SLAP HER: Advice at a Saudi Domestic Violence Seminar

11 05 2009

Judge Hamad Al-Razine advised men to slap their wives at a recent seminar in Saudi Arabia on domestic violence. Here’s what he said:

If a person gives SR 1,200 [$320] to his wife and she spends 900 riyals [$240] to purchase an abaya [the black cover that women in Saudi Arabia must wear] from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment.

Credit: AFP Getty Images

Credit: AFP Getty Images

Women in the audience booed…and rightly so. Arab News, which reported this, said that Al-Razine was trying to explain why domestic violence has increased recently when he made the comments. Al-Razine said that women and men shared responsibility, but also said that “nobody puts even a fraction of blame on women.” 

According to Arab News, Al-Razine: 

…also pointed out that women’s indecent behavior and use of offensive words against their husbands were some of the reasons for domestic violence in the country.

I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for 14 months many years ago. Every time I see stories like this, it makes me angry. This is yet another example of men…and this time validated by a judge…using violence to subjugate women. Women have little opportunity to be indecent in this country. They wear veils everywhere they go. They cannot socialize, attend classes, work, or even be seen with a man who is not their husband. When friends come to visit in homes, men socialize with the men in one room and women visit with the women in another room.

It’s a religion that men use to repress women and attitudes like the one this judge displayed…and at a seminar on domestic violence…that keep Saudi women from gaining basic rights and being free from domestic violence.

It’s never okay to slap a woman. NEVER.

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Silent No More: Taking Lincoln’s Advice

7 03 2009

Battered women are in prison for killing their abusers even though they acted in a form of self-defense for themselves and their children after experiencing years of violence.

They have often been repeatedly raped, beaten, and threatened to be killed. If they tried to leave, their abuser said he would find them and kill them. If they called the police or told anyone what was going on, he told them he would kill them. They were trapped and out of options.

In March of 1991 a battered women’s support group for women incarcerated in the California Institution for Women for killing their abusers was formed. The group – called Convicted Women Against Abuse – began writing letters to the governor seeking clemency and several have been released from prison as a result.

Women in Sin by Silence Film

Women in the Film Sin by Silence - Photo: sinbysilence.org

A new movie entitled “Sin by Silence” about the Convicted Women Against Abuse support group will be premiered March 22, 2009 at the Cleveland International Film Festival. The Internet Movie Database has this synopsis of the movie :

From behind prison walls, SIN BY SILENCE reveals the lives of extraordinary women who advocate for a future free from domestic violence. Inside the California Institution for Women, the first inmate-initiated and led group in the U.S. prison system, shatters the misconceptions of domestic violence. Against the system and against the odds, the women of Convicted Women Against Abuse have risen to expose the stigma of the cycle of domestic violence. Through their stories of terror and hope, the viewer can begin to understand the cycle of violence, the signs of an abuser, and how each and every one of us is responsible for changing the tragedy of domestic violence. Written by Olivia Klaus

The facts, according to the SinbySilence.org website, about domestic violence:

  • 1 of every 3 women experience abuse.
  • Every 7 seconds a woman is battered.
  • Up to 4 million women are battered in their homes each year.
  • Battering is the #1 cause of injury to women in the U.S.
  • There are 3 times as many shelters for animals as there for battered women.
  • Every day 4 women die from domestic abuse.
  • Up to 50% of homeless women and children on the streets are fleeing domestic violence.

Domestic violence happens to women of all classes, cultures, races, etc. This has really hit home with the recent battering of mega singing star Rihanna by her equally mega singing star boyfriend Chris Brown. Even she isn’t immune from abuse.

According to the Sin by Silence website:

While most of the women in SIN BY SILENCE may remain in prison for the remainder of their lives, these women are committed to helping others understand the reality of domestic violence.

You can watch a trailer of the movie here. The website lists resources such as the Domestic Violence Hotline and Free Battered Women if you want more information or want to get involved.

