw that cultural change was needed.
“We saw lots of documentaries and news stories about the impact of men’s violence against women,” Paymar said. “We really wanted to tell the story that if we are ever going to stop men’s violence against women that men need to step up and take leadership.”
From that premise, Pence and Paymar launched a three-year project to create “With Impunity,” which premiered in October on Twin Cities Public Television (tpt).
They knew it would be their last project together because Pence was diagnosed with terminal cancer before they began. She died in January, but “in spirit, she was there at the end,” Paymar said.
The pair approached tpt as a partner, and ultimately worked with tpt’s Daniel Pierce Bergin as the producer of the documentary. He saw the project as the beginning of a powerful conversation piece across the nation. They sought the necessary funding and found partners and advocates in the Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Saint Paul Foundation and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation, along with the Minneapolis Foundation, the Pohlad Family Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Health.
The film explores cultural and historic beliefs about manhood that allow men to exploit and hurt women-with impunity. It brings together voices of leading historians, sociologists and practitioners to examine our past, cultural realities and options for ending gender-based violence while following the journey of Hector, a former abuser who now works as a counselor with violent men.
The film is the start of a process locally and nationally. It is being taken around the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota to community viewings and conversations, in collaboration with local anti-violence and women’s groups. Stops in 2012 include Duluth and Winona, with more planned in 2013.
The aim is for the film to be a catalyst for dialogue leading to a commitment to action based on the unique resources and needs in each community. Communities will wrestle with the question: “What do we do in our community?”
In addition, they are working to expand their efforts nationally and have developed a curriculum for use with the film.
“The buzz we have heard in Minnesota and nationally is that we are telling a different story that needed to be told,” Paymar said. “Men need to step up. Men need to take leadership and men need to stop being silent when they are surrounded by sexism. They need to be willing to speak up when they see violence against women whether it is in intimate relationships, or date rape or sexual violence. Men have to stop colluding.
“I’ve always hoped that men would give up their belief in entitlement that they have a right to control women, exploit women and abuse women,” Paymar said.]]>
Beliefs about manhood that allow men to exploit and hurt women with impunity are ingrained in our culture. “With Impunity” engages the thinking of leading historians, sociologists and practitioners to examine our past, cultural realities and options for ending men’s violence against women.
Why would anyone write a documentary about men’s violence against women? After working in the battered women’s movement for over three decades, my colleague Ellen Pence and I wanted to capture the lessons we had learned by exploring the struggles, history, successes and challenges of ending gender-based violence.
I met Ellen in 1981 when she was organizing the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth, Minnesota. At this time in history, battered women’s activists from around the country recognized the injustice–the very institutions that were supposed to be protecting victims from violent crimes were failing miserably. Law enforcement rarely arrested abusers unless the violence was egregious. Prosecutors didn’t seek convictions because they didn’t think they could win. And judges frequently perceived these cases as private family matters. In this bleak environment, women battered by husbands and boyfriends were forced to adapt to lives where fists, kicks, broken bones, and sexual assault were a way of life. The terror of wife beating was occurring with impunity.
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Reposted from Star Tribune
Congress reconvened Monday with a host of issues likely to be loudly debated, from jobs to the environment to health care. Let’s hope they raise their voices about violence, too.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), created to protect women from domestic and sexual violence, has flown through periodic reauthorizations in both houses with bi-partisan support since its creation in 1994.
Sadly, not this year — yet.
Before recessing in August, and largely off the public’s radar, the Republican-controlled House passed a watered-down version that rejects protections for undocumented immigrants, American Indians, LGBT individuals and college students. These groups experience disproportionately high rates of violence.
Among those rejecting the protections were Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Missouri Rep. Todd Akin of “legitimate rape” notoriety.
The Senate version, which includes those protections, passed in April, 68 to 31. Now the two sides are stuck, unless they can work together on a compromise. (The VAWA was last reauthorized under a Republican administration in 2005.)
The partisan divide on this one has stunned those in the trenches.
“This has never been controversial,” said Donna Dunn, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA). “It’s always been really broadly embraced. It’s never been funded to the level everyone would like to see, but there’s always been support for the federal government’s role in trying to address violence against women.”
VAWA provides resources to states to improve training and coordination for police, the courts and prosecutors. It also funds a wide range of victim-services programs, including transitional housing, legal assistance and — essential if we are to ever break the cycle of violence — prevention initiatives that engage men and youth.
How has it fared? Quite well, for everyone.
Between 1993 and 2007, the rate of intimate-partner homicides of females decreased 35 percent; the rate of intimate-partner homicides of males decreased 46 percent, said Rosie Hidalgo, director of public policy for Casa de Esperanza, a respected domestic violence program based in St. Paul.
“VAWA really is gender-neutral. Eighty-five to 90 percent of the time, domestic violence victims are women but, regardless, there still are cases where men may be victims. We need to work to end all forms of abuse against all victims.”
Joe Biden drafted the original VAWA bill in 1994, and it was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.
More than 30 Minnesota agencies and programs benefit from its grants, including MNCASA, Breaking Free, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office.
Suzanne Koepplinger, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, is understandably offended by the implication that only certain women “deserve” protections.
One in three American Indian women will be raped in her lifetime, according to Amnesty International, the highest rate for any group. “It is an epidemic of violence,” Koepplinger said, “which makes Congress’ inaction all the more inexcusable.”
Advocates for immigrant communities add their own concerns. VAWA protections are essential to protect women and children from sex trafficking, and from abusers who often use lack of immigration status to silence their victims.
Dunn noted that the Senate bill evolved from years of research, engaging everyone with a stake in violence prevention.