The least we can do is to help these women raise awareness about domestic violence, learn the signs of when a woman is being battered, and help a battered woman out when possible…by extending a hand or by making a donation to a women’s shelter. We can advocate that laws be eased to decriminalize actions taken in self-defense by battered women.

Abraham Lincoln said, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” These women are courageously standing up and speaking out. Let’s join them.





Connie Keel: Battered, Raped, Imprisoned, Innocent

3 03 2009
Connie Keel and Her Daughter - Courtesy Keel Family

Connie Keel and Her Daughter - Courtesy Keel Family

Regularly raped and beaten by her husband, sexually abused by uncles, neighbors, and friends, and physically abused by her mother, 21-year-old battered woman’s syndrome victim Connie Keel was threatened by her husband and forced to stay in the car in 1980 while her armed husband and his cousin made a non-planned stop at a liquor store to buy cigarettes.  While inside, they robbed the store and killed the clerk.

 Connie, who had nothing to do with what happened, was charged with armed robbery and murder. She has worked hard and taken a lot of  classes to become a new person, but at 50 years old and after 29 years and six parole hearings, she is still in prison.

Adam Reich - Photo by Maria Iacobo

Adam Reich - Photo by Maria Iacobo

Second-year and 25-year-old USC Gould School of Law student Adam Reich has taken up her cause and is doing everything he can to get her released. He created the http://freeconnie.com to raise awareness about Connie’s plight and to urge people to contact Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask him to free her. According to that website:

“On October 29, 2008 a parole board determined that Connie Keel is ‘suitable for parole and would not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety if released from prison.'”

According to the USC Gould School of Law web page about Adam’s participation in this case, he said that “When I first decided to go to law school I thought I would be on the corporate track. Once I got here, I learned I could be engaged in promoting justice and having a big impact on someone’s life.”

Governor Schwarzenegger has 20 days now to decide whether to free Connie. You can email him using this State of California governor contact form. The FreeConnie website has made it easy for you by posting a letter you can copy and paste into the contact form.

The ACLU of Southern California also has a web page about this and a form you can send as does the FreeBatteredWomen website. You can view a short WeTV video that features Connie Keel and can read more about battered women’s syndrome at the Divorce and Family Law Center.

Connie Keel, a battered woman and an innocent woman has served 29 years in prison for a crime she did not commit. She was a victim of an abusive husband and family. Please let Governor Schwarzenegger know that you join others who care about nonviolence and justice for women in asking that this woman be at last set free.

UPDATE 3/27/09: San Francisco Chronicle online reports today this great news!

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today upheld the state parole board’s decision to release a woman who has spent 29 years in prison for taking part in a murder that her abusive husband committed at a Campbell liquor store while she sat in a car outside.

An aide to the governor notified Connie Keel of his decision in a letter faxed to the California Institution for Women in Corona (San Bernardino County). It did not state his reasoning.

Keel, 50, will be freed next week, said Adam Reich, a University of Southern California law student who represented her before the parole board and has collected thousands of signatures on support petitions through an Internet campaign.

“Both I and Connie’s family are ecstatic at the governor’s decision,” Reich said. He added that it “proves that in the end, justice will always prevail.”

UPDATE 4/1/09: Connie was released from prison today. She said:

I’ve waited a long time to hug my children, to hold them in my arms without prison guards around me. No one is there to tell me you’re hugging them too long. It makes me really, really happy.

According to the Oroville Mercury-Register, Connie will live in a half-way house for about six months.





Chris Brown: A Witness to Violence, A Perpetrator of Violence

11 02 2009

As a child, Chris Brown says that he witnessed his mother being beaten. Now he’s the one who did the beating.

REUTERS

Chris Brown and Rihanna Performing - Photo: REUTERS

Less than 24 hours before mega R&B 19-year-old star Chris Brown was to be one of the featured acts at the Grammys, he allegedly (and there doesn’t seem to be much alleged about it) punched his equally mega star girlfriend Rihanna (who was also to perform at the Grammys) in the face, bit her, and caused some horrible damage to her after an argument. Both cancelled their Grammy performances on the biggest night in music when they were both going to have the chance to shine with millions of people watching.