“We have all learned so much about what makes a good criminal justice response, what makes a good advocacy response, and how to engage men in prevention,” Dunn said. “It’s been an extraordinary opportunity to hone our skills and purpose.”
Koepplinger, too, has seen heartening progress thanks to VAWA initiatives.
“In Indian country, leadership and great work are being done,” Koepplinger said. “We are also seeing more men step forward and say, ‘This is our problem.’ But they are really dependent on sustained funding. I just hope that people who care about safety for women and children will call their legislators.”
No need to call U.S. Sens. Al Franken or Amy Klobuchar, except to thank them. Both Minnesota leaders were on the forefront of moving the Senate bill through.
Franken wrote a new provision making it unlawful to evict a woman from federally supported housing just because she is a victim of violence and another ensuring that survivors of sexual assault are never forced to pay for their own rape kits.
Klobuchar has been actively meeting with House members, law enforcement officials and domestic abuse experts to see the more inclusive bill through to its ultimate passage.
“It will get done,” Klobuchar said confidently, “maybe even by the election.”]]>
March 2012 marked the kick-off of the implementation phase of the MN Alliance Against Violence plan. The newly established steering committee responsible for strategic direction, chaired by Dr. David McCollum, has hit the ground running. The committee is in the process of reviewing for endorsement a number of foundational pieces that support the vision to end violence and oppression in the state.
Three of the key building blocks include:
1. Shared Outcomes that represent Alliance members’ commitment to a common set of outcomes and related measures that will ultimately benefit participants during and after program activities.
• Communities are safe.
• Communities are engaged in violence prevention.
• Communities and individuals affected by violence have hope.
2. A Governor’s Office relationship that will provide opportunities to heighten public awareness, increase access to resources both locally and nationally, create two-way information flow and enhance legislative dialogue.
3. A Statewide Services and Systems Mapping effort to map current education, prevention and intervention services and systems throughout state. This map will serve as a resource to enhance an organization’s capacity to address violence as well as to provide an avenue to the public to research, identify, and locate needed services.
Collaborations such as MAAV are most successful when their foundation is built on strong relationships we develop with each other. Building, nurturing, and enhancing such relationships can be achieved through the use of various methods and tools. Although nothing can replace the value of face to face interactions, technology is one tool that can assist us in sustaining and creating new relationships. In the fall of 2012, through web-based mapping technology, we will have such a tool available. The new website will allow us and others to explore agencies, services, and connections throughout the State of MN. This technology will offer us a powerful resource to strengthen our relationships and overall build our capacity to reach our vision towards ending violence and oppression.
Dave Ellis, Contributor
Greater Twin Cities United Way
In May, 50 members from throughout the Twin Cities African American community gathered to hear presentations on what research reveals about neuroscience and brain development and the link between early childhood experiences of African American Children.
Conversations centered on developing strategies that will be used to inform how best to share this information with the larger local African American community.
Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Dave Ellis, family violence community impact manager, and Barbara Simpson Epps, an independent consultant, led a discussion exploring:
The new research report from Prevent Child Abuse America was recently released and puts the cost of toxic stress (or child abuse and neglect) experienced by children in this country at a staggering $80 billion dollars per year. Several studies have come out in recent years with numbers ranging from $80-124 billion dollars per year and are inclusive of paying for the consequential program costs associated with child abuse and neglect.
With child welfare reporting close to 3.5 million children per year for the maltreatment of children, what should our society’s response be? If a virus suddenly started taking the lives of children worldwide there would be a national outcry for a cure; money would be poured in to research; communities would mobilize in an effort to halt the spread of the disease.
And yet, there’s a child abuse pandemic right here in America that we could invest a fraction of that $80 billion dollars to create healthy environments for children but we keep diverting funds to intervention after the crisis has already hit.
We know it’s far more expensive to treat diseases after they occur rather than preventing them in the first place. The same dynamic exists here when it comes to child abuse and neglect. How many lives must be lost? How much money do we need to spend on emergency room health care? I wonder what, exactly, it’s going to take?
Take a look at these clean-up costs for real-life disasters:
Isn’t it interesting that the $80 billion annual cost of child abuse and neglect practically mirrors the investments in disaster clean-up? And, isn’t it sad that there isn’t the same sense of urgency and resources to protect children?
We must generate the political will to do something bold to ensure that every child in America has the happy, healthy childhood that they deserve.
So, I ask you, what’s it going to take?
Karina Forrest-Perkins, Contributor
Executive Director, Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota
This powerful documentary follows the course of Deborah Preagler’s dramatic legal battle. Imprisoned for over a quarter century in connection with the murder of a brutally abusive boyfriend, Debbie finds her only hope for freedom in an unlikely pair of rookie attorneys (one and Orthodox Jew) with no background in criminal law. Convinced that they can free Debbie in a matter of months, her attorneys soon discover corruption and politically driven resistance that extends the case for years. Their investigation ultimately attracts global attention, and takes on profound urgency when the case becomes a matter of life and death. This film tells an unforgettable story of the relentless quest for justice and the endurance of the human spirit.
Directed by Yoav Potash | USA, 2010 | 93 minutes | English]]>
Thursday, March 1, 2012, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minneapolis
Domestic Violence has a crippling effect on our community. An estimated 200,000 women and men experience domestic violence each year in Minnesota. Nationally, women lose 8 million paid days of work a year, which translates to roughly 133,000 lost days of work in Minnesota. Join us for a presentation about Domestic Violence: Results from the 2010 Crime Victim Survey, a new report to be released in March through the partnership of United Way and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety-Office of Justice Programs.
Executive Summary – Spanish
Executive Summary – Somali
Executive Summary – Hmong