Here is strong example of how violence against children or in a children’s presence takes a toll on them. Yesterday I wrote a post about corporal punishment in schools and the affect that has on children. In 2006 the United Nations published a study on violence against children. In it, they state that:

Studies from many countries in all regions of the world suggest that up to 80 to 98 percent of children suffer physical punishment in their homes, with a third or more experiencing severe physical punishment resulting from the use of implements.

Think about it. 80 to 98% of children across the world are physically harmed in their homes. DISTURBING. The report discusses the affects of this violence:

Physical violence is often accompanied by psychological violence. Insults, name-calling, isolation, rejection, threats, emotional indifference, and belittling are all forms of violence that can be detrimental to a child’s psychological development and well-being— especially when it comes from a respected adult such as a parent. It is of critical importance that parents be encouraged to employ exclusively nonviolent methods of discipline.

In addition to the physical and emotional damage done to children from being abused themselves, the report states that 133 to 275 million children worldwide are estimated to witness domestic violence annually and this takes a toll:

The exposure of children to violence in their homes on a frequent basis, usually through fights between parents or between a mother and her partner can severely affect a child’s well-being, personal development, and social interaction in childhood and adulthood. Intimate partner violence also increases the risk of violence against children in the family….

This is what Chris Brown says he experienced for years as a child…watching his mother being beaten by his step-father. He said it made him scared, timid, and he wet the bed. A child never forgets having witnessed or experienced abuse. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it stays in your mind, in your emotions, and in your body.

When will people…and especially parents…all over the world wake up and learn that you can not be violent toward a child and expect it to have no affect on the child? Violence begets violence and/or anger, withdrawal, sadness, depression, and much more. Why are so many people in the world so angry that we take it out on a child or hurt each other in a child’s presence? When will it stop?

UPDATE: Today Chris Brown was charged with two felonies in conjunction with this: that of assault and of making criminal threats. CNN has a report of the extent of the assault and it’s shockingly worse than anyone thought. I really like Chris Brown as an artist and he seemed like a decent guy. This is totally unacceptable. He really needs to get some serious help and serving jail time would send a loud message that it is not okay to assault someone…even if it is your girlfriend.





One in Three…ONE IN THREE

25 11 2008

One in three women have been affected. It has affected my family and probably yours, too. Violence against women. Nicole Kidman, Goodwill Ambassador for UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, joined others in participating in several events at the UN today as part of today’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which has been marked since 1981. She handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon over 5 million signatures of people who have joined Say No to Violence against Women. The United Nations, under Ki-Moon’s leadership, has a campaign called Unite to End Violence Against Women. Here is a statement released today by the Secretary-General:

We need to do more to enforce laws and counter impunity. We need to combat attitudes and behaviour that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims and survivors. I am determined to strengthen these efforts, including through my global campaign “UNiTE to end violence against women”, which aims to raise public awareness, increase political will and resources and create a supportive environment to make good on existing policy commitments.

Here is Nicole Kidman speaking about stopping gender violence:

Today also begins the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. This program is sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and began in 1991. This year’s theme is “Human Rights for Women <–> Human Rights for All.” The Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University “…develops and facilitates women’s leadership for women’s human rights and social justice worldwide.”

Here is an UNIFEM video well worth watching about what the UN Trust Fund is doing to help women:

If you’d like to know more about what you can do, visit the Stop Violence Against Women website. StopVAW is a project by The Advocates for Human Rights and has a newsletter, which you can sign up for. Amnesty International also has a Stop Violence Against Women program.

Here in Austin is the nationally-acclaimed Austin SafePlace, which “works to end sexual and domestic violence and abuse.” I went through their training and volunteered on their hotline years ago.

Lest you think that violence against women happens in other countries, Amnesty International reports that one woman in the U.S. is raped every 6 minutes and one woman is battered every 15 seconds.  Let’s work together to eliminate violence against women all over the world.